I am washing myself when he knocks.
The tepid water stings as I fling cupped handfuls between my thighs. At least there is no blood this time. After all these months, perhaps my sex has become as calloused as Jin's hands were from pushing his plow. But I should not think about Jin. The recollection brings far more pain than the most brutal fucking by my masters.
I rush to dry myself and don the cheap cotton hakata that is my working uniform. They do not like to be kept waiting.
“Dozo ohairi kudasai.”
Draping my body along the bed in an alluring pose, I arrange the robe to reveal a glimpse of my full breasts. I use the few weapons I have. In the first weeks I learned that feigned desire sometimes reduced their violence. Sometimes.
Thirty seconds pass. A minute. Perhaps he did not hear me. “Please enter this humble place, honored sir,” I repeat my invitation, hoping that I have got the pronunciation right. My Japanese is rudimentary. It would help, I think, if I could communicate better, but servicing a dozen or more men a day leaves me little time or energy to study. The clients do not come to talk in any case. If I could speak to them, though, perhaps they would see me as a fellow human instead of a thing, a collection of holes to be used for their basest needs.
There's still no sign from the man outside. With a sigh, I rise and pad barefoot across the tatami to the door. It's possible that the noise was accidental, some officer's sword hitting the wood as he strode past to some other poor woman's cell. Maybe I will have some time to rest after all.
When I crack open the door, however, I see that I do have a client. I hide my disappointment and my weariness as best I can. “Dozo, senshi-san.” I gesture toward the kapok-filled mattress on the floor, standing back so he can enter.
Still he hovers on the threshold. I shiver as a chill draft sweeps past me from the unheated hallway. My nipples shrink and harden. The skin on my bare arms looks like plucked chicken-flesh. I shake the sleeves down to cover this unattractive sight and once again mime an invitation.
He is young, possibly not even twenty, and wears the insignia of a mere private. It is important for me to recognize these things. When multiple men use me together, I must take care to serve the one with the highest rank first. I made a mistake about this during my first days and barely escaped having my throat slit.
I've noticed that rank and cruelty seem to increase together.
The soldier loitering in my doorway babbles something. I can't catch a single word.
“Wakarimasen, senshi-san. Dozo ohairi kudasai.”
The sound of polished boots on the wooden floor of the corridor reaches both our ears. He starts like a fawn surprised by hunters, pushes his way past me, shuts and bolts the door behind him. He slips off his own boots and stands there in his regulation blue socks, looking lost.
Once he's inside, I see that he's tall, for a Japanese. When he matures he may have a well-shaped, muscular body, but now he is too thin, his uniform hanging loose on his gangly limbs. Or maybe our frigid Korean winter and his short rations have reduced him to this semi-skeleton.
“Dozo.” I repeat, pointing the pallet.
He shakes his head, his face twisted in strange misery. Unintelligible words spill from his lips.
“Wakarimasen,” I tell him. He doesn't appear to understand me either. To me his features look like all his compatriots: narrow faces, hatchet-sharp chins, eyes that tilt far more than ours. But maybe he's from some remote corner of their Empire, a place with its own dialect and customs.
I give up speech and switch to a more universal language. Shrugging off my robe, I display my body for him to admire. Shame is a luxury we slave women cannot afford. I know it is easier for me, anyway, than for the young ones. When the soldiers took me, I'd already known love and pleasure, though now that all seems a faint and distant dream. The innocent virgins that the masters prize so highly have their modesty ripped away with the bloodied tatters of their maidenhood.
His gaze flits over my ripe breasts and my matronly hips. At least we eat well, better than poor foot soldiers like him. He lingers on the black tangle between my meaty thighs. The adolescent lump in his scrawny throat is prominent as he swallows. Still he does not smile, though I detect a stirring in his baggy trousers.
A flicker of satisfaction warms me. I reach for his hand, trying to pull him toward the bed. He snatches it away as if I were a brazier of hot coals.
“Iie!” That I understand. But why is he refusing me? If he doesn't want to fuck me, why is he here?
He reaches into his shirt for a pouch that hangs around his neck. Extracting what looks like a scrap of dirty paper, he hands it to me.
It's a photograph, faded and ragged around the edges as if torn from a larger sheet. A lovely girl of sixteen or seventeen, dressed in a ceremonial kimono and wearing flowers in her hair, stares into the camera. Her expression is demure but as I look more closely, I sense she's fighting the urge to laugh. She's absolutely charming.
