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could you be my model human being

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If Hinowa had been Yoshiwara's radiant sun before, Tsukuyo knows no word to describe how she shines now, even as she is relaxing in the tub. Her skin glows like that of a sun-ripened peach. Her round belly rises out of the water like an island in the sea. Her breasts are heavy with the milk she would use to give suck to her babe, if she were an ordinary woman.

But Hinowa is a courtesan, and in Yoshiwara, when a courtesan is with child, she has forfeited her life. Kimonos can hide a woman's changing shape for a time, and a woman with Hinowa's standing can choose not to see a suitor, yet once the babe wants to be born, there is no hiding its existence any longer.

"Promise me you'll save yourself," Tsukuyo says, as she kneels beside Hinowa. It's hard to look at her directly; as someone who dwells in eternal night, it comes as no surprise to Tsukuyo that Hinowa's smile is blinding her.

"I'd rather not abandon my sisters." Hinowa takes Tsukuyo's hand and guides it to her belly. Her skin is soft and so, so warm. If pressed, Tsukuyo would deny there is heat rising to her cheeks.

"They'll kill you and the babe. What good are you to us dead?"

Hinowa laughter is like wind chimes. "You always say the wisest things."

"I'm serious." Tsukuyo wishes she could share Hinowa's strength.

"I know." Her hand tightens on Tsukuyo's. "I will miss you dearly."