A Tangled Web Ch. 04
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Vera knocked lightly on the door to Xui-Li’s cabin, gathering herself for this next phase of the emotional roller coaster. She was unused to feeling so powerless, to being at everyone’s beck and call, to having no say whatsoever in what she did or what was done to her. However, she was in too deep and there was no way for her to back out now. Out here at sea there was quite literally nowhere to run, she had to play the game to the end and do whatever it was that Xui-Li wanted from her. Would she be cruel? Would she be merciful? Vera knew that, whatever was in store for her, after the hazing and the brutal work she had been put to, she was tired of fighting; she only desired a little peace. She heard Xui-Li shout “come”, opened the door and went into the cabin.
“Ah, Jun-Nui, I’m glad you could spare the time to join me,” Xui-Li said from the couch where she sat.
“Please, Madam Hong, Jun-Nui presents herself and wishes only to be your geisha,” Vera said as she lowered herself to her knees. Perhaps this would satisfy; perhaps this would be enough to save her from more abuse.
“A very pretty speech and very prettily delivered but it does leave me wondering why. What is it makes a round eye like you, one so proud, so haughty, want to bow down before a lowly oriental like me?” Xui-Li’s tone made the sarcasm of ‘lowly oriental’ completely obvious.
“I… I….” Vera was completely stumped. What on earth was she supposed to say? She wanted to turn away, to drop her head but she didn’t dare and, as their eyes locked, Xui-Li’s seemed to look deep into her, baring her very soul. “I don’t know….”
“But you seem so very sure that you do want to,” Xui-Li continued. “I don’t understand; how can you be so sure when you don’t know why? Maybe you do know but you’re afraid to tell me. Is that the case?”
Vera just knelt with her mouth open. Had she been discovered?
“Perhaps it’s shyness that is holding you back,” Xui-Li went on. “But you must learn to overcome your shyness; you must learn to hide nothing from me, you’re not allowed to have any secrets. Let me see, what will help you overcome this shyness? I know, show me how you pleasure yourself.”
“Pleasure myself?” Vera could hardly believe what Xui-Li was asking; surely she must have misunderstood.
“That’s right. Pleasure yourself. I know you understand what I mean; even you’re not that innocent. Show me how you play with yourself for pleasure.”
Vera’s heart sunk as Xui-Li’s order was confirmed. OK, back in school she’d never believed the lessons of the matron who had hinted at the evils of self abuse and, encouraged by whispered confidences in the dorms, she had experimented with these secret caresses in the dead of night but that had been something clandestine, something shameful, something done under the covers and in darkness, not something done openly and on display. The very idea was horrifying. She tried to obey but her hands refused to move; she simply couldn’t bring herself to be so brazen, so uninhibited.
“I… I… I can’t,” she said at last.
“You can and you will!” Xui-Li snapped. “You say you want to be my geisha but at every turn all I get is disobedience. Maybe this is all a mistake, maybe you’re not cut out to be my geisha. Perhaps you would prefer to spend the rest of the voyage working in the kitchens?”
“No, Madam Hong. Of course not.” With the fear of rejection driving her on Vera nervously undid the cord holding her pants up and slipped her hand under the waistband.
“Good heavens, girl! What do you think you’re doing?” Xui-Li seemed amused. “I said you were to hide nothing and that includes your modesty. This is meant to help you lose your shyness, not reinforce it; I want to watch. Get those clothes off and show me properly and don’t try faking anything; you can be sure that I can tell the difference.”
As Vera struggled to get out of her clothes without getting up off the floor Xui-Li watched on with growing amusement. Whilst she couldn’t condone physical violence she had suffered enough humiliations at the hands of the British that there was a certain piquancy to being the one in charge for a change. As Vera, naked at last, settled back down, she reached out with her foot and nudged Vera’s knees a little further apart, a gesture of control as much as anything else.
Now that she was sorted Vera placed her fingertips on the fleshy mound just above her lower lips and began the slow circles that she always used when she started this illicit pleasure. Her eyes were locked on Xui-Li’s, their stares like an iron bar between them. Somehow, being under orders like this, having no other options, took away some of the guilt. She had no choice, really she had no choice and Xui-Li’s exhortation not to fake it was a very real threat. For a moment or two the two women just watched each other in silence. For all that Vera had felt that she would never become aroused while being watched, she found that her fingers, unguided by any conscious thought, had slipped canlı bahis a little lower and were working a little harder and her body couldn’t help but respond.
