Sook Joo and Yin, Ling's concubines, are enemytosleep's creations, and you can enjoy more of their adventures with Ling in enemytosleep's fic. Thanks to her for letting me borrow them
When Al finally got to experience the close, muggy heat of Xing's capital for himself, he suddenly understood the point of Ling's dumb, baggy pants and open jacket. After two days of sweating in his travelling khakis, Al had sucked it up and accepted the loose silk trousers and tunic a servant had pressed upon him.
The heat was tough on him, like any overdose of sensation. Dressing right helped; so did seeking shade. And little yoghurts from stalls in the hutongs, sold out of ice buckets in glazed clay bottles with waxed paper tops, and drunk through a straw. He was getting through a bunch of those a day.
Right now, he'd just given up on moving for the rest of today. Bored and exhausted, he was lying on his wooden-canopied bed and occasionally rousing himself to clap up a cloud of chilly air. Dinner had been good, although on reflection, he wished that Ran Fan hadn't told him what a sea cucumber actually was. He'd been way happier when he was assuming it was a vegetable. Now he couldn't hang out with Ling because Ling was busy being Emperor. He didn't want to hang out with Ran Fan because training palace guard recruits all day had left her so grouchy she'd want to spar, and it was way too hot for that. And he couldn't hang out with Mei because she was on some annual pilgrimage to some sacred site of rentanjutsu with all the other masters. Which he wasn't allowed to join in with.
Based on Ling's conversations with Ed about life in the Yao clan's palace, Ed and Winry had teased him with all kinds of predictions about Xingese palace entertainment, largely involving suggestive scrub-downs by elaborately-coiffed handmaidens in scented baths. Where was Al's handmaiden scrub-down, huh?
As if on cue, the paper door slid very slightly open. A little head popped in.
It was downright spooky how the servants round here knew what you wanted the second you knew you wanted it.
It wasn't just one girl, Al discovered, it was two girls. Handmaiden number one was a cute, cat-eyed, smiling girl wearing several layers of elaborately folded, thin silk robes with those long, trailing sleeves. Handmaiden number two was a tiny, dainty girl with a sweet round face and big almond eyes, wearing a simple dark robe. She wasn't smiling. Al didn't look intimidating, did he?
Oh. Oh crap, he was in his boxers. There were handmaidens and he was half-naked, that was kind of embarrassing. Unless he was going to get the scented bath scrub thing now?
"Ni hao," he said.
"Hello," said the first girl in Amestrian. Oh good. Despite all the recent, daily practice, Al's Xingese sucked. She cleared her throat. "His Celestial Majesty thought you might like some entertainment." She grinned at him, in a very un-handmaiden-like fashion.
Were they going to play music for him or something? The tiny girl had a silk bundle in her arms. Was it instruments? No, wait. This was Ling who had sent them, it was almost bound to be something sketchier.
"My name is Yin," said the first girl brightly. "This is Sook Joo. I'm here to translate for her."
"Ah," said Al, trying not to sound completely confused. Translate? He got a quivery feeling in his stomach, and it wasn't entirely good. Sook Joo looked so little and vulnerable, with her big solemn eyes. Was she okay with whatever this dubious entertainment was that Ling had organised? Was she going to do a striptease? Should he just say 'no, thanks' right now? Not that he really knew what he was saying 'no thanks' to. He really didn't want this sweet little girl pushed into doing anything she didn't want. Al swung his feet over the side of the bed, thinking it was about time he grabbed a robe.
The effect on Sook Joo was electric. She fixed him with a fierce, commanding look and barked something at him in a low and ringing voice.
Al absolutely froze in his tracks. For a moment, he even held his breath.
"She says, you're to get back on the bed and don't move unless she tells you to," said Yin brightly.
"Okay," said Al slowly. He lay down again. Sook Joo watched him appraisingly. What was up with this girl? She looked like an adorable little kitten, then all of a sudden she turned into Olivia Armstrong?
Al had always kind of had a little thing for Olivia Armstrong.
After a few more moments of the girl's stare, Al rethought the kitten analogy. Sook Joo might be half his size, but he was somehow starting to feel like a very small rabbit cornered by a very large cat. Olivia Armstrong had been smaller than him too, back in the day, now that he thought about it. He turned to Yin. "Uh, I don't mean to be rude, but what exactly did you have in mind for entertainment?"
