Hou Dong smirked when he came back and saw the wealthy man lying on the ground, stripped butt-naked with Sun Jin sitting nonchalantly on his back. “It seems you’ve finished already.” Hou Dong crouched down in front of the man and smiled. “Now, how does it feel?”
The man mumbled something but Hou Dong couldn’t make out any of the words. He turned to look at the second man he had brought with him.
Shen Ling shrugged his shoulders. “He was being noisy and you took your sweet time so Sun Jin made him shut up.”
Hou Dong took a look and couldn’t help but snicker. Sun Jin really had done good work this time around. He had cut off one of the panels hanging from the red robe that Kanuen had been forced to wear and crammed it into the man’s mouth. Just imagining it made Hou Dong shiver. It couldn’t be a good feeling having to smell that awful fragrance the whole time. Well, this guy deserved it.
“Well, it’s good if he can’t talk. I don’t think I want to hear what he has to say.” He turned to Sun Jin and grinned. “That idea he wasn’t bad. Is there another one where that came from?”
Sun Jin motioned at his nose. “Me?”
Hou Dong nodded happily. “Yeah, you. I feel like your ideas today are quite good. You should use this opportunity and show me what you’ve got!”
Shen Ling couldn’t help but chuckle at the side. Sun Jin’s ideas never were good and if he wanted to prove himself in front of their Master, they would likely get even worse. That rich guy was in for a whole lot of trouble.
Sun Jin indeed started thinking about it seriously. “Well, we could castrate him.”
Hou Dong shook his head. Not that he didn’t want to do so but … if Kanuen asked, later on, he really wouldn’t know how to face him. Furthermore, if they went overboard, then the ones who would have to suffer were his other slaves. He didn’t want that. No, they had to pay him back in another manner.
Sun Jin pursed his lips. He felt that the idea had been very good. But, well, if his Master didn’t like it … “Then, we could strap him to the bed and let his people laugh at him. We could even give them some weapons so they can take revenge for everything he did.”
Hou Dong pursed his lips. Strapping him to the bed didn’t sound too bad. After all, this was the place where he had wanted to exert his power over his slaves. Having to lie there powerless for once wouldn’t be too bad. “Tying him up is okay but I don’t think we should involve the others. At least not for now. They’re still his people so who knows if they wouldn’t just set him free instead of punching him? No, I guess we should first do something ourselves before we let them find him. Give me something that will make him feel powerless. If he dares to abuse his power like this, then we should strip him of it.”
The man once again gave an unintelligible groan but the other three ignored him.
Sun Jin looked at his face and then pointed at the beard on his chin. “How about shaving him?”
Hou Dong and Shen Ling exchanged a glance before looking back at Sun Jin.
“How does shaving him strip him of his power?”
Sun Jin harrumphed. “What do you know? Why do you think he’s wearing that beard? Isn’t it because he wants to appear more manly? I bet he has a face like a woman if you shave it off. Actually, if we’re at it, maybe we should also shave off the hair on his head. Might look interesting, don’t you think so?”
Shen Ling scratched his head and looked at their Master. He didn’t really get his argument but, well, if their Master was alright with this, then he would naturally comply.
Hou Dong rubbed his chin. He wasn’t too sure either if what Sun Jin said made any sense but it was worth a try. “Alright, then how about strapping him to the bed first and then shaving off the beard? He won’t be able to struggle as much that way.”
His men nodded and Sun Jin got up, dragging the man back to his feet. “Let’s go do it then.” He laughed and pushed the man over, motioning at Shen Ling to get him something to tie the guy up with.
Shen Ling pondered and finally went to cut off the second panel of cloth from the red robe, throwing it at Sun Jin who tied the man’s hands up. Meanwhile, he cut what was left of the robe into strips and brought them over, tying up the man’s feet to make sure he didn’t kick out.
Hou Dong couldn’t help but laugh. “I guess the robe had its use after all.” He looked around and finally found a chair, dragging it over to the foot of the bed and sat down, crossing his legs. “I’ll let you handle the other stuff.” He hooked an arm behind the backrest of the chair and smiled to himself.
He would have liked to administer the guy’s punishment himself but he wasn’t too sure if he wouldn’t … accidentally cut the guy’s throat instead. If he thought back to Kanuen’s gaze before, then he wanted to do so. Unfortunately, he also knew that he couldn’t do it. He didn’t want to be on the same level as this scum and he didn’t want to lie to Kanuen either. No, it was still better to let Sun Jin and Shen Ling have some fun while he just watched.
The other two men exchanged a glance.
“Shaving him was my idea, so I should be the one to do it, shouldn’t I?”
Shen Ling sighed and sat down at the edge of the bed, motioning at the rich guy. “Sure, go for it. It’s not like I like shaving guys. I certainly won’t insist on doing this.”
Sun Jin harrumphed. What did this guy mean? As if he’d like to shave a guy! He was just doing this to impress their Master, alright?! This had nothing to do with any fetishes he had.
He ignored Shen Ling and took out a knife, looking at the man on the bed and rubbing his own chin. “You know, I don’t like beards. So I always shaved off whatever I had to shave off. But I still think it’s something different shaving yourself and shaving somebody else. So you should better lay still just in case. Otherwise, you might end up with some scars on your face.”
