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Memoirs (Part 2)

Title: Memoirs
Prompt: Memoirs of a Geisha
Pairing: Sungmin/Zhou Mi, Sungmin/Kyuhyun, side:Donghae/Eunhyuk
Rating: PG
Word count: 11,491
Summary: We do not become geisha to pursue our own destiny; we become geisha because we have no other choice.
Beta:luvey and junjou_robotica
A/N I know that I did the book and movie no justice, but I hope that you enjoy it regardless. Never ending gratitude to my two betas <3



(Quotes directly taken from the book and/or the movie are in italics)



A year without news, except news of death. Defeat. Shame. Rumours of cities… evaporating into clouds of smoke.

Then another year, and then another. Until the old life is a dream-life.

Was I ever a Geisha? Did I ever dance, holding a fan? Who would hold a fan now... or paint their lips?

And then another year. Nothing. Rice… work.

Rice… work. Nothing.











~*~*~











“Sungmin! There is a man here to see you!”

A woman with arms full of newly-dyed silk called to Sungmin from the bank of the river. Sungmin lifted his head as he finished pulling a length of fabric from the water and turned to look at her. A new hope fluttered in his chest, quickly struck down by thoughts of anxiety or bad news.

Sungmin was not the same man he was all those years ago, and somehow, there was a deep happiness that overpowered his disappointment as he looked at the man standing in front of him.

“Kyuhyun-sshi.”

“I am glad to see you are well, Sungmin,” Kyuhyun said softly, turning to look at the face he had never let fade from his memories. Sungmin knew that the war was written on his face, but Kyuhyun didn’t seem to notice it.

“And I, you, Kyuhyun-sshi. How is everyone?” Sungmin’s voice sounded small, a little gravelly in the cool morning air.

“Donghae lost his fortune and committed suicide,” Kyuhyun began, and Sungmin felt a twinge of pain in his heart for Eunhyuk, “Leeteuk and Kangin are as strong as ever, and the Chairman is fine as well. I’m sad to say, however, that this is all that remains of our factory.”

Sungmin took the mangled piece of concrete into his hands and looked slowly up at Kyuhyun’s scarred face.

“I am so sorry, Kyuhyun-sshi.”

“We can rebuild it, Sungmin, but we need your help.” Kyuhyun could see the doubt in Sungmin’ eyes, but before Sungmin could question him Kyuhyun was continuing. “Underneath those rags, are you not still the greatest geisha any of us have ever seen?”

“If a tree has no leaves or branches, can you still call it a tree?”

“With nothing at my feet, can I still call myself a businessman?” Kyuhyun replied, stopping and turning to face Sungmin fully, “we have a chance to gain funding from an American company, Sungmin. There is a man, a certain Colonel Derricks who has the power to grant us a contract. I showed him your picture. He asked to meet you.”

Sungmin blinked slowly, trying to let the information sink in once more.

“If you and a few geisha could put on your kimono and join us, perhaps we could show them how hospitable our country can be.”

Was it something he could really do? It had been such a long time since he had put on his kimono and danced for anyone, and his hands were no longer soft and elegant as they had been before. But if Kyuhyun thought that there was any hope of this helping him and the chairman rebuild their company, how could he have said no? He owed them his life, and wanted nothing more than to repay their kindness.

“I wish that I could, Kyuhyun-sshi, but that was such a long time ago.”

“I have faith that you can still melt any man’s heart, no matter how resistant.”










~*~*~











The Chairman needed me. But I was a far cry from the Geisha I had once been. The secrets of our hidden world were postcards now for girls back home. Any street-walker with a painted face and silk kimono… could call himself a Geisha.

I looked for the one person who might help. Eunhyuk. The war was written on his face. Everything about him, not just his home, was less than before.


“Sungmin, when my poor Donghae filled his pockets with stones, I was desperate,” Eunhyuk sighed, guiding Sungmin through the front doors to a small sitting area in his home, “I sold my kimonos and traded my combs for rations. It was difficult at first, but I made my living by renting rooms out. I have made my peace with it all. I see no need to go chasing the past.”

