She sat in her room, with a brush, paper, and ink making a large portrait of a dragon. Her whole life she had been an artist, and a pretty good one too, at least she thought so. Her mother and father died when she was around the age of four maybe five, that’s when she was sent on a boat from Okinawa to Edo in the Japanese mainland. Okinawa, or at this point in time Ryukyu, was her homeland. She was sold to a Geisha House, though at her childhood age she couldn’t provide services, she instead did things for the house such as making sure things were cleaned, the futons were washed, and the customers were happy. Around the age of sixteen was when she was told she could then provide services, she agreed as it paid more than just cleaning up. That being said she never actually provided services to anyone yet, she spent most of the time drawing which was a major turn off to men, as she was too involved in other things. If there were words to describe her it would be absent-minded, or maybe even air headed and kind of dull. When she was sold to the house, she was given the name Rei Nanashi, meaning “Zero Nameless” which described her status. Nanashi was often considered small as she was 5’3” while the other girls were 5’6” at the least. She was pretty, but not the most beautiful girl in the world, she had a rounded face, a small nose, and lovely brown eyes that complimented her long raven hair. She normally wore her hair as a bun or knot at the base of her neck, and sometimes a braid. She almost never wore makeup, and her room was always a mess, with constant art supplies every way you looked. When Nanashi was seventeen she provided her first service to Odabami Haki. Haki was the leader of a Yakuza Clan known as The Thousand-Name Family. The one distinguishing factor of this Yakuza was that the men seemed to wear red or purple clothing, and they had scars on their left cheeks, and the palms of their hands.
Today is Nanashi’s nineteenth birthday, as she made her dragon she heard the door to the house slide open and she heard conversing downstairs. She sighed, “Why now of all the time in the world? I’ve only got half a dragon done...” She thought to herself. It wasn’t long before she heard footsteps, she turned just as her door slid open. It was the owner of the house, he smiled.
“Nanashi, you have a visitor.”
“...me?” She asked, she was confused. It wasn’t a Thursday so it wasn’t Haki.
“Yeah, come see.”
She sighed and put her brush back into the ink, “Okay...” She stood up and followed him to the entrance. As she did she looked at the floor, she looked at the wood grains and her artistic minds saw the grains twist and swirl and become the mountains of Japan. She then went, “Oof.” As she ran directly into the wall, she looked up then to the right, she was supposed to turn the corner, but she had gotten too invested in the floor.
“Are you alright? That’s the eighth time this week you’ve run into the wall!”
“Huh..? Oh...I’m fine.” She said she groaned and rubbed the red mark on her forehead, the two came down the stairs. Nanashi looked ahead of her at the man standing near the door. She looked him up and down, her cheeks turning a light shade of pink. He was incredibly handsome and fairly tall. His kimono seemed to be a deep blue color, with an even lighter blue sleeveless jacket. He carried a brown sack over his shoulder, and in his other hand, he had a katana blade which he was slightly leaning on. He was clean-shaven, and had rather nice features. His hair was short, and unlike every man she has seen come in here, aside from Haki, he wasn’t balding. He had some hair strands on the right side of his head. She then moved to in front of him, she then got down on her knees and she bowed with her head and hands to the floor. “I-It’s nice to meet you...how can I be of service…?” He looked down at her, he then looked up at the owner.
“Old man,” he said, he swung the sack off his shoulder and he dropped it down in front of Nanashi, she jumped slightly but didn’t move from that position, “How much?”
“Depends on what you want.” The owner said back to him.
“Hmmm,” he looked down at Nanashi, he then knelt down, he then leaned forward and whispered in her ear, “I’m going to buy you from him, that way you’ll never have to see this filthy place ever again.” She moved her head up slightly to look at him. She was confused.
He then stood up and looked at the owner, “Hey, I asked you a question, how much?”
“It depends on what you want.”
“I want her. I’m taking her home with me.”
“Oh, an at-home service?”
“No,” he said, “I’m taking her home, as I am going to make her my wife.”
“W-Wife…?!” She said in the back of her mind.
“Hm?” The owner said, he then just placed his hands on his hips and laughed, “Young man, do you not know what this place is?”
“I know exactly what it is, just being in here makes me sick.” He intensified his gaze on the old man, “I’m taking her away from here and I am going to marry her.”
