Most days after Kirihara has finished with his classes, he rushes to the other side of Gion to continue training with Yukimura present. With Sanada off in Hong Kong for who knows how long, the apprentice doesn't have to worry about getting yelled at or smacked when he does really bad. Arriving at the apartment, he slides open the doors.
"I'm here!" he calls out, stepping out of the annoyingly high geta into the quiet apartment.
"Quiet, Kirihara-kun," comes a soft voice.
Kirihara looks around, but doesn't spot the geisha. He shuts the door closed behind him and steps further into the apartment. "You aren't doing something dirty, are you Renge?"
"Of course not," Yukimura says, stepping out of the room, drying his hands on a towel.
Kirihara rushes over only to be stopped by a firm hand to the chest. The geisha shakes his head and peels off the layer causing the maid such grief.
"I was painting." He holds up the cloth away from his body. "See? I'm just fine."
A sigh of relief bubbles past Kirihara's lips. "You had me worried there for a minute!"
Yukimura laughs. "I'm very sorry, Kirihara-kun. I didn't mean to." He hangs up the frock, readjusting his yukata. Slowly, he sets up all the necessary items for Kirihara to practise shamisen while he enjoys afternoon tea.
"What do you want me to play?"
"The piece I taught you."
"Are you suggesting that you haven't practised?"
Kirihara quickly shakes his head and sits down, positioning the shamisen in his lap. Yukimura smiles, collecting a kettle and mug before sitting down. The melody starts off roughly, but Kirihara fixes it before the geisha requests for him to stop. He is getting better and Yukimura thinks that by the time Sanada returns from Hong Kong, Kirihara will be able to play without messing up. Maybe.
"Very good. Now do it again," the geisha says as Kirihara finishes up.
"Don't be stupid, Kirihara-kun. In order to get better, you have to practise more."
"I know, but that song is so boring."
"Sanada-san likes it."
"That just explains everything."
"A happy danna makes my life a whole lot easier. If playing a boring song for him does that, then I've succeeded."
Kirihara groans. "Why am I doing this again?"
"Because you want out of the okiya."
"Yeah, but even if I leave as a geisha, I still gotta like perform and stuff. I can't just disappear."
"You could, but it doesn't mean you would be good at anything else and then you would end up right back at the okiya doing menial tasks for nothing. Is that better than being a little spoiled?"
"I've never met any geisha who gets away with as much as you."
"And why do you think that is?"
"Your old man likes you."
"If he didn't like me, he wouldn't be my danna."
Kirihara crosses his arms over the instrument. "That ain't what I meant. He likes you. In a totally illegal way."
"Where do you come up with such things?" Yukimura asks, taking a sip of tea.
"Okay, listen. I see guys around geisha all the time now and every single one of them is a huge jerk. Especially after they've had a few. Sanada-san ain't like that."
"That is because he is a subtle jerk. Sanada-san might come across as gentlemanly, but he is terribly rude and opinionated in private or when he can get away with it. Of course, it's my duty to admonish him, but to be honest, I find it all incredibly amusing. We are a good fit, but it isn't because of romance. It is because we balance each other out."
"You're both evil, you know that?"
"I still think he likes you," Kirihara pouts.
"I can assure you he doesn't," Yukimura states firmly, then takes another drink of tea. He isn't quite sure if he is just telling Kirihara that to get him to drop the subject or if it is really true. Sanada does give him a certain degree of latitude to do as he pleases, but he doesn't believe that is because of a romantic interest.
Kirihara scrunches his nose. "Whatever. Just don't like start writing haiku about how much you like him by disguising it as talk about flowers. My sister used to do that."
Yukimura looks up sharply. "You have a sister?"
"Uh huh. She's a couple years older than me and came to Gion a little while ago chasing after some guy. Mom and Dad sent me to bring her home. Haven't been able to find her though cause that old lady at the okiya thought I was cute. Luckily, I can get letters to my parents. I keep tellin' my dad that I'm workin' on it, but he's gettin' impatient. He wants us home." Kirihara plucks at the strings randomly. "Haven't told him I'm trainin' to be a geisha. He'd get really mad at me."
"Oh," Yukimura says to himself. He drifts off into space for a long moment, thoughts of finding his sister quickly coming forward. A few minutes later, he looks back up. Kirihara is lucky that he is still able to keep communications with his family. If only he were that fortunate, then maybe he would be back home right now instead of following one dead end after another. "Continue playing if you wouldn't mind, Kirihara-kun."
He pours himself another cup of tea as the apprentice starts once again.