WARNING: Prostitution implied
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Ghost Hunt characters. Even though I'm using facts, explanations that cannot be found in any reference come from my own cognition.
Oiran= a woman (high in rank) offering services from pleasure to other forms of entertainment like dance, music, fashion, poetry, and etcetera. They tie their obis in the front allegedly because it's easy to untie that way, but married women before also used to do that. The tying of the obi at the front by the oiran is actually a metaphor for borrowing a 'wife' for the night. Geishas actually originated from oirans; this explains the similarity in their service (except for the pleasure service since Geishas don't actually offer such, but realistically, it is still uncertain [some might just have hidden the fact]).
Uchikake=an outergarment, as a coat, that's worn over a kimono
Nakagi=padded layers of kimono
Kohgai, Ohgushi, and Maebira=hair accessories
Dogeza=a type of bow that can mean, "Sorry for the trouble." It can be used for apology to that of a higher rank.
Yoshiwara=enclosed pleasure district in Edo, old Tokyo. It consists of a lot of pleasure houses.
One day it happened that a frog from the ocean came to the well━he must have been a tourist. He came into the well, introduced himself to the frog of the well, and said, "I come from the ocean."
Naturally, the frog of the well asked, "Ocean? What do you mean by ocean? What is it?"
And the frog from the ocean said, "It is very difficult to describe, sir, because you have never left this well it seems. It is so small. But still, I will try."
The frog of the well laughed. He said, "Nobody has ever heard about anything bigger than this well. How big is your ocean?'"
And the frog of the well jumped one third of the space of the well and said, "This much?"
And the frog from the ocean laughed. He said, "No, sir."
So the frog from the well jumped two thirds of the space and said, "This much?"
Then he jumped the whole space and said, "Now it must be exactly like this well."
But the frog from the ocean said, "It is impossible to describe. The difference is not of quantity, it is of quality. It is vast! It is not circumscribed!"
The frog from the well said, "You seem to be either a madman or a philosopher or a liar. You get out from here! Don't talk nonsense!"
~A Sufi Story~
"Remember to act appropriately," the haughty voice of Missus resonates to my ears as we traverse the rowdy hallway of the Orihime household. "You are very lucky, you know that? You're the only girl who became an oiran without the initiation as of yet! Why, ever since you appeared as a substitute for Ume-oiran in the promenade a week ago, a lot of men have restlessly shouted for you―making you an oiran without official appointment of this house as of yet! Oh dear me, it seems like hell is calling for you already!"
I bite my lip to stop from retorting. The Missus has a foul tongue, and she doesn't even realize it. She's probably in her mid-40s. Her hair is neatly combed back and fixed into a bun with a silver pin―making her head look like an inverted straw hat. Probably remnants of stress and incessant frowning, wrinkles adorn the corners of her eyes and mouth. Seemingly easy to topple by the zephyr, she's rather small for a domineering woman in Yoshiwara. At least, that's what I can recall of how she looked like when I last saw her.
"Mark my words, Sora," she chides. "Your very first customer is a member of a well-esteemed group, so be sure to apologize for your inexperience, especially when he points out your errors."
"Yes, ma'am," I reply, nodding obediently.
Wearing a black uchikake with lotus flowers over a cherry-colored nakagi (decorated with twigs of plum blossoms) that is secured by a goldfish brocade obi bow in my front, I tread the noisy hallway carefully. I feel so burdened―heavy with weight monsters named kohgai, ohgushi, and maebira on my head that I feel as if I am carrying the whole world in my procession.
However, there is no escaping it; it is time for my 'initiation,' as they call it.
I'm still young, a sixteen year old girl who has millions of places to explore rather than this one I'm currently in.
I...never wanted this job, but...it was the only offered opportunity to survive. I was going to starve if Missus did not see me and proffered the five-year-old me a dwelling place.
I cannot run away too because I cannot cover my tracks.
Others may call it a dirty, shameful, and disgusting place: mirroring the lives of the people in it. But, who cares?
Ever since my parents died and I was left alone to face the cruel and unimaginable world, I stopped caring for where I should go and what I should become. So, as a child, I clung unto an opportunity that could just help me survive.
I've stopped dreaming ever since.
In truth, I am merely becoming an animal―easily satisfied when fed.
