This one took longer to write than I thought it would have (since I had to think how Matron would explain something like this and still try not to make it a boring info-dump), and I confess it's not as juicy as most chapters will be. This one is mostly an exposition of the setting, with a little further insight into what makes Xiaomei tick (I'll give you a clue; she's a nasty, twisted little slut, teehee), and to be honest it's more funny than steamy. But from the way it ends you'll be able to see that the next chapter promises some hotter moments. If you're not interested in the setting and want to skip to the 'good part,' just scroll past the first major block of text and down to where you start seeing quotation marks and indents.
Three days after Xiaomei was caught at the foot of the statue, Xiaomei and a group of nine other house girls around her age knelt by their cots in the slave kennel as Matron delivered a lesson on the history of the Federation conquest of Centralia. It was a rare honor in occupied Centralia for anyone to receive an education, and Matron reminded every slave in the house that it was a sign of the Master's generosity. Xiaomei, however, had never been a very good student. For her, the hardest part was keeping her mind on her studies.
“Simply put, we had it coming,” Matron lectured. “When the Federation wrote the New Centralian Constitution, they made it a point to impose the same strictures upon Centralia that Centralia had considered it their right to impose upon their neighbors for centuries. For more than three thousand years, Centralia's emperors were the most heavy-handed taskmasters on Earth. Not only of their own nations, mind you, but the entire continent was under their dominion in some form or another. Nations and tribes had their kings appointed for them by Centralian emperors, who would choose what title to give to this monarch or that in order to show how important this nation or that one was, purely at the emperor's own whim. Any nations around the periphery of Centralia were branded as 'barbarians' in Centralia's language, and the Centralian emperors reinforced that in every facet of their international relations. It was not enough that every nation bordering Centralia had to send an annual tribute of several hundred virgins to the Centralian emperor as concubines... and by the way girls, you'd be hard-pressed to dream up a more miserable fate than spending your life with no hope of better sex than what a Centralian shrimp-cock could provide. No, the Centralians' devious little minds dreamed up far more degrading fates than that for their neighbors. See, in order to even trade with Centralia, or pass through it to trade with others, national representatives had to appear before the emperor, perform a humiliating ritual called 'kao tao' and declare themselves to be something that translated as 'barbarian servants of the Divine Emperor.' They would receive a certificate proving they had made this pledge, and they had to display this certificate before they were allowed to trade in any marketplace.” Xiaomei's hand shot up, and Matron gave a small sigh. “Yes, Xiaomei?”
“Why did they call Centralian emperors 'Divine Emperor?' “ That was not really what Xiaomei wanted to ask, but she wanted Matron to drop her guard so she would give her more information about what she really wanted to hear.
Matron nodded. “A good question,” she said in what seemed like surprise at the admission. “It's because Centralia was calling itself 'the Celestial Empire' during those centuries, if you can believe that, and claiming that their emperor was... oh, how did it translate? 'The ruler of all under Heaven.' “ As some of the house girls chuckled, Matron rolled her eyes. “If any of you are unfortunate enough to have encountered any of the worthless eunuchs who used to be what passed for men in Centralia, try to imagine one of them claiming that.”
Xiaomei raised her hand again, and once again Matron bid her to speak. “And this 'cow tail' ritual-”
“Kao tao,” Matron corrected.
“Yes Matron, this 'kao tao...' what exactly did these representatives have to do that was so humiliating?”
“Well,” Matron began, “it was crafted to make the one performing the ritual seem (and feel) lower in status and power to the Centralian emperor.”
As Matron went on, Xiaomei dropped her hand back to her side and slipped it discreetly -she hoped- under her cot and rested on her thigh at the hem of her skirt.
“The one performing the ritual had to enter the emperor's throne room -after being searched for weapons of course- and kneel down ceremoniously before the emperor.”
Xiaomei's right hand casually slipped the hem of her tunic partway up her thigh as Matron continued.
“The one 'kao-tao'ing would then have to place their hands on the ground in front of them, fingers splayed inward to ensure they could not rise quickly. The goal was to remind the one bowing of their helplessness, to debase them before the emperor who would watch with casual ease from his throne. It was humiliating.”
Xiaomei's fingers slowly slid up her thigh to the place where her thighs met. The welts from Matron's leather strap were still there, puffy and sensitive, and she had to struggle to keep from flinching in pain (or moaning) as her fingers found their way within.
Matron went on. “Then, they would have to lower their face to the ground, placing themselves in a posture of utter vulnerability and... XIAOMEI!! Get your hands above your cot!”
Xiaomei felt her face redden as she froze. Her eyes darted around the kennel and saw that every one of the house-girls was gazing directly at her. It had been foolish to think she could get away with indulging her habit here, under the eyes of all of them. She was caught and she knew it. The entire collection of house-girls now knew her dirty secret, a secret that would make her a persona non grata within the harem. She wouldn't even be able to look the other house-girls in the eyes after this...
... and Xiaomei felt the swell of an imminent orgasm from that awareness.
Within a few strides, Matron was standing over her, seizing her by the wrist and bringing her hand up to bring the incriminating moisture of her fingertips into full light for a moment before throwing her back onto her cot. “Master's Cock, Xiaomei,” Matron swore using the epithet that had taken the place of 'oh my God' in old vernacular. “Do you you dream of the whip?!”
Xiaomei bit her lip.
“Don't you dare answer that,” Matron shrieked, immediately regretting what she had thought to be a rhetorical question. She let out a long, hissing breath as she clenched and unclenched her fists. Her face was a mask of fury. “Girls,” she snapped at the others. “Class is finished for today. Make your obeisance before the Master's statue and return to your duties.”
“Yes, Matron,” the girls answered in unison as they rose from where they knelt beside their cots. Every one of them stopped to give a mocking, disdainful leer at Xiaomei on their way out. When the last of them had left, Xiaomei looked up at Matron again, still biting her lower lip and unable to make herself meet her gaze directly. Some of the rage had gone from her face, but her eyes still flashed lividly. When she spoke, there was a cold edge to her voice.
“It seems you are beyond my ability to fix, Xiaomei,” Matron said with forced composure. “And since I cannot straighten you out, I'll take you to the one who can. On your feet!”
Xiaomei started to rise, but she was not fast enough for Matron, who grabbed a fistful of her hair and hauled her to her feet. Xiaomei let out a short cry from the pain as Matron led her away by the hair, out of the kennel and up the broad ceremonial stairway in the greatroom. Xiaomei struggled to keep pace with Matron, doubled over as she was with her hair in Matron's deceptively strong grip, but her feet soon began to recognize the route they were taking as the route to the dining room. Or so she thought. As they passed by the dining room without Matron even missing a step, Xiaomei decided to risk provoking Matron's wrath further by venturing a question. “Matron, where am I being led?”
“I knew brains weren't your strong suit, little maid,” Matron spat. “I've already answered that question. It's one thing for a girl your age to be in bloom, but it's another for your nectar to flow like rivers at the utterance of a word. I can't straighten you out, so I'm taking you to the only One who may have a solution for your pathetic perversions. You're going to the Master.”
Xiaomei's heart stopped. For an instant she was about to cry “thank you Matron,” but she thought better of it.