ARC1. Chapter 5
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C-C-Company


 

To Liang San’s surprise and relief, nothing happened. It seemed that any time he braced himself for a violent reaction or unfavorable development, nothing happened. This was becoming a trend.

First, that night he came in as a consort. Emperor Hyin-su-o had not so much as touched him, and the demon had actually given him beast pelts for warmth. Initially, Liang San did not think much of it: maybe the Demon Emperor was too tired, and maybe he just needed some place to dump those burdensome furs. Sure, that could be it. 

Second, the food he had been given. Based on his observations, light porridges, vegetables, and pancakes were not the standard fare of the demon race. They had an affinity for, put politely, bloodier and meatier foods. Clearly, someone had taken special pains to make Liang San feel comfortable and at home in the foreign setting. 

Third, being forced out of his bedroom. He assumed that maybe he had been selected as manual slave labor or the plaything of some other demon. Preparing himself for the worst, he had lifted his eyes and been faced with...a garden. An extremely clumsy garden but one nonetheless.

Fourth, Liang San’s tampering with that very garden. When he had admitted his actions to Yun-sik-un, Liang San really could not guess what the attendant was going to do with that information. For all he knew, she could have sliced his head clean off and skewered it on a stake to “set an example” for misbehaving subordinates. Instead, she told him that the demon attendants could even not restrict his behavior!

Fifth, the night when the Demon Emperor had come into the sleeping Liang San’s bedroom. It was not to peel off his robes and violate him forcibly, but to....gift him some weird headgear to warm his ears?

Last and most recent, Liang San coming clean to Emperor Hyin-su-o about his involvement in the garden. Although he did not care about the other demon attendants, he did not want Yun-sik-un to take the fall for something she had only a minor part in. Little did he know that the Emperor would turn around and say, “The garden is yours, mortal. Do as you wish.” 

Ah? Liang San had not even asked for the place, and now it was his? It had been that easy?

Unconsciously, a pleased smile creeped onto his lips. The Demon Emperor focused on him for too long, seeming transfixed by an observation, and Liang San lowered his head to hide his delight. 

For a period of time, although the Demon Emperor was within the palace, Liang San did not encounter him frequently. Perhaps it was because the human only ever left his bedroom to head out to his garden. Yet when their rare meetings occurred, Liang San had more benign feelings toward the emperor. He could not explain why, but he did not feel incredibly afraid anymore. 

One day, after a “nap” in the garden took him into the hours of dusk, Liang San discovered that his eyesight in darkness had improved. Demons had impeccable night vision: was it possibly due to spending so much time around the demons? Had they rubbed off on him or fed him some otherworldly drug?

Anyway, it was very convenient. Now he was able to stay in the garden longer as he did not have to stop at nightfall. 

Sometimes, whenever Liang San lost track of the hours, overestimated his own energy, and overexerted himself, he would fall asleep in the garden and wake up to find himself miraculously in bed. His dirtied robes would even be removed, leaving him in a set of sturdy linen undergarments, and the blanket would be tucked over his shoulders exactly the way he liked it. 

Huh, how curious. He had never sleep-walked before coming to the palace.1hope it is clear that Liang San did not actually sleep-walk hahaha

Liang San also discovered that demons, despite smelling of blood constantly due to their dietary habits, took baths! Not as often as humans, but it was still a startling find. After a particularly sweaty day of labor and toil, Liang San had asked Yun-sik-un if it was possible to get a large basin filled with water. Yun-sik-un even introduced him to the demon term for cleansing, but Liang San was not able to reproduce its pronunciation. 

For the Liang San who had been raised in the arms of luxury, it was perhaps the most thoroughly unpleasant bath of his life. The water was freezing, having the temperature of ice, so his teeth were chattering as he braved the discomfort and scrubbed off dead skin and grime. 

He had a sore throat and headache for a handful of days as a result. But the feeling of cleanliness after washing was worth it. 

During the time that Liang San was down with fever, he still went out into the garden but did not work, instead choosing a tree to sleep and recuperate under. Maybe the Demon Emperor noticed the change in his behavior, because he dropped by to check on Liang San in the bed chamber, sometimes multiple times over the course of one night. Emperor Hyin-su-o appeared to be careful not to make any noise to avoid waking the human, but Liang San was rarely unconscious in the first place. Perhaps it was because of the illness or the fact that he had taken too many naps in the garden, but Liang San found it difficult to fall asleep when it was actually the proper time to do so. He could vaguely see in the dark now, too, so he was cognizant of the Emperor’s visits. 

One evening, as the demon was turning to leave, Liang San must have gone crazy. Baffling even himself, he mumbled, “Emperor Hyin-su-o does not have to...mn. This slave is fine.” 

There was a long pause before he was graced with a reply:  “Ah. You are awake?” 

This was really a stupid question, thought Liang San. Of course he was awake, how else could he have been able to ask a question? But he did not want to anger the Demon Emperor, so he affirmed with a grunt, nodding his head even though the Emperor had his back to him. 

“Apologies. I must have disturbed your sleep,” came the demon’s deep rumbling. 