“I see,” he said, “I can’t let you do that.”
“Do you not know who she belongs to? Taking her would be ritual suicide.”
“I don’t care, I’m taking her from here.” He then bent down and took Nanashi’s hand and stood her up, “Let’s go.” He said to her.
“Huh…?!” She said aloud.
“Listen, I cannot allow that!” The owner said,
“Then stop me,” He picked up his bag and swung it over his shoulder. He looked to Nanashi, “Let’s go.” He turned to walk out, Nanashi wasn’t sure what to do so she followed him. The owner grit his teeth.
“There’s no way in I am letting you take her!” He then grabbed a rifle, “Die!” He went to pull the trigger when a breeze blew through the establishment. The old man swallowed hard as the warrior was now in front of him with his blade at his throat. “What the-”
“I’m not going to repeat myself, I am taking her now.”
The old man looked to Nanashi and then back to the warrior, he then smirked, “Fine! Take her! I don’t care, compared to the other girls she’s practically useless! And I should know as I spent most of my life raising her since she was a child!” He then lowered his gun and the warrior his blade. The warrior looked to Nanashi.
“Oi,” he said to her, she jumped.
“Yes,” he said, “Get all your stuff.”
“O-Okay..” she then slowly walked past them up the stairs and to her room. As she cleaned up and packed all she could into a bag, a thousand questions ran through her head. Who was this man? Where did he come from? Did she know him? Why did he want to marry her? Once she packed she then looked to the dragon she was working on, it was still wet, and she was worried about it dripping or getting ruined. She didn’t want to start again as it had taken her a week to get to the point she was at now. Soon her door slid open, she turned and saw another girl standing in the doorway, she looked tired, “Oh….Yumika...”
“What are you doing?” She asked,
“Why?” She yawned and rubbed her eyes,
“A man is here, he says he’s taking me away...”
“Huh?! Lucky! I wish a man would come and take me away.”
“But I don’t even know him….”
“You can reject him.”
“I don’t want to be rude...”
“Fine then, what’s he look like?”
“He’s um..tall, and handsome and he wears blue clothes, he has a large bag and a sword.”
“You know him?”
“Yeah, he comes by this way every day, he sometimes stops and looks either up at your window, or through the window downstairs if you’re downstairs.”
“Yeah, you never noticed?” Nanashi shook her head, “Hm, oh well, all I know is that he’s some high ranking warrior.”
“Anyways, good luck.” She then turned and walked away. Nanashi looked back at her dragon. She wanted to take it with her but wasn’t sure how. She got up and went down the hall, then back downstairs. She looked to the warrior.
“Hm?” He looked at her, “Are you packed?”
“Almost...I’m working on a dragon...but she’s still wet...I was wondering, can we wait until she’s dry?”
“Still wet?” He said, “Let me see.”
“You...want to see her...”
“Okay...come on.” She turned and took him up the stairs to her room. He looked around her room before he came to the dragon.
“Ah,” he then went and knelt next to it. “You’re a very good artist.” He said, “Can you do me sometime?”
“Hmmm,” he put his bag down and he looked inside. He pulled out aboard and he slid the board under the paper. “Here, just carry it like this, with the board being flat, that way it won’t drip.”
“Oh...okay.” She then picked up the dragon.
“Where’s your stuff?”
“There..” she said nodding towards her bag.
“I see,” He went over and picked up the bag, he tied it to one end of his sword, and then his bag to the other end, and he put the sword upon his shoulders. Eventually, the two got going. It was a rather hot day. Nanashi walked beside him and she looked down at her dragon, her artistic mind saw the dragon come to life, it flew off the paper and it flew around her head, she looked around and followed the dragon with her head, she looked up as it flew into the sky and flew away. She sighed and then looked ahead of her. The two walked across a bridge, she looked down at the water, she imagined the waves crashing, and moving around wildly, carp and koi jumping out of the water to eat the bugs that flew over the surface. The two kept walking until they came to a mountainside. They walked up a winding pathway through a neighborhood before they came to a large house near the top. The warrior slid the door open with his foot. “I’m home.” He called, he looked to Nanashi, “Come with me.” He took her to his bedroom, which was on the East side of the house, there was an open window space which viewed the mountainside, part of the city, and the ocean.
