Author Topic: Pains of Purple Irises - The Life of Hikari Kobayashi  (Read 448 times)

KovosDatch

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Pains of Purple Irises - The Life of Hikari Kobayashi
« on: September 30, 2023, 10:10:06 PM »

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   The Kobayashis had been colliers for generations, but times were difficult for Hikari and her family. The roving bands of Rokuman shoguns and their samurai they commanded decimated the countryside as they battled over the very land they ruined, and the seemingly-endless war affected every citizen of the archipelago. Troops who spared no second thoughts hacked down smaller trees and saplings, choice wood for charcoal makers, for firewood and barricades for their camps. The older trees, left untouched by the military, were too large for the Kobayashis' kilns, and the family relied on the very trees the armies continued to remove.

Mother nature seemed to conspire against them too. Spring rains always brought ankle-high mud, making it near impossible to move lumber on their wood sled, while the summer sun baked them under humid days. Autumn was the only season in which the Kobayashis found any reprieve, but the crisp leaf-filled breezes swiftly turned into the chilly, snowy gusts of winter.

   Between the man-made struggles and fickle weather, their finances dwindled and Hikari, only nine at the time, knew it all too well. She, her older brother, and two older sisters were expected to pitch in and aid their parents with their laborious occupation. Long, challenging hours that only ever seemed to grow, while still failing to make ends meet, wore Hikari out, and many nights, the young Rokuman found herself falling asleep with an empty stomach and a cold hearth with no fire to warm her. She taught herself to fight back tears on those nights, shivering and wondering how long the tribulations they endured would last.

   Being the youngest sibling, Hikari never had the chance to visit the large coastal village nearly a full day's travel to the west, so when her father offered to take her along for a business trip, she jumped at the chance. Everything about the city was strange and alien to her, from the sheer amount of people traversing the byways to the buildings and businesses offering services she never could have imagined. Paper lanterns hung next to every sign, glowing with a subtle warmth in the evening hours while the delicious scent of fresh bean-filled rice buns wafted through the air. Hikari, hungry not only from the long journey, but also from the meals she was forced to skip, nearly drooled at the smell. She barely contained herself and fought to keep her focus on her father as they trudged past. Mask makers and other merchants called out to passers by in humorous voices urging them to buy their wares. She was partial to the adorable white spirit fox mask one of the vendors advertised, but her father took her hand and tugged her along before she could take a second glance.

While the sensations amazed her, the excitement of the village also made her feel like a backwater bumpkin. The mannerisms of the villagers differed from her own while their fine clothing contrasted with her ragged hand-me-downs. Even their dialect was more refined than her rural drawl. Still, despite her self-conscious feelings of inadequacy, she loyally followed her father.

   The pair stopped in front of a large building with a double-decker porch, the entire edifice styled similarly to a pagoda. Women with painted faces, looking like dolls or mannequins, stood on the porches calling to the men as they walked by. Hikari was so enamored with the sights, smells, and sounds of the village, she scarcely took note of them. In fact, she never noticed when one of them approached her father for a conversation.

   As she gawked at all the village had to offer, two of the strange women grabbed Hikari under the arms and began leading her into the foreboding building. She turned, struggled, and called out to her father, but he turned his back on her, paying her no mind. The ladies escorting her tightened their grip as they passed the threshold, knowing better than to trust their new property. Moans of pleasure, coughs, and the occasional exclamation echoed down every hallway and in every shadow as the trio marched deeper into the establishment. The more Hikari tried to struggle, the tighter the women gripped until she was sure they had left permanent, ugly bruises on her arms.

   Finally, they entered a well-lit room with white walls covered in bamboo-print murals held upright with red support beams. The sudden brightness after the dim hallways made Hikari's eyes hurt. She squinted as the pair led her to a richly colored tea table in the center of the room and she slumped as the pair pushed her onto a luscious pink cushion next to it. Any time she dared move or even twitch, one of the pair would grab her by the shoulder to keep her in place.

   An older woman, perhaps in her fiftieth year, joined the trio not long after they arrived. Gracefully, she sat down at the table across from Hikari and dismissed the two women with a nod. Her face, doughy and showing slight wrinkling, framed a pair of dark, unblinking eyes that anchored the young Rokuman with rough hands and feet to her seat. Her gaze, cunning and piercing, looked Hikari over as though her entire life were on trial. As though the woman could see into her soul. That layers upon layers of her existence were being peeled away and examined like a manuscript. The thick air became heavy and not even the sharpest katana wielded by a master swordsman could pierce the tension between the two. Hikari realized she was holding her breath. The world was spinning. Nothing was right.

