My name is Selene, and I’m a witch, or rather I used to be. I haven’t been able to perform magic for years because I sold my soul to the Devil some years ago to escape some villagers. I cursed them with the plague, but they deserved it. Today, he came and told me he needed a favor.
“There’s someone I want you to bring to me,” the Devil told me as he stared at me with his eyes that were as yellow as egg yolks. “There’s a man that emperor has taken prisoner. His name is Alix Meng.”
“Oh, is that all?” I asked as I brushed my long black hair with a ribcage that once belonged to a diminutive mogwai from the underworld. “A simple human man is worth the price of the soul of the most powerful witch that ever lived?”
“The most irritating witch that ever lived,” the Devil repeated as he walked around my quarters with his forked tail tucked between his hairy goat legs. I wondered if his skin was always that red or if he was just happy to see me. “Now listen carefully, Selene, my little Tang Yuan, this boy is more than just a human. He’s a werewolf. He’s destined to be the leader of all the wolves in the Mongli province. Seduce him, make him fall for you, and give me his soul. Your debt to me will be paid if you do this.”
“Why do you have to call me Tang Yuan?" I snapped and kicked over an urn of pickled radish that I had been fermenting. I’m sure they tasted great, but at least the smell kept the demons away. “Have I not suffered enough this dirty underworld of yours? Must you torture me too?”
“And you can be free as soon as you bring me this werewolf. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s the king of all kings, the leader of all warriors, the Alpha among canines.” The devil approached me and stroked my black hair with one of his talons. “Then the Tang Yuan can go back to cursing villagers with the black plague.”
“I was doing those villagers a favor!” I snapped. “They asked me to take away all their pain and their grief. They just wanted to be reunited with their deceased loved ones. So - I killed them.”
“I like the way you think. You are clever,” the devil said with a laugh. “You’re not just a pair of beautiful rosy cheeks like a fresh dumpling. I think once I release you from your servitude, you will miss me. You’ll say where is my beloved, horned Gōng Gong who brings me fresh oranges despite my ingratitude.”
I sighed and picked up my jade dagger. It was all I would need to bring with me to the mortal realm. Inside it, I had imbibed some of my old powers, including the ability to see certain mortal emotions hanging over their heads. If I was going to make this puppy dog, Alix Meng fall in love with me, I would need all the help I could get.
~*~The first thing I did was I disguised myself as a young girl.
Not just any young girl - a young girl with a fortune.
The Emperor’s High General was a wealthy man. He had married one of the emperor’s sisters and how he enjoyed the best house in the western province of the capital city. His youngest daughter, who was around eighteen, was always the rebellious type. I decided that two months after the autumn lantern festival, she would going to be stricken with a passionate love for the Seventh Prince, who was sent to guard the Northern Borders.
She was going to pack her things one night and run away with him. He was going to allow it. And then, I was going to disguise myself as the girl - Sixi Teng, and I would do it so well her own father wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
The High General was often away from home, and I doubt he would have noticed if his daughter was replaced with a swine in a dress. That was not to belittle my powers. My abilities to disguise are unrivaled. Back in my day, I could have transformed myself into a Phoenix if I wanted to.
Now, I relied on what limited magic remained inside my Jade Dagger. Even as I used those precious spells, I knew I had to hurry and win Alix’s heart so I could sell his soul to my beloved, hairy crab redGōng Gongbefore my magic ran out.
I sensed I had enough power inside the dagger for three more major spells. Two more, because I was going to use the last one to escape back in the underworld with the requested werewolf soul.
In my disguise, I gave myself the bloom of youth of an eighteen-year-old girl. In reality, I was over thirty years old. I had spent the last five years in servitude of that red crab of a devil— what wasted years. Looking at my reflection in a bronze shield on display in the marketplace, one could hardly tell I had been marinating in the sulfur steam of the netherworld just a couple of days ago.
In my natural form, I had black hair, as straight and shimmering as an eel in the moonlit ocean. My eyes were as black as two olives and my skin as white as rice paper. In my new body, I gave my hair natural brown highlights, and my eyes were a light hazel like the chestnuts roasting on an open spit in the market square. My skin was now rosy and pink like a summer peach.
I looked perfectly innocent, dainty, even - dare I say it -cute.
My attendants were a couple of my father’s soldiers who were tasked with the undesirable job of being the bodyguards of a teenage girl. At my right hand, I had a rather chatty slave girl. Her name was Lan-ru, and she was incredibly annoying. I was half tempted to use one of my spells to turn her into a chicken. Even if she became a chicken, I was sure she would become one of those roosters which would crow nonstop.
Better to turn one of the guards into a hungry street dog that would eat her.
No, I had to show self-restraint. I couldn’t go around casting spells to get rid of every single thing that annoyed me.
I must have been an eagle in my past life because I was exceptionally good at finding my prey. I found Alix before the noon sun was high in the sky. It was lucky that I had because if he had been purchased before I got to him, my hairy crab patron would no doubt lock me back in my little house in the underworld for another five years.