“Wow...” she said,
“You can put your stuff here.” He said, he put down his sword along with the bags. She walked over to an empty space beside a futon and she put down the dragon. She then looked up out at the ocean again, she had never once seen it. He stood up, “Oh, that’s the ocean.”
“Yeah.” He rolled his neck and rubbed his shoulder.
“I’m sorry...” she said, “I’m a bit absent-minded...I forgot to ask you your name.”
“Ibara.” He said, “Kazama Ibara.”
“I see...” she then bowed to him, “Thank you for your generosity….I’m Rei Nanashi.”
“Nanashi?” He said, “So you don’t have a name?”
“No...I think I had one when I was a child, but I can’t remember it.”
“That’s fine.” He said. Soon they heard screaming.
“Yosha! Ikuzo! Ikuzo! IKUZO!!!!!!!!”
“Who’s that…?” She asked,
“My brother,” Ibara responded,
He nodded, he took her to his room where they heard grunting and growling. Ibara slid the door open, “Oi, Kinniku.”
“Oh god!!!” Nanashi quickly covered her eyes as her face turned bright red. He turned to them.
“Hm?! What do you need?!” Kinniku wasn’t naked, he was just wearing his Mawashi. Kinniku is a Rikishi, or Sumo Wrestler. He was shorter than Ibara, and closer to Nanashi’s height. Though he wasn’t fat or obese like other wrestlers, he was just super ultra muscular. His hair was shoulder length and very wild. He looked to Nanashi, “Ah! I see you’ve brought me a little angel!” He said, “YOSHA!!!! AKA ONI REPORTING FOR DUTY!!!!” He ran towards Nanashi only to have Ibara deliver a devastating kick to his crotch. Kinniku winced and he fell to his knees, “Forgive me for I have sinned...”
“Kinniku, this is Nanashi, the girl I told you about.”
“Huh?” He looked up at her, “This is her?”
“Ah!” He winced as he stood up, he took both of Nanashi’s hands and shook them, “Nice to meet you!”
“N-Nice to meet you too!” She said not opening her eyes.
“Is she blind?”
“I think she’s embarrassed by your state.”
“Hm?” He looked down, “Ah! Yes, I didn’t expect visitors! Give me a second to get pants on!” He then turned and quickly got dressed in some pants, with a rope belt.
“It’s okay Nanashi, he’s decent,” Ibara said, she slowly opened her eyes, Kinniku then smiled at her. She swallowed hard. “Kinniku, are the others home?”
“No,” he said resting his hands behind his head, “But mom’s home though, you might want to say hi.”
“How’s she feeling?”
“Not very well. She’s getting worse.”
Ibara sighed, he looked to Nanashi, “Let’s go.” He took Nanashi to his mother’s bedroom. It was quiet, she was in an isolated room. She laid on the ground in a futon in white clothing. Her hair was laid everywhere on the ground. She looked very pale. Nanashi’s face saddened, she had never seen a mother person looking this weak. Ibara took her over to where his mother was laying. “Mother,” he said getting down on his knees. She let out a harsh cough and she looked over at Ibara, she smiled at him.
“You’re home.” She reached her hand up to his face, he then took her wrist and placed her hand on the side of his face. She gave a very weak smile, she looked to Nanashi, who was looking at the wall. “Who is this?”
“This is Nanashi, I told you about her, the Geisha Girl I have been seeing as I walk through town. The one I want to marry.”
“I see,” she looked to where Nanashi was looking, the wall was painted with flowers and creatures that warded off evil spirits. She then looked to Nanashi, “Hello there.” Nanashi didn’t move, “I said hello there.” She gave a soft laugh, “Is anyone in there?” Ibara nudged Nanashi, Nanashi jolted and then looked to Ibara, she then looked to his mother.
“I-I’m sorry...I was looking at the wall...” She said, “I’m sorry...”
“You’re fine child.” She smiled, “What’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you, I am Ibara’s mother Sakura.”
“Nice to meet you….”
“And you too,” she said, “When my son told me he had found the girl he wanted to marry I was thrilled.”
“Well, I’m honored...” Nanashi gave a soft smile.
“Have you met all the boys?”
“I met Kinniku yes.”
“What about the other two?”