The man on the bed gave another grunt, trying to get some words out around the fabric.
Sun Jin furrowed his brows and turned to look at Shen Ling. “What do you think he’s saying?”
“Ah, it’s probably something like: ‘Do you even know who you are messing with? My father, my brother, my uncle … They’re some bigwigs around here and I’ll have my men chase you down like dogs! You won’t be able to flee anywhere under the sun!’ Something like that, you know.”
Sun Jin blinked his eyes and turned to look at Hou Dong. “Is he saying the truth?”
Hou Dong blinked. “What are you talking so much for? Just shave it off! If you want something, he can go after those merchants. It was their idea after all.”
Sun Jin nodded and started to get to work, slowly shaving off the beard, starting from the right. The dark stubbles fell onto the bed, forming a pattern around his face. Sun Jin stopped halfway and looked at his handiwork, rubbing his chin again. “This doesn’t look too bad. I mean this looks like shit but I think I’m rather good at shaving, right? Maybe if we’re too old to be warriors, I could open up a barbershop.”
Shen Ling reached over and slapped the back of his head. “What barbershop? You don’t want to live in our Hua country any longer? Who would go to a barbershop?”
Sun Jin rubbed his head and glared at Shen Ling angrily. “What do you know? There are lots of foreigners coming to our country these days. They do shave off their beard and cut their hair. It would be possible.”
Hou Dong sighed. “You can still think about that in the future. For now, it would be nice if you could finish that up. Kanuen is still waiting for me.”
Sun Jin nodded and continued to shave. He couldn’t help but glance at Shen Ling while he did though. “Why don’t you shave off his hair? It would be much faster if you did.”
Shen Ling looked at the hairstyle the man was wearing and furrowed his brows. “What’s there you shave? These foreigners don’t even wear their hair long. I don’t think he’d care.”
Hou Dong nodded. He didn’t think so either. The beard might be one thing but as for the rest … He had actually seen some of these foreigners from Kai who didn’t have any hair on their heads at all. He really couldn’t understand but, well, they couldn’t expect them to be just like them. This was another country after all.
“See? Master agrees. So you just take care of the beard. We can think of something else afterward.”
Sun Jin grumbled but continued to shave off the last bit of the beard. “I’d really like to know what else you want to come up with. We’ve already stripped him and shaved off his beard. He’s even strapped to the bed like a bug lying on its back that can’t get up anymore. What could be more humiliating?”
Shen Ling stared at the man that was already glaring daggers at them and couldn’t help but nod. “Yeah. What could be more humiliating?” He even had to let some stranger trash-talk him and couldn’t retort a single word … It really was hard to think of something worse. “Well, maybe that depends on who will find him like this.” He turned around and walked to the table where a letter was lying. He picked it up and waved in Hou Dong’s direction. “I think this guy is rather fond of partying, Master. How about sending out some invitations?”
Hou Dong raised his brows. “Invitations? Do you think somebody will follow it after he gave a party just today?”
“Why not? Didn’t he say he acquired some treasure? They might think he wants to show it off now that he has made sure what kind of worth it has.”
Hou Dong waved at him and took the invitation. Looking over it, this seemed to be for another event that would be held at the house of one of his neighbors in a few days. “Well, I guess we can’t let him lie here for too long or things might get ugly. Do you think people would return tomorrow already?”
Shen Ling nodded. “If the invitations come soon enough. Well, we need a sample to forge them though.”
Hou Dong threw the letter away and nodded. “I bet those who were invited will bring the invitations with them to get in. So there should be some around. Either they’re still carrying them so they’d be on their bodies all the time or one of the servants took them to throw them out later.”
Shen Ling grinned. “Then I’ll go and look.” He patted Sun Jin’s shoulder and winked at him. “Since it’s an invitation to a party, you should make sure that the guests get something to see. Wrap him up like a present maybe.” He laughed and left the room, going to look for the invitations.
Sun Jin turned to look at Hou Dong. “So … I just wrap him up? Like how?”
Hou Dong looked at the man lying on the bed and then thought back to how Kanuen had been presented to him. That kind of robe that covered almost nothing, letting everyone interested see through the fabric … “Just imagine you’re a rich merchant and wanted to sell somebody of. How would you prepare that person? Just do that.”
He got up from the chair and walked over to the window, looking outside. The room was at the back of the building, looking over the garden behind it. From here, he could see the small courtyard where they had left the carriage. Right now, Kanuen should be inside there, waiting for him to return. Most likely, he had already put on the simple clothes that he had given him. He should be feeling a bit better now but maybe he also felt alone. Ah, he shouldn’t waste too much time here.
Behind him, Sun Jin looked at the straps that Shen Ling had cut out of the robe and couldn’t help but feel that it was a pity. Ah, putting the guy into the dress would have been nice to look at. What was that if not wrapping him up like a present?
