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The Way of Things

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The newest ward of the Fuji pleasure house came in the middle of a rainy afternoon, when the guests had not yet arrived and the boys were resting or otherwise busy with their own affairs. It was only by chance that Kichi happened to be passing near the entrance, and only bored curiosity that made him glance towards the new arrival.

The glance quickly turned into something longer, more scrutinizing. The newcomer stood in the foyer between the Master and another man who Kichi recognized as the one who often delivered the boys to their new home – the one who had done the same for Kichi himself, an eternity ago. The scene was familiar enough, but this time it was as if one role had been miscast.

The newcomer was as tall as either of the other two men, and while others typically showed up at the house in little more than rags, the newcomer wore a crisp silk kimono and hakama trousers under his oiled rain cloak, all showing hardly any signs of wear at all. The clothing of a rich guest, or perhaps some lord’s messenger, yet the circumstances made it clear that he was neither. A puzzle. Kichi took a slow step towards the entrance, careful not to get close enough to attract attention.

His caution saved him a moment later, when the newcomer took off his wide straw rain hat. The first thing that became clear is that this was indeed no boy – the front and crown of the newcomer’s head was shaved, with the rest of his hair pulled back and knotted in the way of a proper man of good birth. But it was the man’s face that caught Kichi’s attention, made his blood turn to ice water in his veins.

Takenaga.

He blinked, as if the face of the strange man – not so strange at all – would clear up and change into something else. It was impossible. Lord Takenaga’s sons had been fully grown, even all those years ago, and the man standing in the entrance, shaved head or no, looked younger than Kichi himself.

And yet, the resemblance was unmistakable, impossible to look away from. Kichi was distantly aware of his hands trembling, of a bead of cold sweat running down his back. He was a boy again – a guileless, unprepared boy – watching his mother fall to her knees and wail.

“Kichi!”

The Master’s voice yanked Kichi sharply back to the present, and to the realization that the other three had all turned towards him. The young man with the face of Kichi’s mortal enemies watched him with wide, curious eyes.

It took a second for Kichi to remember to croak out a polite reply. “May I be of service?”

The Master jerked his head towards the newcomer. “A new boy. See that he gets settled in.”

“A new boy, Master?” Kichi dared question, casting his gaze over the newcomer and then back to the Master meaningfully. Years of experience had taught him that questions were unwelcome, at best, but it did not feel too improper to be curious now, given how clearly unusual the newcomer’s appearance was. The question brought him time, too. The initial shock was starting to fade, but it still took effort to put on a calm face in front of the others. Kichi did not know what he might do if he was sent off to be alone with this young man right away. 

The Master glanced at the newcomer as well, and seemed to almost grimace for a second. It appeared that he shared something of Kichi’s dissatisfaction with the newcomer’s appearance. “Yes. Show him the way of things, he’ll fit in soon enough.”

If the newcomer noticed the skepticism in the conversation going on around him, he showed no sign of taking offense. He stood in silence politely, almost hesitantly, until Kichi had bowed to the Master in acknowledgment, and then the strange young man turned and bowed towards Kichi himself.

“Takenaga Yasunosuke. At your service.”

Lucky that the man was so strange, his ways so awkward and formal. It was a fine distraction. Some kind of reaction had surely flashed across Kichi’s face at the sound of the man’s name, but nobody seemed to have noticed.

So, he is one of them! Lord Takenaga had another son, Kichi could remember now – the memories were there, hardly buried even after all this time. Three sons had accompanied old Takenaga, but a fourth had been yet too young for such things. Kichi had never even laid eyes on the boy. Until now.

Understanding crept into his thoughts like dye into plain fabric, slow but unquestionable. Lord Takenaga’s son has been sold to the Master like a starving orphan. Like me. A strange rush of emotion seized him, and he did not know whether he should laugh or sob. Sob at the meaningless of it all, that his own family had been destroyed and his father killed and disgraced, only so that years later, the traitor’s family should find itself equally ruined.

Takenaga Yasunosuke had straightened up and was regarding Kichi curiously once more. Kichi wondered what he was thinking. He was all too aware of how strange he must look to the young nobleman. As there were no guests to entertain, Kichi had put on only a plain, thin kimono, pathetic compared to the other’s fine clothing. He would not tie up his hair until evening drew near, but anyone could see that his head was not shaved like the Takenaga boy’s, though he was far past the proper age for his coming of age ceremony. An inelegant boy-man, a creature that could only exist within the pleasure district.

The Master cleared his throat, giving Kichi a pointed look. He had been lost in thought for too long.

He bared his teeth in a smile. “Welcome.”

“Do as Kichi tells you, Yasunosuke,” the Master instructed, letting each syllable of the young man’s name fall from his lips begrudgingly. Too long, too fine, a name befitting a warrior’s household, but not a place like this. Kichi wondered what new name the Master would soon choose for Takenaga’s son.

Yasunosuke gave a little nod. He was nervous, Kichi thought, but still trying to be good-natured and polite. Still not ready to believe that things could become as bad as they would, perhaps.

Kichi bowed to the Master and then turned to leave, showing his back to Yasunosuke without a word. He moved back down the hallway, deeper into the heart of the house. Yasunosuke followed, his clean tabi socks making hardly a sound on the floorboards.