“Yes, Ibara is the oldest of four children, each one born nine months apart.”
“Where are the others..?”
“I’m afraid they are out, but they always come home for dinner.” She sighed, “I should be making dinner soon.” she then attempted to sit up, Ibara shook his head and laid her back down.
“No, you’re too weak, let Nanashi do it.”
“Yes,” he said looking to her, “You can cook can’t you?”
“N-No...I mean...I don’t know! I’ve never tried it!”
“Can you learn?”
“I-I guess so…!” Nanashi was worried, did he bring her here just to make her cook for him?
“Follow me,” Ibara said, he looked to his mother, he kissed her forehead before he stood up and took Nanashi to the kitchen. It’s not that Nanashi was oblivious to cooking, she knew how to do rice and noodles, but that was really it. Nanashi looked around the kitchen, she saw ingredients, a stove, and a cabinet for food. “This is the kitchen, you can use anything in it.” She swallowed heavily. “Try to have dinner done by sunset okay?” He then turned and walked off.
Nanashi swallowed hard, where to begin? She only wore her Geisha kimono, she rolled up her sleeves and she did what she could. She started to make the dough, but she made WAY too much. She groaned and used half the dough to make noodles, and the second half she used to make dumplings, as she did, she wondered what meat she would put in them, she looked out the window and saw a basket, she slid open the door and lifted the basket lid, there was freshly caught fish which only appeared to be an hour or so old. Seeing them made her somewhat sad, she thought looking at the creature she was about to eat was cruel. She took some fish inside, cut them up, gutted them, and she then pulled out the meat and stuffed them in the dumplings along with vegetables. She then noticed she didn’t have a pot of boiling water, she made a strange noise of grief before she took a pot and filled it with water. She put it on the stove, she didn’t know exactly how to start it, the stove was stone, and underneath was a hole for wood. She put the pieces together and she put some wood in the hole before she lit them on fire, she screamed as she had gotten her sleeve on fire too. She patted it out before she sighed, her kimono was now ruined, she stripped off her outer layer and was now in her Datejime, Nagajuban, and Hakama, or her undershirt, skirt, and under sash. She continued to cook and cook until everything was done. She sighed in relief, she made noodles, boiled dumplings, and enough rice to feed the whole neighborhood.
“Is dinner ready?” Ibara asked poking his head in, she jumped and looked at him
“Uuuuuh...” she looked back, “Y-Yeah it’s done!”
“Serve it up, let’s eat.”
“Where are your dishes…?”
“Up there,” he said pointing to a cabinet. She looked up at the cabinet, her face went pale and her eyes widened, she was far too short to reach that. “Here, let me get them.” He walked up behind her, he leaned forward pressing himself against her and reached up into the cabinet. She inhaled sharply as his body pressed against hers. She wasn’t scared, she was just...she wasn’t sure what she was feeling. He grabbed dishes for everyone and then he put them near the stove. “Here you are,” he said, “Everything smells so good, I can’t wait to eat.” He then walked out of the kitchen. She swallowed and looked off towards where he left. She then looked back and served up the dishes, she brought them out one by one to the table. Once everything was served she then sighed and sat down. She looked around at the table, Kinniku was already stuffing his face with as much food as he could. Ibara sat across from her at the table and he ate slowly and calmly. She looked to the right and saw two others sitting and eating. One had long hair which was tied back into a ponytail, his clothes were green, and the left side of his body was exposed, on his left arm, he had a tattoo of a Kirin. The next boy had a scar over his left eye and one on his right cheek seemed rough around the edges, his hair was more shaggy. Nanashi looked across the table at Ibara.
“Um...are these your other brothers?” The two boys looked over at her.
“Whozzat?” The rougher looking brother asked with his mouth full of food.
“She seems to have come from the Geisha House near the Kabuki.” The one with the ponytail said, he looked to Kinniku, “Kinniku, did you kidnap this poor thing?”
“Huh?!” He said loudly, “Why do you think I’m always kidnappin’ somebody?”
“You’ve got that look to you.”
“Actually no.” Ibara said interrupting, “Nanashi, these are my other brothers. Hajime and Ya.”
Nanashi looked to them then back to Ibara, “Which is which…?”
“I’m Hajime.” The rougher looking one said as he put more food in his mouth.
