Dance of Fallen Silk
: Rakugoka!Japan x Geisha!Reader :
Everyone knew that beauty was a subject sustained by tradition — although the passage of time brought forth endless struggles to preserve them in its purest form. And with each passing year, the depiction of beauty too transformed; for the past became nothing more than fleeting traces of memories sent swirling in a whirlwind of fragrant cherry petals and freshly shed tears.
(Name) had been treasured for her beauty. For as long as she could remember, she had been the very object of attention — from her excellently maintained skin, to her nimble fingers producing complex pieces of music from the shamisen resting on her lap. Certainly, her role as Geisha required her to keep her head raised in an air of regal elegance and feminine status.
Even as a feeble child, her grace was a wonderfully played ability that contrasted sharply in her short life as an illegitimate daughter of a poor woman. And despite her fame and well-received fortune drawing too many an eye to potentially corrupt her, she was still a woman with morals that no man could shatter. She was a truthful woman with a strong composure and gentle nature that could easily charm and soothe the hearts of restless men as if she were a nurturing mother instead of an entertainer.
Honda Kiku was just as equally competent and delicate as his childhood friend, although his taste in art differed greatly and treaded not on gracefulness as his guide for entertainment, but on comedy and tragedy through storytelling. He relished in telling great stories under the guise of many characters; he loved to speak ironies and taste the heartiness found only through laughter. Armed with only a handkerchief and a paper fan, Kiku managed to captivate many an audience to laugh, sob, and breathe sharply in anticipation under his steady control of expression. And it was for this great art and skill that Kiku steadily climbed his way up to Rakugo theaters across the country.
As for the man himself, Kiku didn’t think of his status as quite prominent as some of the radio hosts and papers claimed him to be, for he still believed that much of his talent lacked in regards that enticed audience members failed to scrutinize over. After all, they were too engrossed in the story at play than to moan over tiny grievances and mishaps. However, the joy and love for the art form outweighed Kiku’s troublesome thoughts, and his aspiration to become the perfect embodiment of Rakugo also had him consider the entire country’s preference in preserving beauty in tradition.
Unfortunately, (Name) thought otherwise, but too found it amusing that her childhood friend would aspire to garner enough support when her business was bustling with customers. Thus, when opportunity approached her at her greatest convenience, (Name) decided to clear her busy scheduled time to invite her dearly missed friend for dinner.
“Has it truly been five years since we’ve last seen each other?”
“It truly has; although I have been keeping up with your accolades in the papers at every opportunity.”
“I thank you,” Kiku replied humbly. “How have you been faring in your side of business?”
“Business is just as usual. But we did not meet to discuss of our conditions for we have the papers to notify us so,”
“Of course not,” Kiku smiled. (Name) nodded as if his answer was correct and made the move to begin her teasing banter — a usual pastime the two individuals found themselves indulging under since they parted ways to pursue their careers.
“Do pray tell, what amusement is found in Rakugo?”
“Why, it is the kind that springs tears and mingles with laughter, fear, and other emotions known to mankind.” Kiku sighed and reclined back in ease. “Although I must say it doesn’t do much to remind me of a deeply coveted gem lying amidst the others,”
At the words, (Name) smiled gently. “Doesn’t my beauty dazzle you, my lord?”
“Enough jest,” Kiku chuckled lightly, although he did nod in agreement. “You do well to please your customers as always,”
“Alas, a world of Geisha cannot be compared to such an art form as yours,” (Name) picked up the tea kettle with trained hands to pour his cup. “It is far too fragile for genuine laughter; there’s much to do for Geisha — some of which even I am disapproving although I am at the prime of my career.”
“As do mine,” Kiku received his drink with a small smile. “Rakugo has always been a tradition with such strict rules—but I do believe it exists to preserve the art so that future generations will know it always existed. But alas, that is what I can hope with its current state…”
And as Kiku poured forth his concerns and troubles and fears for the art he cherished in, (Name) listened with empathetic attentiveness. She was all too aware of the situation Rakugo was put under, especially when the passage of time continued to trickle forth different expressions of thought and emphasis on beauty. Rakugo had been a timely art where stories were enjoyed through solo storytellers and through the audience, which were all mingled under one roof regardless of age, background, and class. When it was at its peak of popularity, Kiku had cherished the stories he told before a crowded house more than he could envision himself. He loved the way the words came flowing out of his mouth as if he was spilling golden coins from his lips — and the way the audience would watch his every gesture and listen to his voice so carefully… my goodness, Kiku could tell they were watching the characters manifest as transparent apparitions behind him and playing the very parts he spoke of, even as sweat damped the back of his kimono and the lights above him made his mind buzz from the heat.