After a minute or two, they had moved far enough from the Master to be out of earshot, and Kichi’s mind had grown a little steadier. He stopped, and so Yasunosuke stopped as well.

“Takenaga, did you say?” Kichi ventured at last, without turning around. He still did not entirely trust himself to speak without giving himself away. “Not the same as the esteemed lord of the lands near here, I’m sure?”

While he waited for a reply, he could hear Yasunosuke swallow, and shuffle his feet. “That’s…” Yasunosuke said reluctantly at last, as if the scandal of a young man from a powerful family finding himself in such a position was only just occurring to him. “That’s right.”

“Oh my,” Kichi said, doing his best to speak as an ignorant, overawed peasant might. “You are of noble blood, then!” If Kichi were to truly play the bumpkin, he should have fallen to his knees, perhaps begged Yasunosuke’s forgiveness for not welcoming him with the respect that he was due. He did not quite think it necessary to go that far.

Even so, Yasunosuke seemed to accept the flattery readily enough. When he spoke again, he sounded a little more at ease. “Ah…well, yes.”

“But…” Kichi tilted his head a little, as if in confusion, and as he did so he snuck a sideways glance at Yasunosuke for the first time since they had left the Master. “You are to join us here? Surely this is no place for one such as you?” He had to bite his tongue to leave it at that, before he could say anything that might be a little too indelicate, or give away the fact that he knew a little too much about what the son of a noble family might normally expect in life.

Because he was looking at Yasunosuke now, he could see the uneasiness and shame that fell over the young man’s features at this question. “There was… It was difficult, with – with things as they were…” Yasunosuke struggled for another few seconds to find a fitting explanation, under Kichi’s intent gaze, before at last finishing uncomfortably, “This was my lord father’s wish.”

Kichi could feel his heart pound. What a wealth of intriguing news had been suggested in that answer, for all of the Takenaga boy’s reluctance! Whatever the circumstances that had transpired to bring Yasunosuke here, there had been nobody willing to give him a more suitable position, even as something other than a warrior. While it was a disappointment to hear that the elder Takenaga was living still, it helped greatly to know that he and his family had been thrown into such disarray. Even long ago, Lord Takenaga had been known as a man of disgraceful habits and loose morals. It was not difficult to imagine him bringing himself to ruin, and then selling off his own son like chattel in an attempt at gaining some relief. Kichi had known little of politics for many years – had stopped paying attention, honestly, once it became clear that such matters would never have anything to do with him again – but he would surely have to try and tease the story out from the next guest who bought him.

For now, he simply smiled at Yasunosuke. “It will be my pleasure to help you settle in. Come, this way.”

 

He led Yasunosuke to the baths, which were tucked away at the back of the house, at the end of three long hallways and a flight of stairs. It was still early, and so they passed no one in the hall, and found no one else using the baths when they arrived.

“Undress,” Kichi instructed, as Yasunosuke surveyed his surroundings, no doubt comparing them unfavorably to what he was used to. When Yasunosuke showed signs of hesitation, he added, “You have been traveling all day, haven’t you? The Master will want you to be clean for tonight.”

He did not turn away as Yasunosuke took his clothes off, even though it was clear that this discomfited the young man. Lord Takenaga’s fourth son was good-looking enough, though to Kichi’s eye it seemed to be a manly kind of good-looking. His limbs were strong and muscular, and Kichi noticed a suggestion of stubble on his chin, along with – he could see now – all the rest of the hair a man might have upon his body.

 Were things different, he could have been one of my guests here in only a few years’ time, Kichi thought. Maybe even sooner.

The idea was a vexing one, and invited further contemplation that Kichi did not care for. He pushed it aside and forced his attention back to Yasunosuke, who had just finished undressing. Perhaps Yasunosuke was not the type that most guests preferred, but if the Master had decided to enter into a contract for him, it meant that he had been deemed good enough for something, and that was all that mattered. Kichi himself, though he had never possessed a warrior’s sturdy body, knew that he had more of the appearance of an underfed man than that of a pleasingly slender youth these days.

When Kichi reached for Yasunosuke’s discarded clothes, Yasunosuke made a nervous movement as if to snatch them back out of his reach. Kichi simply stared at him, unfalteringly blank-faced, until Yasunosuke’s own face grew red and he drew his hand away.

Yasunosuke’s cock hung limp and pink between his legs, rather short (in Kichi’s estimation) but decently thick.   Kichi found that it was becoming easier by the minute to look at the young man while keeping a cool head.

One of the tubs was half-filled. Kichi did not know how long the water had been sitting there, but it would be good enough. “You can get started,” he said to Yasunosuke. “I’ll be back soon.” He walked away without waiting for a reply.

Up close, Yasunosuke’s clothing proved to be just as finely made as it had first appeared to be, but a further examination gave some sign of the misfortune that had brought the young man to the pleasure house. The wallet that Kichi found hidden between layers of silk and cotton held no money at all, only a small ivory netsuke with no cord attached. Its shape was that of the fat, smiling head of the lucky god Hotei, carved only a little bigger than Kichi’s thumbnail. 

