The Kabuki Dancer

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 17 (v.1) - Part Two: The Dancer - Chapter 16

Submitted: November 01, 2016

Reads: 97

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Submitted: November 01, 2016



I was asleep on my futon surrounded by blankets when I heard a female bellow from the below room.  “Okuni, you have a visitor!”  I leisurely sat up on my futon and yawned, stretching my arms high to the ceiling.  I stepped out of the comfort of the soft cushion and looked in the mirror to see the current state of my hair.  I harrumphed to myself and began to arrange my hair in a suitable fashion for a woman of twenty nine, thinking to myself how far I had come.

It had been almost a decade since I first set foot in the great city of Kyoto.  Clothed as a man, I wandered around the city in awe, walking past the glittering shrines, the vendors selling all manners of objects from jewels to blessings to scrumptious looking ramen, and even managed a glimpse of the Imperial Palace.  But this was not my destination.

I knew that in order to get my shamisen playing heard, the best place for me to go would be to the pleasure quarter of Kyoto.  I followed the instructions from passer bys until I arrived at the gates of Nijo Made No Koji, housing everything from houses with low born courtesans a peasant could rent, and the higher class houses where elegant refined women catered to the whims of noblemen.Using the small amount of money that had been gifted to me by Priestess Jitsuko, I was able to purchase a small room at a low class inn near the quarter.  Then once I was settled, I took my shamisen and headed into the quarter.  Despite my trepidation, I knew I could get myself noticed for my playing.

Sure enough, I was able to get entry into one of the lower houses of the quarter.  My repertoire originally consisted of temple songs, and for the first few times, people scoffed at my religious music, calling for bawdy tunes that the courtesans of the house could dance to and take their clothing off. After a while, I was able to pick up a few tunes that other shamisen players were doing, and was able to perfect them by practicing late into the night.  Eventually, people began to take notice, and my wages being to grow.

One of the first things I did was send the money I owed to the Shrine back to Izumo, and I received a letter from Hana telling me the entire goings on at the Shrine.  This turned into an almost monthly correspondence, where I would send a donation to the Izumo Shrine, and get a response in return.  Once in awhile, accompanying Hana’s letter would be a brief note from Okuni, proclaiming her love for me and her desire to come see me soon.  I kissed these and set them aside, storing them in a safe box.

I also was able to buy a splendid pink and red women’s kimono, if slightly used, to wear and dress as a woman in the city and the pleasure quarter, and I began playing my shamisen in this guise as well.  As such, if an establishment wished to have a man play for them or vice versa, I would leave the establishment and return the next day as the opposite sex, and would proceed to play for them.  I soon became an expert at mimicking a man’s movements and eventually gave the name of Yori to the man I played, while as a woman my named remained Umi.

As my time in the quarter lengthened and a year came and went, it came back to my mind that Miyuri had been sent to the very quarter where I worked by Kurosami.  I then resolved to keep my eyes out, and eventually, after searching for months, I found Miyuri working in one of the higher class houses in the district. 

I was there that night in my guise as Yori, and was playing for one of the most well known courtesans in the quarter, Lady Winter.  As I played for her, I looked out among the audience, and observed my sister Miyuri towards the back.  Although she was older and her cuts had faded to scars, I recognized her almost instantly.  I also happened to notice that she looked extremely uncomfortable with the attention she was receiving, and I snapped a sour note on my shamisen.  Muttering my apologies to a stunned Lady Winter, I stood up and approached her.I looked at Miyuri and said in a masculine voice, “Whatever he is paying, I will pay you double.” 

Miyuri simpered, and the man she was with stood up and said, “Hey, mind your own business.”  I had gained some strength in the last year, so when I drew back my hand and punched him out, I only felt the pain half as bad as I would have a year ago.  I took Miyuri’s hand and dashed from the building pulling her behind, while shouts issued from the windows and doors. 