Yin turned to Sook Joo, grinning, and rattled off something in Xingese. Sook Joo replied softly, still unsmiling, and Yin put her sleeve to her face and giggled heartily.
"You'll find out," said Yin. "You'll like it. Sook Joo is an artist, I bet not many Amestrian boys get to meet someone like her."
An artist at what, Al wanted to ask, but he kept his mouth shut. Sook Joo unfastened her bundle. He craned his neck to look, and she gave him a very sharp look. Then she held out a fat coil of silky rope, and placed it on the bottom of the bed.
"Oh," said Al. Yin started with the giggles again.
Well, this was new. Which was good, in theory. Al liked trying new things.
Sook Joo had just spent the last few minutes carefully and elaborately tying him to his own bed. He was still lying down, and weirdly enough, still in his boxers, although he was now ninety-five per cent sure this was some kind of sex thing. His arms were held together by a complicated, elegant ladder of knots, and tied off over the wooden bed canopy. His legs were tied together similarly to the carved footboard. Al was starting to wonder if the beds at the Xingese Imperial Court were designed for this stuff.
It was all kind of artistic looking. Still, Al was wondering if he was going to regret his own curiosity. The kicker had been when Sook Joo had put a thick wad of silk between his hands so that he couldn't clap. She'd fixed him with a look that told him she knew exactly why she was doing that, then she'd spent ages tying little knots around his fingers, with a contentedly intent look on her face that was oddly reminiscent of Winry filing down a new vambrace.
Meanwhile Yin stood by the door, hands folded into her sleeves, watching. The corners of her mouth kept twitching up. Every so often she would say something questioning to Sook Joo in Xingese, and Sook Joo would reply. Al was fairly sure he caught the word for 'Emperor' a couple of times. "She's teaching me the art of, uh," said Yin, catching Al's eye.
"Tying people up?" offered Al. That was an art?
"Yes!" said Yin.
The rope wasn't as soft as it had looked. It pulled at his skin with a pleasant, gentle kind of friction. Al kept having to close his eyes occasionally against it. He was still so easily overstimulated; he hated how weird it must make him look sometimes. It was mortifying, he was going to look like a total pervert in front of these girls. Then he realised their first point of comparison was very probably Ling, and corrected himself. No, he was just going to look like a total lunatic.
Finally, Sook Joo took a piece of thick white silk out, and folded it into a fat strip. She approached the head of the bed, eyeballed him appraisingly, and then tied it firmly over his eyes.
"All right, I am going now!" Yin had mastered the giggles but still sounded somewhat like a person having far too much fun. "Sook Joo prefers to work without an audience. Use her name if it is too much for you!"
Before he could say, what do you mean, work? what do you mean, too much?, her quiet footsteps padded out, and she was gone. Leaving him tied up in the hands of a tiny dominatrix who, apparently, didn't speak a word of Amestrian.
If this wasn't good, Ling was really going to know about it the next time they sparred.
For the first few minutes, it seemed like she was just brushing — something or other — incredibly lightly over the surface of his skin. Or it might be several somethings. Sometimes it felt bristly like a little brush, sometimes soft. It was kind of like being tickled. Only — well, strangely hot. She hadn't made a move to touch his boxer shorts or anything under them, but he was undeniably very, very turned on.
And then? Al honestly had no idea. She placed a series of different objects to his lips in turn, briefly. There was something very cold, hard and smooth — metal? It made him jump, but felt delicious in the muggy heat. Then something abrasive, hard and a little too hot, which might have been a heated stone, or something else entirely for all he knew. And then — what? — some kind of pointy sharp thing. Goodness only knew what that was, it felt like a little wheel with spikes.
Al waited, nervous, but honestly, kind of fascinated. With only marginal light creeping into the corners of the blindfold, and silence in the room apart from soft rustles of cloth, his skin prickled all over, oversensitised and sweating in the close heat. He waited.
Al was biting his lower lip again. He'd been chewing on it so much in the last few minutes that it was going to be all swollen tomorrow.