For a moment, Kichi found himself mesmerized by it. Was treasure kept since childhood? A parting gift? Hotei was a guardian of children – the idea of Lord Takenaga giving his son such a sentimental token was hard to picture, but Kichi knew nothing of the lord’s wife, or of the rest of his household.

In the end, he put the netsuke back in the empty wallet, and tucked it away with the rest of Yasunosuke’s clothes in the back of a high shelf where few besides Kichi would be likely to look. He found a spare robe that seemed tolerably clean, as well as the other item he had come to collect, and then returned to the baths.

“What did you do with my things?” Yasunosuke seemed to have recovered some of his backbone in Kichi’s absence.

Kichi did not answer as he looked Yasunosuke over, considering the task ahead. Yasunosuke seemed to have done as he was told, backbone or no – his body was wet, as were the bucket and cloth that lay on the ground near him. A few strands of hair had come undone from his topknot, sticking damply to his neck.

When Yasunosuke finally noticed the razor blade that Kichi had brought back with him, the look that fell across his face was quite amusing indeed.

“Your hair,” Kichi explained, with some reluctance.

Yasunosuke looked only slightly less shocked. “My hair?” he repeated.

Kichi raised an eyebrow. “You know the way of things, in this world?”

Yasunosuke responded with a silence that suggested that he did know, though he did not look forward to discussing it.

“Your forelock has been cut. You are young, and pretty enough…” The faint reddening of Yasunosuke’s cheeks, and the moment in which he dropped his gaze uncomfortably away from Kichi’s, was well worth the rather too-generous compliment. “…But that hairstyle will ruin it for the guests.”

“You aren’t going to…?” Yasunosuke faltered.

“We may as well cut it all off and start over,” Kichi said. “There’s nothing else to be done.”

He hardly knew where the notion of it had come from; he was fully aware that the Master had intended no such thing when he had left Yasunosuke in Kichi’s care. Perhaps it was a faint memory of bald-headed penitents, shaving their heads to show regret for the wrongs they had committed. Perhaps it was the way that Yasunosuke had blushed and stuttered when Kichi had instructed him to strip, when Kichi had reminded him of his sorry new position in the world.

In any case, even if the Master had not yet thought so far ahead, a whore with no hair at all would look no stranger than a whore with the hair of a respectable nobleman.

“I – You can’t do that!” Yasunosuke was aghast. Kichi wondered idly if he had once been the kind of young lord who would have struck or even killed one who dared offend him so.

“There is nothing else to be done,” Kichi repeated. “You are putting this house in a very unusual position.”

“My father is Lord Takenaga Kunimitsu-“

“The very same lord who sold you here, is he not?” Kichi interrupted sharply. Yasunosuke fell silent as quickly as if he had been slapped across the mouth. “And he bid you obey, did he not?”

A deep furrow had formed between Yasunosuke’s eyebrows. He did not look Kichi in the eye.

Did he not?” Kichi snapped.

A nod, just barely visible.

“Then you know what you must do,” Kichi said. “Turn around.”

Yasunosuke’s shoulders shook as he turned his back to Kichi. The shaking got worse as Kichi stepped towards him, as if he expected Kichi to run him through with the razor.

Fear not, my lordling, Kichi thought ironically. I have not trained at combat in many years. I would surely be no match for you.

He took his time picking at the tie that held Yasunosuke’s topknot in place, and then toying with the hair when it fell down over Yasunosuke’s shoulders, gathering it this way and that as if trying to find the perfect way to make the cut. Yasunosuke did not move or speak.

When Kichi at last grew tired of teasing, his stroke was clean and quick, high enough that he fancied he felt Yasunosuke twitch as the razor blade passed so close to the back of his neck. Yasunosuke’s hair fell away neatly in Kichi’s fist, a limp hank of inky black. What remained clung wetly about Yasunosuke’s cheeks.

“There,” Kichi announced unnecessarily. He had expected Yasunosuke to turn to look at the hair that Kichi had cut away, eyes wide with shock and shame, but in the end Yasunosuke had enough self-control – or perhaps entirely too much shame – for such a reaction. “You may sit,” Kichi said. “The next part will take a while.”

Yasunosuke dropped to the floor as heavily if his legs had given out beneath him. Kichi followed at his own pace, unbothered for the time being by how the water puddled on the floor seeped into his kimono.

Shaving Yasunosuke’s head was easier than Kichi had expected, especially with Yasunosuke so compliant. He worked slowly all the same, exposing Yasunosuke’s pale scalp one coin-sized patch at a time. It was satisfying, almost soothing. So few chances to do a task thoroughly and well, ever since Kichi’s days had become a never-ending chain of empty days and nights.

When the job was finally completed to Kichi’s satisfaction he drew back, brushing fallen hairs from his knees.

Yasunosuke moved too, as if to get to his feet. “Wait,” Kichi instructed. Yasunosuke flinched, and obeyed.

“Turn around. Don’t get up.”

After Yasunosuke did so – face sullen, mouth pulled into a tight line – Kichi touched the razor blade lightly to his cheek. “You must shave here.” He moved the razor down, drawing it lightly up Yasunosuke’s naked left calf. “And here, I think.”

