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[Author’s preface notes: The initiation and life of a male prostitute—a jinan—in the Floating World of the Beautiful Way in ancient China in the waning years of the Chu dynasty, 200 BC, was a sensual but cruel, often foreshortened, bitter-sweet existence. Floating World Bitten Peach weaves a complex, romantic, and all too often tragic tale of the interwoven lives of six jinan affiliated with one male brothel—the Cut Sleeve Nanleshijia. Laid against their linked stories are those of the managers and servants who guided these beautiful young men through their training, their initiation—in which they became bitten peaches, a term for the loss of a male prostitute’s anal virginity to a client—and beyond to burn as bright stars, and, in too many cases, sputter too early to ash.
[On the surface, the life of a male courtesan in China twenty-two centuries ago was a lush, pampered existence, and the services they provided, described in this novel, were exotic and arousing. Most young Chinese men of the era were promised only a hardscrabble life fighting the elements for too scant a harvest and sustenance and dying an early death. To be taken into the nanleshijia marked a young man as having certain charms, beauty, and diminutive stature and guaranteed him comfort and nurturing, leading up to a highly formalized deflowering and folding into the life of those who served the demanding sexual needs of powerful men. For the best jinan, it also led to fame, sponsorship, and an assured protected and refined life. But underneath this veneer of vermillion lacquer and refined beauty lay a world of danger, uncertainty, competition, loneliness, and cruelty that became more than most jinan could bear—and certainly more than they deserved just for being born desirable.
[While providing an intricate network of stories of adventure, sexual exploits, and entwining relationships, Floating World strives to capture the essence of the deliciously euphemistic Oriental world of men making love to other men in China’s ancient past and covering two kingdoms. The stories of these six jinan and of the men who served, coveted, and mastered them are interwoven tales that go beyond the random act of sexual release between men. They offer more complex and context-richer studies by gathering age-old themes, exotic settings, and all-so-human characters up into the Floating World of the Orient. A world in which men give themselves to other men—some more freely than others—for something in return, whether it is money, position, power, survival, honor, service, devotion—or, not all that rarely, really, in unconditional love.]
Chapter One: School for Nantung’s Nanleshijia
The caretaker judged that he had been right to do as he had done. The school baoan, Niu—The Ox—whose job it was to protect the nanleshijia—male pleasure house—students from the outside world, apparently was more of a threat than a protector. The caretaker—the zhaoguzhe—knew he must accept responsibility for hiring such a young and volatile man as protector. As the caretaker of these young students, the zhaoguzhe had to make what had come out of harmony right again. Sending young Deming—Virtue Bright—to the monks of Langshan—Wolf Hill—was the first step in this atonement. But the caretaker could readily tell from Niu’s reaction that it would not be enough.
“Where have you sent poker oyna Deming?” Niu demanded. He rounded on the zhaoguzhe, towering over him, all muscle and power, but knowing that it would be death to so much as touch the manager of the nanleshijia school—the preparation school of Nantung’s male pleasure house. “Deming is not sufficiently prepared yet,” he said.
“Deming is sufficiently prepared in being arousing to men, wouldn’t you say?” zhaoguzhe countered with a hard, accusing look in his eyes. “Deming is fulfilling his destiny, just as any other of those of the Beautiful Way do. He is where he is safe from predators.”
“I protect the students here from predators,” Niu declared.
“I am well aware of your duties here,” said the zhaoguzhe. “Perhaps more than you are. Perhaps I appreciate more what you are supposed to be doing than you do—than you are contemplating doing.”
But the zhaoguzhe simply gave Niu a disdainful look and turned and, hanfu—ceremonial robes—rustling against the bamboo walls of the narrow passageway into the heart of the male pleasure house, flowed away like one of the majestic ships that the growing riverside village of Nantung was famous for building.
Niu stood angry, but mute, in his wake. How had the old man discovered the interest Niu had been building toward Deming?
As famous as the port city on the northern bank of the Yangtze River, near its mouth in the kingdom of Wu, was for shipbuilding, it was even more famous for its beautiful and pliable young men. In this era, Wu was the most powerful of the three Middle Kingdoms in military strength, agricultural production, and trade. Most legendary of its trade goods, though, was its supply of youths for the Beautiful Way—the world of male prostitution.
The Cut Sleeve Nanleshijia was not the only male brothel in Nantung, but it was the most expensive one and the one where the richest and most powerful patrons of the prefecture of Yangzhou, in which it was located, were clients. And it also had the most respected preparation school attached to it. Only the most beautiful and refined young men were admitted there, where, for several years, their talents for entertaining and pleasing were even further refined. The training only went so far, however. Every young man went to his first client a virgin, usually in an auction followed by an elaborate ceremony. And large fortunes were paid for the privilege of being the “first” for one of these young men—the first to take the bite of the perfect peach that would never be perfect and unblemished again.
That was why the zhaoguzhe had sent the young Deming where he did. He was dissatisfied with what he had had to do—he had to take less than Deming could normally have earned for his first taking. But the zhaoguzhe knew that time was extremely short before Niu, a very arousing young man in his own right, but a baoan—a protector—rather than a student, ruined Deming for that first entertainment. The inevitable had become obvious when the zhaoguzhe had seen the looks Deming had been giving the muscular body of Niu as the baoan sluiced off his body at the water spout at the end of his working day. Deming could not be trusted to hold himself in check any more than Niu could.
And in this Deming was more at fault than Niu was. Niu was untrained, a canlı poker oyna virile animal acting on natural instinct. Deming had been trained to control his emotions. For this transgression, Deming had to be punished.
