// When we loved too sweet and too short
04 May 2019

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Evan finds himself reborn as a male courtesan in Japan’s red light district, not that he was meant to be there. Born to the common concubine of a noble lord, and a rightful heir to his father’s estate, the jealous wife of the noble who had birthed no male heirs yet directed her anger on the small child. Saito Daichi was taken by the evil wife and sold to a brothel in Yoshiwara, he bitterly reflected that it must be karma from his past life as a useless king that put him in such a low position, as the other courtesans brush his long hair into a style which relied on countless hair combs and ornaments, and others squeezed him into a women’s kimono. His teacher was a quiet man everyone called Hibiki, because he echoed the owners rules and expectations, but he was kind to young Daichi. The boy grew up with his family as the courtesans and trainees, not as he should have in the lavish Saito estate with servants and the best calligraphy teachers in the country, calling customers young master when he was the real young master in the house.

When Saito Daichi turned fourteen years old, he was made a high level courtesan by his teachers recommendation, and didn’t realise what he was going to live as. In the ceremony, Hibiki gave him a courtesy name to keep his real indentity secret, Hiroto, because in his heart, he wanted the innocent young boy to fly higher than the life of a courtesan used for sexual satisfaction. Unfortunately Evan didn’t get higher, that’s why he was reincarnated a third time to finally have the life he wanted for the other two he died in. His understanding of the six arts from the short period of time he was a young master made him an attractive Oiran, and the careful care of his master had produced a beautiful young body that clients loved. Client would come and go, none of them stuck out as special, for they all shared the same mindset of desire and lust without caring about the prostitutes comfort.

In his nineteenth summer, the highest ranked courtesan, now the young man Hiroto, fell ill. For years he had been constantly fighting chills and fever throughout the winter, had no appetite in the summer, but fought to maintain the number one Oiran position. Finally the owner called a doctor, when their jewel collapsed during an appointment with one of their more sympathetic clients, and that doctor was familiar yet not familiar. The man seemed like he’d known him before, in an unworldly way, and Doctor Suzuki Ikki, later recognised as General Qi’s reincarnation, was the one to notice the beautiful, sickly courtesans likeness to the one he loved before, and wished he could have protected. “Single horseman? That’s a strange pick of name for a doctor, Suzuki-san.”, Hiroto joked, coughing into his bedcovers.

In Hiroto’s feverish haze, he realised why the doctor was familiar, and why the name Ikki stood out, he must be a reincarnation of the lone swordsman and horseman Qi Zi Kan. The memories of their short happiness flooded him, as he bitterly reflected that even after they were reincarnated at the same time, he would die first, once more ending his desire for love in tragedy. Upon awakening after his dream, he told the story to doctor Suzuki, who didn’t know what to say. Doctor Suzuki had half gone along with it because he pitied the lone courtesan dying of an incurable ailment, that he most likely contracted through his work, and half compared it to his occasional odd dreams of two men in ancient China. Hiroto begged him to pay his ransom and let him live as what they should be, lovers, and in a daze of confusion and his heart telling him to do it, he paid and took the sickly male courtesan to his home. Logically, reincarnation was unlikely and his brain disagreed with everything, yet his heart led him to dismiss logic. He wanted to make the courtesan Hiroto be able to feel as if he was flying for all the time he had left, and die without regrets, then pass on peacefully.

Suzuki Ikki and Hiroto left for the mountains the next day, packed with money, and the right medicine and items needed to make them comfortable. The young male courtesan brightened up quickly, and that filled the doctor with joy, seeing the pale skinny face become more pink than pale, and the frail body gain strength, even though it was temporary. They travelled around Japan, making money and friends as they went along, from Ikki being a doctor and Hiroto being a secret master of the six arts, unhindered by status and expectations. In Nara, whist they caught a lantern festival near Kashuga-taisha shrine, his sickly companion suddenly had one final wish to fulfill. “Suzuki-san, may I ask for one final wish? You have been so good to me, paying the ransom and letting me travel with you, but a dying man is selfish at times.”, he asked shyly.

Ikki stopped looking at the candied dumplings on a stall, and looked deep into Hiroto’s beautiful hazel eyes longingly, “Hiroto, ask me anything. My heart and soul has fallen in love with you, my life is yours if you desired so much, please think of me as a true lover.” The sunken eyes of the latter widened, and his heartbeat momentarily overwhelmed the aches of his body, a sensation no longer unfamiliar in these blissful months of accompanying doctor Suzuki, “Marrry me, let us just pledge our love in front of the Buddha and let our hearts unite as one. I will have loved, explored my home country and have someone by my side forever, everything a human desires.

“Pledging their love in front of Buddha, they left generous offerings and bowed one last time. On their way home, Hiroto began to cough again, coughing up blood and the little food Ikki had managed to interest him in eating. Suzuki Ikki sighed and picked the small body up gently, taking them through the shrinking crowds to their Inn for the trip, thinking the whole day had been too much for his poor hus-wife. Back at the spacious room he rented, he laid Hiroto in the bed and did his medical check, frowning at the fact that he had gotten worse. He left quickly to get some thin rice porridge from the owner of the inn, who had come to know of their situation and could only comfort the young doctor with a simple message. “If two hearts are meant to be together, how far they go, how tough it seems, fate will bring them together to share their love forever.”, she said comfortingly.

In the days that followed the lantern festival, Hiroto suddenly became significantly worse, sleeping most of the day and coughing up a lot of blood. He had accepted that the end would come soon for him, and if it came then he could not change it, for he had been able to satisfy his dying wishes and spend time with his husband Suzuki Ikki. Ikki tried to delay the inevitable for some days, using precious herbs to make imperial remedies and selling his services for expensive medicine, but now also accepted fate. He instead made pain relief concoctions and spent his days by his lovers bedside, wiping his brow and giving him sips of sugared water to keep what strength he could, until the last day of summer became the last day of Saito Daichi’s life. “I never told you, but I wasn’t meant to be a courtesan, my real name is Saito Daichi, and I was once the sole male heir of my father’s estate, but I’m kind of glad my life went this way, because I would not have met doctor Suzuki Ikki, my new General Qi.”, he mumbled hoarsely. Ikki felt himself cry again for the second time that day, “Remember Hiroto, I would love you whoever you are. I sincerely hope we can meet again, in a happier time with nothing to take you away from me.”

Hiroto drew a deep breath, knowing he had minutes to live, “Please remember Ikki, the ones who love us never really leave us, I won’t ever leave your heart even though my body isn’t here.”, he whispered as he caressed Ikki’s soft, wet cheeks for the last time. Ikki let out a loud cry as his thin hand slipped down and laid there as motionless as his beloveds chest, eyes closed for eternity, “Sleep well my love. Please don’t suffer if we meet again, although I’d still love you.

[Next chapter will be a happy ending, I really do promise 😌
This was inspired by the culture of male courtesans in the Edo period, and it’s a beautifully tragic tale to tell.]

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