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Cherry Blossom Memories

Chapter III

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Tsunade's western style home was a lot larger than any traditional Japanese house was.

Sakura gazed in awe as she saw the front hall itself. The floor wasn't slippery hardwood, but instead bright blue tile. There was a large white marble staircase that led up to a second floor, and the balcony overlook on the second floor was visible from the front door. Slipping out of her shoes, she tried to absorb every detail of he grand house.

From a far off window, sunlight was pouring in, and to the left, Sakura saw a dining room with a dark wood table and eight matching wooden chairs with white cushions. The table was set with a bright lace tablecloth and eight place setting set out. In front of each seat, a wine glass, water glass, china plate, polished flatware, and a folded burgundy napkin, were all set on top of a matching cloth burgundy placemat. However, in the middle of the table, instead of food, there were tall candlesticks and flower bouquet arrangements, strategically placed to look both attractive and welcoming.

"Sakura-san, if you come with me, I'll take you to see Tsunade-sama," the maid told the new apprentice with a shy smile. Leading her back through the house past the staircase, the maid wandered through the kitchen and back into an office of some sort. Bowing to Sakura and Tsunade, the maid slipped out of the room quietly.

Tsunade looked completely different when she was not in full costume, Sakura discovered. Her skin was a peachy color and her lips were a light pink, as opposed to the white and red she had always seen her in. In down time, her hair seemed to be tossed in the back, tied into to hasty pigtails, very unlike the intricate bun her blonde hair had been up before. Also, it turned out that Tsunade was much bustier than the kimono had let on. Right now, underneath the normal cotton robe, Sakura could see how endowed Tsunade really was. She winced…did she need to be that gifted too?

"Good morning, Sakura-chan," Tsunade said to her student in a nonchalant voice while she hurriedly wrote down numbers on a piece of paper, her handwriting getting gradually messier until it was no more than ink squiggles on a sheet of white.

Sakura smiled, showing all of her pearly white teeth. "Good morning, Tsunade-sama!" she answered back. She was excited.

It took a few more seconds for Tsunade to reply. After another set of scribbled number, she dropped the pen and stood up from her desk chair. "So, are you ready to start?" she asked her new pupil, smiling slightly.

Sakura nodded, making her powder pink hair fly with the movement of her head. "Yes!"

"That's the spirit."


"Well, the first thing you must learn is how to apply your makeup correctly. I got my hair undone and waited this morning just for you," Tsunade told her student with a serious face.

She had led Sakura up to her bedroom (a gigantic suite with its own bathroom and a large bed), and threw open her closet, making the little girl gape from the amount of kimono that was stored inside. ("Don't be impressed, the storehouse in the attic has more kimono than this," Tsunade told her, putting an index finger underneath a chin to close a blushing Sakura's mouth.) Then, she herself down in a chair, motioned to Sakura to sit down on the chair next to her, and started to explain the different makeup bottles that littered the vanity table.

She started with a large round bottle. "This is just regular lotion," Tsunade said, unscrewing the top and dipping a finger in the beige cream. "Make sure you use it at least once a week, because makeup can dry out your skin." Wiping the lotion on Sakura's cheek, she added, "A lot of geisha don't use any moisturizers, so when they retire their skin is dry and cracked. Rub that in," she instructed her student.

Sakura obliged and gently rubbed in the cream, but she still concentrated intently on the other makeup bottles that littered the vanity table.

"These are brushes," Tsunade explained next, holding up an assortment of different makeup brushes in her hand. Some on them were tiny and thin, but others were broad and fan-like. "Lotion you just rub in with your fingers, but makeup is a bit more delicate than that."

Tsunade rummaged around through her makeup jars and held up some colored sticks. "These are pigment sticks, they're obviously for coloring," she put them down gently on the table near Sakura.

The student edged away from the makeup, afraid to touch them. She might break them, or maybe Tsunade didn't even want her to touch her things.

"Don't be afraid," Tsunade laughed and picked up a dark violet pigment stick. She tapped it on the edge of the table. "It won't break or bite. Feel free to touch and examine everything I show you," she smiled at Sakura, her honey colored eyes showing lots of warmth and happiness. Sakura stared. Tsunade might have been famous and rich, but at least she wasn't like Anko. Tsunade seemed genuinely happen, but Anko's cold black eyes showed nothing but anger and regret.

Tsunade held out a small tortoise shell filled with a dark red paste. "This is the red I use to paint my lips, but we won't be getting to this for a while…" she said, sliding the shell towards Sakura. Sakura picked it up carefully, and examined the hardened block of pigment that was dried inside of it.

The legendary geisha shifted aside a few more bottles and finally held up a large, flat jar filled to the brim with a hardened white paste. The block was smooth looking and whole, but a small crater was starting to form right in the middle where the brushes were hitting it first. "This is the makeup I use to whiten my face. It's standard makeup and not too expensive, but try not to waste it nonetheless."