“My legs?” Yasunosuke did not sound quite as shocked now he had before, at least. Kichi could not tell if he was growing accustomed to his new life already, or if having his head shaved had taken too much out of him to muster any more indignation.

Kichi shrugged and nodded towards his own hairless leg, partly exposed where his wet kimono had ridden up. “It is the custom.”

“I had thought that I might not have to…” Yasunosuke hesitated for a moment, before finishing delicately: “…To do such work immediately.”

It was not such a misguided notion. Kichi himself had not been made to properly entertain his own guests until almost a month after he had first come to the house. And Kichi had been a boy, made meek and easily biddable by the upheaval of his life and his near-ignorance of carnal matters, not some overgrown warrior. Perhaps the Master would occupy Yasunosuke with chores until the young man grew accustomed to his new station, until he learned how to bow his head before other men and how to squirm and gasp enticingly as they shoved their hands inside of his kimono.

“You are very old to have just arrived here,” Kichi told Yasunosuke. “The Master will want you to begin earning money right away.”

Yasunosuke shifted uneasily. “Surely,” he began. “There are…many kinds of jobs in this place, are there not?”

Kichi gave another small shrug, pretending that he did not quite understand what Yasunosuke hoped to hear.

“Surely I don’t really need to…” Yasunosuke swallowed. “Play the role of a youth, or a woman? In, ah, the bedroom?”          

“Perhaps,” Kichi replied at last, when it became clear that Yasunosuke would not outright ask I have not truly, truly, been sold as despository for the spunk of drunken old men, have I?  “Can you sing, or tell amusing stories?”

“I can talk about history, and philosophy....”

“Can you dance?” Kichi pressed on bluntly.

Yasunosuke gave him a disbelieving look. “Why would I know how to do that?”

“Very well,” Kichi said, fixing him with a bland stare. “Then you will entertain the guests with your body. That is all that you are good for.”

Yasunosuke’s face turned pale. “My father made sure that I received a fine education as both a warrior and a man of culture…”

So did mine, you son of traitor scum. “That means nothing here,” Kichi said calmly. “Guests will not pay for you to be their equal.”

 Yasunosuke fell silent. Fully considering the meaning of Kichi’s words seemed to require much time and concentration. Lord Takenaga’s son might have received a fine upbringing, but he could not guard his emotions well. Kichi watched and waited as fear, anger, and despair passed in familiar waves across Yasunosuke’s features.

“If you try to run away,” Kichi advised Yasunosuke after a little while had passed. “They will beat you in the garden and leave you tied there overnight as a warning to the others.”

For a moment, it looked as though Yasunosuke really would hit Kichi. “Shut-!“ He caught himself at the last second, the hand he had started to raise falling back on his bare knees in an impotent fist. His eyes were wild, panicked. Kichi observed all this as calmly as he had the rest of it. He did not especially fear the prospect of a blow from Yasunosuke. The young man was certainly strong, but Kichi had endured far worse.

“I will not run away,” Yasunosuke said at last, strained. “I have a contract. I will do as I have promised.” Apparently, he had decided that the insult to his honor was the safest thing to object to.

“Very well,” said Kichi, who had likewise gone years without even thinking of escape for fear of bringing further shame and ruin upon his widowed mother, wherever she might be. By the time he had at last tried to run, at the age of about nineteen, he had no longer feared or hoped for anything. It had not been worth it. “Then, shall we continue?”

 

Having his legs shaved turned out to be the hardest thing for Yasunosuke to bear, even compared to his head. And yet, for quite some time the lord’s son tried to insist upon doing it himself.

“Give me the razor,” Kichi urged him yet again. “It will be faster.” They were still hours from the evening busy period, but Kichi was starting to feel cold where water had soaked through his kimono to the skin. He imagined that Yasunosuke, still naked, felt less comfortable still.

Yasunosuke shook his head like a stubborn child. The razor trembled in his hand, gripped helplessly tight over his wet legs, and yet he would not bring it just a little lower and begin the job.

“If you end up cutting yourself, the Master will be unhappy.” With Kichi, primarily, but Yasunosuke was unlikely to realize this.

When Kichi at last simply reached over and took the blade back, Yasunosuke did not try to argue, though he flinched like he was being poked with a heated iron as Kichi took hold of one of his ankles and maneuvered it into a convenient position.

The position also happened to allow a clear view between Yasunosuke’s legs. Yasunosuke’s cock was soft still, and flushed the same dull shade of pink that was currently staining his cheeks. His balls were small and shriveled like a walnut, though Kichi knew they would be far softer to the touch. Further back, the chrysanthemum pucker of Yasunosuke’s entrance was almost enticing in its unknown qualities.

“Have you bedded a woman yet?” Kichi asked conversationally as he guided the razor over the bony curve of Yasunosuke’s left kneecap. It had just occurred to him that he had no idea what the answer might be.

“No,” Yasunosuke replied shortly. His chest was rising and falling quickly, and his eyes were closed, as if he was trying to forget Kichi’s presence entirely.

“A man?”

No.”          

