Heaven and Earth II
The black mane jerked backwards in ecstasy. The black face was all black now, eyes shut tight so no red showed through. White teeth glimpsed in the open mouth the only hint of colour. And then he had collapsed upon the red body below him and was sliding downwards. Goukou caught his dead weight under the arm before he could hit the floor. Unconscious. Gouen was spiralling out of the skies down to the world below, a long, long way to fall.
"Give me a hand."
His red brother straightened, grasped Gouen under his other shoulder and helped get the tall body up and onto the divan.
He obeyed, and Goukou watched as he had watched their copulation just now. Lust thrummed through his body. The skies of his head were red with it. He flew among blood-coloured stormclouds and rode the tumultuous winds, master of the tempest within and without. It was a huge, a gigantic feeling, and he let himself savour it. He was master of all things, himself included, and the storm would never succeed in carrying him away. So he watched while his brother, meek as a servant, performed a servant's duties: washed the black torso, made the robe decent, and carried the water away. There was no sense of resistance there. Odd. Goushou meek was Goushou at temporary truce with himself, his perverse nature momentarily silenced. Not gone, only held for a space in a hard-won and easily toppled balance. But this time-- this time there was nothing at all. No anger, no resentment, no awareness even of the fact that he was naked and shamed. Goukou smiled to himself.
You are deep into the pattern of your mantra, I see. You have buried your Self a thousand leagues beneath the ocean so you may do what you must do without difficulty. And do you truly think I cannot bring you back in a moment if I wish it?
He cast the hook. "Go ask my servants for the rod and bring it to me." The man bowed and walked to the door. Goukou watched closely for signs of hesitation or reluctance, but saw none. Nothing in the lines of the body or the carriage of the head to say he was waiting or even hoping to be called back. The red hand was on the latch. The door was open. From far away a voice said to him Do not let him through that door or it will be the worse for both of you. "Stop," Goukou said. The man turned. And still nothing. No relief, no gratitude for his reprieve. He had hidden himself so far within his mantra that there was nothing of his Self left, only a body that did as it was told mechanically and without feeling. Angry thunder rumbled in Goukou's head.
"You will pay for this defiance," he said as he stood. "Prepare yourself." He jerked his thumb over his shoulder and his brother moved silently back to the bed. In cold rage Goukou walked past him through the door, across the deserted robing room and into the dayroom beyond. Shenzen was there and several others, not occupied but standing still, awaiting his arrival with hands in sleeves and heads bent like chidden servants.
"Fetch me the heavy bamboo." Shenzen touched Green Cricket on the shoulder and motioned him off with a silent finger. Goukou turned his back on them, the men of earth that belonged to his earthbound life, lest he be unjust to them now that most of him was elsewhere. A moment later Green Cricket came up to his side and knelt, holding the rod in both hands above his head. As Goukou took it he caught a glimpse of the child's downturned face.
"What is it?"
Green Cricket gave a little panicked gasp, and there was a subdued rustle of alarm from the others. Goukou took the boy by the shoulder and pulled him to his feet. "What is it?" he repeated more gently.
Green Cricket's eyes went sideways, looking desperately anywhere but at him. "Your Majesty is angry..."
"I am not angry at you."
"No, your Majesty."
"Look at me."
He gulped and obeyed. Tears swam in his eyes, and his thin shoulder trembled a little under Goukou's hand. He was so young... but no, not so young as that. His hair was bound, and for all his smallness he must be well started on his training. Absently Goukou fondled the curving edge of his ear as he would a child's. The skin was still soft and smooth. But he was much the same age as Kaisou: he must be approaching his first Crossing, if not past it. The thought sent a flame dancing through Goukou's blood, and the heavy clouds grew redder in his head. He leaned down and kissed the fresh mouth, and the shiver that went through the boy made him smile. Ready for it, certainly; and if not ready, one could make him so. Take him back to the bedroom, undress him, put him across the bed... The flames leapt higher within him, and against the sullen clouds in his head he saw Kaisou's thin flanks, stripped bare and bent for a whipping.
Goukou's soul seemed to freeze. Very carefully he straightened up.
"Do not be afraid," he said, across the miles to this little one on the ground. "Only a little longer and all will be as it was before."
Green Cricket looked at him in misery. "You are a man," Goukou told him. "Endure what you must- what we all must. This will be over soon." He knew he must leave, for his soul still hung somewhere between earth and sky, and while that was so he could not trust himself. But the unhappiness in the boy's eyes held him still.
"Say what is in your heart," he told him.
"M-majesty, how can it ever be the same now? Lord Goujun- Lord Goujun is gone from us-- and--"
"He is gone for a time only. He will return." Startled movement from his men. He didn't look at them. "His soul is in a body here on earth, and sometime- sometime soon, I was promised- he will return and the body he has now be changed to the one he had before. He will come back, as I will come back. You must wait for us."
"Yes, Your Majesty."
There was a buzzing in his ears as he returned to the bedroom. There was one here on whom he could rightly lay the lash of his anger, the sullen and disloyal fool who had defied him so far. That thought steadied his fretted soul. One last chance, and if he did not answer to that...