Sakura nodded. She knew how important it was to conserve things, no matter how small it could be. Like in the okiya – Anko wasted much makeup everyday, putting some lipstick on, then deciding the shade was too bright, trying to smear it off, then making her white face makeup smudge, and then having to wash everything off to redo it all again. Constantly, she would be scolded my Mother, and constantly she wouldn't listen. It was a never ending cycle.

Dipping the largest brush into a cup of water that was already on the vanity table, Tsunade rubbed it into the round block of snow-colored pigment until it was a smooth, even, slightly liquidy paint. Sakura watched, trying to absorb as much technique information as she could.

"When you start to add the water, make sure the paint you end up with is all the same thickness, and that it's not lumpy or anything," the blonde woman told her student. "If you have lumps of makeup, it'll look terrible, feel terrible, and just BE terrible," she laughed slightly, making her apprentice smile.

After a substantial amount of stirring, Tsunade finally deemed the makeup to be good enough to use and flipped the brush over in it several times. Painting long, silky strokes onto her cheeks first, she gradually branched out over her face, painting her forehead, chin, and neck. Only around her eyes, mouth, and nose were kept bare.

Picking up a smaller brush, she then filled in the patches of skin that she hadn't touched up yet and made sure to smooth everything out. Sakura stared. She looked like a deathly pale person without the lip and eye makeup. Why was the white so appealing to society after all?

"Alright, Sakura."

The girl's attention snapped back up to her mentor.

"After you're done your white face makeup, then you use the pigment sticks as your blush," she colored in different shades of pink and red into her cheeks. There was even a purple colored in there once or twice.

"Ok, so after this it's time to paint your lips…"


A good half hour after they had started, the two were finally done the makeup preparation. Tsunade looked "normal" again, and had on the usually cloud colored face, blood red lips, and her hair twisted up into a series of knots and twists at the top of her head, making a shining bunch of golden hair (her hairdresser had paid them a visit).

The two were in another room now, an ornate room that Sakura thought was a tea-ceremony room. They kneeled at the low table, and on the table was a simple tea set – one teapot, two teacups, and one small bottle of sake.

"Show me how you pour tea," Tsunade instructed Sakura, a slight smile upon her red lips.

Sakura's hands trembled as she picked up the hot, heavy, teapot. Tilting it forward slightly, she winced inwardly as she saw a few drops of tea splash up and down from the pool of dark liquid in the cup.

Tsunade noted this with a critical eye, but her honey colored eyes flashed with excitement. Sakura had much more potential than many of her last apprentices. The only one who matched her raw talent had been Shizune, who was already on her way to a successful career.

"Good, you didn't let any drip down the teapot onto the table, that's a good sign," the legend smiled at her charge, the corners of her eyes crinkling. "Now there's one major thing about tea and sake pouring you must know – the difference of pouring between a man and a woman…"

Sakura listening intently, hoping to retain every word.


Sakura was silent as she trailed behind Mikoto and Michiko, newly learned techniques practically springing out of her ears. She glanced enviously at the kimono Mikoto had given Michiko to wear, one of smooth black silk with a crimson phoenix rising, trailing dusty sparks from its wings. The Uchiha symbol was embroidered onto it, the fan seeming to be fanning the sparks to provoke them into exploding into the scarlet phoenix.

The black and red seemed to call more attention to Michiko's startling blue eyes, Sakura realized, wishing that she could become an apprentice geisha sooner.

"…Sakura-chan?"

Her head snapped up to attention. "Ah? Sorry, I didn't hear that."

Michiko blinked and pursed her lips as she reiterated the question. "I asked you how your first day of training was." She lifted a pale, delicate hand to scratch gently at an itch at her hairline, careful not to smudge her makeup.

"Oh, it was nice. I learned a lot from Tsunade-sama," Sakura answered as they walked towards the Hyuuga Okiya.

Michiko smiled as they saw the brightly lit Hyuuga House, small from the distance.

"Tsunade is an excellent teacher," Mikoto said to Sakura as she and Michiko parted to go attend a party. "You'll learn well from her."

Sakura bowed to show her respect before she left. "Thank you for escorting me today, Mikoto-san." She self-consciously brushed a lock of cotton candy colored hair behind her ear as she walked down the small pebble road heading towards the okiya.

She glanced over her shoulder after a few moments, to watch Mikoto and Michiko leave. She noted how the bottoms of their kimonos fluttered with constant waves.

Take small steps, she told herself sternly, as she approached the front porch still, walking as if on glass.


Three Months Later.


Sakura's eyes brimmed with tears as she felt fingers scraping about her scalp roughly. It felt like the top layer of her scalp was gone, and she was quite sure the once peach colored skin was now the same shade as her hair.

Jerked into an upright position, she whimpered to herself as the hairdresser took a narrow-toothed comb to her hair, swiping downwards to free the glossy hair from any knots.

"Ah!"

She gasped quietly to herself when she felt Tsunade's hair stylist comb hot wax into her hair, and then quickly pull it up into a bun. He twisted her hair expertly as he knotted and swirled the roseate whip into an intricate hairstyle, wrapping it around a square of emerald colored silk. At the right angle, you could see the green peeking through the pink.

