The next morning, after the young slave had said goodbye to return to his duties, and before trying to talk to Toma, Masu inquired if he could buy a slave of the house of the Shiti. But he was told that it was not possible. So he abandoned his idea and said nothing to Toma.
He would have liked to be able to buy R'o, to take him with him and let him live a different life. Then, while he and Toma thanked for the hospitality and were preparing to resume their wanderings, he thought that by buying R'o, he would not solve the problem of the slaves... Just as he had not solved it when he saved the life of the little Di Sho. He had solved a single case, a drop in the ocean. Better than nothing, it's true, but...
Toma saw that his companion was thoughtful: "What is it, Masu? Is there a problem?"
"No, no, nothing. I was thinking..." the warrior said, then added with a little self-irony: "I too, sometimes, happen to think..."
"A warrior who reflects? That can be dangerous," Toma said, chuckling. "If we Lords are the head, then if others begin to reflect in our place, we risk becoming useless..."
Masu laughed: "Maybe you are already useless, have you ever thought about that?" he said jokingly.
"Some friend you are! If you think I'm useless, why did you agree to go on an adventure with me?"
"Because to live a man also needs useless things. But after all I'm not so sure you're really unnecessary... Instead, you may even be essential, at least for me. Who knows?"
Toma smiled. "Well... don't exaggerate..."
"What are we going to do next?" Masu asked.
"I heard that we can go down to the interior of the continent by taking a boat along the river. What do you think?"
"Why not? Do you also happen to know where we can find a boat?"
"They told me that, at the south of the city, it is possible to find a boat that takes passengers."
"Let's go, then..."
They asked for directions and, after a few detours in the web of streets and alleys, reached the bank of the river where they saw a landing. Toma went to inquire and to negotiate the price with the boatmen, then made a sign to Masu. They embarked on a barge that was transporting both freight and passengers. In addition to the two of them and three boatmen, also on board were a merchant, two craftsmen and a female singer.
The boat broke away from its moorings and was immediately grabbed by the current. The three boatmen, one at the helm and two maneuvering long oars, kept the boat right in the middle of the river. The banks seemed to be moving fast alongside the vessel. Masu was seated at the stern and held out a hand to graze the waves with his fingertips.
Meanwhile Toma had engaged in an animated conversation with the singer. Masu occasionally looked at him and wondered if his friend was not by chance, more or less unconsciously, wooing the woman. After all, despite what he had done with him, and then with the dancer during the previous night, Toma had always preferred women. The singer was clearly flirting with his handsome and important friend.
Almost without thinking Masu touched the ruby that hung round his neck - it was cold.
The boat proceeded its rapid course along the river, riding the waves of the strong current with ups and downs. The boatmen ruled the wooden ship masterfully.
They met a boat that slowly moved upstream. The boatmen greeted each other with loud calls.
After a while Toma got up and, slightly staggering, went to sit next to Masu, leaning back against the side of the boat.
"Do you like the singer?" Masu asked him.
"That one? No... But she was telling interesting things."
"She looks pretty... and she was making sweet eyes at you..."
"Oh yeah? Well, yes, she is nice, but I didn't notice that..."
"Come on now! Don't tell me that you didn't have some thoughts about her!"
"No, really. And then, I have never been attracted to redheads..."
"She is dyeing her hair..."
"Even worse. No, she really does not interest me in that way."
"What, you've converted to boys?" Masu asked mischievously.
"Eh, who knows? Anyway, I think it's easier for me to convert to boys than for you to girls. Am I wrong?"
"No, you are not wrong!" Masu answered cheerfully.
"Is there someone here on board that you fancy?" the young Lord asked with a mischievous glance.
"Yes, but only one."
"I'm looking at him..."
"You're looking at me..."
"It this a proposal?"
"No, you're just the least bad looking of all," Masu said chuckling.
"Thanks for the compliment!" Toma said, but laughed.
"Tu Toma-Bekere, what you going to do when we finish our journey?" Masu asked.
"Su Masu-Yari, I really don't know, but there is plenty of time to think about it. If we are to visit all the territories, our journey will not last just a short time. I have plenty of time to think about it. And you? Have you already thought about it?"
"No, me neither... but I think that I will continue to follow the tip of my nose..."
"Sooner or later one has to settle down and grow some roots."
"Sooner or later, maybe. But my roots have been cut off..."
"It is said about the rooz'alee plant, that when you cut off its roots, it grows new and stronger ones."