Well, there was no way to do that anymore. So he’d need to find something else. He looked around and finally spotted the other curtain that Hou Dong had spared when he ripped one down to wrap Kanuen up in it. He grinned and cut it down, looking at the see-through fabric with a grin. “I think this one is quite good. At the very least, our Master’s lover looked stunning in it. Let’s see if you look just as good, alright?” His grin got even more pronounced and he went to work, wrapping the curtain halfway around the man’s body but still making sure that the important parts were all exposed. In fact, the whole thing looked more like a belt that had one sleeve attached to it than like a robe or anything that was meant to be worn as a normal piece of clothing.
Sun Jin step back and looked at Hou Dong for confirmation. “What do you think, Master? Will this be alright?”
Hou Dong looked at the guy and couldn’t help but smirk. “Looks good. Maybe you should tie a bow in the middle.”
Sun Jin didn’t think about it and went to search for a ribbon, finally tying a bow around the guy’s waist. Mn, his Master really had the best ideas. This was looking fucking ridiculous.
He scratched his head and turned back to Hou Dong. “I guess the only thing that’s left is the invitations now. Should I go and help Shen Ling?”
Hou Dong shook his head. “Leave that to him. If he needed help, he would’ve told the others. Rather than that, let’s leave here. Kanuen is already waiting. After this whole ordeal, I shouldn’t leave him alone for too long. I guess this already counts as enough of revenge for him.”
Sun Jin pursed his lips. “How can that be enough? We should still have castrated him.”
Hou Dong shook his head. He didn’t try to explain and just left the room, closing the door behind them. Yes, he certainly would’ve wanted to do a bit more as revenge. But after everything he knew about Kanuen so far, the youth wouldn’t be happy about that. No, he was somebody that came from a kingdom that dealt with this kind of thing differently. An eye for an eye, that was nothing he would condone. Some payback might be allowed but nothing more.
Even though he hadn’t said so out loud that was how he thought inwardly. Even if he had other thoughts at this moment, he would return to his usual way of thinking when he had calmed down. After all, nothing had happened to him in the end. Sure, the experience hadn’t been pleasant but the guy hadn’t been able to go through with it. Castrating him for that … Kanuen would also feel guilty if he knew.
Hou Dong evaded the guards and servants and finally made his way over to the courtyard, silently signaling at his men before he went up to the carriage. He didn’t rush to pull the canvas aside and instead cleared his throat. “Kanuen? Are you alright?”
A slender hand reached out and pulled the canvas to the side, exposing Kanuen’s pale face. “You’re back. How … How did it go?”
Hou Dong smiled when he saw him like this. Sure enough, Kanuen had already calmed down now that he had changed his clothes and didn’t feel that punishing the guy would be too good.
Hou Dong climbed into the carriage, leaning over to Kanuen to pull him into his arms. His nose tingled and he had to lean away, sneezing. “Ah! Damn this! Just what did they do to you? You’re smelling like …” He stopped himself from saying anything and just reached out, gently rubbing Kanuen’s shoulder. It wasn’t Kanuen’s fault that he was having this reaction. He couldn’t make him feel even worse by rejecting him right now. Who knew if he wouldn’t misunderstand if he did? “I’m sorry. I also don’t know what it is. This smell just makes my nose tingle.”
Kanuen gave him a smile in return. “It’s alright.”
Hou Dong couldn’t help but feel even worse when the other looked at him like this. “It’s not. You need me right now. Especially right now. Whatever’s the matter, I shouldn’t be like this.” He reached down and pulled up the cloth that he was still wearing around his neck, securing it around his face again. “I hope you don’t mind.” He moved in closer and finally pulled Kanuen into his arms. With the cloth in front of his nose and mouth, the smell wasn’t as bad. It still made his nose tingle a little but he was able to endure it. Well, they wouldn’t need too long to get back to the town. Until then, he would be able to bear this.
Just then, the carriage finally started to move. Kanuen couldn’t help but look to the front.
Hou Dong took his hand and squeezed it. “Don’t worry. That’s one of my men. Duan Bao. You also know him. He was the one who felt your pulse while we were going through the desert to make sure that you were alright again.”
Kanuen nodded. “I remember.” He snuggled up against Hou Dong’s chest and closed his eyes. “To be honest, I was afraid. From the moment you left, I was afraid. Maybe I shouldn’t have been. You said that you would come and save me. I should’ve trusted you. I also should have known that you wouldn’t leave me alone and that there would be somebody paying attention to me. But still …”
Hou Dong brushed through his hair with his fingers and shook his head. “What are you apologizing for? It’s completely normal to be afraid. You … You were in a bad situation. And I wasn’t beside you. Even if you would’ve thought that somebody was close by, that still isn’t the same. It’s normal that you felt like this. So don’t blame yourself. I don’t blame you either.”
Kanuen nodded and wrapped his arms around Hou Dong’s waist, trying to get his sense of security back. Even now, he could hardly believe that he had managed to make it out of there without harm. With his eyes closed, as long as Hou Dong wasn’t around, he still felt the gaze of these men on his skin. It was as if he could still feel their touch. He wasn’t sure when this would stop. He could only pray that it would be soon. After all, he couldn’t rely on Hou Dong being right next to him forever. That just wasn’t possible.