"Kneel and beg me for your whipping."
The man knelt and clasped his hands above his bent head. "My lord, I beg you punish me. You and Lord Gouen have suffered and bled in your bodies. If we are indeed three, as you have deigned to say, then do not keep me from fellowship with you in this. Let me share your stripes and your pain. I beg you."
The world went red before Goukou's eyes.
"How dare you resist me like this?" he asked, and felt the thunder growling closer, nearly on top of them now.
The other looked up, and there was nothing at all in his face. "I do not resist you, my lord. I am here to answer to your will, and only that."
"You are not here at all. You have hidden your selfness so as not to see your shame or know your pain. Come back and suffer your punishment, coward."
"I am here," the red man said without emphasis. "I do not use my mantra, lord. I am here in my body and I know what is happening to me, and when I have the leisure to feel I promise you my torment and shame will be all you can wish for and more."
"You have not that leisure now?"
"I have not had that leisure since you and Lord Gouen took to the skies and I was left below not knowing who would come back."
Goukou breathed deeply to still the churning feelings within him. "I do not trust you, cozening liar. I think you seek to pull me from my skies and down to the earth where you have ever had the best of me, as you did just now with the youngest of us. And I will not have it. I will have satisfaction from you at last."
"I will give you whatever satisfaction you wish. If it is not to your will that I be meek, I will resist you and give you the satisfaction of defeating me. Say only what you desire."
Anger and frustration made Goukou's brain dizzy. "I do not wish you to give me satisfaction. I wish to take it, in spite of you, and to your everlasting bitterness and shame."
That brought a hesitation to him at last. "Lord," he said. "Lord, you see me humble before you. It would be grievous to me but that- that I have worse things to fear than bitterness and shame. I thought to lose you, or Lord Gouen, or both of you, to death or to your anger at me; and the pain of that thought made all else seem small. I cannot resist you in earnest so that you may rejoice in my defeat. My defeat cannot be bitter to me if it gives you satisfaction. I am sorry, lord. I do not know what to do."
"Stubborn headstrong fool--" A thunderclap, deafening, among the canyon clouds of his mind. The sky split apart with the force of it. "Put your face to the floor and show me your arse." The red man crouched and lifted his hips. Goukou raised his arm and brought the rod down with a crack as loud as the thunder's roar. A thick welt appeared across the narrow buttocks, and two more after it. The man's gasps were muffled by his arm.
"Take your mouth away." He struck again and heard the sob of pain with satisfaction. Deliberately he brought the rod down across the first weal. The man shrieked. The sound came to him like lightning, like something that cuts the world apart, and with it cut himself off from the person he had been the moment before. What am I doing? he wondered, dazed as if suddenly ripped from sleep. The red man shaking and sobbing below him, the heavy rod in his own hand--
Your servant defied you said the voice of the skies, the voice of the storm. Now he suffers your wrath.
Wrath? He searched inside himself. But I am not angry.
Your brother was stubborn against you said the other voice, the settled heavy one of earth. You enact justice upon him.
Justice? He felt an instinctive revolt against the word, as though it were a slug laid on his skin. What have I to do with a thing as cold as that? Do you not see? This is my brother. I have hurt my brother. He hung for a terrible instant between earth and heaven. The anger that had held him aloft until a moment before was gone like an unremembered dream. The deadly iron law of the world pulled him sickeningly downwards. And then he found his wings and was soaring safely through the storm clouds and well above the tilting earth.
I am Victor, and the will of my heart is all that matters. "Goushou," he said, as he flew into sunlight.
Goushou turned his face towards him, tear-streaked and hesitant. Goukou knelt and pulled him up into his arms. Kissed his mouth, feeling the tidal wave of desire about to break over him. The will of my heart is to have him, as close as we may be. "Brother, I must hurt you once more," he murmured, but Goushou's arms were about him now holding him tight and Goushou's mouth was kissing his own and urging him on. He could not bear to have Goushou turned away from him longer. He laid his brother on his back and the red legs came up of themselves to open for him. As carefully as he could he came within, in and in as far as possible, braced on his arms above Goushou's blind wet face. Goushou's heat was all about him, melting his heart even as his body seemed to catch fire from it. Quickly he began to move in and out, and heard the breath hiss in Goushou's throat. Something touched his soul then and stopped him- no, like this, slower, slide in easily, yes, there, feel it, that's the thing you want-- Goushou gasped. His eyes flew open and his mouth went wide and he stared up at Goukou and cried aloud. His root emerged, stiff and growing. His legs clasped Goukou's sides like a vice while his hands clutched at Goukou's shoulders. Slowly and deliberately, not the fast pulse his own body urged him to, Goukou slid himself in and out of Goushou's body. Like massaging a knotted muscle, heavy and purposeful, while his eyes watched Goushou's twisting features and let them dictate his movements. Goushou's voice turned to short desperate cries. His body arched upwards as if drawn to Goukou's and spilled its seed in the narrow space between them.