"Yes, and it gives the sweetest fruits..."
The sky was darkening rapidly. Thick black clouds brought by high-altitude winds were piling up above them. Toma and Masu wrapped their cloaks around their bodies, because the air had suddenly turned cold.
"Storm coming up!" the helmsman cried. "Stay at your places, we will soon be dancing for real!"
"Oh, what have we been doing up till now?" Masu wondered aloud.
"Up till now it was a lullaby, I guarantee you, warrior!" one of the rowers said.
The sky was getting ever darker, wind gusts ruffled the travelers' hair, lightning and thunderbolts were splitting the black cloak of clouds apart with increasing frequency, followed by strong and lengthy rumbles of thunder. The boat began to shake violently on the waves. The passengers had to hold on with increasing force to the sides and benches of the boat, instinctively flattening towards the bottom to seek shelter. Suddenly violent squalls of rain tumbled over them.
The three boatmen tried to keep control of the barge, shouting short orders and replies to be heard over the noise of the storm. The river banks were no longer visible.
Suddenly a lightning crashed into the boat; its long arm of vivid violet hit on one of the rowers. When Masu could see again, the man had disappeared. He turned to look - the other oarsman and the helmsman were still in place, but Masu had the impression that the boat was now out of control, continuing its way towards the valley.
Then he heard a scream and saw the other oarsman loosing his precarious balance. The man fell into the water and disappeared, along with his oar.
"We're all going to die!" Toma shouted.
"Speak for yourself! I'm still not ready to go!" Masu shouted back.
The cargo, that the boat was carrying, was now dangerously out of balance. The helmsman left his post to rearrange the sacks; first he seemed to be successful, but then the rudder swerved and struck him from behind, throwing him headfirst into the stream.
From the passengers rose a loud cry of terror, that died away in the hurl of the storm.
Masu jumped up and threw himself on the tiller. Holding it with both hands and pushing all his body's weight on it, he was able to put it straight again. He could not see the shore and only hoped to be able to stay midstream, where the water was deeper, with less risk running into some underwater rocks.
The warrior was whipped by showers of water, but he stood at the helm, holding it with vigor.
He yelled to Toma: "Go to the prow and tell me if you see obstacles!"
"What?" the Lord shouted in response, looking at him.
"To the prow! Report obstacles... ob-sta-cles!" Masu spelled, shouting.
Toma indicated that he understood. On its belly he moved to the prow and there, lying down, he was looking straight ahead into the stream. When he raised an arm, pointing into the direction where he saw something approaching, Masu moved the tiller into the opposite direction by leveraging his feet and weighing on the bar with his full body.
Masu was feeling sore muscles from the enormous effort he was making to try and steer the boat. He wondered how long he would be able to hold on. But, as he told his friend, he was not ready to die. He was a warrior, engaged in an fierce battle against the elements, against the water that scourged them and the water that was pulling them, using his own body and the rudder's wooden bar as his only weapons.
Sometimes the boat seemed to sink between two walls of black swirling water, at times it seemed to be precariously balanced on the foamy crest of a wave. If someone had been able to see them from the shore, he would see only the dark horizontal line of the boat and the slender silhouette of Masu, who had dropped his cloak to be freer in his movements. But the vessel was not visible from the shore, nor could the shore be seen from the boat.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the storm began to subside. Masu only noticed it because he seemed to be able to hold the rudder with less effort, despite his increasingly sore muscles. The flashes of lightning were less strong and frequent, the thunder weaker and farther away, and the time between them getting longer.
The other passengers of the boat also realized that the danger was moving away. One after the other was sitting up, looking at the sky in the hope to see some reassuring signs.
A few more hours elapsed, but gradually the calm came back to nature. First the heavy rain stopped, the air became clearer, the clouds less thick and dark, until even some rare glimpses of the sun's rays were to be seen. The boat danced with less violence, and the shoreline was visible again.
Finally they were out of the terrible storm. Masu could see his companion's faces: they were pale, tense and tired, but the fear was slowly giving way to relief at having escaped the mortal danger, still being alive.
Toma shouted: "A port to starboard!" pointing towards the shore ahead of him.
Masu saw the houses of a village. He moved the bar, hoping to catch the right angle to not miss the landing. He approached the shore upstream of the landing platform, then to get there he swung forcefully, until the side of the boat rubbed hard against the wooden frame.