For a future werewolf king who would one day lead the Devil’s armies, Alix didn’t look like much. Normally, the slave trader took their wares from house to house among the wealthy families to sell handmaidens to the upper-class ladies.
Since Alix and his brethren had been captured in the last great battle among the snowy forests of Datong, and there were quite a few of them here, they were being sold int he marketplace for pocket change. Looking at Alix, I could see why. He was malnourished, sickly, barely able to stand up on two feet.
He wasn’t even worth sending to the rock quarries or castrating into a palace eunuch. Lan-ru saw me studying the boy sitting next to a pile of horse manure in chains.
“Are you really thinking about that one, mistress? He looks like he’s carrying the plague.”
I smiled to myself as I studied him. Yes, he will do. He looked to be a boy of about nineteen. Somewhere, along the road from Datong, he had lost his shirt. He only had an old flour sack to cover up his naked chest. His pants were ripped, although deliciously so. I saw a tantalizing glimpse of a muscular upper thigh through the rags. I saw a poorly healed whip mark on his bare shoulder. Oh, so the pup had been caught engaging in naughtiness. I liked the boys with a little fight to them. It made their eventual surrender so much more tantalizing.
Alix tugged the rags closer as he sensed that he was being watched. His eyes flickered toward me, and then he immediately looked down toward the ground. It made me want to laugh. I could imagine that even now, in his current state, he was ashamed to be staring at an alluring girl from afar.
Oh, Alix, poor dear boy, you will rue the day that the fates brought us together.
His silly rags did little to hide his luscious male form from my prying eyes. He had black hair, sharp, stubborn eyes, a bold nose, and kissable lips. His shoulders were so broad, my eyes could lose themselves for days studying every tendon and muscle on the landscape of his body. He had generous pectoral muscles but small, adorably boyish nipples. His stomach was concave and spoke of starvation, but it did nothing to take away from his chiseled chest.
Then there were those long, gazelle-like legs that ended in blocky square toes. His shoes were full of holes, but I didn’t care. A warrior was hiding inside that boy. Perhaps he will find glory on the battlefield one day, or maybe the only battles he will win will be between my legs. Either way, he would be mine from this day forward.
I was eager to begin training him. I was going to take him, mark him, make him love me - only me.
I would hurt him, pleasure him, tame him, use him, and then when I was finally done - I would discard him.
Then I was going to sell his soul to that irritating horned Gōng Gong before the next full moon!
“What are you doing, Lady Teng?” The slave trader nervously asked as he noticed I was studying his wares. Clearly, my pretend father was an acquaintance of his. Heck, maybe my father was the one who took these men captive. “Are these stinkin’ prisoners sullying your view of the market.”
“I rather like this one, what’s his story?” I asked as I pointed to Alix. Of course, I knew who he was. I wouldn’t be a witch worth my salt if I didn’t. I was just making small talk. That’s what polite, high born women did, right? I had spent too much time stepping on the skulls of minor demons to remember how to function among men.
“Orphan boy took up arms at the wrong time. You don’t want that one, sweet lady. The General would carve me in half if he knew I sold his daughter an unruly boy with a taste for trouble.”
“I’m bored. Maybe, trouble is exactly what I’m looking for today.”
The slaver trader grew serious when he realized I was considering purchasing the rascal. “There’s also that infected spear wound on his side.”
“Then I’ll have my fun with him for a day or two,” I assured the slave trader and handed him a fist-full of pocket change. “He’s mine.”
The slave trader’s eyes widened, and he shook his hands furiously, trying to hand me back the coins. When he saw I wouldn’t take them, he handed it to my handmaiden.
“No, I wouldn’t dream of charging General Teng’s daughter. Especially for such a poor specimen. Take him; he is yours.”
“Will you take the kind gentleman’s money?” I angrily asked my handmaiden as the slave trader went to unshackle the prisoner.
“He forced it on me!” She protested and held her hands out to show how helpless she was.
“You gave in too easy, stupid ya-to,” I snapped. “You should hope I won’t hand you to the gentleman as a bride for that price.”
“Mistress!” Lan-ru said with tears coming to her eyes. “Please forgive me!” She dropped to her knees and started banging her forehead on the ground.
I rolled my eyes.
“It’s your job to keep our new toy alive. If he does, off to wed the trader you’ll go. Maybe then you’ll spend the rest of your days rolling around in horse manure.”
I left her behind, finally! I guessed that when I finally showed her some teeth, she finally relented. I was allowed to wander over to my new possession all by my lonesome. As the slave trader removed the chains, he tied the boy’s hands together with a length of rope.
“For your protection, Lady Teng,” the slaver trader said. “You never know what these beasts have on their sordid minds.”
Oh, I hoped he had plenty of sordid things behind those pretty brown eyes of his. I smiled as I saw a flash of yellow as the sunlight hit his face at just the right angle. Oh, my sweet boy, my dear secret Lángrén, my future Alpha.