But as the mention of war drew on, the attention for entertainment dwindled down to a luxury for a handful that could still enjoy without worries. Fortunately, Kiku’s highly esteemed status was enough to draw a decent audience but the man knew that his renown stature would soon be all to naught in the face of war.
(Name) too could taste the bitterness of the inevitable events that would descend upon her and her friend. She was all too aware of the painful realities and feared for his life. After all, (Name) had no one other than Kiku to consider family; all of their precious memories were stored within her as if she were a vessel overflowing with riches more valuable than gold itself.
“I understand your sentiments; it is indeed difficult for entertainers to hold by especially during this time…but I am growing concerned over your wellbeing.” She smiled sadly and allowed herself to break out of her professional guise to inch closer to the reclining man. She drew a delicate hand to caress his cheek and Kiku felt her wonderful warmth soothe his weary heart as her eyes bore into his.
Beautiful. Oh, how long had it been since he last saw her again? (Name) had always been the epitome of beauty — the Yamato Nadeshiko, as others called her. The warmth she emitted from the simple contact was enough to clear his thoughts; and those wondrous eyes and smooth skin…how could it be that she hid such a well maintained face behind the layers of makeup? How could it be that he was the only man to see her for who she really was? Kiku truly felt fortunate that his fondness of her wasn’t simply limited to her looks and charm, but to her pure and untarnished jeweled heart that made her so strong and steadfast and independent.
“—you mustn’t be concerned.” Kiku said after a short while. “I was born a man to fight, as you were born a woman who could protect the country.”
“Alas, I shall! You are very dear to me, and I shall worry every single second.”
“If you worry, you will tarnish your beauty. And we both know that we must continue to do our work, regardless of the war.”
“And with war, there is a possibility that you may never return. And I shall mourn your death and place you offerings and spend my earnings to build you a grand tombstone.”
“You sound as though you are my wife,” Kiku noted in amusement although it was evident that the jest was growing painful for both of them.
Marriage was never a consideration in the world of entertainment — for it was forbidden for both the Rakugoka and Geisha to wed and live domestic lives — nor did it cross their minds that they were feeling a mutual emotional attachment strengthen every moment they were apart from one another.
But war was capable of ripping apart families and bringing them closer together. And with war, it seemed all the more likely that both Kiku and (Name) were reluctant to part away yet once more.
“I am just as faithful to you as a wife is to her husband.” (Name) heaved a soft sigh and allowed herself to drop her hand from Kiku’s cheek. “In recent years, I’ve grown rather weary of my work. I’ve developed the selfish notion of desiring a quiet life when I am already at my prime. It doesn’t do my heart any good to continue polishing a prized jewel when it already shines so bright.”
And as much as he understood his friend’s sentiments, Kiku was also surprised at her words. (Name) wasn’t enjoying her work as much as she used to…and with good reason too. She was tired of the constant attraction; she was tired of the fame; she was lonely because she celebrated her joys in isolation. After all, no matter how beautiful the jewels were, they too would eventually wear down and lose their luster.
(Name)’s eyes grew desperate and fearful and it pained Kiku to see her eyes well up with tears. “I cannot continue to work as Geisha forever, Kiku. I am aware that I will eventually wither away as I age.”
“Alas, in my eyes you will always be a prized jewel,” Kiku insisted and he dared to collect her hand to press his lips tenderly against the skin. “I too will wither away eventually, just as any human would. If you choose to live a quiet life, I will not dispute your words; I do believe you will make a wonderful wife as you are a precious friend of mine. However, I must beg you: please do not throw away your prosperous life so soon. There will come a time where you will find what you are looking for.” He intertwined his fingers into hers and felt his heart grow heavy with longing.
“I promise.” (Name) replied tearfully. “You are wonderful to me, Kiku. You are truly wonderful to me and I am blessed to have you as my friend.”
“As do I,” he replied and carefully brushed away her tears.
True to Kiku’s word, (Name) kept her promise and eventually found the life she was looking for.
During the years after the encounter, Kiku left to aid in the war efforts while (Name) remained in the Geisha house to entertain the few men who visited across the country. And despite her highly acclaimed status in the Geisha industry, (Name) too discovered that the business was declining rapidly in the city and the entertaining houses were soon shutting their doors left and right.
Indeed, she received generous offers to travel overseas to continue making her fortune and attracting more customers but she thought nothing of venturing out of Japan. Instead, she found appropriate to move into the country and invest in a small but cozy establishment with a grand plot for gardening and a housekeeper to watch the house while she busied herself in making frequent trips to the nearby towns and meeting with several acquaintances living there.