Toma jumped ashore holding a rope attached to the boat and moved to tie it quickly to a mooring, promptly helped by a couple of villagers who were on the landing.
With insecure steps the passengers came down to the ground, finding back the sense of security the hard journey had taken away from them. The villagers asked what had happened to the three boatmen and when they heard it, they looked with obvious respect at the warrior who had managed to steer the boat through the terrible storm. They offered hospitality and refreshments to all, while the merchants, associated with the lost boatmen, discharged of their goods, noting that nothing had been lost.
Masu really needed a rest. Toma sat down beside him and looked, as if studying him.
"Why do you have to look at me like that, Toma?" the warrior asked with a smirk.
"Where did you learn to be a boatman?"
"Learned? Me? I just learned now, by doing it. I was never on a boat before I met you."
"The more I know you, the more I'm surprised. You were the only one on board who was not afraid. You're a brave man."
"Here you're wrong. Courage is not to feel not afraid, but just to fight it. Of course I was afraid. Not being afraid is just stupid. Anyway, fighting is my job, right? And without your help, I do not know if we could have made it. You too had courage."
"If I were alone... I do not know... But to see you there, straight and confident, I did find that bit of courage to do what you told me to do."
Meanwhile the only surviving boatmen had arrived, the one who had been thrown overboard first. He too was very surprised to see that the boat and its cargo were safe. Knowing that it was Masu's merit, along with the merchants he went to deliver a bag of coins to the warrior to thank him for what he had done.
Masu accept them, then said to Toma: "You know that I can not keep them or I would lose them... for the curse. So they are yours, I give them to you."
Toma nodded and took them. A merchant, a man in his thirties, asked to talk to Masu.
"Warrior, I heard that you are released from your duty of loyalty to your Lord..."
"So it is. I am a wandering warrior."
"And I also heard that thanks to you we have not lost neither the boat nor the goods."
"So it seems..."
"If you do not take offence - if it's all right with you - I would like you to be my business partner. Oh, I know I am of a class much inferior to yours, but with a man like you as a partner I think that..."
"No thanks. I neither can or want to stay here. I have to continue my journey and I do not know where it will bring me."
"You could be earning much money, if..."
"I do not care about earning money. I decided to follow the tip of my nose and my nose is pointing into quite another direction."
"Yes, I understand. I also know that you have given all the money we gave you to your fellow traveler..."
"I see you are very well informed," the handsome warrior said with mild irony.
"A trader must always be well informed about everything, if he wants to do good business."
"And you're a good trader..." Masu said, eyeing the man. He immediately felt a strong desire for him. He was good looking, it could be nice to have him in bed for a few hours. "And above all, a handsome man..." he said, looking at him mischievously.
The man squirmed uncomfortably in his seat, having correctly interpreted the handsome warrior's look and desire. So he said: "If I had something that you desire... would you work with me in return?"
"Will you go to bed with me?" Masu asked amused.
The merchant was looking ever more uncomfortable with that straightforward approach. "I did not say that. No, I never touched a man's body, and never let myself be touched... not in that way, I mean. No, not me."
"Oh no, and why not?" the beautiful warrior asked, increasingly amused.
"I do not like that, it does not interest me. But I can procure what you want... I know what you warriors like..."
"What I want? What I want, I can get by myself, I have no need of pimps. What I want now, is you."
"I just said no to that... and a merchant doesn't beat around the bush, warrior."
"Really? But I'm pretty sure that if you tried it with me, you might change your mind and your opinion."
"Oh no, there is no danger!"
"So sure of yourself?" Masu asked, with the air of making fun of him.
"Of course I'm confident. The body of a male has never aroused any emotion in me."
"Because you've always carefully avoided it, I think..."
"No, simply because a man has never attracted me."
The verbal skirmish was amusing to Masu, who thought he wanted to win that battle. To win a battle you must take advantage of an opponent's weakness, and he had already discovered at least two: one was the desire of the merchant to get him to associate in his business, the other was his overconfidence.
"Well, then let's make a covenant, you and me," Masu said briskly as a businessman, looking straight into the eyes of handsome man with a look of defiance.
"What do you mean?"
"Take a pen and paper and draw up a contract."
"What kind of contract?"
"Write, and if you feel like, you shall authenticate it with your seal. If not, we will do nothing."
The merchant took out of a sleeve the kit to write, and put all the necessary on the table.
"Write: I, Su Masu-Yari, I pledge to work for free for the merchant... what's your name?"