I send my client a questioning look.
“Mariko.” For the first time, his features soften. Is this woman his sister? No, no, I see now, this is his sweetheart, his betrothed, whom he left behind when he joined – or was forced to join – the Imperial army.
But Mariko is probably far away. He's here, with me, and for the first time since I was captured I actually want sex. Not for pleasure – I know that's all in the past – but to prove my power.
“Come here, boy, and I will make you feel better,” I croon in my own language, well aware that he won't comprehend the words but sure he'll pick up my tone. In fact, I go to him instead, lacing my arms around his waist and rubbing my pillowy bare bosom against his chest. He's hard, despite his show of resistance. A pestle of stone nudges against my pubis as I capture and massage his rear cheeks.
He ceases to fight me. Passive, he stands unmoving while I unbutton his shirt and remove his trousers. His penis is a long, pale arch, almost without veins, terminated by a moist, ruddy mushroom. He jumps when I brush my palm over the tip.
“So hard,” I murmur, dragging him to the mattress, pulling him down on top of me. “Such a big, hard man...” I spread my legs, draw up my knees on either side of his bony hips, offer my surprisingly damp oyster to his rampant stalk.
He doesn't know what he's doing, though. He grinds blindly against my mound, his eyes screwed shut as if he can't bear to look at me. In the end I have to guide his penis to my slit and tilt my own hips to embed him inside me.
After that, he gets the idea. Before long he's thrusting deep, with a smooth, regular rhythm. Each time he plunges into me, pain streaks through my ravaged private parts, echoes from my last client, and the ones before him. But this boy isn't rough – oh no. Though I try not to wince when his cock pierces my flesh, he senses how raw and sensitive I am down there. He slows down, makes his strokes shallower.
How sweet he is! It has been an eternity since anyone showed any concern for me. The first time, the soldiers took me right in front of Jin, in the barn where they found us hiding. Six of them, one right after the other, while my husband screamed curses at their straining backs.
I bled for a week after that. I almost died. I wanted to die, but they wouldn't let me. I was useful to them, just as Jin was. They marched him off to some front or other, one of thousands of conscripts offered up to the gods of war. Hyeun and Keong, our son and daughter, had no utility. They were slaughtered, one shot to the head each, before our horrified eyes.
I mustn't think about that or I'll go mad. I'll give up. “Survive,” Jin whispered to me as they led us away in opposite directions, away from the corpses of our children. “Do anything you can to survive. We will meet again, Myeongu.”
I don't believe it. I'm sure Jin is dead. Still, I hold on to his last words like some talisman. I paint my face with the cosmetics they give me. I pretend to be aroused. I suck their damned dicks till they choke me. I don't fight when they force me open.
It doesn't take long for the boy on top of me to lose control. It never does, at that age. As the sensations build, he fucks me harder and deeper, every thrust bringing him closer to the edge. I wrap my legs around his waist, urging him on. It hurts, but then it always hurts now.
I know he'd spare me if he could. He's been ordered to fuck me by some officer who was worried the private was a pansy. Poor boy. He had dreamed of saving himself for his girl back home. Another dream devoured by this endless war.
“Mariko!” he yells as he jerks like a puppet and pours his semen into me. I wish she knew her name was on his lips the first time he exploded inside a woman's cunt. But she might well be dead, too. I hope not.
Afterward, he weeps. “Sumimasen,” he moans again and again. “I'm so sorry.”
I hold him close, his cheek resting upon my breasts, and murmur encouragement that he does not understand. When he dozes off, exhausted by emotion, his face looks younger than ever. I stroke his hair off his brow, trace the delicate curve of his ear, admire the thick dark brush of his eyelashes against his porcelain skin. He seems so fragile that I feel strong by comparison.
I should wake him, dress him and push him out the door. We are forbidden to sleep with the men who use us. Another man might arrive any time. I need to clean and ready myself.
I'm reluctant to disturb him, though. His warm weight lies upon my body like a welcome blanket. His emptied cock has settled in my sex as though it belongs there. I don't want to break the connection.
When I stroke his smooth, naked buttocks, his penis starts to swell once more. It nudges my puffy lower lips. Young men! I hold him closer. A barely remembered feeling washes over me. Not arousal, no. Not yet. Maybe not ever again. This is something deeper and possibly more sustaining.