Watch Him Freeze to Death
A few hours later, still blindfolded by cloth, Liang San was led off the horse-drawn carriage. The exchange between his captor and another man suggested that they had already entered into the territory of the demonic tribes.
Liang San was not mistreated during this time as two maidservants guided him gently by the elbows. They smelled fragrant and did not speak to him at all as they walked side-by-side.
He was then supported into another vehicle. This one was much more comfortable, without the staggering and shaking of the earlier carriage, making him feel a bit like he was floating. Based on this, Liang San guessed that he was now riding in a palanquin. As the son of a wealthy household, Liang San naturally had sat in a palanquin before. However, it was generally a form of transport reserved for special circumstances.
The ride was so smooth, in fact, that Liang San relaxed enough for a nap. He almost forgot his dire predicament and impending doom. Sheltered and spoiled with luxuries from childhood, he lacked the sense of self-preservation that a man from a lower class might have.
After an unknown period of time, Liang San felt the palanquin lower to the ground. Renewed anxiety made his stomach flip and twist. Had they arrived at the palace? So soon? He swallowed even though his mouth was dry.
Liang San had heard folktales detailing the unnatural strength and capabilities of the demon race. Some claimed that demons could dart so fast from one place to the next that you could not so much as see the blur of their figures as they moved. And supposedly, one male demon could easily topple one’s house by just flicking his finger or blowing a breath. This was also the reason why Liang San did not even consider the possibility of escaping. He had no chance. He would probably get pounded into a stain of blood before stepping a foot out of line.
When cold fingers touched his hand, he just about jumped out of his skin.
There came a strange rumbling noise, nothing like the sounds of human speech, more resembling the growling of a powerful beast. Even more unexpected was the clear command that followed, reverberating from within his skull: “Come, mortal.”
It was almost some kind of instant translation, not so much a distinct statement as it was an innate comprehension of meaning. No tone, no pitch, no emotion, no volume, no masculinity or femininity. Liang San was not listening to the words but feeling them, as if someone had strung together their two minds.
Was this real? He could somehow understand what this demon was saying to him!
He would later learn that, as divine beings, demons had the ability to telepathically converse with most other species but continued to use a spoken language among each other. To humans, the vibrations from their throats could only be perceived as guttural vowels or grunts.
Liang San was pulled out of the palanquin by that ice-cold demon hand and assisted into a chamber where he was ordered to stand and wait. Because he could not see a thing besides darkness, Liang San was startled when more pairs of hands latched onto him. No, not merely latching onto him—undressing him!
He did not dare to resist, arms trembling as he voluntarily lifted them to help the demon attendants. The servants scurried around him, undoing his high collar, unwrapping his outer robes and sash, unbuttoning his undergarments and pulling down his inner trousers. It was not long before he was stark narked. He did not know if he was shivering because he was chilled or because he was terrified beyond belief.
The attire they proceeded to fit his body into was much lighter than his original outfit, as delicate and weightless as air. From the way it felt against his skin, the material was soft as paper. From the way it did not block out the breeze from attendants’ movements around him, the material was just as thin and insubstantial, too. Liang San had a lurking premonition that this fabric was probably translucent, pretending to cover him, but hiding nothing.
Wasn’t this dress too similar to the ones courtesans wore when entertaining guests? Would he also have to—nevermind. He was to be a consort, wasn’t he? What else could the Demon Emperor want from a consort besides his body?
Upon swathing him in that foreign apparel, the demon servants sat him down and began messing with his long hair. Liang San generally preferred to keep it tied in a bun with a headpiece—so that strands did not go flying everywhere—but tidiness had been thrown out the window with his capture and all the thrashing. Now, the servants combed freely through his hair and topped it with a heavy ornament. Liang San’s neck hurt a little trying to keep his head straight. Beaded strings jangled in front of his face above the nose.
Was this the demon wedding attire then? Liang San briefly wondered what color it was, but promptly dismissed the thought. Was that really the most important thing to be worrying about currently?
From the dressing chamber, the blindfolded Liang San was led down a seemingly endless corridor. An intense metallic stench hung in the air, but with prolonged exposure, he found that the scent faded quickly. Liang San’s demon attendant then let go of him and directed him to kneel where he stood. The man obeyed without a word of complaint and realized that there were people kneeling next to him. People, and not demons.
They seemed to be women, from the sound of their restrained sniffling and sobbing. Were they the attractive female consorts that the Sovereign Empire of Yun had offered up as well? Liang San suddenly felt as though he was very brave, a hero. Look at him! He was the same and he wasn’t crying. Well, he had slobbered over and pissed himself in the carriage, but now he was fine. He was fine. Completely fine.
Then, hanging his head, he joined the women, that kneeling group developing an unspoken camaraderie due to their shared misfortune. No words, just tears and snot. There was nobody to kick them or tell them to shut up, so they continued crying for a stretch of time.
At last, Liang San’s cloth blindfold fell away from his face. His eyes were blurry and swollen from crying and it took a while for him to adjust to the sudden light. The first thing he did was look to his left, wanting to see the peerless flowers of his generation that had been reduced to human offerings. It was really a shame. Each one was more ravishing than the next, not one flaw in the face or body: even with red-rimmed eyes, they appeared more like celestial beings or fairies than humans.