" Ri Lorr¸..."
"Good... to work for the merchant Ri Lorr¸ for ten years, if I cannot make him orgasm after a night spent in the same bed. If on the contrary I succeed, the merchant Ri Lorr¸ will have to... what are you willing to risk, merchant? "
Lorr¸ looked a little surprised, slightly amused. Masu realized that the man already was confident of winning that challenge. Good, he was putting himself into his hands...
"Risking, warrior? I know I do not risk anything, but let's write: I am committed to sell to you any goods you wish to have at cost prize."
"No, that's too much. Let us say one article of my choice, that's enough for me."
"Whatever. We write so, then. But we add a clause."
"You can't ask me to do anything."
"I will not command you to do anything. But you should not oppose to anything that I do, in return."
"Okay. But you must not ever touch my cock."
"All right. Excluding the cock, I can touch you with any part of my body on any part of yours..."
"Except my cock, all right." the merchant said, and added the clauses to the contract.
"Very well. Now put your seal on it and I will put mine. We will ask my friend Tu Toma-Bekere and to the owner of this house, Chulo Shir'i, to be witnesses."
"Do they have to stay in the room with us all night?" the merchant asked, slightly surprised.
"Yes, of course. Does that worry you?"
"No, on the contrary... but that will make it even more difficult for you, so I'm favored, in a sense."
"Oh, really, and why?"
"Especially in the presence of two other men, you certainly will not succeed in your intentions. You would not even make me have an erection!" the merchant said, laughing while he affixed his seal on the contract.
Masu grinned. They called Toma and Shir'i, made them read the contract and asked them to affix their seals and act as witnesses. Shir'i was puzzled, but agreed. Toma was amused.
When night came, Masu asked the two witnesses to sit at the bed sides, around which he had eight lamps being lit. Then, under the watchful eyes of Shir'i and Toma, he came to Lorr¸ and began to undress him, carefully touching the most sensitive areas of his body. Meanwhile, he undressed himself. When they were both naked, the merchant had not the slightest hint of an erection, whereas the member of the handsome warrior was slowly erecting.
Masu pushed Lorr¸ on the bed and lay beside me, beginning to caress, kiss and lick his body, but still without making him feel his own body. The merchant was lying on the bed, inert and with a slight smile of superiority on his lips. Masu was now fully erect, but was careful not to make his companion feel his erection. The two witnesses did not lose sight of them, even for a moment. Lorr¸ still showed no sign of arousal, but Masu felt a slight vibration in the man's body as he expertly teased him in the right places, in the right sequence.
Finally the member of the handsome merchant began to move between his thighs, although still soft. Lorr¸'s smile of superiority was slowly fading away, while Masu was feeling more and more sure of himself. Without rushing, he continued his tantalizing maneuvers. Now the body of the merchant was trembling more dramatically and his member began to swell, even though Masu had not even brushed it.
"Hah! He made you get a hard-on, Lorr¸!" Shir'i mused.
"But that does not mean I will have an orgasm," the merchant replied in a confident tone.
Masu smiled and went on with his maneuvers. He made the beautiful man spread his legs and began to lick the inside of his thighs, carefully avoiding touching the man's cock, that was now straight, hard, and throbbing. Then, while licking the part between his balls and his hole and rubbing his nipples, Masu slowly went down with his tongue to wet his anus.
Lorr¸ shuddered with greater strength but did not move. Masu intensified his operations in a relentless crescendo. Now the handsome merchant was twitching on the bed from time to time. Masu got a finger wet with saliva and alternating with his tongue, began to penetrate the handsome man's tightly locked anus. A brief moan escaped from Lorr¸. Masu knew he was already winning the challenge. He just had to be very careful that nothing interrupted the level of pleasure that he was slowly building in the body of his "opponent".
When he felt that the sphincter of the man had adapted to the intrusion of his finger, the handsome warrior bathed another finger in saliva and began to tease his hot channel with two fingers. Meanwhile he continued to tease various body parts with his free hand and lips and tongue, always carefully avoiding the member. The artisan and Toma did not take away their eyes from the scene. Lorr¸ had closed his eyes and his breathing was becoming progressively shorter and heavier, betraying the growth of his excitement.
Masu was in no hurry. He was particularly careful not to arouse any sense of pain or discomfort in the beautiful body, that was slowly but inevitably progressing toward a climax. The flickering flames of the oil lamps lit the whole scene well. Masu finally managed to get the merchant to accept three of his fingers. Then he began to skillfully massage and stimulate the man's prostate. Lorr¸ was startled and an "Oh..." of pleasure and surprise escaped his lips.