Kichi did not entirely believe this – he was well aware of the customs of warriors-in-training, though he had been denied that road himself – but there would be plenty of time later to pry the truth out of Yasunosuke. For now, Kichi satisfied himself with pushing up one of Yasunosuke’s well-muscled legs and then the other, so that the younger man was at once tipped backwards and splayed open. Yasunosuke made a very undignified noise, but confusion seemed to keep him from any serious resistance.

“Hold them,” Kichi instructed.

Yasunosuke looked between Kichi and the blade apprehensively. “You aren’t really going to-?”

“If you move, I might cut you.”

 Yasunosuke shut his mouth and held his legs. Kichi set himself to the careful work of scraping the hair from around Yasunosuke’s sac and hole.

They were closer than ever before like this, intimate. It did not bother Kichi, who had seen and done plenty worse, but Yasunosuke grew more flustered then ever, and seemed to shake with the effort of keeping himself still as Kichi worked. He could not prevent his entrance from twitching and winking in a way that – one of the more foul-mouthed guests would surely say – was practically inviting, nor could he prevent Kichi from seeing it all very clearly.

A vision of Yasunosuke being ploughed by some red-faced merchant, his head thrown back against a pillow and his knees shoved up by his shoulders in just the same way that Kichi had him currently, floated into Kichi’s mind’s eye as vivid as something out of a dirty art print. He felt himself smile thinly.

“You’ve never been with a man?” he asked again, mostly for the pleasure of seeing Yasunosuke squirm.

The question reaped a handsome reward. “N-noo…” Yasunosuke almost whined between gritted teeth, sucking in a breath raggedly as Kichi lifted his balls carelessly.

“The Master will know if you lie about such things,” Kichi cautioned him. “The guests will know.”

For a moment, Yasunosuke seemed at war with himself - with his shaking, unmanageable body, helpless before the unforgiving razor and Kichi’s hardly more forgiving fingers – and then he gasped out, “Only three.”

“Three?” Kichi only barely caught himself from dropping the razor and leaving Yasunosuke with a very unfortunate injury, so great was his surprise and delight at the confession.

“But we only – only touched. Not...”

“Really?” Were a Kichi a dog, his ears would have been perked up by now. “Did you rut into their hand, or they yours? Did you use your mouth on them?”

“Hardly...” Yasunosuke muttered miserably.

Kichi set the razor hurriedly aside – his work was more or less done, anyway – to better concentrate on the exquisite spectacle of Yasunosuke’s discomfort, leaning even closer to the young man. “Hardly?” he repeated urgently. “That is not ‘no’.”

Yasunosuke’s face had grown as red as if he might burst into tears. And yet, wonder of wonders, not even an attempt at a denial left his lips.

“Show me.” The order came out rushed, unthinking. Kichi could hardly believe himself. To demand such a thing so carelessly was not in his nature at all, and to demand it from this person, the offspring of the one responsible for his family’s destruction...

And yet Yasunosuke simply blushed and twisted uselessly all the more, just as he had for each of Kichi’s demands thus far. “Must I?” he asked. His voice was weak, hesitant. It did not fit the highborn warrior he had been when Kichi first laid eyes on him not more than an hour earlier. However, it seemed natural coming from the man who lay almost beneath Kichi now, naked and shaven-headed and full to brimming with almost palpable humiliation. Disgraced, a voice in the back of Kichi’s mind hissed approvingly.

“Yes,” Kichi answered unflinchingly. “It is my job to test your knowledge. The Master will be expecting it.”

Kichi had grown old at the brothel without showing a single speck of talent for entertaining beyond what he might do on his back or knees, and yet perhaps there was some affinity for acting within him after all, because somehow Yasunosuke seemed to take his words in without even a hint of skepticism. Humiliated, sullen resignation was all that Kichi could read on his face.

Earlier, when they had been walking together, Kichi had been able to note that he was only barely taller than Yasunosuke, while Yasunosuke was much more sturdily built. Yasunosuke could have pushed Kichi away from him easily – could have beaten Kichi to a bloody pulp, even – and yet he stayed on the cold, wet, floor of the bath until Kichi moved back and got to his feet. Even after that, Yasunosuke sat up in a more natural position but did not rise. He peered up at Kichi, eyes wide and apprehensive.

“What would you have me do?” Yasunosuke asked at last, only barely audible.

For a few seconds, Kichi could only stare back. A thousand possibilities raced through his mind, so that his head seemed to almost spin.

“Dry yourself off first,” he said at last.

 

The house was quiet still as Kichi and Yasunosuke made their way back from the baths. Yasunosuke followed Kichi silently, his eyes downcast. In the plain kimono that Kichi had provided for him, his bare scalp pale in the dreary rainy afternoon light, he looked entirely different from the man who had made the same trip in the opposite direction with Kichi only a little earlier. He made quite the strange figure now, stranger even than Kichi.  

They met no one as they walked, though a few times Kichi caught a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye, a door slid hastily shut. All of the boys were nosey and prone to gossip, as there was little else with which to occupy the time. None of them particularly liked Kichi, who was older than the rest of them and had a reputation for being withdrawn and moody.