“You like that, don’t you?” Xui-Li said gently. “You may protest but really it’s what you want, what you need. Don’t you see how much easier it is when you just do as you’re told?”
“I… I… Yes, Madam Hong,” Vera confessed and a little bit of her knew she wasn’t lying. The fact that she was doing this under orders removed some of the embarrassment, the guilt, the shame, that she would otherwise have felt. Delicious thrills were spreading through her body and already there was a growing urgency coming from between her thighs.
“And that’s what keeps you coming back, isn’t it? Most girls would have run as hard and as fast as they could to get away and stay away from the abuse you’ve been put through but you don’t, you keep coming back for more. I know you won’t admit it but there are some appetites, some dark desires that can’t be satisfied without a little suffering. Oh, you like to play at being the proud English lady, so haughty, so superior to all those nasty foreigners but inside, behind the mask, you’re so very, very different. Here, here in my cabin, under my command you can surrender yourself, become what you know you really are, indulge your deepest needs and still remain free to return to playing at being the proud lady back with your English friends when it’s all over. Imagine what they would say if they could see you now, open, exposed, grovelling before the locals, your lusts, your appetites plain for all to see. How shocked they would be to see such behaviour but it’s what you want, what you really need. Isn’t that so; tell me that’s the truth!”
“Yes, Madam Hong,” Vera answered in a whisper. She was losing track of the line between the play acting and her real feelings. She was only doing this to stay in role, wasn’t she? If so why did she find Xui-Li’s words strangely compelling and why, as she had spoken, had her fingers had slipped between her lower lips so that they were now working directly on the sensitive flesh within?
“Yes, what? Tell me what you need,” Xui-Li insisted.
“Yes, Madam Hong, I need… I need….” Vera still couldn’t find the words to express just what it was but the desire within her was strong and growing and her fingers now worked with an ever-increasing intensity.
“You need to prostrate yourself before me, don’t you?” There was an edge of steel to Xui-Li’s voice now.
“Yes, yes, I do.”
“You need to be mine, and mine alone,” Xui-Li added.
“Yes, yes, please, Madam Hong.”
“So beg then, beg for what you heart desires!”
“Please, Madam Hong, please let me be your geisha, please take pity on me.” Caught in the moment the words just seemed to flow. Why did just saying them add to the heat within her?
“And will you do anything, anything I ask?”
“Yes, yes, anything, anything at all.” Vera fingers worked furiously and she felt as if her body were about to explode. Just a bit more, just a little bit….
“OK, that’s enough, you can stop now,” Xui-Li said.
“Stop? Please, Madam Hong!”
“Yes, stop. Don’t you dare question a direct order. Isn’t it strange how quickly your modesty evaporates, how ‘I can’t do it’ disappears and you turn into a shameless harlot rutting away with complete abandon. If you could only see yourself.”
With a rush of blood to her face Vera realised the truth in this. Xui-Li had guided her, had manipulated her until she had acted so shamelessly, so wantonly…. She took her hand from her groin and stared at the sticky dampness on her fingers. She had been controlled so easily, tricked and fooled into disgracing herself. This woman, this damn woman, was playing with her emotions and she felt cheated. She had obeyed every order, however distasteful, and was now being castigated for doing so. It was as if nothing she could do would ever be good enough. She felt small, alone, scared and horribly, horribly out of her depth.
Slowly at first the tears began to fall. She couldn’t fight anymore, she had no resources left. With increasing intensity she sobbed, she was broken, she had no will left and could only kneel there awaiting the next degradation.
Xui-Li finally took pity.
“Come, Jun-Nui, you have suffered enough. Put this on, it will make things easier.” Xui-Li held out the collar and slipped it around Vera’s neck. “There, that’s better; now come here.”
Some time later Vera lay next to Xui-Li in her narrow cot quietly listening to the many strange sounds around her. The ship seemed almost to be alive with the creak of the rigging and the splash of the waves against her hull as she ploughed her way through the night. From within the cabin there was a rattling sound as something loose on Xui-Li’s desk rolled back and forth with the ship’s slow movements. But in the tumbling chaos of Vera’s thoughts these sounds were far less disturbing than bahis siteleri the soft sound of Xui-Li’s steady breathing as she lay beside her. Everything in her upbringing told her this was wrong in so many ways. Under the control of this woman she had tricked and cajoled into lewd depravities which were far, far outside what was in any way acceptable.