“Geez Hajime, do you have to be so rude while eating? Don’t talk with your mouth full of food in front of a lady!” Kinniku said just before he started to wolf down more food.
“Oh the irony,” Ya said calmly, Ya had a nice and easy-going pleasant voice. Ya then looked to Nanashi, “Tell me, did you make everything here from scratch?”
“Yes,” she said, “I hope it tastes alright...” she said softly.
“It’s fine, the rice is a little overcooked for my taste, but it’s fine.”
“O-Oh..th-thank you!” She smiled.
“Anyways,” Ibara said, “This is the girl I’m going to marry.”
“I see,” Ya said, “Interesting choice.”
“Hey, Nanashi.” Ibara said to him, “Did you bring mother some food?”
“Oh god! I must’ve forgotten!” She dashed to the kitchen and saw that there was another dish sitting next to everything she had cooked. “oh no! Oh no! At this rate, he will forget about marrying me!” She thought as she quickly served up the dish, she then ran to Sakura’s bedroom, nearly tripping over her dress twice. She slid open the door, “Sakura! I’m so sorry! I forgot all about you!” Sakura’s face twisted and she groaned before she let out a yawn.
“Could you knock before you come in next time?”
“Y-Yes ma’am! I’m sorry!” She said,
“You’re fine.” She very weakly sat up, Nanashi walked over to her and knelt down at her bedside.
“Here!” She handed her the dish,
“Thank you.” She smiled and took it, Sakura looked around, “Do I have anything to eat it with?”
“Oh god! I’ll be right back!” Nanashi then got up and she ran to the kitchen again. She grabbed a pair of obviously mismatched chopsticks and she ran back to Sakura’s bedroom. She tripped on her dress and she landed on her face just before she reached Sakura. “Ow...” Sakura gave a gentle laugh.
“I’m sorry for laughing...” Sakura said, “But that’s the most entertainment I have had in weeks.” Nanashi got up and she had a red mark on her forehead, she handed Sakura the chopsticks. Sakura smiled. “Thank you.”
“Mind sitting with me?”
“S-Sure...” Nanashi then sat next to Sakura on her knees. Sakura started to eat.
“Mm, these dumplings are delicious.”
“You think so…?”
“Thanks...it’s my first time making them actually...”
“Well, they’re good.”
“You’re very shy aren’t you?”
“I guess...” She said, “The Geisha House was the only home I knew...I didn’t get much of an education, and I rarely got new clothes, what I have on is what I’ve had for a long time...”
“I see,” she said, “How about this if you stay here and keep cooking I will make sure you get a good education okay?”
“Y-You really mean it…?”
“Yes,” Sakura nodded, “Young lady, I am very sick, and I might not be around for much longer. Soon you will have to take care of the boys.”
“I see..” she paused, “I don’t know...I am pretty slow and absent-minded..I forget things easily.”
“That’s fine, that’s why you practice. That way it sticks. Tomorrow morning I will have Kinniku take you to the market and get you some clothes and some learning supplies, I need him to go down there anyways. He can also get you some recipes for food if you don’t want to use mine.”
“You had recipes….?”
“Yeah, didn’t you use them?”
“No...” she said hanging her head, Sakura smiled.
“Well, this is the best food I’ve had for just taking a stab at it.”
“Now, Ibara tells me you’re an artist?”
“Yeah, he saw your dragon and was impressed, he said if he ever saw a real one then that’s what it would look like. He said it’s the most realistic thing he has ever seen, and he wants you to do him.”
Nanashi blushed violently, “B-But we only just met!”
“Hm?” Sakura thought for a moment, she then gave a soft laugh, “No no, not like that. He says he wants you to do him, as in he wants you to do a drawing of him.”
“Oh...thanks for lightening that up...”
At the end of the night Nanashi was in Ibara’s room, he had laid out another futon for her. She got undressed down to her undergarments, Nanashi was one of the rare women who actually wore undergarments under her kimono, and she then got into her futon and she got in the covers. Ibara then came in the room shortly and he then got undressed and into his futon. He laid there looking at the ceiling. Nanashi swallowed and looked over at him. She then looked back to the ceiling. “Ibara...”
“Why did you...” she paused, “Never mind, goodnight.”