I sit at my desk and watch the late evening sunrays playing across the dark, wooden surface. The air, coming through the open window from my blossoming garden, is soft and cooling on my skin, and the sounds of chickadees and frogs cracking fills the otherwise silent room. Across me sits the Chairman with a frown on his familiar face, thoughts deepened in the stack of carefully arranges papers in front of him. He has not yet commented on my lack of concentration, even though it is a rare occasion.

Or it used to be.

These days I find it hard to focus on setting a simple business arrangement up. I cannot even concentrate on a sumo game for more than a few hours. She has taken over my entire being, leaving no room for the man I thought I was; the man that I've, in many ways, fought to become ever since that fateful day in China many years ago.

I take myself in looking at her, admiring the way she talks, the way she moves… and especially the way she looks at me. Not on something behind me, at a table in front of me or at the sake she is so gracefully pouring in my cup. I am not a simpleton. I know what those foolish girls calls me, I know how they shiver in revulsion at the sight of my deform arm and scarred face. And as the years after my service in the war passed by, I had learned to not let it get to me. Learned that with snarky comments and a scowling face I could keep them away, avoiding the contact that continued to hurt me so much.

I had found peace. Until I met her.

For the first moment in a long time a girl smiled at me, talked to me and laughed with me. She wasn't even ugly and desperate, quite the opposite. She had Mameha, one of the most powerful Geishas in Gia, as sister, she was stunning, clever and funny. And even though I tried to avoid it; steeling myself, forcing myself to remember what a pitiful creature I am, how wrong it would be for both of us… I found that I could not stay away from her. I had to see her, hear her…

And I was happy. For a while I merely basked in her presence, enjoying her laughter and witty comments. I allowed her to see parts of me that had been locked away from the world for far too long, sharing thoughts with her that only the Chairman knew of. Beforehand I hated to attend parties, especially ones with giggling, deceiving, beautiful Geishas. But now I found that it didn't matter to me as long as she was there. I even enjoyed them.

Who would have been able to guess that a girl with eyes like rain would carve a path into my heart of stone? I certainly never would.

When I realized that I had indeed fallen in love with her, I cursed myself.

What a foolish man I was, to think that she could ever love me back, that she could do anything else than hurt me more than anyone ever had already. Since the war I had not let any feelings control me, and now here I was, acting like a complete fool – I couldn't afford it. Look where it had already brought me… sighing after a girl that could never be mine.

The day she gave me her Mizuage was a bittersweet time. I knew that it would only make things worse for me, should I take her; knowing that she could never love me as I did her, never enjoy it the way I knew I would. But I was still elated to receive it; my treacherous heart dancing one of her cherished dances joyously, pointlessly wondering how it would feel like to be with her.

That's when I noticed who she was looking at while I received her most precious gift. The Chairman. My best and only friend.

And I felt my already shattered heart break once more.

A sigh from said man breaks me reverie, and I turn my eyes to him, finding myself study his face. I know that should he ever notice her attention he will come to love her back. Perhaps he already does. He would not tell me if he did, knowing how I feel about her. And I would never stand in their way, denying the only two people I love to find happiness in each other. I would be happy, even. Or at least I could try to be. For them.

That is also one of the reasons that I stopped my bidding at her Mizuage. It could never have been mine the way I wanted it.

Tonight, only an hour from now, I have to see her again. I have promised myself that I will not talk to her – but I am still going. The thought terrifies me and elates me although I know it shouldn't. Because I still love her. Craves her company, like a starved animal yearns for food. Despite this, despite everything I think I always will.

And she can never know.