“But it might do you good.” Sungmin pleaded, knowing that Eunhyuk could be the difference of how things went with the soldiers.

“What good could that do?”

“To remind you that once, with a single glance, you could bring a man like Donghae to his knees.”

A small light came back to Eunhyuk’s eyes and the tiniest of smiles presented itself.

“Well, I did keep one kimono. Donghae gave it to me when he became my danna,” Eunhyuk explained, pulling out a dusty box and looking across the table at Sungmin. “So tell me; what do we know about entertaining American soldiers?”










~*~*~











“Sungmin, is that you?”

A familiar voice had Sungmin turning his head and smiling. The face, too, was familiar.

“Wookie!” Sungmin found himself smiling before his expression turned regretful. “Ryeowook, I know that I have no right to ask you favors. I have wanted to apologize about the okiya.”

Ryeowook’s smile faded a bit, but he shook his head. “Don’t worry about me, Minnie. I’ve got more clients than I can handle.” He made a gesture to the bartender, and another drink was set in front of him.

“It should have gone to you. If you can find it in your heart to forgive me…”

“Sungmin, don’t. In all honesty, I’d rather chew sand than go back to all of that,” Ryeowook said with a look of distaste, glancing around the room at the American soldiers and imitation-geisha dressed in obnoxiously bright kimono.

“You seem so at home with these soldiers.” Sungmin triesdto hide it in his voice, but a bit of hopefulness managed to seep into his words.

“They’re bastards. But what can I do?” Ryeowook shook his head and moved to rest his chin on the palm of his hand. “Now what is this favor you’ve come to ask for?”

“There is a man, Colonel Derricks. He has the power to approve American funding for the Chairman and Kyuhyun-sshi’s new factory.”

“Is he willing to pay us American dollars? Cash?” Ryeowook’s eyes lit up, and Sungmin breathed a sigh of relief.










~*~*~










I had to become a Geisha once more.

Kangin had reopened the okiya, but my powder-box was empty. My charcoal had turned to dust.

And yet, it was my one chance to see the Chairman again. Would he notice my weathered hands? The threadbare silk?

“You look like yourself again,” Kangin commented, a tired smile on his face. Leeteuk tied the last knot and stepped back to give a nod of approval as well.

“I hope that it will be enough,” Sungmin replied quietly before taking one last look and slipping on his coat and sandals. It felt completely different to be traveling in a jeep, and a feeling of anxiety settled in Sungmin’s bones as they neared the airplane that would take them to the small island they were taking the American soldiers to.

“Just look at you, Sungmin. It’s as if the war never happened,” Chairman Zhou said softly, gingerly placing a hand on Sungmin’s upper arm.

“I am so happy to see that you are safe, Chairman,” Sungmin replied, happiness fluttering in his heart from a simple touch. Perhaps this would be a way to find the happiness that he had been striving for from the moment that they met.

“May I introduce, Colonel Derricks.”

Kyuhyun’s voice broke the quiet, and both men turned to look at the soldier. Sungmin bowed gracefully, and allowed his eyes to move over the American’s features.

“This is Sungmin, Colonel.”

“My god, you’re even more beautiful in person.”
Sungmin simply offered a demure smile and tilt of his head before he was ushered to the colonel’s side for a picture. He was one of the mysteries of the orient, after all.

“I hope you haven’t started without me, chairman!” Ryeowook’s voice catches the small group of people’s attention, and the thin man quickly hopped out of the car he was in and ran over to give Chairman Zhou a hug. Sungmin hid his shock and glanced away from the scene rather quickly.

“May I present, Pumpkin?” The chairman announced to the colonel as well as the soldier that was standing to his side.

Something wasn’t quite right, but Sungmin simply brushed the feeling aside.










~*~*~











“May we join you, gentlemen?” Ryeowook asked only a few short hours later when they had arrived at the hot springs.