Besides, how could someone care?
Everyone is selfish, and I am surrounded by selfish people flamboyantly showing off everyday. Men are greedy, their up-to-the-brim filled cups wasted away and shoved for more.
It all makes me sick.
And yet, I am embracing the poison that shall imprison me to an endless hellfire. What I'm about to start doing will become my new way of life now, for eternity.
I sigh quietly.
Missus squeezes my arm━a sign for me to stop walking. We must be outside the allotted room already.
As a last warning, she whispers to me, "Remember this too: never take off the blindfold."
I nod willfully, and I am hauled inside the unknown.
It has been a tradition for supposedly soon-to-be-oirans to be blindfolded during the initiation―the day when one pleases her very first customer. I don't know about other pleasure quarters in Yoshiwara, but this certain ceremony has always been observed in Orihime. Since I have become an oiran 'officially' because of 'public (mostly men) affirmation' and without even an ounce of experience, I have my initiation rather late...
But then, I don't really care much about it.
I'll be doing the same thing over and over again everyday of my life until the end of me.
So, who would ever care?
That's why, when the shoji door was slammed shut behind me, I manage the barest flinch. (I've come to know in my attendant years that slightly frightened girls are appealing to customers, so I guess I should at least try to pretend to be appealing.)
The darkness that envelops my vision does not really bother me. It's probably very dark outside anyway; the sun has set when I finished donning my cumbersome raiment. Pretending I'm rattled and desperate to find something to cleave on in the dark, I move my hands up laterally. A swish of my head to the left brings the brightness of a distant light through the red fabric that composes my blindfold; a light probably emanates from a lit lantern afar.
"You're here," a mellifluous voice, that of a young man's, echoes to my soul and brings me relief.
I have been wishing the first man won't be so cranky and old. But then, a young man isn't really harmless. Still, there's a difference.
Turning my body to where I can see the bright light, I bend my knees to the floor and bow respectfully.
"I am Sora," I say politely. "Please take care of me."
My real name is Mai Taniyama. But, of course, I cannot tell him that. There are rules to this place, and impersonality is one of them. We can have returning customers, but doters interrupting without pay are out of the question.
Real names must be kept secret because attachment is forbidden.
Sora...is a name Missus gave me because she said my eyes have an unreachable look. It has then reminded me of a life I can never have━like the sky. However, people don't usually see through this gloomy explanation of mine and think of something else―like a customer conceiving that the story behind my name has to do with me being limitless in the ability to please―that's totally revolting.
"What's your last name?" the young man inquires, and I bite my lip once more.
Kami-sama! I definitely forgot to ask the Missus for a fake one!
"I...I have no last name," I lie as smoothly as I can.
He emits a weird sound, but I can tell the skepticism laced in it. I just shrug it away nevertheless.
"What do you like me to do first, Mister...?" I trail off, inquiring for his name.
"Take off your blindfold," he commands airily, ignoring my hint of query.
I am almost scowling at the order, but then I swallow and hesitate as I remember Missus' last warning.
"That's―" I try to object.
"Take it off," he persists.
I cannot help but hold my mouth shut into a thin line. It is unusual that a customer will command a girl during her initiation to doff her blindfold. My Elder Sister has told me that the customers like blindfolded girls; it makes them feel so superior and excited. It is a gross reality that she pointed out.
An opposition of rules inside my head bombards me. But then, the Missus isn't in the room with me, and if it was a test of obedience, I'll pass it if I do what he wants. So, I guess it's best that I'm going to discard the obstacle to my eyes. It'll make my work easy...or something.
But, when I removed the fabric, I am unprepared to come face-to-face with a hellish creature.
I scream as much as I can muster and instinctively fish out the mallet I secretly hid in my obi and subsequently hit the demon's face―which is red all over and has dark green horns sticking out from his forehead―with it.
The mallet was supposed to be a preventive measure; although, I knew it is heinous to strike a customer.
Anyway, consequently, the young man groans in pain, and then I hear a cracking sound. To my great confusion and astonishment, his horrifying face shatters and falls into pieces on the tatami mat that made up the floor. It is only then that I realized what he had on is a ceramic mask, very realistic and detailed that I haven't seen through the facade in the dimly lit room.