It was weird how overwhelming the things she was doing felt. All it was, as far as he could guess, was that she was alternating teasing the skin of his chest with a heated stone, some kind of cold metal object, and something with little pointy spikes. All three kind of hurt if she held them there a moment there too long — which she invariably did. She kept alternating rapidly between hot and cold, and when she did that, all Al's senses would narrow down to that one patch of prickling, overstimulated skin on his side.
He'd quickly discovered that the rope binding he was in was perfectly comfortable — until he tried to wriggle. It wasn't long before he worked out that this was probably deliberate. The binding had been cleverly arranged so that it didn't cut off his circulation, but it did make life difficult for him if he didn't stay still. It seemed like some kind of game. The girl would leave him alone long enough for the suspense became unbearable and he'd even start wondering if she'd left the room. Then he'd suddenly feel the touch of one of those objects, and he'd jump, and then — ow.
So, the idea was obviously, he was supposed to try not to jump. And he was! He was really trying, but his body just didn't seem to want to obey him.
He was breathing too fast. He tried to slow himself down, to take deep breaths and to empty his mind, to concentrate on just his sense of touch. He had no idea what was going to happen from one second to the next. The whole thing was kind of driving him more crazy. He was somehow overwhelmed and frustrated at the same time. Did normal people get off on this? Was it him being bizarre again? Had Ling told her about him?
Her little hand came up and briefly stroked the side of his face, and she said something to him in a quiet, soothing voice, as if he was a pet that needed calming down. He didn't understand a word of it — or, was that the word for "good"? No, he had no idea.
Then — something pinched the skin of his belly, hard. Ow. He jumped. Ow. Whatever was pinching stayed there, although after the first moment the pain faded to a faint throb. A little pause. Another pinch, a little higher. Ow. Ow. Right, he was on this, he was totally not going to jump the next time she — he jumped.
Several minutes later, it seemed she was done with this phase of whatever the hell it was she was doing to him. He could feel pinchy clamp things arranged in two lines running up each side of his chest and belly. Including his nipples. He was hard as a rock, and she'd barely even laid a finger on him.
She said something to him again. He had absolutely no idea what. Then — what the hell — she must have pulled on something, because everything tugged and pinched at once, dozens of sharp little pains that shot through him — and he jumped all over, and everything tugged again and there was a second wave of little pains, and he heard himself whine. Then they faded away, and that cool, hard object was being stroked over his sweating forehead, down his chest and it felt so damn good.
Again. And again. And then — the rhythm got too complicated for him. She was playing him like a harp, tugging and twisting, moving things over him. He breathed his way through it all. Every sensation shot straight to his groin now.
His skin was buzzing all over, his heart hammering in his chest. He was getting that rush of energy he always got when he was sparring. He always struggled against it then, pushed it aside in an effort not to be overcome by the cocktail of hormones his human body was forcing him to down. Now this was all there was. He didn't need to act. He couldn't act. All he was doing was feeling, riding the waves of pain and pleasure and overwhelming sensation.
He half-realised that he was writhing, pushing his hips up into the empty air, feeling the maddeningly light friction of his erection rubbing against the cloth of his boxers.
Then Sook Joo's hand was on him — but not where he wanted it. Her little hand was flattened just above his navel and the touch made him want to cry, to shove himself into it. But he didn't.
"No," she said firmly in Xingese. He stopped moving. He grit his teeth and tensed his muscles and heard another small whining sound escape him. "Good," she said. Or he thought she said. He felt her pluck at the cord that was connecting the pinchy things. They bit. He made a low noise in his throat.
Then something heavy — rope? cords? tassels? he had no idea — draped itself over his boxers. He grunted in desperation and relief and arched up into the weight of it.
"No!", she barked. She slapped him above the navel sharply with the back of her hand.
"Okay!" he squeaked.
She waited for a few long moments, not doing anything, then twanged at the cord again. Al whimpered. The heavy cords draped over his boxers again, then again. The third time, his hips lifted of their own accord.
She backhanded his upper abdomen again sharply, then in a single, rapid movement, he felt her hand flick down the clamps on his right side. The pain was violently sharp. As it faded to a throb, he felt his heart hammering. "No," she said again.
"Sorry, sorry! I mean, du“b¯qǐ!"
Sook Joo placed her other hand over his mouth for a moment. Al got the picture and nodded. She lifted her hand, then tapped him firmly on the nose, as if he was a misbehaving puppy.