   Then, the woman smiled.

   It was a poor facsimile of a mother's smile to a child, but the expression certainly had compassion. Yet, behind the wrinkles of the grin, within the crows feet that had formed next to her eyes, undertones of greed seeped. The gesture both eased Hikari's initial fears and put her on edge for the future that awaited her. Could she trust this woman who offered a caring smile? Or should she guard herself against the avarice seen deep within the woman?

   Only time would tell.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2023, 05:06:20 PM by KovosDatch »

KovosDatch

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Re: Pains of Purple Irises - The Life of Hikari Kobayashi
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2023, 03:04:09 PM »

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   A few weeks had passed since Hikari was sold to the Garden of Delicate Irises, and her numerous escape attempts were in vain. Worse yet, when she was inevitably caught, the women would take bamboo sticks across her calves and thighs, leaving sickly purple welts which caused pain to shoot up her legs and spine with each step. But the sharp, throbbing pulses below could not compare to the tender skin between her shoulder blades. That pain would ache eternally.

   She knew exactly what they tattooed on her back because everyone in the Garden had one: a light purple iris in a circle pattern like a clan crest. The matron, the same older woman who looked Hikari over the first night she arrived in the village, required the same tattoo on all of her "Irises" as she called them. All of her ordinations were law in the Garden and the tattoo was a sign of her ownership; if any of the ladies tried escaping, their "brand" instantly gave them away and seeing them brought to the establishment became a simple matter. The Garden went so far as to promise local men free drinks and more if they offered up information on escaped women or brought them back safely. When it came time for Hikari to receive hers and having understood the implications, she fought so ferociously they had to strap her down before they could color her flesh.

   Hikari, who was only nine and much too young to be a consort, was put to work doing other chores to keep the place running, and she quickly found her meals were "forgotten" about when she refused to do tasks assigned to her. She was no stranger to hunger, but her already-empty, grumbling, protesting stomach forced her hand after a few days. Oftentimes, her duties took the form of cleaning dishes, doing laundry, changing bedrolls, and sweeping floors. Unbeknownst to her, these tasks were also a learning experience, teaching her submission and diligence, two attributes the Irises built upon.

   They began instructing Hikari in numerous subjects. She enjoyed calligraphy and reading because she was coddled by the woman who taught her, and she found she had a natural talent for music. However, much to the chagrin of her instructors, she needed extra attention and practice in her manner and poise lessons. She despised them and constantly got wrapped on the knuckles or knees when failing to perform the slightest of details.

   Still, the days turned to weeks and the weeks to months as the Irises, who were not as delicate as the establishment's name would lead one to believe, molded and shaped Hikari into the woman they wanted.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2023, 05:06:30 PM by KovosDatch »

KovosDatch

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Re: Pains of Purple Irises - The Life of Hikari Kobayashi
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2023, 10:02:27 PM »

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   Hikari had been at the Garden for four years and her life had fallen into a rhythm. The guidance and lessons she received made her like a rock battered by a cascading waterfall; the subtle changes to the rock are almost invisible to the naked eye, but over time, the rock wears down and smooths out. So, too, was Hikari. No longer was she a rambunctious, curious, or rebellious child, but had eroded into a withdrawn, introverted, quiet young woman.

   Despite her shyness, she formed sororal friendships with those her age. But the older women of the establishment, only thirty-somethings and jealous of the younger Irises’ energy and look, were more than ready to belittle and degrade her and her friends. They would remind the youths that their parents had sold them into this life and no longer wanted them. They were all too quick in touting their experience and skills as escorts, holding it over the heads of the younger ones. Only a couple compassionately mothered their "daughters" and Hikari navigated the relationships of her broken "family" with ease.

   Now that she was twelve, Hikari was old enough to perform tea ceremonies and serve sake for boorish patrons and their consorts, a responsibility she abhorred. Instead of jumping at the chance to display her talents and abilities, she felt like she was the one being showcased, like she was the exhibit each time she poured drinks. To make tea, water is boiled and dried tea leaves are added, changing and transforming it before being poured out and enjoyed. Was she not like the water, being put in the hot seat since the day she arrived? Were not new "ingredients" added to her, making her into something completely different? Would she not soon be poured out onto the "floor" of the Garden and be "consumed" by a patron? The parallels between the beautiful, precise tea ceremonies she performed and the sickly state of her life appalled her.

