The beach was a thin crescent of sand at the foot of a spectacular cliff. It outlined an ancient harbor, forgotten by time as the nearby city modernized and required deeper anchorage for larger ships. At one end, the cliff fell into a jumble of boulders that jutted out into the bay, a rocky peninsula that was punctuated by a squat lighthouse. At the other, where the cliff rose to its highest point, sat an antiquated pagoda and watchtower, one of the main tourist attractions in the region. Legend had it that it was from this spot that the Eight Immortals crossed the Bohai Sea to claim the islands that dotted the horizon as their earthly home.
Ukoku couldn’t have cared less about the Eight Immortals, but Koumyou seemed intent on teaching him something along their journey or his exile (he wasn’t very clear on that point). Ukoku only smiled and nodded his head at random intervals, feigning interest, while devising ways in which he could get into Koumyou’s pants.
Ukoku didn’t like to dwell much on just what it was about Koumyou that attracted him so much so that it bordered on obsession. There was plenty that annoyed him -- he drove Ukoku to distraction with his running narrative that seemed to fill every silence, and he was oblivious to Ukoku’s innuendos and overtures (which had been so successful in deflowering the novices at Zenouji temple and anywhere else that he’d even half-heartedly tried). Koumyou was twice Ukoku’s age and, more often than not, he acted like an imbecile -- stopping mid-sentence to sniff at a flower or admire some distant vista. He found beauty in the oddest of places -- the patina of a rusted thresher, the broken teeth of an ancient, decrepit stockade fence. Koumyou was pretty though, even at his age; Ukoku would grant him that, and just when he’d lose all hope of a rational conversation, Koumyou would give him a sidelong glance and say something so simple and so profound that it would leave Ukoku breathless.
He was a sly fox, that one.
Ukoku supposed that was the crux of the attraction -- those fleeting moments when he felt a true connection to another soul. It was something he’d never experienced before. Or, maybe, it was just the proximity and trying to make the best of being forced to travel together for a year. Or quite possibly it was the hypnotizing sway of his braid and the tantalizing thought of the narrow hips and firm buttocks beneath the voluminous sanzo robes that caused it to swing to and fro.
The things he would do to that ass if given the chance.
Koumyou had nattered on about the beach for the better part of their travel that day. The road had been hot and dusty and rife with all manner of stinging insects, and, by the time they’d found the overgrown trail that wended down the face of the cliff and navigated it, Ukoku was ready to call it a night right there on the beach.
Koumyou, it turned out, had other ideas. Shortly after they’d gathered enough wood for a modest fire, he announced he was going for a swim.
“Are you nuts?”
“It will be refreshing.”
“Jacuzzis are refreshing. Onsens are refreshing. Sand gritting between your cheeks -- is not refreshing.”
“You sound like a little old man,” Koumyou chuckled.
He loosened his robe and let it fall to his feet. He stepped out of it and peeled off his undershirt and then slipped out of his trousers. He was naked except for his fundoshi, which had recently become the sexiest undergarment Ukoku could imagine someone wearing -- or at least Koumyou wearing. He undid his braid and it fell about his shoulders in loose waves.
“Or maybe, you just can’t swim.”
Before Ukoku could decipher the slight turn of Koumyou’s lips, he turned and sprinted toward the water. When he was about knee-deep, he dove in, leaving Ukoku to stew by the fire.
“Maybe I’ve just got more sense than you!” Ukoku yelled. His voice echoed against the rock walls.
Koumyou didn’t answer. He only swam away from the shore at an impressive clip, his arms arcing efficiently over his head in rhythmic strokes. When his head was just a tiny dot, Ukoku wondered absently if Koumyou would ever turn back. Or perhaps he’d just disappear over the horizon leaving Ukoku alone. That thought got him to his feet.
“OI! KOUMYOU!” He yelled.
When Ukoku’s voice stopped echoing, Koumyou replied distantly.
“Come on in, the water’s fine!”
Ukoku paced back and forth in front of the fire. After a couple of hesitant moments, he made a reluctant decision -- he couldn’t let the old man think he was weak. He quickly shed his clothes, cursing under his breath.
He was about three hundred meters off the coast when he realized his miscalculation. The water was freezing -- brutally cold. It was nowhere near “fine.” Moments later, his limbs started to feel heavy and Ukoku could tell his strokes were beginning to weaken; he was barely moving forward.
He stopped, treading water slowly, so he could plot out his options. He probably had enough strength to swim back to shallower waters and then climb back onto the beach to safety. The bonfire they’d lit twinkled invitingly from the shore but the beacon atop the lighthouse at the end of the spit taunted him. It spun around lazily, a pointless warning to non-existent ships.
Damn that old man, he wasn’t going to get the best of him! Ukoku turned away from the shore. In the pale moonlight he could make out Koumyou’s head, bobbing above the surface. Even though his vision was blurry, Ukoku could tell that Koumyou was smiling.
And then Koumyou disappeared, as if he’d just been sucked into the abyss.
Shit! Ukoku strained his eyes
“Koumyou!” His voice sounded thunderous in the still evening air. “KOUMYOU!?!” he repeated with more urgency.
Damn it all! Now what was he supposed to do? He couldn’t exactly go searching for Koumyou, not when he could barely keep himself afloat. And if Koumyou was really gone … Ukoku didn’t want to think about that, the pit forming in his stomach was enough.
Something brushed against his legs. Seaweed? Shark? his heart pounded and when something surfaced right next to him with a splash, it threatened to crash free from his chest.
“You looked like you could use a hand.”
“SHIT!” Ukoku gasped. In his surprise, he stopped paddling and slipped under. He burst back to the surface coughing and spitting up salt water. An arm snaked around his waist. Ukoku was grateful for the help staying afloat but part of him was furious. He pushed away from Koumyou and managed to keep his head above water -- barely.