Niu stood there in the passageway, fists clinching, bitter words on his lips, watching the zhaoguzhe sail away from him. He took one step forward, as to follow the zhaoguzhe, but from behind him, a trembling, restraining hand reached out and touched his arm.
“It is useless to badger the old man, baoan. He will not tell you where Deming went. But I know where Deming went. I can take you there.”
Niu turned and looked at the school servant, Shun—Obedient—a former student whose arm had been scalded with boiling water in an accident and who no longer was perfect, and thus had been reduced to the level of servant.
The zhaoguzhe watched them in discussion in the garden pavilion on the cliff overlooking the Yangtze. He smiled. Even though he knew the servant, Shun, was so smitten with the baoan that he would lead Niu to where Deming had been sent, he also knew that Niu would be too late to do anything about it.
From where he stood, he could see down the willow-bordered pathway and thus was able to see that a vermillion palanquin, carried by six sturdy soldiers of the imperial guard of the House of Wu, was approaching. The caretaker moved swiftly back into the nanleshijia and to the room where the youngest and slimmest of the students in preparation, Xiaodan—Little Dawn—was being clothed and powdered for his trip to Gusu, the capital of Wu.
The zhaoguzhe regretted that he had not had sufficient time to train Xiaodan—he was the most recently arrived of the students—but he had received instructions to provide the most femininely beautiful of his students, and when he demurred on sending who that would be—Xiaodan—because the young man was not yet trained enough in the life of a jinan—a male prostitute—he was informed that the most innocent of the students would be the most welcome, trained or not.
After Xiaodan had departed in the palanquin with the training master of the capital city’s premier drama troupe, the zhaoguzhe floated into the large salon, where the other students had gathered. Which, he wondered, would be the next to make his way to the outside world? Some would need to remain. The Cut Sleeve Nanleshijia itself would need the best that he could keep back.
He cast his eye on the exotic beauty, Xiu—Fine Beauty. This was the young man who would be the most arousing and who had become the most learned in the ways of arousing other men. If he was at all able, Xiu would remain to become the principle jinan of the house. And if so, the shy and diminutive Bolin—Gentle Rain—would need to remain as well. The two were almost as brothers and were inseparable. Xiu would do anything, if only he knew Bolin was safe and being treated well. And it would seem that Bolin would do nothing, without crying about it, without the present support of Xiu.
The zhaoguzhe’s attention went to Ping—Tranquility—who was entertaining the rest with his song and lute. When the drama master at the capital asked for one of the students, Ping had been the first to come to mind. He was the most talented in the arts other than sensual—Xiu reigned supreme there. But a internet casino less accomplished artist was what was sought. The zhaoguzhe assumed Ping would go at a high price and bring considerable honor to the nanleshijia school.
Of the rest, the zhaoguzhe could not speculate what would happen to them. He would assign them as needed and convenient.
He stood there, watching them in repose. Which would be the next to leave the nest, he wondered. Something told him that it would have to be the baoan rather than a student. He had averted disaster with Deming, but Niu had also given looks of desire at Xiu, and Xiu was just too valuable of a commodity to let Niu spoil him. No, he thought, it would have to be Niu who left next. He could not be sold as any student would be, but he was owned by the nanleshijia as any of the students were. It would have to be a special arrangement, and it would have to be lucrative enough to make up for the lower price Deming went for.
The zhaoguzhe strolled slowly back to his own offices, his mind spinning out the answer to this puzzle. He actually rather liked puzzles of this nature.
* * * *
As the zhaoguzhe rustled past the wardrobe closet on the other side of a thin rice-paper wall, Niu held a beefy hand over the mouth and nose of a trembling Shun, living up to his name, Obedient, as he lay bent over a robe press, bare feet on the ground, with Niu folded over him, embracing him, his massive cock already in position deep up the school servant’s channel. Shun was no longer perfect enough to be a jinan, but a scalded arm did not cause an imperfection to a young man’s anal passage, nor did it take the edge off his need if he had been trained initially in lying under a man and giving clients pleasure and taking his own pleasure from them.
Shun had information on the whereabouts of the student Deming and Niu had a need to know where Deming was and was prepared to cover Shun and meet the servant’s need for a man to learn that information. The servant’s damaged arm meant nothing to Niu. The young man was beautiful otherwise and he had a hole and a desire to be covered. That was enough for the randy protector. Men of his class were not supposed to lower themselves to coupling with the servants, but that had not gotten in the way of Niu’s fucking whoever appealed to him before.
When the zhaoguzhe had passed in the corridor beyond, Niu took his hand away from Shun’s mouth, palmed the young servant’s breast through the folds of his robe, and commenced the rhythm of the deep fuck. Trembling in the close embrace of the massive, virile protector, Shun panted and moaned low in his gut, concentrated on opening to the gloriously thrusting shaft, and struggled with what mental capacity he could tear away from focusing on the magnificent cock working his passage to gather his thoughts on what he would tell Niu about where Deming had been taken.
Niu could not know the pain of the pleasure his thrusting shaft was giving Shun. Although Niu prided himself of biting the peach—taking the virginity—of many a young man, he could not have known that Shun, to that point, although he had been trained to please men to the time the scalding of his arm had ruined his perfection, had been a virgin to men. He had loved Niu from afar and had been willing to let the baoan—the protector—feast on his peach. He would have preferred it to be in a more luxurious and meaningful setting than this robe closet, but, as Niu stroked him roughly and hard, the school servant gritted his teeth and took what he had longed for as he could get it.
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