For a brief moment of clarity, Al took in the whole picture and realised now nuts this whole business was. What the hell was he going to say when Ed and Winry did the peanut gallery thing and asked him if he met any nice girls in Xing?
The next time she draped the cords over, he managed to hold himself still, just about. He clenched his butt cheeks and tried to concentrate on the delicious, maddening weight and friction of it. He was biting his lower lip again. She lifted the cords, and did it again. And again. Oh god.
Al was shaking with tension now. "Please," he heard himself whispering in Amestrian. "Please."
She ignored him and draped the cords over his crotch again. His hips rose up into it of their own accord. He tensed for her reaction — but there wasn't one. The cords were lifted, then draped over him again. He jerked up into it desperately — then suddenly it was gone and the clamps on his nipples were twisted, hard.
He arched and howled. It was amazing. It was unbearable.
"Please," he tried again. "I mean, Qǐng. Qǐng!"
She chuckled lowly and draped the cords over him again. He grit his teeth and tried desperately to control his urge to thrust.
"Yes," she said.
For a moment he thought that he must have misheard her, because surely the plan was to carry on tormenting him forever — but no. Her hand stroked firmly over the front of his boxers, and he sobbed at the incredible relief of it. "Yes," she repeated. Oh my god, she was letting him.
He let his hips arch — and that was it. A few hard strokes of her palm over the front of his boxers, and a tug at the cord pulling sharp points of pain all down his chest, and he was gone, spiralling down hard into a pulsing orgasm that seemed to erupt through his whole body. He thought he heard himself scream.
It took even longer than usual for him to drift back down, afterwards. He didn't even register that the blindfold had been removed until he opened his eyes to see her untying the cord by his feet from the footboard. Then he looked down at himself, and saw her handiwork, and blinked. There were little metal clamps running up his chest to the nipple on either side, connected by a chain, pinching his skin up into two little lines. His boxers were wet. He blinked again, and looked at Sook Joo. She met his eyes and grinned.
She said something he didn't catch, then released the first clamp. She removed them quickly and efficiently, reaching for the next before he had time to tense up. The pain of the blood rushing back in made him hiss. She stood over him and stroked a small hand through his hair while he calmed himself.
There was a knock on the door, and Yin bustled in carrying a tea set, which she set down on a low table by the window screen. While Sook Joo had her back turned untying Al's fingers, Yin jiggled her eyebrows at him. Al gave her an embarrassed smile.
As Sook Joo untied him, Al found himself looking her over, this small person who had taken command of him and done such strange and incredible things to him. She really was tiny: he bet that if he was standing up she wouldn't even come up to his shoulders. Al had been learning all his life not to underestimate small and delicate-looking women. He wasn't sure quite how he'd made that mistake again. When she was done, he stayed just where he was, wondering at his own inability to move, now that he could. She spread out the silk she'd entered the room with, and placed her collection of items on it. He watched with curiosity as the mystery was dissolved. The rope, neatly wrapped now, and the clamps and chain; two flat stones; a spiked metal wheel on a rod; and finally, a scary-looking little whip with a lot of heavy, braided tails. Whoa. That must have been the thing she'd draped over his crotch. Clearly not its only use.
Her bundle packed, she nodded to him, looking him in the eye with something like approval. She said something in that low, compelling voice. Then she stepped quietly from the room.
"She said you did quite well for your first time," supplied Yin. First time? "And, um, she said something else I did not hear properly. She's from the east, she has a really strong accent!"
Yin put a washcloth into Al's hands, then discreetly turned her back to pour the tea. Al cleaned himself up and managed to grab a fresh pair of boxers from the drawers by his bed. He was fairly sure he saw her head turn a little as he put them on.
She came and perched on the edge of the bed, and held out a cup of tea with both hands. "Sip it slowly," she said. He took the little cup, and failed to stop his hand from shaking a little. The cup was warm in his hands. He sipped carefully. It was sweet. "Red date tea," Yin added. "It's good for you. Do you have tea in Amestris?"
"Yes, but — maybe not so many different kinds? "
"His Celestial Majesty tells me he missed good tea very much when he was in your country."
Al just nodded. He couldn't quite manage conversation right now, so he closed his eyes and sipped his tea. Yin sat with him quietly.