She thought back over all the perverted deviancies she had been forced to perform. Having to kneel before Xui-Li, to kiss her ‘down there’, kissing her where she…ugh! She had been forced to probe with her tongue deep, deep within Madam Hong’s most private parts. How could that be right, how could that be anything other than the most foul degrading act she had ever done? But if that was true why then had she thrilled to feel Xui-Li respond; why then did the very taste of Xui-Li’s flow, the taste of her passion, enthral and not repulse? Why was it so satisfying to feel Xui-Li respond, to be the source of her very real pleasure? And, once that was done, Xui-Li had gathered her up and made free with her body and Vera could still feel the butterfly touch of her kisses, the skilful flick of her tongue against her nipples, the urgent touch of her fingers as she…. Again her mind revolted at the thought. How could something so appalling feel so good? Why, when her moral core cried out in horror, did every fibre of her body sing with delight? Xui-Li had talked about needs and appetites, appetites that could only be satisfied by stepping outside the moral bounds that she had been brought up to. ‘I’m not like that, I’m not, I’m not!’ Vera screamed inside but still she couldn’t silence the little voice which answered “liar!”.
She snuggled closer to Xui-Li and sleep claimed her at last.
“We’re approaching land, Ma’am,” the boatswain announced. Vera looked up from under the covers; the morning sun streamed in past the boatswain standing at the open cabin door.
“Thank you. Maybe you could take this one and set her to work,” Xui-Li replied.
Vera knew better than to keep the boatswain waiting. She slipped out of bed, threw on the pants and tunic she had been given yesterday and followed the boatswain out onto the deck. The ship was working its way down a narrow inlet and on either side mangrove swamps hemmed them in. The surrounding jungle looked dense and inhospitable. However she hadn’t got time for sightseeing as she was immediately put to work, hard manual tasks that pushed her to her limits. The ship rounded a headland and was forced to tack; Vera was amazed by how quickly and skilfully the crew reset the sails, how they worked as a coordinated machine. She, on the other hand, just seemed to get in everyone’s way but, unlike the previous day, at least she was treated with good-humoured tolerance, not angry disdain.
Xui-Li emerged from her cabin and went up onto the poop deck and stood next to the helm. Vera watched her out of the corner of her eye. There seemed to be some discussion about the route; Xui-Li referred to a chart from time to time and was pointing out landmarks on either side. Eventually a wooden jetty appeared on the port bank and, under a hail of orders, and a tumult of frenzied activity, the ship was brought alongside.
This was where the real work started. Whilst Xui-Li met with the people who had been waiting on the bank the crew opened up the hold and started unloading. It would appear that their cargo was bags of rice and these needed to be manhandled out of the hold and onto carts waiting on the jetty. It was made quite clear that Vera was not to be spared from this and she was ordered into the hold to lift the sacks onto the hoist that raised them onto the shore.
The work was backbreaking and seemed never ending and, in the dusty confines of the hold, the temperature was climbing rapidly as the morning progressed. The rest of the crew carried the sacks as if they were nothing whereas for Vera they were at the limit of what she could handle. They seemed to get heavier as the morning progressed and her muscles ached as never before. A carelessly lifted sack snagged a fingernail and she stopped to sort it out, she was told in no uncertain terms to get on with it. Slowly, layer-by-layer, the hold was emptied until at last the final sack was hoisted away. Vera was weary to the bone, every muscle protested and her hands were sore and blistered. She slumped down in the corner of the hold.
“Hey, ghost girl, now you’re a real sailor. Come and have a swim to cool off,” Vera looked up to see Xiang looking down at her with a smile on her face. Vera felt it would be best to take even this friendly suggestion as an order so she stood up and climbed the ladder out of the hold.