The face underneath makes me gasp. He's very young, a black-haired boy of about seventeen or eighteen. A lengthy-finger-taller than me, his sparkling eyes resemble that of an ocean (the shores of which I had traipsed upon when I was a lost child), staring at me disapprovingly. He massages his fringed forehead―a slightly red tint visible from the gaps in the dull illumination―and adjusts his ebony haori over his similar-colored kimono and hakama while frowning slightly.
He's so beautiful...I think to myself, transfixed.
I don't know why he put on a false front, but I can't really blame him. Even if I had a public affirmation as an oiran, Missus will never approve that I'll have my initiation with a radiant creature...The envy of her appointed oirans will probably stake me to death...and her favoritism will totally kick me out of reach.
He might have been still flocked by the other girls at the oiran display downstairs if he didn't disguise himself...
Then I gasp and cover my mouth in reminiscence. I hit him! Oh my Kami-sama!
Hastily, I kneel down in dogeza. "I'm very sorry, Mister! I didn't mean to hit you! I was just so shocked by your appearance; I don't know what came over me! I'm so sorry! Please forgive me for my inexperience at pleasing men!"
Foolish Mai! How could I ruin his avocation of mask-bearing?
Running footsteps audibly thud the hallway outside. The door to the room slams open, and a desperate yet similar mellifluous voice exclaims, "How could you, Noru? I've never thought you'll be here! I've overestimated you when you said you'll be doing a very good experiment―!"
Noru? The last sound seems strange and different...
I perk my head up to the newcomer and emit the heaviest gasp that evening.
"What are you talking about, idiot lady killer?" The young man called 'Noru' frowns at his twin, who is wearing a blue and white ensemble; the difference to their personalities is evident with their clothes. Anyway, in the newcomer's hand is an identical demon mask which he probably took off while running.
"You know what I'm ta―" The newcomer's eyes drift upon me, kneeling on the floor. He examines me, winking dubiously, and gazes back at 'Noru.' "You weren't―?"
"Of course not, idiot."
I am deeply baffled, but I dare not speak. 'Noru' soughs and then glares at the grinning newcomer who spoke, "Just when I thought I could make you guilty and tease you about it...That Yasu-ninja! Lying to me, honestly."
"Jin," 'Noru' drawls in warning, and 'Jin' slightly puts his arms up and palms forward.
"Alright, alright," 'Jin' surrenders and then shrugs before flushing. "But really, Noru, why are you here? And why did you call her?"
'Jin' glances at me curiously.
"She's the dream seer Rin told me about," 'Noru' elucidates.
Rin? He really says names oddly...I just tilt my head. Also...Dream seer? What's that? Me?
'Jin' just blinks. "Really?"
Really bewildered, I finally blurt out loudly, "W-who are you?"
'Noru' turns to me as-a-matter-of-factly.
"I am Kazuya Shibuya, the head of Yuurei Shinsengumi," he says coolly...
And I gape at him unbelievably.
Unknown to me, a cloud has already formed into a rung of an uncompleted staircase, towards what I thought was an unreachable sky.
Shinsengumi=police in Kyoto established in 1863; its literal meaning is "newly chosen group." In this story, I am anachronistically borrowing the term for its definition in the late 19th century.
A/N: Ahhh...don't you just want to see how the boys would look like wielding katanas? After all, Edo period is a time for samurais and those great battles. I do not intend to make them bald in this story, though (since it seems like that was the fashion for the men in this period) lol.
I did not specify exactly what year of the Edo period this story would be, and I'm thinking of leaving it at that, the year unknown except for a hint of it occurring in 17th century. How will everything turn out? Many fun adventures next chapters. This is Naru-Mai-Gene btw ^^
So, what do you think of this story? Any guesses of what roles the other Ghost Hunt characters shall portray? Heehee ^^ You may share your thoughts. ^^
P.S. EDIT: Jin is actually Gene, and Noru is actually Noll. Rin is actually Lin. Since it's Mai's point of view, I am writing what Gene calls Naru/Noll as Noruand what Naru calls Gene as Jin and Lin as Rin. During early Edo period, English name spellings are still unfamiliar, and "L" is often mistaken as "R." Thereby, I am going by their nicknames' spellings as what Mai thought they are in the period and not as what we know in the modern world.