It did not bother him. He had been at the house before any of the current boys had arrived, and might well be there after they had left. Kichi had made it to the late age of twenty-five without capturing the affections of a rich patron who might keep him on as a servant when he was no longer suitable as a plaything. With no name or reputation, nor any skills that could be turned towards proper work, the pleasure house was all that Kichi had.

And now it is all that Takenaga’s son has, too. A strange thrill ran down Kichi’s spine at the thought of it.

They had arrived at one of the empty rooms in which, in a few hours, guests would begin to drink and carouse. Yasunosuke gave his new surroundings a brief, dull glance, too unhappy to show much interest.

“Go to the closet.” It felt quite natural to order Yasunosuke around by now. “Yes, that one over there. Take out a futon. This is what you will do when you are with your guests.”

Yasunosuke did as he was told, though he slid the closet door open and dropped the futon down in the center of the room with all the delicacy of a farmer shoveling dung, and a look on his face that suggested a similar level of enjoyment.

“And you should prepare blankets, and a lantern, and whatever else the guest might like, but…” But Kichi did not have the patience. “But there’s no need for that now. Come.” Kichi lowered himself to his knees on the futon, and patted the space in front of him. “Sit.”

Yasunosuke sat. His hands twisted unhappily in his lap.

Kichi ran a hand gently down over his shoulder, and felt him shudder. “You must relax,” he murmured. “No guest will want to be with one who looks as if he hates it so.” That was not entirely true. Yasunosuke would likely discover that for himself in time, however.

“I cannot,” Yasunosuke confessed, the words leaving him in a hapless, whispered rush. “I am…I am not accustomed to these things, sir.”

Sir! Oh, that was good, that pleased Kichi very well indeed. It took some effort not to laugh out loud. “You need not worry,” he answered smoothly, when the impulse had passed. “That is what I am here for, to help you so that you will not embarrass yourself when the time comes. I have served here for almost half my life. There is no one here more qualified to teach you.”

“Oh.” Yasunosuke seemed to take heart at the glib reassurance, and raised his eyes to meet Kichi’s for the first time since they had left the baths. Pathetic gratitude was plain on his face for a moment. Then it was replaced with something else, something that Kichi took a second or two to recognize as sadness.

“Half your life…” Yasunosuke mused quietly. “Then you were just a child when you first came here, surely? How cruel fate is.”

Kichi’s breath caught in his throat. He was distantly aware of his fingers tightening around Yasunosuke’s arm, but he could not pull his hand away, suddenly flooded with the worst kind of memories. The last glimpse of his home, overrun by men sent by the treacherous Lord Takenaga. The child-seller’s bruising grip on his wrist, tugging him towards the pleasure house. Long nights spent curled beneath his blanket, one hand clamped over his mouth so that no one would hear him crying. The pain -

Yasunosuke was trying to pull away, his expression one of discomfort mixed with concern. “Are you all right?”

You must not lose control of yourself. Not now, when the chance to have your satisfaction is finally at hand. Kichi made himself take a long breath, clearing his mind as he had once done during swordsmanship lessons a lifetime ago.

“I…” He licked his dry lips, willing his voice even and almost succeeding. “Yes, I am.”

He managed to pull his hand away from Yasunosuke, and brought it to his own waist, to the obi that held his kimono shut. His hand was shaking too much to begin undoing it just yet, but the feel of it beneath his fingers, the reminder of where he was now and what he might be able to do, was steadying.

“You are kind to say such things,” he was able to make himself tell Yasunosuke. “I was…I was indeed rather young, when I first came to this place.”

Yasunosuke still stared at him, curious and uncertain. Kichi’s obi came loose easily with one satisfying tug.

“But fate can be surprising,” Kichi said. “I find myself very happy, now.”

 

While Yasunosuke had tried to lie about his experience with men at first, it was plain enough to see that he had spoken truly about being unaccustomed to such practices. When Kichi had bared himself, Yasunosuke had regarded his cock with open fear, as if it were a snake that might spring up and bite him, and after several minutes of prodding and coaxing and comments about what the Master might do to someone who refused to work, Yasunosuke would still do little more than lick at Kichi in quick and unsure strokes, catlike. 

“Can you do no better than that?” Kichi snapped impatiently. The foul mood that Yasunosuke’s ignorant sympathy had created had not entirely abated.

Yasunosuke cast a startled, nervous look, like that of a kicked dog, up from where he was crouched on the ground before Kichi. “That is what your guests will say, if you are so hesitant with them,” Kichi elaborated, grinding his teeth.

“I do not know any other way,” Yasunosuke whined.

Kichi gave his shoulder a shove. “And is that how you will speak to them?” He found himself briefly regretting having shaved Yasunosuke’s head. It would have been satisfying to yank at the young man’s hair, at such a moment.    

“I – I know no other way, my lord.”

“Pathetic,” Kichi sneered. “I could find a better mouth by slipping any apprentice in the city a few coins.”

"Forgive me, my lord!” Under Kichi’s tutelage, Yasunosuke was growing accustomed to humbling himself by his words, at least.