Kiku’s letters were rare but well received when they fell into (Name)’s hands. But his letters were rich and told her of the places he ventured into; of how he entertained his colleagues and made them laugh well into the night; of how he missed her greatly and spent every spare moment wondering when he would see her again. And every exchange brought (Name) so much joy and sorrow that she did little to fight the fresh tears that flowed from her eyes and plopped against the ink written paper before her.
(Name) thought often of Kiku — especially when the bitter winter paved way to the first bloom of spring. It was a time when her garden sprang to life and scented the air with a sweet fragrance and brought forth bursts of beautiful color from the multitude of flowers, all delicate and beautiful and sweet. She wondered if he would return soon enough to see the beautiful flowers she nurtured so carefully and tenderly, before the cherry petals blew away in the wind and the green leaves poked out from the branches. She was sure that Kiku constantly thought of her in the same manner that she did of him, and she hoped that her prayers for the war’s end would eventually come true. Unfortunately, her wishes failed to reach the heavens and (Name) was left to wait once more.
At last, the extensive time spent waiting weren’t for naught.
As the seasons changed from spring to summer, (Name) was relieved to hear news of the war ending at last and although she had yet to hear from Kiku, she made immediate plans to travel back to the city to visit Kiku’s establishment. Luckily the old house sustained the air raid damages and was thoroughly cared for by the Rakugo retainer who lived nearby. (Name) decided appropriate to reside in a small hotel a few streets down and meet with some of her former colleagues who too gave up the once cherished life of Geisha for a domestic one. Of course, (Name) never considered returning to the life she once lived, but it didn’t mean that she still carried very fond memories of her work along with her.
When Kiku returned to the city several months later, he was exhausted but in good spirits. The war had been long, but he was incredibly fortunate to sustain minor injuries throughout it all. The years had gone by so quickly that Kiku wasn’t convinced the lovely spring flowers he saw blooming were fading into the earth once again. As the days grew shorter and the nights cooler, Kiku noticed the felled leaves against the concrete pavement in hues of red and gold that matched the sunset behind him. They were incredibly beautiful and reminded him vaguely of the elaborate kimono (Name) once donned in an autumn as bright as this one.
He felt his chest swell up with the thought of being able to see (Name) at last! Oh, how he missed her so! He was all too aware of the extensive time it took for him to write her letters and receive her heartfelt responses, although he ended up ceasing his letter writing during the last half of the war. He was worried that (Name) thought him as deceased and hoped in his heart that she fought her fears and thought otherwise. He also longed to see her beautiful face again and listen to her sweet voice and hold her close to him, because he could barely envision her lovely appearance after so many years in the battlefield.
Unbeknownst to the man, (Name) was sitting on the front porch of his estate for a breath of fresh air and a chance to clear her troublesome thoughts. Many things had happened in the duration of Kiku’s absence and (Name) did all she could to keep herself busy in the city. However, even grace had their limits and (Name) found herself desperately wishing and hoping for Kiku’s safety countless times. Thus, when Kiku ventured through the big wooden door of his estate — with a package under his arm and a satchel of his belongings around his shoulder — he froze abruptly at the sight of (Name) before him and made the move to drop his belongings to rush towards her. (Name) too was shocked for words, but her heart thudded against her chest as she sprang forth from the porch and into Kiku’s embrace.
“My love,” Kiku breathed as he gathered her in his arms and held her tightly and took in her familiar scent and listened to her hushed sobs against his chest.
“Kiku, oh Kiku,” (Name) whispered thickly and Kiku felt her arms tighten around him as if she was afraid his appearance was just an apparition. There was an intense surge of emotions overwhelming his senses and the man felt his heart clench so painfully that he wanted to burst. (Name) had never stopped believing in him and Kiku felt nothing other than bliss and longing. After all, how could he not after they’ve spent so much time apart? “Thank goodness, thank goodness you’re safe!”
“Of course I am,” Kiku drew away so that he could caress her damp cheek and brush away her tears. Even after this entire time, (Name) still looked as radiant and beautiful as he remembered. “I am sorry for worrying you during these years. You are truly wonderful, my love.”
“You flatter me, my lord,” (Name) laughed between sobs and she embraced him once again. “I missed you, Kiku. I truly did.”
“As do I,” he bent down to press a soft kiss the crown of her head tenderly. The sun had already set from the horizon and the autumn winds rustled against the fallen leaves as if to welcome the dusk’s descent. The light from Kiku’s estate illuminated a glowing pathway and the man reluctantly pulled away from the embrace to offer her a hand. “Shall we go in together?”
(Name) smiled in agreement as she reached to lace her fingers in his.
“Yes, we shall. Welcome home, Kiku.”