   Hikari began asking the Irises to describe what being "consumed" was like. The answers she received were all so vivid and widely different, it was hard for her to piece anything together. The best advice given to her, the advice that troubled her most, was to wait and see for herself. Waiting terrified her, and no matter how much she prayed or pleaded, time refused to stop or turn back to bygone days. Sometimes waves of dread swept over her until she felt as though the blackest abyss, the darkest void was gnawing at her innermost self.

   Whenever those moods struck her, Hikari would find herself looking out the window of her room. On sunny days, she watched as hummingbirds flitted about the pink cherry blossom tree a few spans away and longed to be one herself, able to fly away from the prison called the Garden. On the clearest of days, she could see the twinkling sunlight reflecting off the waves of the sea. She liked to imagine herself as a dolphin, swimming in the open waters and smelling the salty spray as it washed over her.

   Rainy days, on the other hand, darkened her mood. The hazy gray clouds swirling about cried over the land that the Brothers' war ruined. The "patter-patter" sounds of raindrops breaking upon wet surfaces were like mother nature's drum, beating away each passing moment that slipped further and further from Hikari's grasp. She wondered if the clouds cried for her like she cried for herself.

   She knew her time was coming. Her young body was starting to fill out, and soon she would be the one on the menu waiting to be "consumed."
« Last Edit: October 27, 2023, 05:06:38 PM by KovosDatch »

KovosDatch

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Re: Pains of Purple Irises - The Life of Hikari Kobayashi
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2023, 09:14:18 PM »

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   Hikari had recently turned sixteen and could boast about the two years of "floor" experience under her belt. The first few times were difficult for her, but as nights passed, she found herself with a new personality. Instead of the shy and withdrawn young woman she had been, she transformed into an open woman, willing to show off her skills formally, musically, or even bodily. Many evenings she found herself acting promiscuous on the porch of the Garden, calling out to men, enticing them to join her for a warm cup of tea or perhaps even a longer stay. Some of the men she called to were shoguns and samurai, perhaps even the very ones who destroyed the forest her family relied upon and cast her into her current situation.

   Now that she had been "consumed," she could reflect upon the words the older Irises gave her years prior and piece them together. In quiet moments, looking back, she concluded that there were no phrases precise enough to answer the question her younger self posed. The women she asked gave their best attempts, and while each answer was partially correct, none could express the totality Hikari now experienced every night. Only the advice to wait and see came close. Even now, when the young Irises asked her the same questions she asked her seniors years ago, her own thoughts and definitions of "wants" and "needs" became so blurred, Hikari scarcely could point to where one ideal stopped and where the other began.

   But, every moment of reflection only offered up more questions in her mind. Questions Hikari was afraid to ask the other Irises, and ones she wished she never concocted. Questions of love.

   "Love" was taboo in her line of work and only spoken about in hushed tones between trusted individuals. The women oftentimes kept their true feelings closely guarded, and when a patron became too attached to a woman, a close eye was kept upon the pair in fear that the man would help the "love of his life" escape from her bondage. The matron made sure her Irises were picked each night, but was careful in making sure they were never plucked from the Garden. The women were more than just a price on a head to her, but a years-long investment she cared about, even if ulterior motives were involved.

   Hikari's thoughts often turned to love during moments of introspection and she wondered if she ever felt such a bizarre sensation. Seven or even three years ago, when the older Irises reminded her that she was unwanted or unloved by her parents, she refused to believe it. But now, would they be proud of the woman she had become? No, she thought, there was no way her parents could ever love a woman who sold herself nightly, even if they were the reason she was there in the first place. They could have made ends meet, there were other options than selling her. She was unloved then and her parents would reject her now if she ever returned to them. Any memories of love she had with them must have been fabricated, made up by a childish imagination to protect her young mind.

   The Irises were right, there was no place for her to go. The Garden was her home now and her coworkers were her family. The universe put her in this grand kabuki dance for the amusement of an audience composed of anyone's guess, and it was up to her to make the most of it.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2023, 05:06:47 PM by KovosDatch »

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Re: Pains of Purple Irises - The Life of Hikari Kobayashi
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2023, 02:55:37 PM »
They told me I was their friend. They told me I was welcome with them. They told me they wanted me along.

They told me they would kill me.

They told me I would be spared. They told me they would not hunt me.


How am I to know what is truth and what are lies?