(OOC: Doin' multiple things at once ftw! Technically this takes place the day after the party at the Hanazaki, but I wanted to get going on Hotaru and Sami being able to interact as well so here it is. Let's see if this can work :p)
Dance and music lessons started around ten in the morning -- perhaps not early by most peoples’ standards, but for a maiko or geiko who hadn’t gotten to bed before two or three in the morning, it was more than early enough. This particular morning began with all five of the house’s resident young women -- Ichisei, Ichifumi, Ichishou, Ichizakura, and Hotaru -- eating a quiet breakfast before collecting their things for the day’s lessons. Okaasan had set out a pretty blue kimono decorated with tiny yellow and white flowers, plus a cheerful orange obi, for Hotaru to wear to her lessons that morning, and after breakfast the twins helped her into it. And then it was time to go.
The five set out together, but not too far up the road Ichifumi (who had her hair down and brushed straight that morning) turned off down a narrow side street. “She has to get her hair re-set,” Ichishou explained, “and the hair-dresser we use has her salon down that street. She runs it with her two sisters.”
“It’s gonna be our turn at the end of the week,” Ichizakura moaned. Ichishou wrinkled her nose a little, and Ichisei just chuckled at them.
“Still not used to it?” she asked. The twins laughed and chorused “No!” at her. All three laughed, pausing only to bow to an older woman who passed. She bowed in turn and smiled at them before going off to wherever she was headed, and the little crowd of girls from Ishida continued on their way.
A few steps past the road where Ichifumi had left them Ichishou finally cleared her throat a little and trotted forward a few steps from her usual spot near the back of the line to speak to Ichisei. “Nee-san,” she asked, “what happened with Ryuu-nii-san and Hinako? The thing you and Fumi-nee-san were talking about at dinner the other night?”
“Oh. THAT,” Ichisei replied. She looked around to make sure nobody who would care about their conversation was around. “Well, of course she was at the party Takei-sensei had for his wife back in January. That was the last party Ryuu-nii-san came to, before last night. Anyway, that new maiko from Harukawa, Yaesuzu, was dancing. You two have seen her, right?” she asked the twins. “Isn’t she in your dance class?” They both nodded, and Ichisei continued. “She’s very beautiful, and talented. Since she is so new she isn’t very popular yet but it’s only a matter of time. Hinako being Hinako, she sees the poor girl as a threat. So one minute at the party Suzu-chan is sitting beside Takei-sensei, pouring him some beer. Nobody was paying much attention of course, that’s just normal behavior at a party. Sensei was speaking to one of the kabuki actors, his wife was speaking to Hanatoshi about her plans for turning her collar, Kanotoshi and I were warming up for a performance, the other guests and geiko and maiko were talking amongst themselves, and all of a sudden poor Suzu-chan just SCREAMED.” She paused as the came to the intersection of their narrow little street with the main road that ran through the hanamachi, and looked around again before turning right and continuing down the road. She glanced back to make sure she hadn’t lost her entourage (especially Hotaru). Satisfied that they were still all there, she continued. “Everyone went quiet and I looked up, and there she was, just covered in alcohol. Someone had spilled an entire tray of drinks all over her. A couple of glasses broke too, so she had glass in her hair and down the back of her kimono. Everything was ruined -- her hair, her makeup, of course her kanzashi, her kimono, probably even her obi and her juban. Fortunately it was near the end of the month so she wasn’t going to be wearing those kanzashi for much longer anyway, but the obi and kimono were both brand-new, worth millions of yen, and ruined. Plus because of her hair she couldn’t have gone out again that night, so she lost all of that income for the evening.” She huffed. “So I looked around to see what had happened, and there behind her was Hinako, apologizing and claiming she had tripped. But…Hinako is a very good dancer, and there was nothing for her to trip on, plus Ryuu-nii-san told me he saw Hinako glaring at the back of Suzu-chan’s head right before the accident…I don’t think it was an accident, and neither does he. Even Takei-sensei suspects, and he is usually so nice and doesn’t think poorly of anyone.”
The three Ichi girls fell silent for a while, carefully making their way through the crowd. Most people ignored them -- they weren’t as eye-catching without their elaborate costumes -- but a few people with sharp enough eyes to notice the twins’ hairstyles snapped pictures and exclaimed excitedly to each other. Ichisei, Ichishou, and Ichizakura just ignore them.
They were about to turn left and cross the street to go down another, slightly less busy street, when Ichisei paused and motioned ahead of her. “See those two there, across the street?” she asked. “The woman in the green kimono carrying the bag and box and the young girl following behind her, in the pink kimono? The woman is Hinako, and the girl is their new shikomi.” She looked at Hotaru. “I don’t think Okaasan wanted you to hear the story about Hinako at the party. She wants you to form your own thoughts about people here, and she’s like Takei-sensei, she likes to see the best in people. But as your older sister I think you have the right to know what you’re dealing with in Hinako. She sees anyone with talent or looks -- and especially anyone with both -- as a threat to her. She might see you as a threat someday. Their shikomi seems nice enough, so maybe there’s hope for her. But you should be careful, alright? Take what you hear about Hinako with a grain of salt if you like, but watch your back too.” And with that, she turned back to wait for the light change. As soon as it did she crossed the road and headed straight for the door to the kaburenjo, where several other young women could be seen rushing inside already. She and Hinako glanced at each other, but aside from a brief bow before Hinako pushed ahead of them into the school, they didn’t acknowledge each other at all.
*** *** *** *** ***
Kozen had left the okiya early that morning to pick up her shamisen at the instrument shop. A worn spot had appeared on the skin stretched over the frame, and Okaasan had insisted that she take it for repairs right away rather than risk getting a hole in it. The shop had called late in the afternoon the day before to report that it was ready. As Kozen’s first lesson of the day was always shamisen, she had to go pick it up right away. That left Hinako and Sami to go to the Kaburenjo by themselves, Hinako carrying a small bag with her flute and music in one hand and the case with her drum in the other. Normally she would have Sami carry these things, but Sami had her own instruments to worry about. They came to the final crossing before arriving at the school…and she glanced across the street. A small, tight smile appeared on her lips at the sight of the little group gathered there, waiting for the light to change.
“So, Ishida has a new girl already,” she murmured. “I recognize her kimono, they had one of those twins wearing it not too long ago.” Clearly, the reuse of kimono was something she disapproved of, despite the fact that every house did it rather than build a whole new wardrobe for its youngest members. “That house has Ichifumi, who is the most popular maiko in the district.” Clearly, she didn’t approve of that either. She glanced casually over her shoulder at Sami and smirked. “You should have no problem outranking her in popularity. You might even win an award your first year, once you become a maiko.”
Somehow, they all arrived at the school doors together. Ichisei and Hinako sketched quick and barely-passable bows to one another, and then Hinako casually stepped in front of Ichisei and entered the school first. By all right she shouldn’t have done that, as Ichisei was more senior, but…well, Hinako had little use for seniority. She glanced back to make sure Sami had followed and slipped out of her zori before continuing down the hall to her flute lesson, which was held in a room much closer to the main entrance than any of the dance lessons. “Continue to make us proud, Sami-chan,” she said before disappearing into the lesson room and closing the door behind her, leaving Sami to go to her dance lesson alone.