The will of my heart-- Never had he known such triumph. He went faster then, hard and fast in and out of the soft flesh beneath him, and reached his release in a burst of joy. Goushou held him as he crouched and panted against the slick red flesh. Drew himself together and kissed Goushou's mouth, kissed the salt-tasting eyes, the curve of the ears, the horns. Saw the four kingdoms of the world laid out below him as he soared the victorious skies. He got up, held out a hand to Goushou and pulled him to his feet, and kept his hand fast-clasped as they walked to the bathing room.
Goushou unbound Goukou's braid, sluiced him down with many buckets and washed his sweat-soaked mane. The touch of water down his back reminded him of his wounds old and new; reminded him at least to be gentle when washing Goushou. The welts were raw even if they hadn't broken the skin, and he was achingly careful as he cleaned his brother behind. But Goushou's nearness was a distraction in that wet and steamy enclosure. Goukou came emerged at the touch and smell of his brother's body so that, bathplace or no, he had to press close up against him and crane to kiss his mouth again. Goushou gave a start and hesitated a moment, but then drew the resistance from his body and kissed him back.
"Still on the ground?" Goukou murmured into his ear.
"Ani-ue. How not? And you are still in the air." Goushou sounded sad.
"It is the victor's privilege to be free of earth and its rules while the mood lasts." His arms were pulling Goushou towards him. "Do you draw me back so I may be myself again." His mouth moved down Goushou's neck and across his chest. He pushed him to the floor and tasted down the flat belly to the beginning of the sheathe, and licked about its edge so that Goushou's manroot began to emerge. That was as much self-restraint as he could manage. He had to raise Goushou's legs once more and push inside him, and feel the wince of pain in Goushou's body as he did so.
"I hurt you before though I was trying not to," he said in regret.
"The victor's privilege," Goushou answered, around a breath. "You are larger than usual from being in the skies, but I..."
"Ahh, I see. Come up then and sit above me, that I need not make you sorer by moving."
"You are cut behind, ani-ue--"
"I do not feel it. Quickly." He knelt backwards, so pulling Goushou up with him, who groaned at the movement. Goukou buried his face against Goushou's neck, hidden by the wet curtain of their manes and by the sheltering darkness of Goushou's arms about his shoulders and head. Goushou's heat and weight pressed heavily on his thighs, trapping his root impossibly deep inside. Sitting back on his heels like this he did in fact feel the soreness of his unhealed cuts, but the ache of them was distant, as distant as the memory of where they had come from. He was here in the safe confines of now, and the only thing that was real to him was Goushou's warmth about him. Yet he knew Goushou to be in pain from his own stripes and sore from their coupling before. He began to play with the edge of the red sheath to arouse his brother more and so distract him. Goushou moaned into his hair and the sound brought him both satisfaction and relief.
"Have you come back for good?" Goukou murmured to his brother's skin.
"Back from where, ani-ue?"
"Wherever you went to. Mantra or not, you were gone from me, and I don't know where. Where did you go, Goushou?"
After a moment Goushou said "When I stood outside your bedroom door with my hand on the latch, it seemed I found myself in a place I knew well. For the ten days you were gone I prepared myself for shame and death. I resigned myself to them as to a thing that must come as surely as tomorrow's dawn. The world goes pale when seen from that vantage point. It is hard to care about anything in it. I suppose, when seen from the world, it is the one who is there who seems pale."
"You must not go from me again," Goukou said, and held him tighter. "I want you here, stubborn and sullen and angry if you must be, and not in that pale land. For I think you have a fondness for the place and that it calls to you, and the thought fills me with fear. If we must battle, let us do it here on earth and as ourselves."
"I would not have gone from you had you not left me first for the skies. And I can only say this to you because you have not wholly returned from them, even now. For I think *you* have a fondness for that place and that your soul yearns for its freedom, and if that is so what shall we poor earth-bound creatures do?"
"I will come back. I must come back. This is no more than a dream in a winecup, and I go on dreaming it only because it lets me have you as often as I want. But I know my love causes you pain when you are sore already from my anger, and that knowledge must bring me soon to earth."
"If you love me as you did just now, you may do it as often as you please. In that at least you are gentler in the skies than on earth."
"Ahh." He nuzzled Goushou's neck. "Thank my uncle for that, and blame him as well, for I only followed his instruction. You might have said something of the matter before, though."
"What? 'Ani-ue I love and revere you, but your technique leaves a little to be desired'? One does not speak thus to kings."
Goukou began to laugh, and as if that were the signal, felt within himself the heavy drag of the earth. "Oh- no- Goushou, a moment yet--"
"Hai, ani-ue." Goujou's mouth wrapped about his left horn, flick-flick with the end of his tongue. Goukou closed his eyes and felt himself coming apart. But when I dissolve it will be into him... And then it had happened, the explosion and the landing, and he was...
Goukou the blue dragon, king of the Eastern Ocean, high king of the dragon tribe, supreme commander of the army of the East in Heaven; and most scandalously and uncleanly copulating in the middle of his own bathplace. He opened startled eyes to Goushou's rueful expression.
"Ah," Goukou said after a moment. "I guess we'd better wash again."