“Yes please; I could get used to this!” The colonel replied with an almost shocked expression. Apparently it was his first time in the company of a geisha. “Back home a bath is nothin' more than a shower and a cold towel with a bar of lye soap. You make everything a ritual, don’t you?”

“Such is the art of turning habit into pleasure,” Sungmin replied softly before placing a warm towel on the colonel’s forehead and pouring him a glass of sake.

“Spoken like a true geisha.” Chairman Zhou noted, catching Sungmin’s gaze and holding it long enough to cause the younger man’s cheeks to blossom in color.

“I know a game we can play,” Ryeowook’s voice had grown louder with each gulp of sake he had swallowed, and his cheeks were flushed for a different reason than Sungmin’s were. “It’s called truth and lies. Sungmin knows the rules.”

“Back home we call that marriage.” The colonel joked, earning laughter from those surrounding him.

“Each person says two things; one is the truth, and the other is not.” Sungmin said after the noise died down a bit, “if you guess right, the loser pays the price.

“I’ll start,” Ryeowook announced, eyes slightly glazed over. “One day, in the town where I was born, a man caught a talking fish…”

“The other story is the truth, and I haven’t even heard it yet.” The Chairman replied with a laugh, turning his gaze to Ryeowook and smiling. “Now you drink.”

Ryeowook pouted dramatically but did as he was told and downed another cup of sake in what seemed like record time.

“Sungmin, the truest story you know.” Kyuhyun spoke next, not even bothering to hide the adoring way he was looking at Sungmin.

“Once, when I was a young boy, sitting on the bank of a river,” Sungmin said after a quiet moment of contemplation, eyes daring to move to the chairman’s to hold his gaze, “a handsome stranger was kind enough to buy me a cup of sweet ice.”

“I think we have to stop the game. If Ryeowook drinks any more sake, I’m afraid he might pass out.” Chairman Zhou said a moment after a look of recognition strikes his features. Sungmin wasn’t sure what to make of his reaction, and simply lowered his head in agreement.

Sungmin made his way to the other side of the hot spring, but was startled when the American they had been brought to impress cornered him against a cluster of large stones.

“What’s the protocol?” He asked Sungmin, sake heavy on his breath. Sungmin gave him a questioning look, but knew what the other man was getting at. “If I wanted to see you privately?”

“I beg your pardon, colonel, but that is not a geisha’s custom.” Sungmin replied, feeling rather scandalized. Did he look like a common prostitute?

“If it’s a question of price…”

“If there was a price, you could never afford it.” Sungmin said harshly as he found an opening and managed to get away from the offending man.








~*~*~








“I saw the two of you whispering. Were you arranging some sort of tryst?” Kyuhyun shouted, looking enraged and grasping a glass of water hard enough that Sungmin was afraid he might shatter it.

“What did you promise him?” Sungmin asked in return, eyes narrowed at the taller man.

“Your company. Nothing more.”

“He seemed to expect a great deal!” The thought that Kyuhyun would even hint that a geisha would do such a thing had Sungmin’s hands shaking and his heart beating against his ribcage.

“If I wanted a common whore, I could have hired one.”

“What are you trying to say?” Sungmin’s voice softened a bit, but the rapid beating of his heart didn’t slow.

“Just the idea of you, with him, with any man, you would be dead to me.” Kyuhyun replied, unintentionally smashing the glass on the counter and causing his hand to bleed. “Can't you see that I want you for myself? You have ruined me. Before we met I was a disciplined man.”

“Please forgive me, Kyuhyun-sshi,” Sungmin said softly, rushing to his side to aid with the wound, “I was foolish to believe that you would barter me away.”

“Do not insult me, Sungmin.” Kyuhyun spoke more calmly than before, cringing only a bit as Sungmin pulled out the shards of glass. “If he signs our contract, I will be a man of means again. If that happens, I would like nothing more than to become your danna.”

Sungmin felt his breath catch. How had things turned out like this?










~*~*~











“You can’t refuse him, Sungmin. You must not.” Eunhyuk said in a hushed voice as he watched Sungmin pace back and forth across the floor. “He safeguarded your life!”