A prostate, that has never before been stimulated so intimately, is even more sensitive than normal, so Masu was able to quickly bring the man to a level of pleasure he never had experienced before. Now the handsome Lorr¸ was shaking his head slightly to the right and the left and his "Oh..." turned into "No...", in a desperate attempt to fight the sensations he was feeling.
Shir'i seemed surprised by what he was seeing, Toma instead was amused and excited. Masu was proceeding relentlessly, feeling increasingly certain of his victory. Lorr¸ was twitching now, all his muscles tense in a vain attempt not to give in to the pleasure that burned throughout his body, that seemed to focus in his hard and erect member, even though the warrior had never touched it.
Suddenly Lorr¸'s erect pole began to eject furious splashes of white liquor, that fell on his chest and abdomen in seemingly endless gushes. The merchant was now emitting a kind of low and hoarse yelp, that both expressed the intensity of his pleasure and the anger at losing his useless battle.
"I win!" Masu softly said, without stopping to manipulate the handsome man's body to keep his excitement going.
"Yes, you win," Toma said.
"No doubt you've won," Shir'i echoed.
"So, then..." Masu said and with a quick and skillful move he took his fingers from the beautiful merchant's still gaping anus, slipping his hard member into it with a single, vigorous push.
Lorr¸ jumped, opened his eyes filled with panic saying: "No, that was not in the terms!"
"Yes it was! I did not touch your cock so I can do anything I want..." Masu replied, holding him onto the bed and staring to piston in him with energy.
"And now he even may touch your cock, because he has won," Toma said quickly, looking at Shir'i as to have his assent.
"Of course he can," the craftsman grinned amused.
"But I... But I..." the merchant still tried to protest.
"Accept your defeat, Lorr¸, or I'll tell everyone about this story..." Shir'i said with a sly smile.
So the merchant resigned and endured in silence the warrior's fast and strong riding. When Masu was about to fill the man with his seed, Lorr¸ had a second, stronger orgasm. The warrior emptied in him while emitting a long groan of pleasure. Toma quietly nodded to the craftsman for them to leave the room and the two, still fully united on the bed, slowly relaxed.
Masu pulled out of the tight and warm intimacy of the handsome merchant and, looking at him, asked him: "So?"
"So what?" the man asked, opening his eyes with a frown.
"Do you see that I was right?"
"Is it not enough that you to have won? Do you want to rub it in? Is it not enough for you to have had your fun with me?"
"Yes, that is enough for me. But you must admit: you liked it. You had two orgasms."
Lorr¸ looked at him frowning. Masu slipped out of him and, kneeling on the bed between his legs, he said softly: "Come on... what does it cost you to admit that you liked it? What's wrong?"
A brief flash of light flickered in the eyes of the merchant, then he suddenly started laughing. It was an almost hysterical laughter, more to get free from his tension and irritation than for joy. He sat up on the bed, and while his laughter calmed down, he looked into the eyes of the handsome warrior.
"Yes, you're right, I liked it. I came, right? That does not change that I still prefer women!"
"No problem for me. However I liked your ass. You are tight and warm. It has been a magnificent fuck."
"For you! Heck, I hope that Shir'i is not going to tell the whole village now!"
"Why do you fear losing your reputation? To be considered less manly? Less virile? No one judges a warrior unmanly, right?"
"A warrior is a warrior. Let's dress now, it bothers me to be naked in a bed with a male," the merchant said dryly, raising out of bed.
They dressed in silence and went to the other two men in the next room. Lorr¸ made Shir'i promise that he would not say a word about what he saw to a soul.
"If you pay your debt with the warrior, I promise that I will be silent as a tomb," the craftsman said.
Lorr¸, still frowning, looked at Masu: "If you want to come to my store to choose what you want..."
"No, Lorr¸. I'll just keep the contract, with you writing on it that you have lost, and that you agree to give me or Toma whatever we'll ask you. When I'll need it, I'll let you know what I want..." Masu replied.
Lorr¸ added at the bottom of the contract the statement requested, again affixed his seal to it and handed the paper to Masu. The Warrior checked it, folded it and handed it to Toma.
"Now we can go to sleep. I really need a bit of rest before resuming the road." the handsome warrior said with merriment.