"Good job, thank you," Tsunade thanked the hairdresser when she saw Sakura was finished, "It looks fabulous. Come along Sakura." She bustled her way through the crowd of other geisha waiting to get their hair done.

--

"Sakura-chan, please stop touching your face," Tsunade asked her student, only slightly exasperated.

She took out the wide spread brush and spread ivory pigment onto Sakura's face again, and then selected a kabuki brush to fill in the smaller areas around her eyes and mouth.

"There!" Tsunade smiled when she saw her masterpiece finished. Sakura gasped at the girl she saw in the mirror.

It couldn't be her.

But it was.

--

"I think this will be an appropriate starting kimono," Tsunade told Sakura as Tsunade and her maid, Usagi shuffled through hundreds of kimonos. "What do you think Usagi?"

The maid nodded, her eyes lighting up when she saw the expensive silk robe. "Yes, I think that is an excellent choice, Tsunade-sama."

Tsunade gazed at the kimono fondly before handing it to Usagi. "Help her get ready, when she's done, take her downstairs to the parlor so I can see her," Tsunade ordered her maid with a smile.

Usagi bowed and nodded.

"Thank you, Usagi."

--

Tsunade flipped restlessly through a kabuki magazine, idily wondering if she should have a kimono made in that wonderful coral color.

"Mistress."

She looked up.

Usagi looked pleased with herself. "I'd like to present Haruno Sakura."

Small steps were heard, and someone completely new walked into Tsunade's parlor.

This new girl was a beautiful apprentice geisha. Her hair was up and twisted into an amazing bun, decorated by several hair ornaments – a dangling one with cherry blossoms hanging off the vines, an aqua comb with a white flower, and jeweled hairpins. She had pure white skin, and bright, full red lips. Her eyes were a dazzling shade of viridian.

She wore a very well fitting sky blue kimono, embroidered with free flying cranes, their feathers also swirled around on the robe, all done in sparkling silver thread. Her obi was bright pink, matching her hair. On her feet were intricately decorated zori (a type of shoe, kind of like a flip-flop), along with white tabi (socks).

Tsunade grinned, her pearly white teeth glistening in the sunlight that was coming through the parlor.

"You look wonderful."


"Congratulations, Haruno Sakura, you are now…"

Sake cups were passed from Tsunade to Sakura.

They both took a sip from each.

"…Tsunade-sama's younger sister…"

A third cup slid down the long wooden table at the ceremony room in the Ichiraku Teahouse. Sakura's light pink lips touched the rim of the small cup first, then Tsunade's.

"…and an official apprentice geisha of Konoha."

Tsunade stood up when the ceremony was done. Her gold colored kimono fluttered at the edges as her ruby colored lips curled upwards. Sakura followed suit, the brilliant cerulean of her kimono shifting as she stood.

"Let's go Sakura," Tsunade told her apprentice. "We have a lot of work to do."


Sakura stifled a yawn as she and Tsunade approached Tsunade's large manor. After the ceremony, the two of them had spent all day walking around to different teahouses, introducing Sakura to all of the owners. Then, at night, Sakura had shadowed Tsunade as she went to two parties.

Tsunade sighed in happiness as she kicked her feet out of the zori she had worn all day. "That's it for the night," she said. She shot a look at the clock ticking away happily on the wall. "It's only ten o'clock," she told Sakura. "How about one more tea ceremony before I let you go home?"

The two wandered over to the parlor, where Tsunade called Usagi to bring them the practice tea set.

Usagi obliged, bringing the same plain tea set that Sakura had used her first day under Tsunade's wing.

Before turning to leave, the maid gasped.

Tsunade's honey colored eyes flicked up at her maid, wondering what was wrong.

"Tsunade-sama, I nearly forgot…" Usagi sputtered out. "Jiraiya-sama stopped by to give you a message…"

Tsunade quirked her mouth slightly. "That's new. What was his message?"

"It was more of an invitation than a message," Usagi told her mistress, brushing back some of her mousy hair. "He wanted to invite you and Sakura-san to an 'After-War' Party…on September 1st."

Tsunade's eyes widened as she smirked approvingly. "That's perfect. It's August 1st today, correct?"

Usagi nodded.

"Then in one month will be Sakura's first large party," Tsunade decided, holding up her finger. "Usagi, please go tell Jiraiya-san that we accept his invitation."

Usagi bowed before dashing away into the night, her lantern bobbing up and down as she ran.

Tsunade turned to her apprentice, a newly renewed smile on her face and even more energy behind her fiery eyes. Sakura smiled slightly as well.

"Sakura…"

"Yes Tsunade-sama?"

"Start pouring tea. We have a lot of work to do."

"Yes!"


Er…well, I updated. Six months later, ahaha.

Anyway, sudden inspiration. I'll try to get another chapter out. I really do like this plot.

Review, yeah?

-ANGELforSHOW-