“So he owns it?” Sungmin replied with a shout, wanting nothing more than for Eunhyuk to tell him what he wanted was alright.

“Sungmin, I know what it is like to try to scrape by without a danna.” Eunhyuk sighed softly, while glancing at Sungmin. “Renting rooms, scrounging for every meal; is this the life that you want?”

“I want a life that is my own!”

“Kyuhyun-sshi has shown you nothing but kindness, Sungmin.”

“I don’t want mere kindness,” Sungmin pleaded, moving to kneel next to Eunhyuk.

“We are geisha, Sungmin. There is nothing more than kindness that we are allowed to have.” Eunhyuk hurt for Sungmin, but there wasn’t anything that he could do for his friend. “We are not free to love.”

“You had feelings for Donghae-sshi, didn’t you?”

“I did not allow myself.”

“Don’t lie to me!” Sungmin was desperate. If there was anyone that could understand him, even the smallest bit, it was Eunhyuk.

“In time, you will learn.”

“I don’t want to learn!”

“Sungmin! We do not become geisha to pursue our own destiny. We become geisha because we have no choice.”










~*~*~











“Wookie, I have a favor to ask of you.”

Ryeowook looked over at Sungmin and spun around to face him fully. Rather than saying anything, Ryeowook nodded and urged him on.

“I need you to bring Kyuhyun-sshi to the pool on the far side of the garden at nine o’clock. No sooner and not a minute later. Can you do that for me?” Sungmin asked quietly, his breath coming out in short little pants.

“Sure, but why…”

“Please do not tell Kyuhyun-sshi that I will be waiting for him,” Sungmin pleaded, grasping desperately at the hem of Ryeowook’s sleeve. “It’s a surprise.”










~*~*~











The very thought of what he was about to do sent Sungmin’s stomach churning. He had never wanted to hurt Kyuhyun, but he had no other choice. There was no other option for him when it came to changing the path he was taking in life, so he took a deep breath and climbed the steps to the very same place Kyuhyun would be arriving shortly.

It only took a few short minutes of waiting before the door slid open and Sungmin’s eyes shot up to the figure looming in the door way. This was it. This was the moment that would be a turning point. There was no going back.

Rather than saying anything, Sungmin pulled the colonel inside the dimly lit room and began to pull at the obi he had tied around the yukata he was wearing. The man seemed a little surprised with how quickly things were moving with the geisha after he had put up such a fuss about his morals, but he wasn’t going to complain. Especially not when Sungmin slid to the floor and pulled the much larger figure down on top of him.

Sungmin could feel the way that his heart began to hammer against his ribcage, and closed his eyes tightly when the sound of the door sliding open once again rang out through the room. After blinking a moment at the light flooding the space, horror struck Sungmin and he sat motionless. How could Ryeowook have brought the one person that was never supposed to see him in such a situation?

Without a word, the chairman swept out of the room, and Sungmin scrambled to his feet.

“How could you? You don’t know what you have done!” Sungmin cried, grasping Ryeowook’s shoulders. Why would Ryeowook do something so terrible?

“But I do.” Ryeowook replied coldly, face an expressionless mask.

“I don’t understand,” Sungmin begins, “why did you have to bring the chairman?”

“Because I know how you feel about him.” Ryeowook doesn’t show any remorse for destroying Sungmin’s happiness, and Sungmin can feel tears welling up in his eyes. “A long time ago, you took something from me. You took the only thing I ever wanted in life.”

Sungmin remains frozen as Ryeowook turns and begins to walk away.

“Now you know how it feels.”

The heart dies, a slow death, shedding each hope like leaves... until one day there are none. No hopes. Nothing remains.










~*~*~












“Sungmin, quick! The teahouse just called. You are to meet a very important client tonight.” Leeteuk said, sliding the door to Sungmin’s room open and reaching up to pull one of the okiya’s best kimono out for the geisha.

“It must be Kyuhyun-sshi,” Kangin remarked as he walked past.