Liang San definitely did not belong among the line of beauties. The Demon Emperor was truly being scammed with this single, plain-looking male consort!
Without warning, Liang San was a bit embarrassed. He was a man! He should be strong and set an example for the weak! After all, his charge was similar to being a soldier fighting in war, was it not? The fate of the human empire, which could be crushed with an imperial instruction from the Demon Emperor, rested on his shoulders!
But Liang San did not feel brave or noble in the slightest. He even shrunk back and curled into his hunched shoulders like a cowering mutt. No, no, no, he was not fit to be a soldier! Wasn’t it the poor and uneducated who were supposed to be ruthlessly exploited by the aristocracy to fight their useless wars of morals and maps? Take him back home!
He did not lift his gaze to study the Demon Emperor, hanging his head downward like an obedient slave. The floor was slick and black, not unlike volcanic glass. If this ruler was like His Majesty, the Crown of Yun, then it would practically asking for death to look directly at him.
Finally, the Emperor murmured something in the demonic tongue. Liang San was quite surprised: he expected that the leader of the demonic tribes would have a voice that could be heard for miles. Instead, it was mild and calm but still strong, not giving anything away. Maybe it bore resemblance to an individual who had seen too many things and grown tired of the world. Liang San was unable to tell, but the Demon Emperor sounded as though he was deliberately restraining some emotion from his words.
The “translation” of the Demon Emperor’s muttering rang in Liang San’s head: “Only that one on the end. Send away the others.”
Liang San inwardly let loose a sigh of relief. From the corner of his vision, he could make out that the female consort at the far end of the line was indeed one with extraordinarily striking features. It made sense that the Demon Emperor would select her.
Wait, that was it? It was this simple to pick out a consort? The Demon Emperor could not even see their faces clearly from his angle.
More importantly, since the Demon Emperor said to send all the others away, did that mean the rest were free? Could they return intact and unharmed to the human empire? Liang San’s heart did a hopeful little dance in his chest.
He prayed fervent apologies and gratitudes to the "sister" who would have to deal with the Demon Emperor's appetite on her own. Her sacrifice would be worthwhile! Liang San promised himself that he would live well and properly make use of this life that had now been handed back to him. He would not squander his opportunities in the future. It was over, he was saved!
Yet, before he could celebrate further, arms clasped onto his spindly elbows and yanked him onto his feet. Liang San blinked. Belatedly, he realized that on every line, there are two ends. To his left, all the way down, was the striking female consort. And to his right: emptiness. At one end of the line was none other than Liang San himself!
Surely there must have been something that had gone wrong. Those demon guards had messed up! Clearly, the Demon Emperor was referring to the beautiful woman, wasn’t he? The attendants began to drag him out of the throne room as Liang San gave a confused and sputtered choke, the sound of a pot boiling over.
In his state of bewilderment, he accidentally glanced up and caught a glimpse of the Demon Emperor—or more accurately, the ruler’s retreating back.
It is important to emphasize that Liang San had not yet seen a demon before this point, so he was astonished by the silvery-gray hair of the Demon Emperor, which had been cut at his neck and mussed up into a tousled half-bun. From the exposed back of his neck, Liang San saw that demons had bronzed skin, similar to farmers that worked under the sun. Dark skin and short white hair with a wavy texture. Wasn’t this the polar opposite of his own appearance? No need to mention the Demon Emperor’s oppressive height and stature, a full head taller than any man Liang San had ever encountered. The human gulped.
He also had the chance to examine the palace of the demons and its attendants. The decorations were minimal, with even the throne itself being a simple structure overlaid with divine beast pelts, but motifs of shadow and fire were obvious throughout the space. Despite the flickering flames, the expanse was numbingly frigid. Liang San was certain that this was probably an accurate recreation of the Underworld.
Demons apparently existed in a spectrum of skin tones, one even wider than that seen among the residents of the Sovereign Empire of Yun. They also could have hair in foreign hues: pale yellow like straw, dark red like lacquer, or white as snow. Most notable of all, however, were the demons’ eyes.
Not only did they come in startlingly light colors, but they all had vertical pupils. Like felines. Just the eyes alone made Liang San feel himself growing faint; in every other way, besides being larger and stronger, the demons might reasonably pass off as humans, but the eyes made them monsters.
Liang San had already sweat through his paper-thin robes. Good thing he had not had anything more to drink, because he would have pissed himself again right then and there.
From the throne room, the attendants half-carried and half-dragged him down an unlit corridor. Judging by their catlike eyes, demons could probably see in the dark with little to no issue.
When they reached their destination, the servants pushed Liang San into a large sleeping chamber, instructed him to wait on the bed, and drew the door shut without further explanation. Liang San stumbled onto the bed and lay against the back wall, shivering uncontrollably, his teeth even chattering. Couldn’t they have given him something more suitable to wear for the temperature of this place? What idiots: watch him freeze to death before he could pleasure their Emperor!
Liang San scrunched his eyes shut, balled himself up into a fetal position, stuffed his face into his folded elbows, and rocked himself back and forth. But he could not block the thoughts out.
Right, that was what he was here for.
To pleasure the Demon Emperor.