Kichi did not let his expression soften as he regarded Yasunosuke, flustered and red-faced yet again after at least ten minutes of being put to work on Kichi’s cock. Kichi ran his own hand absently down his stomach, and then lower. It would not hurt to rouse himself a little before he went back to toying with Yasunosuke. “You couldn’t even get me hard, you-“

Oh.

Kichi blinked, thrown off-balance for a moment. Had he really been so preoccupied with Yasunosuke’s discomfort that he had been blind to his own body? And yet, there it was: Kichi’s cock was stiff and well on its way to rising fully. Kichi could not think why. While Yasunosuke might have cut a fine figure when Kichi had first laid eyes upon him, his appearance was nothing more than embarrassing now, and he was so unskilled that it was frankly something of a miracle if the young man had really found three others willing to entertain his affections.

Yasunosuke, who had not stopped eyeing Kichi warily, looked from Kichi’s half-hard cock to his face and back. Kichi had the unwelcome feeling that his moment of surprise had not escaped the other man. “Is it to your satisfaction, my lord?” Yasunosuke asked softly.

The nerve of him, to act as if he was so ill-used when what they had done was practically nothing at all, less activity than what might fill even five minutes of a typical night’s work for Kichi. “Of course not,” he snapped. “Did you listen to me at all?”

“Please, I’ve had enough.” Yasunosuke spoke to Kichi as if to an equal now, the attempt at humility abandoned. “I – I think I know what to do now, can we stop?”

Kichi shoved him in earnest, sending Yasunosuke sprawling backwards over the futon. He could feel the blood pounding at his temple, in his cock. “Are you such a fool, Yasunosuke?” he snarled, the words dripping poison even to his own ears. “Do you still not understand? You do not decide when they will stop. You do not even ask.”

Yasunosuke cried out and tried to push Kichi’s hands away as Kichi fell upon him, pressing him down into the futon, but it was hardly much of a fight, not what Kichi knew the lord’s son to be capable of. For all his balking, Yasunosuke had already learned his place. Everyone did, in the end. For the likes of Yasunosuke and Kichi, there was no other choice.  

Kichi shoved Yasunosuke’s kimono up and forced one hand between his strong thighs, where the skin was smooth and warm to the touch. “What a sight,” he whispered, bringing his lips close to Yasunosuke’s ear. “A man so grown, shaving his legs to try and play the slut.”

“You made me do that!” Yasunosuke’s voice was high and tight with panic, and tears quivered on his eyelashes. “I didn’t want to do it!”

When Kichi grabbed at Yasunosuke’s cock – Yasunosuke wore no loincloth, Kichi had not given him one – Yasunosuke actually whimpered, which made Kichi burn hotter still. His fingers fumbled further back, to the place that had come to his attention earlier.

When he pressed one finger forward – not fully entering, just yet – Yasunosuke made an even more wretched noise. “No, please…”

The sensation of control had calmed Kichi some, yet again. He did not move any further, but he kept his hands were they were, and studied Yasunosuke as the young man endeavored to hide his face in the futon, trembling.

“You have to bear it,” Kichi said.

 Yasunosuke shook his head desperately. He had begun to cry in earnest.

Kichi continued to simply watch him for a moment longer, stroking at his entrance lightly, idly. Kichi’s cock, pressed tightly against the side of one of Yasunosuke’s thighs, had by now grown rock-hard and wanting.

It would be a simple thing, to drive himself inside of Yasunosuke. To complete Lord Takenaga’s son’s ruin himself. Yasunosuke did not have it in him to put up enough resistance, Kichi was sure, and Kichi was… Kichi was fit for the job, certainly. Hatred, bitterness, and other, older emotions burned like hot tar within his chest, threatening to choke him.

Another moment passed. Kichi could feel Yasunosuke clench and shudder beneath his touch. Kichi’s hair, grown disorderly from the earlier struggle, hung down into his face. Sweat itched at the back of his neck.

If Kichi took Yasunosuke now, it would be a first for the both of them. In twelve long years, Kichi had never penetrated a man, not even in encounters unbound by the restrictions of the house.

That did not mean that he could not do it now. It had never seemed difficult for the others. And Kichi was a man, after all.

An unfamiliar notion, that. Kichi was not a man, not here.

Kichi would have been a man, had his father not been cut down by the one who had called himself a friend only to murder him, to drag his name through the mud with lies and leave his family with worse than nothing.

He pushed at Yasunosuke until Lord Takenaga’s youngest son was lying on his side, with Kichi curled behind him almost like a lover. “Bring your legs together,” Kichi urged him. He did his best to shove Yasunosuke’s kimono even further up, until it was bunched around his waist and Yasunosuke was fully exposed to Kichi’s whims.

Yasunosuke hesitated. Impulsively, Kichi struck him open-handed, high on the side of his thigh. He thought the blow more noisy than painful – Yasunosuke, raised as a warrior’s son, had surely received far worse in the course of his education – but Yasunosuke cringed and let out a sound that was half yelp, half sob.

“Legs together,” Kichi hissed into his ear. “Your guest will be angry if you are so slow.”

As Yasunosuke obeyed, Kichi spat into his palm and slicked his own cock, half-marveling at its weight and heat. Wasting no more time, he drew Yasunosuke closer still with one arm, and with the other, guided his cock between Yasunosuke’s solid thighs.