I pulled Miyuri along until we arrived in my humble room at the inn.  Once inside, I slid the screen door shut and listened to make sure we weren’t followed.  Miyuri simpered and placed her fan in front of her face, fluttering her eyelashes, letting one shoulder of her gaudy purple kimono fall, and murmured, “My dear sir, thank you for saving me.How can I repay you in return?” I turned around and undid my hair and let it fall unbound around my shoulders.  “You can repay me by giving your sister a hug,” I said, smiling.

Miyuri’s eyes instantly filled with tears, and she cried joyfully, “Sachiko!”  I went to her and embraced her and the two of us bawled in each other’s arms for several minutes.  Now laughing, she wiped her eyes with the sleeves of her kimono, and asked, “Why are you here? And why are you dressed like a man?”  I smiled and said, “If you wait for a moment, I will change my garb, and then we can go to dinner and I will tell you my story.”

Once changed, the two of us went down into the inn and we ordered some dinner while I told Miyuri my tale, even telling her haltingly of my love for Okuni.She listened intently the whole time, and then let out a long whistling sigh.  “Such a life you have led, Sachiko,” she said.  She reached out a plump hand and patted my arm.“I am sorry that you had to leave the shrine and the love of your life behind.”  I smiled at her, saying, “I came here for a reason though.  And I am glad I have found you.  Now you can stop working in the brothels and do something better with your life.”

Miyuri paused and looked at me with wide eyes.  “You think so, Sachiko?” she asked with wonder in her face.  I laughed and said, “Of course.  With my shamisen playing, I had made enough for us to get a little home together.  Nothing fancy, but enough so we can start our own lives and have our own space.  What do you say?”  Miyuri seemed to contemplate this, then smiled, saying, “Oh why not?”  The two of us laughed and held each other. 

Over the next few days, I was able to find a small dwelling for the two of us to share.  It had an entryway, a small kitchen area, a bath, living area, and two small bedrooms, one on the upper floor and one on the lower.I purchased it and soon Miyuri and I had moved in.  Miyuri soon after took a job at a small shop in the city selling glorious lengths of fabric, and soon after began bringing fabric home and practiced sewing.  Soon she was whipping up wonderful kimonos for herself and me, and eventually I had a wide range of outfits to wear.  As I continued to play the shamisen, Miyuri eventually was able to open her own shop in the city, and soon had a wide range of customers from the noble to the peasant.Eventually after a few more years of success, one of those men took her fancy, a stable worker in the Imperial Palace named Reiji.

I remember the first time I met Reiji.  He was an incredibly handsome strong man, with a strong build to match Miyuri’s full figure.  I was concerned for her, but when I saw her look into his eyes and he back into hers, I knew that she had found love.  I gave my blessing and soon a marriage ceremony took place.  Miyuri and Reiji had decided to live at the house with me, as Miyuri was used to it and didn’t want to leave me by myself. 

As the years went by, the letters from Hana continued to come, but eventually the notes of love from Okuni stopped.  I worried what this meant and contemplated what it meant for the love we had pledged all those years ago.True I was a woman, and had needs, but the few flings I had in Kyoto never resulted in true love as I had felt with Okuni.

Then almost a decade after I had left Izumo, I received a letter from Hana to expect a special surprise within a week’s time.  I wondered what this meant and speculated aloud to Miyuri (now five months pregnant with her first child) and Reiji.  Both regarded me with sympathy and Miyuri sighed.  “Don’t get your hopes up, Sachiko,” she said sadly.  “You don’t even know if Okuni is coming with her.”  I smiled and responded, “I know, onee-chan.  If nothing else, it will be good to see Hana again.”

I slipped back into my present state and did my hair in the style of the lovely courtesans of the pleasure quarter.  I slipped on an elegant willow green kimono covered with sakura blossoms and tied it with a sugar pink obi. Looking in the mirror and satisfied with my work, I descended the stairs to greet my guest.  

Sitting on the floor conversing with my sister was a woman clad in the white haori and red hakama that were so familiar from long ago. I held my breath as the woman heard my footsteps and turned to face me.  

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