Liang San almost jumped out of bed in panic, flailing his arms as he countered, “N-no, no, no! Not at all!” He had never heard the Demon Emperor apologize before. With his position as the overlord of all the demonic tribes, was he supposed to do something like that? Even Liang San’s old comrades, some of them merely sons of minor government officials or well-to-do merchants, had never apologized to him. Only as a joke to mock or play him. 

Therefore, Liang San could not help assuming that the Demon Emperor was being sarcastic or scornful. What did Emperor Hyin-su-o want? Maybe...maybe...was it possible that the Emperor was hinting that Liang San had been lazing around uselessly, oversleeping, and now needed to be put to work? Before the demon could respond, Liang San spat out a line that was half truths and half lies. “In honesty, this slave...this slave cannot sleep! If Emperor Hyin-su-o requires assistance or...or...c-c-company, this slave will be eager to provide it.” 

“Company?” the Demon Emperor echoed flatly. It did not sound like a question. 

Liang San gulped and, fingers trembling, moved to shed his undergarments. Of course, providing the demon company...in bed...was his real assignment, was it not? Maybe it would not be so bad? Why else would his sworn brothers and father have taken a fancy to brothels and entertainment houses if the act did not feel good? But, then again, of course it would be pleasurable for the side that was not receiving. 

Although Liang San had never slept another, not one woman nor man, he was not a completely clueless idiot. He more or less had an idea of how sex between two males would pan out. Thinking about it made him nauseous. 

It was quite silly and embarrassing for a man of his age to still be a bachelor and a virgin. Liang San definitely had the same healthy urges and capabilities as the average youth, but there were simply no noble households willing to marry off their daughters into the dishonorable Liang family. And he had never considered unscrupulous means to settle his carnal needs. Was it a reaction against his own father’s behavior? It was said that parents should teach lessons by setting an example: the phrase applied to Liang San’s situation, but not quite in the conventional manner. Liang Houzei had shown his heir perfectly what not to do. 

While Liang San was still praying to the celestial heavens for mercy, the Demon Emperor began to walk out. When Hyin-su-o saw that the human had not followed, he stopped in the doorway and waited, rubbing a knot in his neck. 

Liang San knitted his brows in confusion upon realizing that the Demon Emperor planned to exit. Was he supposed to accompany the Emperor elsewhere? Oh, so the Demon Emperor liked to get creative with the location when doing...that. 

In a flash, Liang San stumbled out of bed and scuttled after Hyin-su-o, doing a kind of funny dance on his toes. The air was crisp, but the floor had to have been frozen over! At his bare feet, the chill bit aggressively, distracting him from anxious thoughts. 

Hyin-su-o casually threw a cursory glance over his shoulder, more out of habit than for a real reason, and all but choked when he caught sight of Liang San’s attire. The mortal was in white undergarments and even had the upper half drawn open—so not only was he physically unwell, but he was mentally unfit as well! Was the human out of his mind, coming out of the chamber dressed like that? 

They had not gone far from the bedroom, and distress made the Demon Emperor throw caution to the wind. He swept up the scrawny Liang San, so that the human was sitting in the crook of his left elbow, and bolted back into the chamber. 

It all happened too quickly for Liang San to react. One instant, he was hopping on his toes in the corridor, and in the next, he was caged by warm arms and “defrosted” against a chest that radiated heat. He had to have been hallucinating! 

With another blink, Liang San discerned that he had been set down on the bed and was now being helped into his thick beast pelt robes. As he stared down dopily, the Demon Emperor retrieved the matching pair of fur boots and pushed them onto Liang San’s feet, which had already begun the process of turning blue. 

Crouched on the floor beside the bed, Hyin-su-o released what might have been a sigh. Then, as if exhausted by the effort, he staggered back onto his rear, propped his elbows over his knees, and let his head hang. He was panting unevenly and hoarsely. 

Liang San stared at the top of the Demon Emperor’s head, his messy silver-white hair, for a full minute. Now that he considered it, he had never seen the top of anyone’s head except for his servants. He was shorter than most of the people he associated with, and no one was shameless enough to lower themselves in front of him except for his personal subordinates. 

Inexplicably, he was reminded of a dog lowering its head for an affectionate ruffle—no! How could he compare the high and mighty Demon Emperor to a stray mongrel or hunting hound? No, no, no. There was no parallel.

Not knowing what to do while Hyin-su-o was recovering his breath, the bundled-up Liang San sat stiffly and wordlessly. 

Finally, the Demon Emperor growled without looking up, “...Are you a fool?” He was breathing hard, but it no longer seemed to be due to the strain of physical activity. 

“A-ah?” Lately, Liang San had lowered his guard when encountering demons in the palace, the Emperor included. But this was the most unstable state he had ever witnessed a demon in; it jarred him into reality and regaining his wits.

What the human was faced with now was the flames of pure rage. And he did not have any place to hide. 

 

as always, thank you so much for reading! would love to know your reactions to the chapter and any criticism/suggestions (although the plot right now has already been outlined, pacing/style/clarity are things that I need to improve on!) my entire goal of this story is to entertain or bring out emotions in readers. warning: knives on the way ~

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