On the jetty the crew and many of the locals were, without the slightest sign of any shyness or modesty, stripping off whatever clothing they wore and diving into the clear water of the inlet. Vera hung back at first; she found it hard to understand how these women were so ready to expose themselves but the bahis şirketleri obvious fun they were having along with the gritty feeling as her sweat congealed with the rice dust down her back persuaded her at last. She thought about keeping on her clothes as she swam but if she were to avoid further ridicule she knew she had to fit in so she took off her tunic and pants and sat nervously on the edge of the jetty clutching her arms about her. Almost immediately Xiang reached up out of the water, grabbed her by the ankle and pulled. Vera scrabbled for the planking of the jetty but to no avail and she slipped over the edge and plunged into the deep water. Spluttering she rose to the surface to be greeted by the wide grins of the crew and locals.
Although she could follow little of the local dialect there was a contagious sense of fun and there was plenty of splashing and horseplay amongst the swimmers. They seemed to accept Vera as one of the crowd and paid her no special notice. After a while Vera, exhausted by the games, swam over to one of the pillars supporting the jetty, and held onto it whilst she got her breath back. Xiang saw her and swam over to join her. She reached out and felt the collar which was still fastened around Vera’s neck.
“So, you’re Madam Hong’s ghost girl? You belong to her?” she asked.
“I guess so.” Vera replied.
“You guess so!” Xiang laughed. “You’d better guess good. She’s a jealous lady, Madam Hong.”
“Why are all the crew women?” Vera asked. “Don’t you have any men on board, ever?”
“Men!” Xiang spat in disgust. “Madam Hong, she looks after the girls who have had enough of men. She gives us work; she gives us lives. Anyway, once you find girl love you never want a man, ever again.”
“And where are we? Where is this place?” Vera felt as if she ought to do some detective work.
“You ask too many questions; you’re one nosey ghost girl,” Xiang replied, suddenly hostile again. “We’re here, that’s all you need to know.” And abruptly she swam off and joined the others.
The return of Xui-Li and a group of locals brought the dip to an end and reluctantly the swimmers made their way to the shore. As they all trooped out of the water Vera couldn’t help but stare at her playmates, girls and women of every shape and size, their nakedness emphasising their common humanity. For the first time Vera felt as if she was beginning to fit in. Xui-Li gave her a long hard look as she emerged and beckoned her over.
“We’re going on a short expedition up country. Get yourself dressed,” she ordered.
The women standing with Xui-Li made a stark contrast to the women with whom Vera had been swimming; they were arrogant, full of themselves and they spoke Mandarin as opposed to the local dialect. As Vera turned to fetch her clothes she heard one of them ask Xui-Li rather haughtily if she couldn’t find any ‘local girls’ to play with. “After all” the local woman continued “bringing a round eye here, however pretty she is, is very risky. How do we know we can trust her?”
“I do hope you’re not questioning my judgement,” Xui-Li replied curtly.
“No, no, of course not, Madam Hong,” the woman responded quickly. “It’s just that some of the others….”
“If anyone has any problems with Jun-Nui then they answer to me. Is that quite clear?” Xui-Li addressed the crowd in general, sounding furious. “Do any others amongst you have anything to say?”
The women all looked away and there was a stony silence as the party prepared to leave. Still wet from her dip Vera ran back to the ship where it didn’t take her long to slip on the pants and tunic and return to follow the party to where there were a number of horses waiting. Vera was helped onto a mule and, after a certain amount of fussing about they all set off up the trail into the hills following the laden carts. Vera trailed behind the main group, the reins to her mule held by Xui-Li, and she could hear that the atmosphere was beginning to clear. It felt odd to be out riding without all the usual restrictive clothing; at school they had been taught to ride side-saddle as the only method deemed ‘ladylike’; and to be seen out without wearing corsets would have been unimaginable, but here in the oppressively sticky heat of the jungle Vera was glad of the light clothing and the unrestricted movement.
They had ridden for maybe half an hour when they crested a ridge and the trail began to wind down into a hollow and Vera could see what all this was in aid of. Vera had never seen a refugee camp before but it wasn’t hard to guess that this is what this was; the ramshackle buildings made out of all sorts of rubbish, people everywhere with no sense of purpose, no sense of direction and, above all, an overriding air of chaos. There was no organisation, and crucially no sanitation so, despite everyone’s best efforts, there was filth piled everywhere. Vera could scarcely believe that anyone could survive in this place; how much worse could it be in wherever it was that they had come from? The carts pulled up at a clear space near the centre of the camp and, whilst Xui-Li and some of the women from the docks went off to a large tent-like structure, Vera was left to help unload and distribute the sacks of rice.
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