Looking down at the wrapped baby in her arms, Yeri knew that she was taking a risk. She was a popular oiran of a renowned, expensive brothel, someone like her couldn't afford to spend time raising a child. At the time, bearing a child seemed like a good idea. Some of her fellow courtesans were talking about how if they were to ever fall pregnant and choose to carry on and give birth, they could possibly be allowed to take some time off of their work. Yeri had seriously played with the idea and even purposely missed one of her contraceptive teas before taking in a customer, and unfortunately actually ended up pregnant. With some more pondering, the idea of rearing a child of her own grew more and more of an interesting prospect.
As her belly painfully swelled to the size of a huge melon, she would wonder. Would the child look like her? Would it be a girl or a boy? What would it grow up to be? Was she capable of taking care of another human being? What could she teach it?
With some discussion with her fellow peers and head matron, Yeri was allowed to keep the fetus if she promised to return to her courtesan duties once the child was old enough to take care of itself. This decision was only possible because Yeri had proven herself to be an invaluable asset to the brothel, but it was also because the brothel itself was one tight family. In their line of business, especially for one as successful as their own, they had to protect each other to sustain a living. Of course, they weren't exactly pleased with the situation, however they begrudgingly accepted to deal with it.
She gazed down at her fair-skinned baby, a tuft of silky wine colored hair above the forehead. Luckily, it was a boy. If it had been a girl, Yeri would have feared of subjecting the baby a fate of prostitution, but that wouldn't be the case.
"You were born out of curiosity," she whispered to it, almost lovingly. She wouldn't lie that even with some misgivings, the painful childbirth had a lasting effect on how she felt towards her own baby.
"You're a curious child," Yeri said as she watched a tiny hand automatically curl around her pinky.
And he was a curious child indeed. The baby grew up to be quite a peculiar. There were the standard sleepless nights of shrill baby cries for at least six months, but the strange changes occurred once he turned one year old. He suddenly turned quiet and when his personality began developing, Yeri learned that he was naturally taciturn.
However, despite his reserved disposition, he was a quick learner, picking up speech and movement at an abnormally fast pace, and exceptionally perceptive for all of his toddler years. By the age of two, Yeri was able to detect an undercurrent of awareness behind his empty hazel eyes. He understood directions and orders, knew when to speak up and when to be silent, and even discerned the difference between obedience and submissiveness. What everyone expected to be four years of difficult child rearing before they could leave him to his own devices, turned out to be three years of the most passive babysitting experience ever.
Though Yeri would have complained about the shortened time off of being a courtesan of three years instead of four, she was rather profoundly delighted with her son. She knew she had been blessed with a miracle child. Initially, he had posed some headaches with his intelligence, but with every passing year, her son proved to be much more capable in almost everything he came around. He caught on social dynamics, knowing how to talk to people and getting his way. He learned how to read and write at an abnormally fast pace. He had an ear and talent for music and easily picked up koto after several informal lessons with the most skilled koto playing courtesan of their brothel. Yeri knew he could sing well, too, but rarely allowed people to hear him sing, which was a true pity.
Considering how he took after her looks of sharp hazel eyes and obnoxious wine colored hair, Yeri sometimes thought that perhaps he would have turned out okay if he were a female. He certainly would have been the perfect courtesan with all of his intellect, talents and looks.
Sometimes, Yeri couldn't help but think that her son was certainly meant for something greater. Yeri knew her place in this life. As celebrated as she was as an oiran, children of paid service in this business rarely amounted to anything in their society. They were usually ridiculed and casted aside as unwanted products of a paid physical intimacy, but maybe that wouldn't be the case for her son. Courtesans were known for their exotic hair colors, so people would know that he was born of one, which would inevitably cast some prejudgement upon him, but Yeri knew that her son rarely listened to others' opinions except to those he cared about. From the moment he was born, he had not only claimed her heart as a toddler, but also all of the people in the brothel. Everyone who knew him hailed the boy as a special child.