He was struggling now, definitely in distress; his fingers and toes were completely numb. If he could have moved his hands, he would have grabbed Koumyou by his long, loose hair and yanked him under in retaliation for the fright. But now the only fright was that he was going to drown, and he couldn’t decide if that were worse than asking Koumyou for help.
“Why don’t you just kill me now?” he said miserably instead, his nose and throat burning from the salty water he’d swallowed.
“That’s the second time you’ve asked me to do that,” Koumyou replied. “Maybe you want to kill me.”
Ukoku shivered as the still-raw memory of what he’d done to Goudai emerged into his full consciousness and the fury that had just gripped him eased up as suddenly as it had come upon him. At the same time, he felt a renewed will to live, or at least to show Koumyou that he was just as strong as him.
“I don’t want to kill you, I want to kiss you,” he gambled.
“Well then, what have you been waiting for?”
Now Koumyou was interested?! What new level of torment was being ushered in?! Ukoku’s thoughts raced in a thousand different directions, but they all ended at one point, a spark very low in his abdomen. He wasn’t cold anymore, nor was he frightened. Koumyou moved closer. Ukoku’s dick twitched to life and his pulse quickened.
“An invitation? A sign?”
Koumyou paused and Ukoku was sure that he’d just blown his opportunity.
“If you can swim a bit further out, there’s a sand bar where the water is much shallower.”
It was really going to happen! Even though he wasn’t sure what “it” was, that was the thought Ukoku held onto as he pushed his tired muscles to move him even further away from the shore, Koumyou swimming by his side in a leisurely crawl. It didn’t occur to Ukoku not to trust Koumyou, that Koumyou could just as easily be leading him to his death rather than safety.
After what seemed hours, Ukoku’s shins bumped against the bottom.
“How did you know about this?” he gasped.
“I told you I’ve been here before. It’s quite a memorable place.”
Ukoku wondered who had made it so memorable for Koumyou, then he pushed that dark thought out of his mind because it didn’t matter; Koumyou was with him now. Koumyou had invited him to this spot knowing exactly what Ukoku’s intentions were.
He crawled closer, half-expecting Koumyou to have had a change of heart. That wasn’t the case, though. Instead of swimming away, Koumyou reclined, supported by his arms behind him and tipped his head back. The water lapped up to his chest. He looked like a fallen Greek god, captured in marble for eternity. Or maybe he was a sea nymph -- no, one of Poseidon’s lesser-known sons, sent to rescue Ukoku from the abyss of his own heart. Ukoku hesitated momentarily to blatantly admire Koumyou’s physique before crawling between his legs.
Ukoku realized that in this position Koumyou was helpless to his assault and he capitalized on it. He let his hands rove over the smooth muscles of Koumyou’s chest and he thumbed both erect nipples before sliding his hands down the concave planes of Koumyou’s abdomen.
Koumyou’s lips parted in a quiet sigh, enough of an invitation for Ukoku. He planted his hands on the soft sand beside Koumyou’s and crushed their mouths together. Koumyou’s body undulated beneath his, and when their groins met, a jolt of electricity coursed up and down Ukoku’s spine. He ground his hips against Koumyou’s, increasing the friction. Now the coldness of the water, as it eddied around their bodies, was welcome to Ukoku’s overheated skin.
“Koumyou,” he murmured. Koumyou’s lips were salty, but the taste of the moist warmth beyond them as Ukoku pressed on was a starkly sweet contrast. Koumyou responded with alacrity, quickly overcoming Ukoku and overwhelming his senses.
Ukoku closed his eyes at the onslaught. He imagined they were the last two men on the planet, no, in the universe. He imagined drifting out to sea like this, their bodies twined together, turning in lazy spirals as they succumbed to the depths.
The buoyancy created by the water spoiled his attempt at frottage and Ukoku’s movements grew more desperate. Koumyou sat up and pushed him away. Ukoku floundered for a moment until Koumyou grabbed him by the shoulders.
“Sit,” he commanded, his palms pressing down. Ukoku obeyed and was rewarded with a lapful of Koumyou, who wrapped his arms and legs around Ukoku as he seated himself. “That’s a little better,” he said.
It was far, far better. Ukoku held Koumyou still in a bear hug and he thrust upward, each movement causing them to bounce along the sandy bed. Nothing mattered now but the feel of Koumyou in his arms, the scent of saltwater permeating his nose and the taste of Koumyou on his tongue. Ukoku ravished him with kisses, breaking to lick and nip along the white crescent of his collarbone. Koumyou tipped his head back, offering Ukoku his throat, and he suckled at the notched hollow. Strong hands pressed his face against Koumyou’s chest and Ukoku felt the strength of his heart beating, like a beacon calling to him, or an anchor holding him fast. For a second that thought threatened to overwhelm Ukoku until it was overridden by an even more powerful one: Koumyou wanted him, too. He may have feigned disinterest, but with every movement he made, it became indelibly clear. Ukoku came just as they tumbled free of the sandbar, and his feet skittered down the steep slope. Just as he was about to go under, he felt Koumyou let him go. Ukoku had to tread water to stay afloat.
Cold water swirled around his body and gooseflesh raised on his skin. Koumyou laughed. There wasn’t a trace of rebuke in the mellifluous tone.
Ukoku’s arms ached to hold Koumyou again -- to feel the warmth of his skin and the hardness of his body -- but Koumyou evaded his reach.
“I think we should save drowning for another time,” he said.
“It would be more comfortable on the beach,” Ukoku agreed.
“Not too concerned about the sand anymore?”
Ukoku shook his head; he was positively looking forward to laying Koumyou out on the beach.