After a while, he felt a little steadier. "I'm sorry," he said, "for being awkward. I kind of feel too much sometimes. I guess Li-, I mean, the Emperor explained some of why?"
Yin nodded, then took his cup and topped it off with more tea. "You were put in a false body? And it took many years to free you, yes? They must have been very strange years."
Al just nodded.
"Was it painful?" she said.
"No, it wasn't," said Al. "Not at all. Actually, it wasn't anything, really, that was the worst thing. It was like my whole body was numb, inside and out." He took another long breath, and another sip, sweet and rich and earthy. "Sometimes," he said, unsure of why he was being so candid, "I felt like I wasn't really in the world at all, like I was just watching it on a cinema screen."
Yin smiled. "How odd — that's just the way his Celestial Majesty describes his — experience."
"He told you guys?"
"Ah. Some of us. I was very indiscreet to discuss it." She bumped his shoulder. "You're making it very difficult for me to be decorous."
"I bet the Emperor makes it difficult sometimes too, right?"
Yin didn't respond, but she grinned at him and raised an eyebrow. For a moment, she looked a little like Ling himself.
Al was summoned for breakfast in Ling's chambers the next morning. Ling had been sparring in the early morning, so he wasn't dressed as His Celestial Majesty the Emperor Yao Ling, Son of Heaven, Lord of Ten Thousand Years, just dressed as himself. As soon as the last servant had left the room, his Celestial Majesty abandoned all pretence at politeness and good form. He sprawled on his side, propped up on one elbow, and scarfed down his first bowl of rice porridge with the same speed, enthusiasm and mess as the fifteen year old traveller Al had once found passed out in an alley.
"This is what we'd call comfort food," said Ling, waving his fried bread at his second bowl of congee.
Al sat cross-legged and sipped at his porridge appreciatively. "I had this at a bunch of street stalls while I was travelling here, but the palace's is way better."
"The palace's shi-fan and you ti‡o used to be terrible, but then I ordered the cooks to go and learn from a bunch of street stalls. Now it's way better." Ling grinned hugely. "I still know all the good stalls. I can even take you. It's easy to disguise yourself when everyone's looking for twenty-five layers of robes and a pointy head-dress."
"The street food here is pretty awesome. I mean, I still don't know what it is most of the time, so I just order it anyway! But it's usually pretty good."
Ling nodded happily. "That's what I did when I was travelling. I mean, cheese is curdled cow's milk! I had no idea what it really was when I first tried it, I thought it was fermented bean curd. By the way, you'll have to watch out when you head off to the rentanjutsu masters at Yulong Temple."
"Mei told me she misses the food there. She says it's delicious, simple Chang peasant food, not like all this mucked about court stuff."
Ling raised an eyebrow. He opened his mouth to say something, then, unusually for him, seemed to stop and consider, his eyes drifting to the side.
"What?" said Al.
"Nothing, nothing. Just make sure you don't touch the stew. Don't worry!" he added brightly. "I'll get the cooks to make you up some packages of nuts and mooncakes and things, in case of emergency. Did you have a nice evening last night?"
Al grinned and snorted. "You're unbelievable, you know."
Ling apparently took this as a compliment. He beamed even more broadly and said, "Sook Joo is one of my dearest girls. I'm lucky to have her here."
Al grinned back again. "You like them fierce, huh?"
"I suppose I do. She's an artist," said Ling in a dreamy tone of voice.
"Everything round here is some kind of art form," muttered Al, absently rubbing a wrist.
"We have a rich and ancient culture," said Ling. "I'm glad you're appreciating it! Tell me, have you visited the palace's underground hot springs yet?"
Al narrowed his eyes.
"So, you were watching behind a paper screen?" Sook Joo's voice was quiet and low, with just a little hint of a growl to it. "I am not pleased with you."
"Oh dear," said Ling cheerfully. "How did you know?"
"Yin told me. I am not pleased with her either."
"Oh dear," said Ling cheerfully. "Poor Yin. Oh well, I suppose she'll learn lots."
"I will have to remind you to respect my work."
"Oh dear," said Ling cheerfully. "I don't have any appointments this evening, by the way."
"I know," said Sook Joo. "Now I will need you to shut up, your Celestial Majesty." And she popped the bit between his teeth.