The sudden action had frightened Yasunosuke. This close, the raggedness of his breath was easy to hear.

“Stay just like this, or I’ll really fuck you,” Kichi whispered meanly.

Yasunosuke’s body seemed to sag – Kichi could not tell if it was from relief or despair - but he kept his legs pressed together, squeezing Kichi as tightly as a fist. Kichi began to rock against him.

He found a pleasurable rhythm quickly, and soon his own breathing became just as rough as Yasunosuke’s hiccupping sobs. The futon beneath them felt damp with their sweat. Was this what the guests, the men, felt as they made use of Kichi and the others? Kichi could not imagine it, even now.

Yasunosuke had been quiet for a while, and had not moved from the position that Kichi had given him. “When you are really with a guest, they will spear you open while you crouch on your hands and knees,” Kichi told him.

Yasunosuke moaned, and the sound of it went straight to Kichi’s cock. “Many of them are - ah – strong men, Yasunosuke, and hot-blooded. You will have to take them again and again before they are sated.”

One of his hands found Yasunosuke’s cock, and he began to pump it impulsively, heedless of the dry drag of it and the noises of discomfort the action wrung from Yasunosuke.

“If you beg them to stop, they will laugh at you and fuck you harder.” Was that Kichi’s voice, so low and cold? It sounded like the worst kind of guest, like a monster. Kichi felt as if he was scattering apart, at once watching himself rut against Yasunosuke from afar and yet so close that he could notice the stray hairs that he had missed on the back of Yasunosuke’s skull. The only grounding thing was the tight pleasure of his cock between Yasunosuke’s thighs, and the feel of Yasunosuke in Kichi’s fist.

“And so you will – you must accept it.” It was becoming difficult to put a sentence together. Part of Kichi’s mind was aware that he would not last much longer. “Do you understand?” he growled at Yasunosuke.

Yasunosuke sobbed. “Yes, yes!”

“See how you take to it already,” Kichi accused him, even as his hand worked Yasunosuke’s cock so relentlessly that his wrist would surely ache later. “You are made for this, I know. Now I understand why your family sold you.”

Tears dribbled down over Yasunosuke’s red cheeks, into the futon. “It – it was the only way… The money…”

Kichi squeezed savagely, making Yasunosuke’s words break off into a cry. “I think they knew how weak-minded and eager for a fucking you are. At least this way, they got some good out of you.”

“S-stop…”

“Three – three men,” Kichi taunted him, nonsensically. “Greedy thing. Did you argue, when your damned father sold you? Were you pleased?”

There was no reply.

“Curse you and the dogs that whelped you.” Kichi could not tell if his mouth was moving now, did not know if the words were spoken aloud or only inside his head. “It’s your fault, all of it. All of – oh –“

His climax hit him like a bolt of lightening, wiping all other thoughts from his head. In its wake, Kichi knew himself once again. He lay sweaty and disheveled on the futon, his heart still hammering at his chest. He could hear the soft drumming of rain on the roof. Before him was the back of Takenaga Yasunosuke’s shaved head, and his heaving shoulders.

The need to be away from him, from all of it, flooded through Kichi suddenly, overwhelmingly. As he drew back, he could see his seed dripping down from between Yasunosuke’s thighs.

The heat of moments ago had disappeared, and Kichi felt cold and exposed. He stumbled to his feet, almost falling – his legs felt as weak as if he had just gotten the kind of rough use he had described to Yasunosuke – and hastened to rearrange his clothing.

On the futon, Yasunosuke made a small sound in the back of his throat and began to stir. Kichi turned his back to him hurriedly. What have you done?

He found that he was sweating as if struck by a fever, so that his clothing and hair clung to him uncomfortably. He tugged at his hair distractedly as he made for the door, trying to scrape it away from the back of his neck. His hands were trembling.

"Kichi?”

Yasunosuke had remembered his name? Why did he choose to use it now?

“…My lord?” Yasunosuke asked plaintively.

Kichi could do nothing but stop, nothing but turn to look at him.

The young lord – the one who had once been a young lord – had pushed himself up onto his knees, though his kimono was still lewdly askew and the evidence of Kichi’s passions was clearly visible a little ways below his limp, rubbed-red cock. Yasunosuke’s cheeks were blotchy and tear-stained.

As Kichi watched, Yasunosuke bowed forward very slowly, until his forehead pressed against the straw matting of the floor.

“T-thank you for your guidance.” Yasunosuke’s voice was shaky and thick from crying, but he spoke loudly enough that there could be no mistaking the words. “Please continue to look after me. I will do my best to learn.”

Kichi turned and fled from him. In the stillness of the house, his footsteps seemed to echo in the hallway. A strange pain was overflowing within his chest, and once again Kichi did not know whether he might laugh or weep. Or vomit.

What would the Master do, when he learned of Kichi’s actions? Kichi hoped that whatever punishment might be in store, he would at least be allowed to work that evening. Perhaps there would be a guest who would hold him down and take what he wished, so that Kichi could empty his mind and think of nothing, feel nothing, for even a single merciful hour.

Outside, the rain continued to fall.