Seven years had already gone by since her conception. Yeri had returned to her job with much struggle since post-pregnancy weight had been difficult to shed, but it was done. Luckily, her patrons had eagerly awaited her return, so her list of clients stayed steady. The only downside of returning to being an oiran was that her son wasn't allowed to show his face when she was working; men often found a sour taste in their mouth when they see that their oiran had a child running around.
Taking a break in their private room, Yeri watched her son weave a simple, yet eye-catching, design of a bracelet made of dyed strings that were excess fabric looms usually thrown away by the brothel. When her son had discovered the materials, he had almost immediately woven together a bracelet out of the seemingless useless strings by utilizing unique knots. Passing merchants had realized their commodity potential and demanded for more when they saw the first couple of finished products. Regular citizens of Kouka couldn't always afford the pricey jeweled metal bracelets, but could drop a coin or two for colorful, prettily knotted bands. With the bracelets selling well on the street markets, he was barely seven years old and already contributing to the brothel's revenue. He had taught several other workers how to make them to keep up with the demand. Her son had a knack of changing the environment around him, she had noticed.
Two weeks ago, he had unknowingly created a hair fashion rage when Yeri allowed him to play with her hair one morning and formed a beautiful interwoven braid with her long purple hair. Later that day, her fellow courtesans had demanded who had done her hair before finding out that a mere young boy had done it. And the year before, when business wasn't streaming as readily compared to previous years, he had quietly suggested to her that the brothel should move from their old spot in southern Kuuto to their current location in the renovated west district. Yeri understood that her son had seen a shift of economy flow within Kuuto and listened to his words. With some gentle persuading of the head matron and frugal money spending, the brothel was able to purchase a finer establishment of much better quality compared to their previous premise. The revitalizing west district quickly proved to be the perfect change of environment for their brothel as more patrons were attempting to pursue their courtesans. Their brothel had also been recently given the honor of leading the district's festival parade for the upcoming spring celebration, a huge responsibility full of prestige. Whereas their pleasure and entertainment house had been popular before in the south, they were now gaining public recognition as one of the highest class of oirans in all of Kuuto.
Witnessing her son's brain at work, Yeri suspected that with time, the brothel, the west district, Kuuto would become too small of a world for someone like him. His mind worked differently. Other people would worry about themselves, about earning money, bringing food to the table, sex, their love life, clothes, but her son thought of the world. He would describe the elements to an unnerving level of detail, explain weather phenomenons as though he could see past the heavens, discuss science beyond his age and discovery, question morals until right seems wrong and wrong seems right, examine human behavior so one would feel reduced to the mentality of a child, challenge the expectations of society that everyone else simply accept, and more. He could build objects and tools, some useless, some pretty, some genius, using leftover materials with his small yet nimble hands.
His mind saw how the world worked.
Yeri adored her son. Yeri loved his reticent nature, how he fiercely cared for not just her but also her fellow workers in the brothel, his curious mind, how he was so humble, his gentle hands when he braided her hair, and how he tried so hard to be mature. He was her precious pride and star. She named him Takumi, her skilled little artist. In her eyes, he was her most precious gem, the best gift she could have ever received, and she treasured him to the point of death, but Yeri was aware that she wouldn't be able to keep him confined in the brothel forever. Takumi was meant for something greater. He wasn't a pretty bird just for show to be kept locked up, he would have to leave his cage one day. Until then, Yeri would treasure Takumi like no other.
Pausing in the middle of weaving, her son raised his small head with a questioning look in his hazel eyes. "Hm?"
Yeri beamed her brightest smile full of tenderness at him. "I love you!"
To her delight, pink dusted Takumi's cheeks as he looked away with a faintly irritated expression on his cute face.
"Love you too," he murmured as he resumed weaving. Takumi wasn't one to express his affection through words, so he got flustered when she said things like that to him out of nowhere. However, his content smile showed that he wasn't bothered by Yeri's random declaration of love.
Yeri shook her head, chuckling at the endearing reaction.
He's a curious child.