“He will be one of the richest men around. He must want to fulfill his promise to become your danna.” Leeteuk couldn’t contain the excitement in his voice. A danna for Sungmin meant that everyone that lived in the okiya would be taken care of, after all.

“No geisha could ever hope for more.” Sungmin replied quietly.










~*~*~











Sungmin walked carefully across the covered bridge that extended into the lake and took a short look at the scenery. It was a lovely day, even if his heart was feeling heavy. The water shimmered and the cherry blossoms swayed with the light breeze. If only there were a way to mend his broken heart, everything would be perfect.

The sound of approaching footsteps caused Sungmin to turn around, and his eyes immediately widened. Were his eyes playing tricks on him?

“Chairman!” Sungmin gasped, taking a couple of steps closer to the man and reaching out to touch the lapel of his suit jacket before thinking better of it. “Where is Kyuhyun-sshi?”

“He won’t be coming,” Chairman Zhou explained with a rather blank look on his face. “He knows what happened. It is not in his nature to forgive.”

There was a pregnant pause, and Sungmin could feel his mind scrambling for the right words to say.

“About what happened on the island…”

“You do not have to explain, Sungmin.” His tone was warm, but Sungmin still kept his eyes to the ground.

“But I have shamed myself so deeply… Past all forgiveness.”

“No, it is I who needs forgiveness,” the Chairman replied, fingers lightly lifting Sungmin’s chin so his gaze would be met. “Some years ago, I met a young boy crying on the bank of the river.”

Sungmin’s eyes widened and he was sure he felt his heart stop.

“I stopped to buy him a cup of sweet ice.”

“You knew that I was that little boy?” Sungmin asked, completely astonished. All this time, he thought that the chairman simply knew him as another geisha.

“Didn’t you ever wonder why Eunhyuk took you under his wing; even after you destroyed his kimono?” A smile slowly began to stretch across Chairman Zhou’s face, and he tilted his head. “He came to you because of me.”

“I wish you would have told me long ago.” Sungmin said, emotion causing his voice to waver the slightest bit.

“What could I do? I saw the way that Kyuhyun looked at you, Sungmin.” The older man replied with a soft sigh. “I owe him my life. When I saw that he had a chance at happiness with you, I took a step back.”

Sungmin felt all of the gentleness of the chairman’s hands as they gently caressed his arms, but he was afraid that if he looked up into those entrancing brown eyes, this would all turn out to be a dream.

“But I can’t any longer. I hope that it is not too late.” Once again, Chairman Zhou gently tilted his chin up and sent Sungmin’s heart fluttering with a dazzling smile. “Do not be afraid to look at me, Sungmin.”

Can't you see? Every step I have taken, since I was that child on the bridge, has been to bring myself closer to you.

Sungmin didn’t trust himself to say anything more with the way that tears were brimming on his eyes. How could one describe such happiness? Everything that he had strived for was coming true in that moment and he could barely register that the chairman was smiling even more beautifully than he had a moment ago.

Sungmin’s hands trembled where they moved up to grasp onto the lapels of the taller man’s suit jacket. In that moment, everything stood still. The chairman’s lips gently descended onto his own, and everything seemed to burst. Tears spilled down Sungmin’s cheeks and his hands moved to encircle Chairman Zhou’s neck, holding onto him as if he were a lifeline. There was nothing that could take this from him.

You cannot say to the sun “more sun,” or to the rain “less rain.” To a man Geisha can only be half a wife. We are the wives of nightfall. And yet to learn of kindness… after so much unkindness. To understand that a little boy with more courage than he knew, would find that his prayers were answered. Can that not be called happiness?

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
piggybunny12
Jul. 24th, 2013 04:16 am (UTC)
I thought this was really well done :) I would have never thought to have done it but the casting, of sorts, was really great. I could have stretched it even longer, as it seemed to end rather abruptly (though that's my memory of the film) or perhaps changed the ending completely to be Kyumin because poor Kyuhyuuuuuuuuun!!!!!

A great read--thanks!!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )