Zen Kari stood silently watching Rio. The room was rather dark, the light from the candle lamps were quickly dimming. She seemed rather lost in thought, her face buried into one of her hands as she sighed noticeably. She had been at the Headquarters of the Ruthlbahdo for over three months now. There were many things he needed to say and yet some seemed far more difficult than others.
He glanced around his room frowning before looking back toward Rio. “Tse, are your bad dreams keeping you awake again?” His voiced surprised her as she lifted her head quickly and stiffened.
“Some nights are better than others.” She responded as she collected herself.
“They are getting worse.” Zen stated.
She bowed her head for a moment before standing herself up and turning toward him. “I think you are the one that told me such things are a progression.”
“I did, however one’s body cannot remain in a healthy state when the mind is so fatigued.”
She moved to light one of the candle lamps, cautiously stepping over items that were tossed about the room. Zen never made any movement, keeping his arms crossed as he watched her. Each step she took his frown seemed to deepen.
The light of the room allowed him to get a better look at the state of his quarters. “I see that my bed has not even managed to evade your late night intellectual pursuits.”
She leaned herself against the wall, a somber expression shadowing her face as she stared at him. His eyes were fixed on the mess she had left scattered about. For her, it was a rarity to see him with his hair down which told her that he had just finished with his duty and had gotten cleaned up so that he might rest for the remainder of the evening. She felt guilty, “I will clean it up.”
“It is alright, I do not imagine I will be getting much sleep tonight anyway.”
” Rio…” He began after taking a deep breath in and exhaling.
“Do you want me to brush your hair?” She interrupted with her question.
He turned to her his mouth slightly agape before recovering and giving a single nod of his head. This was how she got out of talking. Any time he attempted to engage her in a difficult conversation she would do something to make him lose focus. He was not the only one though. She had managed to completely enthrall Commander Ishi and the majority of the others in one form or another. She was always around and yet they knew very little about her.
Zen though, probably knew more than most including the fact that he was not a boy at all. As she brushed through his hair he thought back to that moment. He had, had a particular lengthy duty run that evening and the thought of relaxing in a nice hot soak was about the only thing to give his mind and body relief from the stress that evening.
He could not imagine what he would see when he slid open the door to enter one of the bathing rooms. There she was, her petite frame, creamy skin, and her supple breast. The shock was most certainly upon his face and he had wondered how he a General of the Ruthlbahdo could be so blinded. Certainly he was more than capable of telling that Rio was not actually a boy. He had slid the door quickly shut and heard her soft voice ask if anyone was there. He remained silent, stepping quickly out of the bathhouse.
Zen sat himself on the landing, pulling an old copper smoking pipe from his pocket. He rarely smoked oomba these days, but yet he carried that old pipe around with him just in case. He found himself lighting up the small amount of oomba that remained in the pipe and taking several long puffs, closing his eyes and savoring the taste. “I did not realize you smoked.” She said and he turned his head ever so slightly.
“It is a habit I have managed to break myself of, though not entirely.”
“Did you…” She began and rested her right hand to her wrist as she watched the rain fall.
“Did I?” He asked though he knew what she was wondering about.
“Were you in the bathing room?”
“No.” He responded simply though inwardly he made note she called it a bathing room rather than a bathroom that she had often referred to it when she had originally arrived at the headquarters.
“Oh, I thought I heard someone. Must have been my imagination.”
“I have been sitting here for some time and have seen no one enter.” He responded. Truth was, anyone that had attempted to use the facilities he sent off on an errand disguised as duty.
His words managed to put her mind at ease as she glanced off into the distance with a sigh. “I hate the rain, it makes my knee ache.”
“You are a little too young for aches and pains.” He voiced.
“Does not mean I do not have them.” She responded defiantly back. They had never managed to get to any deep conversation. There was always someone about interrupting them or she would change the topic on him.
He shook the thoughts from his mind as he realized the awkward position they were in. He got lost in thought a lot lately and it all went back to her. Most might pass it off as love or some other such thing, but for Zen it had nothing to do with affairs of the heart at least not directly. She was like a daughter to him, though to the others at the headquarters their relationship came off as the kind that their Commander generally engaged in. Those misunderstandings were not helped when she began to share a room with him.
Originally she had been bunking with the other grunts in the Ruthlbahdo, but her nightmares had gotten so bad at one point that she was keeping everyone awake. He still could not figure out how it happened, but Oro’s exact words were, “He can sleep with you.” After that, Rio began to bunk on a spare bed in the quarters of Zen Kari. Zen had originally been ‘put out’ by the invasion of the young girl, but after a while of her being there he could not imagine her any other place and felt better knowing that she was close.
Rio had been working as an assistant to the Commander and Zen. Without her things might never have gotten done and for that they were all grateful. She had even managed to help them pick the right person to keep house and assist them when they needed it. Zen knew it was time. Rio had been putting off leaving and finding excuses to stay since she had arrived there. He knew that the young girl felt safe and it worried him greatly sending her out on her own, but he was certain she could not remain there much longer without her identity being discovered by another. He had taken great care to make certain that her secret was safe, but no secret remains hidden forever.
“Tse.” He said her name and she shifted slightly.
“Just five more minutes, dad.” She whispered softly.
He smiled inwardly, placing his hand on the top of her head. “It is time to get up.” She groaned as she tried to open her eyes. Her body felt stiff, probably because of how she decided to catnap. He moved his leg and waited for her to extract herself from the floor before standing up and pulling his hair back into a ponytail. “I will see you in the training hall.” He voiced as he departed the room and stood out on the landing for a short time before moving to get the Commander in gear.
There was not much difference between Rio and Commander Ishi in the morning, both dragged themselves along, yawning, and complaining about how early it was. He learned quickly that not waiting around for the complaining to start was the best course of action.
Various members of the Ruthlbahdo gathered in the training hall. They greeted each other and spent the time engaging in idle chit chat. It was easy to do when Zen was not around. “It is too early for this.” The voice of the Commander broke through the chatter as everyone moved to take their positions and bowed slightly to the Commander of the Ruthlbahdo and his General, Zen Kari.
Despite his complaint he gave a brief nod to everyone and took his position upfront with Zen. They ran the group through various fighting styles utilized by the military including Rom Kaga for at least an hour before everyone moved off to get cleaned up and ready for breakfast and duty.
Tationy, who for the past three months or so had gone by the name of Tse Rio remained behind. That is where Zen found her, “You are getting better. When you got here all those months ago that sword of yours was a deadly decoration.”
“It might still be, if it were not for you and Oro.” She responded.
He watched her run through various fighting positions, “You are fortunate. The Ishi do not generally train others in their clan combat styles. You are one of a handful of people who have been given such an honor. When you leave here, if you continue your training each day you might become quite accomplished.”
Her movements stopped suddenly. She sheathed the sword and stared at him for several moments before bringing her hand to the back of her neck and rubbing. “You have been putting off this conversation, avoiding it, but it is time we finally talk about it. When you got here, you eventually told me that you had been traveling with others and separated. You told me that you would leave when things were situated so that you could find them. Yet, you are still here. Don’t you think it is time?”
“Do you not want me here?” She questioned.
He was not going to let her do this. She found a way to tug at his heart and make him feel things an old soldier never thought possible. “I adore you, like my own child.” He stated, “Your nightmares are getting worse each day. You are often saddened and I can tell you are missing something or someone. Oro offered you a position within the Ruthlbahdo, a permanent one and yet you told him no. You may be here in body, but your spirit is not. There was damage done to your soul. I am not asking you the details. It is none of my business and even if I tried to make it mine, you would become evasive.”
She bowed her head slightly as she listened to his words. “The esoteric users within the ranks have been concerned. Some believe that the damage goes beyond the physical, mental, and spiritual. They think that the very fabric of your existence has been tampered with. I don’t know if I understand all of what they whisper about when you are not around, but those that cannot understand or do not want to understand fear what you might represent.”
“I fear for you.” He said simply.
“It takes a lot for you to say that.” He only managed a simple nod of his head, “I like it here. It is the first time I have felt normal and as though I belonged.”
“You will always have a place here with us, but right now you have things holding you back. Things from your past, things from your present, and probably even things that have yet to come to pass.” He voiced as she sighed bowing her head once more, “They all know you have to go. It is probably for the best if you do so in the same way you came, unexpected and quietly.”
“I understand.” She said softly as she brushed by him as she forced herself to walk from the training hall.
The General had to keep himself from going after her. He knew that this was for the best. She simply could not remain hidden there, eventually someone would find out her secret. He was certain she was hiding from something anyway. She had nightmares every night as though she had seen a lifetime of war in her young years. He was so lost in his own thoughts that he had not realized he was not alone until he felt the hand of his Commander upon his shoulder and heard his words.
“Well seems it is just me and you, old man. Are you sure it is a good idea to allow her to leave?’
He turned about prepared to respond to the question, when he realized that his Commander, Oro Ishi had referred to Rio as her. “How long have you known?”
“Since she brought me back here that day.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
Oro shrugged his shoulders, “I wanted to see how things played out.” Zen frowned deeply at his Commander and Oro could tell that Zen was not at all happy with him. “It is dangerous for her to be here.” He said in an uncharacteristically serious fashion.
“You are right. Having a woman amongst the ranks would cause too many ….”
“That is not what I mean.” Oro voiced interrupting Zen. “There have been chalta’s trying to find her, continuously since she arrived.”
“More than one?” Zen questioned.
“Numerous. I have managed to shield her. Even my clan is looking for her. You cannot imagine how difficult it has been to hide her from Togore.” He said in a flippant manner.
“You have been using the esoteric users within the Ruthlbahdo?”
“Some of them.”
“That is not a legitimate usage of our resources.” Zen scolded.
Oro shrugged his shoulders again, “I like putting a crawl in the day of Togore.” He said before rocking on his heels a moment, “Took up to three of them to shield her when Togore and a member of the Waichia tried to find her.”
“The Waichia and the Ishi, together?”
“I know. What in the name of the Divine Emperor is going on?” He questioned aloud though did not expect or want an answer.
Both soldiers grew quiet as they contemplated the situation with Rio. They did not have any information, and what they did certainly made no sense. Zen shook the thoughts from his mind. As much as Oro goofed off he knew that he would not have let her leave if it was not the right thing. He focused his attention on his Commander, realizing for the first time that he was in uniform. It had been well over a year since the last he saw him in it. He had worn it the day they hunted down the Waichia Guardian and never wore it again after that. He blinked in disbelief and opened his mouth to speak, but was halted by Oro’s words, “Don’t think on it.”
Inwardly he relaxed and smiled, outwardly no expression could be seen though both turned their heads quickly when the words of a soldier caught their attention, “A message has been received from Commander Kari. There has been a threat made against the Adviser, the Ruthlbahdo is to mobilize to the Palace of the Emperor.” The General and Commander glanced at each other for a moment before they quickly went into action.
Tationy had taken nothing with her. After her conversation with Zen, she left the grounds in the clothing she had arrived there in. She told herself not to look back, but she found herself doing just that. She was back where she was. Alone and trying to make sense of this world, what had transpired, and what to do about it. She had been happy when she was with the Ruthlbahdo, it allowed her to be someone other than Tationy Tylo.
She walked for some time, finding herself standing outside the Nakamaru Clan Elder Estate. This was ultimately where it all began and they were separated. She had studied maps, any she could get her hands on and learned her way around Aslann. She would never say she was smart, but she was certainly good at researching. She took a deep breath in as she stepped through the gate and walked up the steps. She peeked her head inside the door and said softly, “Hello.” In hindsight, she probably should have kept her mouth shut.
She entered the estate and went toward the room where she had been staying. The dress that belonged to Hiko’s mother lay upon the floor, covered in blood and ultimately ruined. “I am sorry Hiko.” She whispered as she laid the dress on the bed and exited the room. She was hoping for any sign that the others may have returned, but each room turned up nothing.
“Who are you?” He asked as she went to draw her sword, but his hand was already on the hilt, keeping it in place. She is not certain how it happened because it was so quick, but she found herself pressed against the wall and the length of a man’s body pressed against her. “Who are you?” He asked again.
Tationy chose to bite her tongue as he forcefully turned her about to face him.
What his eyes could see, he scanned from her chest to her lips before finally resting upon her eyes. “Who are you?” He asked.
“Just kill me already Ishi scum.” She said in a hoarse whisper.
“Ishi…” His voice trailed off as he considered her words. He wondered if this girl was the one that Hiko had spoken about, the one called Tationy. He moved in closer to her, his breath tickling along her neck before speaking in an emotionless tone, “If you move, I will kill you.”
His hand pulled away from hers as he moved it toward the eye-patch. She instinctively moved her head. For, but a moment his movement was halted as he watched her try to control her breathing. Her heart was pounding so hard and her body was tense, she was frightened though doing her very best to hide it. Quickly his hand moved forward pulling the eye-patch away.
He relinquished her hands and Tationy dropped them down to her side. Her wrist hurt from where he had gripped them and her arms felt heavy. The distance had been closed between them. Her neutral expression was all she could hold on to, she feared briefly that her nightmares were going to be fulfilled. His lips were inches from hers and the thought that she might have her first kiss stolen by some Ishi scum both scared her and thrilled her.
At first she was not certain where the emotion came from until she realized his breathing was slightly labored. Her body relaxed, shivers passed over her arms, and she suddenly felt flush as she allowed her thoughts to wander into the land of fantasy, often frequented by girls her age. “Chee Hamara.” He said which brought her back to reality, “General of the Ruthlbahdo.” He added more as an after thought than anything else.
“You’re not Ishi?” She questioned.
“No.” He said never once moving himself away from her. Her knees buckled, “Forgive me, I apparently used to much.” He voiced as she grabbed onto him to help hold herself upright.
“To much? I don’t understand.” She whispered.
Chee had been about to respond when a sound caught his attention. He glanced away from her briefly, before grabbing her wrist and pulling her along with him in a run. “Not safe here.” Was his only words to her. By the time they stopped running she was exhausted and she realized that she was not prepared for how large Aslann really was. They hid in an alley, as he looked about to see if anyone suspicious was in the area. Once he was certain it was safe for them to move, he began walking and she found herself walking with him.
“Thought I would recheck the scene, did not figure I would cross paths with you.”
“You know who I am?” She asked.
“Well I admit I did not think you were real, but my, my seems that Abe brat was telling the truth.”
“Abe, you know where he is? What about the others?” She questioned quickly and then stopped suddenly when he halted his movement.
He quickly looked at her, “You are too trusting.”
She bowed her head, “Is he alright?”
Chee eyed her before turning away and walking again, “He is fine.”
“Back there…what did you do to me?”
“Overpowered your body.” He remarked simply.
“I don’t recall them saying that the Hamara could do that. Chee…Chee…Hmmm, now that I think about it, your name does sound familiar.” She voiced as she walked along behind him. “Wait, your Sohma’s brother.”
He stopped suddenly and turned around sharply staring at her. She took a step back instinctively, “My brother died a long time ago and his name was not Sohma.”
“I am sorry.” She whispered as he turned quickly and began to walk again.
They traveled a distance away from Aslann, as the rain poured down about them. When they finally arrived at their destination they entered a small gate and moved toward the steps. Chee took one step up. An old woman sat in the entryway of the small homestead. “Elder Hamara.”
“Nalia.” He spoke and the woman gave a kind, all-be-it brief smile.
“After all of these years you still call me grandmother. Such a good boy, you are.” She glanced toward Tationy, “Who is this?”
“Tationy, my name is Tationy.” She said as she swallowed the lump that still lingered in her throat. Her voice felt hoarse, her mouth dry.
The woman eyed her for several long moments before standing and gesturing with her hand for them to enter. “I am called Luna of the Hamara.”
They gathered around a table the woman looked them both over. Chee’s eyes darted toward two empty bowls, “Is he here?” He questioned and Tationy looked between them wondering who ‘he’ was.
“He is not.” She said as she paused a moment then spoke, “Young Tationy, certainly a lady from the Tylo Clan has more appropriate clothing to be wearing. You are dressed like a man from your clothes to your hair, you even dare to carry a sword and sit like one. Such is improper for a young woman.”
Tationy frowned, “I don’t like being lectured.” She managed to say.
“Indeed, I imagine you have always done as you were told. The good daughter who sacrificed everything to be what her parents wished of her. Your friends treated you badly and all others ignored you. You feel invisible, alone even when you are surrounded by so many.”
“Why did you bring me here?” She asked as she turned her attention toward Chee.
“Technically, I believe you followed me willingly.” Chee responded.
“Interesting, she does not remember.” Luna thought to herself as she stared between the two. Tationy made a face, as she went to stand up to leave, but the old woman spoke halting her departure. “Do you know the story of Tearra and Hisoka”
Tationy stared at the old woman shaking her head, “Amongst the great clans there are several that are believed to have been descended from the great beast that once reigned as deities over this region. The Tylo Clan is represented by Tearra, a great phoenix. The Hamara Clan is represented by Hisoka, a great dragon. In the heavens, the great beast lived glorious lives until one day, treacherous affairs came upon them.”
Luna tilted her head to the side, “Tearra was beautiful, coveted by all the other deities. They each wish to rule at her side. For Tearra there was only one, Hisoka the great Dragon. Hisoka though hardly had the time for such pursuits and he showed no interest in Tearra, no matter what she did.”
“Both the Great Tiger, Ryozo and the Great Tortoise, Kazuma wished for her eyes to fall on them. The powerful Tiger tried to manipulate her mind, but with a simple flap of her wings she cast him from the heavens. From him, sprang the Waichia. The Tortoise, so wise and intelligent attempted to use her against the great dragon, by convincing her with his words that Hisoka was against her.”
“Tearra’s eyes were all seeing, of different shades. She believed that Hisoka loved her so deeply that such a betrayal would never happen and she convinced the Tortoise with her words that he would fail so he abandoned the heavens. From him sprang the Kari Clan. Only Hisoka and Tearra remained within the heavens.”
“Alas they were not meant to rule together. A foul serpent called Rin, slithered and writhed. He could convince others that he was not as he appeared, telling them that he was a dragon, but he was nothing more than a snake. This snake spawned from the darkness was nothing more than a demon. He manipulated Hisoka, tricked him into believing that Tearra was in danger and that she had traveled to the mortal realm. Hisoka, wished to save her and gave up his immortality to walk the earth of men forever searching for her.”
“Tearra was alone in the heavens, abandoned and abused. The snake, tortured her though was hardly content with no audience. So he cast her out of the heavens and hunted her mortal body. The things he did to her, would bring forth the first of two clans. Twins, one of the Tylo Clan and one that represented the Snake, the Ishi Clan.”
“The snake, driven by his desire and lost into madness due to his new mortality began to hunt down the other deities. He was unable to find the Tiger or the Dragon, but he stumbled upon a mortal from the Tortoise Clan, a Kari who he tainted with his seed bringing forth a third demon clan. As time continued, the three demon clans, created more demon clans until there were eight: Nakamaru, Sosa, Zenaku, Sato, Ishi, Maiba, Kari, and Tylo.”
“The Tylo and the Ishi clans, a union forged in the heavens became a force of nature in the mortal realm. Still to this day, they hold sway over Aslann which once upon a time was part of their Kingdom.” Luna suddenly stopped talking, watching the girl for a moment.
“Why don’t you go up the stairs to my room. I am sure I have something there that you can wear, something more…appropriate for a young woman.” Tationy had gone to argue, but noticed that the woman’s eyes were now fixed on Chee. Tationy could tell Luna wished to discuss something with him, so she sighed inwardly and humored the old woman.
From the top of the stairs, Tationy sat quietly, listening. “Have you told Hiko?”
“He will not be happy that you are keeping her from him.”
“I am aware.”
“Have you told him about the upheaval within the Hamara?”
“My little dragon, you do realize that if this continues that our clan will be destroyed. The Takahashi and the Kensuku have their own agenda’s a small clan such as ours, means nothing to them.”
“Do you wish for us to suffer the same fate as the Kari?”
“The Kari still exist.”
“They are practically extinct, there is only about twenty of them left and our clan is gradually walking the same path.”
“What would you have me do?”
“Take the woman, make her yours.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“My little dragon, bed the woman. You need an heir one that is powerful. A Tylo or an Ishi, those are your options.”
“The Kensuku and the Takahashi plan on destroying the bond between the Ishi and the Tylo. If that is accomplished…”
“If, if..” She yelled, “You are foolish. You are the leader of this clan, you must reach out and take what belongs to you. You cannot allow the other clans to have her. Everyone is looking for her, they will take her by force.”
Tationy gasped at the old woman’s words. “You are descended from Hisoka and her from Tearra. It is your fate, to be together.” Chee stared out at the rain, shaking his head, “What did you do to her when you found her?” The old woman questioned. His head bowed slightly, “I see. You used the blood eyes of the Hamara on her. You could have taken her and she would never have resisted you, foolish little dragon. You had the opportunity…”
“Enough.” He said as he turned to look at her.
Luna straightened a crease on her clothing as she spoke, “Did you ask her about your brother?” His expression told her the answer.
At first, she looked for a way out of the house. Each of the windows upstairs gave little in the way of easy maneuvering without severely injuring herself by falling. At first she told herself that, it was not a bad idea, but then she recalled the distance between her current location and the nearest establishment she frowned. She was certain it would turn into a remake of Misery, starring herself and the Hamara Clan matriarch.
She sat herself down on the bed that was upstairs. She wondered how it was she repeatedly got herself into these situations. Since she had arrived there she had been up close to the Kari, Waichia, and now the Hamara. “I am starting to see a pattern.” She told herself. She stood up moving toward what looked like an armoire. She searched for something to wear, finding a dress and quickly changing. She pulled the old hairpiece from her hair and laid it near her clothing and sword.
She paced the floor for a bit of time and had finally been about to head back downstairs, when she turned to find him standing there staring at her. “Did you come to take me?” She asked him.
“You heard?” He questioned. She simply gave a nod of her head, “No.” He responded.
“If the clan dies out it dies out, I am not going to go out of my way to fight for something that will not happen or isn’t worth fighting for.” He said casually.
“I see. You don’t like to conform. A dragon must be uninhibited. Free to do as he pleases and move as he wishes. An irrepressible force of nature. Such freedom can leave you unfulfilled and impede you. You do things alone, have very few close bonds, and your pride is so great you are unwilling to ask for help. You are a true dragon, solitary in nature. Does anyone ever see the real you?” She questioned.
“My, my, you seem to see me pretty well.” He voiced. “Got all of that and we just met.”
“The blood eyes of the Hamara, what did you do to me?”
“I told you. I relaxed you. Made you less likely to fight me.”
“No, it was more than that.” She said shaking her head as she protested.
Chee thought back on the moment and bowed his head. The response from her body and his own had been unexpected. Her breathing had become so heavy and her body tensed. He could see how her cheeks flushed. His own body had reacted. “I am not certain, it is the first time it has turned out like that.” He said with a shrug. “My intent was only to sap your will to fight me.”
She did not really understand any of it. Magic, clans, war, politics, none of which gave her a warm and fuzzy feeling. It all made her head hurt. She sat herself down on the floor, “I want to go home.” She whispered.
Chee watched her, hiding his emotional response to the situation as he plopped himself down on the floor next to her. Her head rested to his shoulder, “My, my you really are too trusting.”
“If your intent was to hurt me, I think you would have done so already. Besides, you told me that you would kill me if I moved and I turned my head when you attempted to remove my eye-patch. I am still here. You are a good man, I think.” Chee sat silently as she talked, “I want to go home. I thought at first that they brought me back here to overthrow the Emperor. Maybe for some that was the case, but I am starting to wonder if that is the true motivation behind this.”
“What do you mean?”
“What your grandmother said, they will take me by force. They had to have known when they brought me here that my life would be put in danger. We could have just remained in our world, running from the Ishi seems, safer somehow than being here.”
Chee understood what she was talking about, recalling the tale told by the one called Abe. Though hearing another talk about it, still made it difficult to believe. A Tylo Clan woman or man would never be wandering around outside the grounds of the Imperial Palace without guards. “I don’t feel much like a prince, princess or anything of the kind. I just want to be Tationy. Home in Aslann with my friends. Going to the beach in my new bikini.”
” Bikini?” He questioned.
“Ohh, well it is sort of like…a close-fitting undergarment.” She tried to gesture with her hand’s briefly to show what it covered and how it was shaped.
Chee laughed softly, “So your naked.”
“I am not naked, I am wearing a bathing suit.”
“That apparently covers nothing at all.”
“I will have you know where I come from all the girls wear them.”
“You come from a strange world. Such a garment here would cause such a scene that men surly would never recover.”
“I think your world is stranger. Woman seem so proper with no rights. It is like they are just meant to serve a man. Men are all macho and strong, warriors. I am not used to not being able to do whatever I wanted. Is Hiko and Tatsuya alright?”
“Tatsuya has been staying at Headquarters, it is unlike him. They are both worried about you, though Tatsuya is the only one that voices it. Where have you been all this time?”
“I was with the Ruthlbahdo, Commander Ishi and General Kari.”
Chee glanced at her for a moment, discerning that she was in fact telling him the truth. “Is that who trained you to fight?”
“What makes you think I can fight?” She questioned.
“The way you went for your sword. Had I been some average nobody you would have killed me.”
“They taught me a little while I was there. Preparation for when I left, I guess.”
“Your training was incomplete. You will not be able to stand against a fighter of great strength.”
“Hopefully, I never have too.”
He stood quickly, “It is settled. I will protect you.”
“But…” She said as she looked up toward him. He had turned, glancing down at her. “You need someone right?”
“You could take me to Abe.”
“No, I don’t trust him. He is a killer.”
“Abe is a little rough….”
“No, he is a killer. I know the type. They all have the same look in their eyes; Hiko, Hero, Abe. They might be different, but that killer instinct is the same. I was that way once. All I ever wanted was battle and war. I got it. All I wanted.”
Tationy stood herself up as she locked her eyes on his. “You are a General with the Ruthlbahdo, you are in no position to protect me. Besides, don’t they say that once you are a killer you are always a killer?”
“I probably would have been for the rest of my life had it not been for that Waichia guardian.”
“Chochi.” She said his name, “Why?”
“In his final moments, he spoke to Hiko. I don’t think any of us were meant to hear his words, but I did. He said, A guardians life is found only in war and death. For my prince, I would gladly give my life thousands of times. What are you fighting for?” He grew silent a moment, “I suppose it was in that moment that we all reevaluated the paths we were walking. He was happy. Never saw that before. A killer like him, like all of us was dieing for what he was protecting. I thought to myself that the prince must be something truly special for someone to die with that look of bliss on their face.”
“Foolishness.” She said as she glanced away from him.
“We will rest here until darkness, then make our way someplace safe. You should try to sleep.” He said as he left her standing in the small bedroom of his grandmother.
Chee prepared to descend the stairs, though stopped suddenly when he heard his grandmothers voice. “Yanagi, my how you have changed.” She said and Chee froze in place. “It is disappointing that Chee is unable to see you as you are now, how his little brother has grown. My little tiger and my little dragon. I was not expecting to have my eyes be laid upon you again.”
“We told you old woman, we would be back.” Mikk voiced harshly.
“Is your dog going to speak for you, Yanagi?” Mikk moved to take a step forward, his hand on his sword, but he was quickly halted as Sohma put his arm out.
“I am here only because you have refused to do as was asked of you. Your voice is loud and can be heard by all within the Hamara. You need to convince those that support my brother to join forces with the Takahashi and Kensuku. Those that do not will be annihilated.”
“You will wipe out entire clans for this?”
“Such has already begun. Have your lover head to the Sweela Clan, you will see what the might of the Kensuku and the Takahashi can accomplish.”
“Are you telling me they are dead?”
“That is exactly what I am saying.”
She eyed her grandson, her expression kept simple. “How far you have fallen. What has corrupted you so?”
“I see more clearly now than I have ever before. Do you know how simple it is for me to get my enemies to watch one thing and destroy them with something else? Everyone is a player in my tale. All of Aslann are pieces on a Bagola board. How easy this game is to play.”
“And your Prince, what part does he play?”
“Prince Tatsuya, will be dealt with appropriately.” He responded.
Luna frowned, “You are cowardly. I will not help you. Chee will rule over the Hamara and all of you cowards will fall to his sword. You will never get your hands on the Prince.”
Sohma made a gesture with his head as he turned his back. “So be it grandmother. You have sealed your own fate.”
Chee was prepared to run down the stairs. The emotions within him running high. His grandmother, the only family he had left in this world was about to be killed and the ‘Hand of God’ behind it was his own supposedly deceased brother. She never told them that, he was there or that Prince Tatsuya was right up the stairs. Such an action would have spared her life. He clenched his first as he heard the voice of Mikk Takahashi speak, “I should have done this the last time I saw you.”
“I might be an old woman, but I have bathed in the blood of dragons. My fate and yours are linked, what you do here will seal not just mine, but put into motion that which will result in your demise.”
“Your words, old woman, are tiresome.” Mikk said as he withdrew his sword quickly from its sheath and sliced Luna Hamara down without a second thought.
Sohma’s eyes were closed as he listened to the sweet sound of her death. A smile perched upon his lips, “Set it ablaze, let this be a warning to those that do not tow the line.”
With the house ablaze and the trio in the process of departing, Chee knew that they had to wait, though if they waited to long they would be trapped within the blazing house. He moved toward where Tationy was resting covering her mouth with his hand. He indicated for her to not make a sound. “They are still here, watching.” He whispered. “We need to get out of here.”
Tationy stifled a cough, “Is that smoke?”
“The house is on fire.” He said and he could see the panic in her face. “I told you I would protect you, we need to leave.” He voiced and she nodded her head to his words. The upstairs had very little in the way of windows as he moved toward a small corner and began to move items and eventually a cabinet revealing a window. He pushed it open and climbed himself through it, “I am going to drop down, I want you to trust me alright?” He questioned and she gave him a nod.
“When I drop down and everything is secure I will let you know.” He dropped from the window after she agreed, cautiously looking about. His hand rested on the hilt of his sword. The blaze was getting more fierce and he looked up toward the window. Tationy was covering her mouth coughing. He gave her the nod to jump down and she hesitated.
She was afraid. Telling herself over and over again that she did not wish to die in this place, she covered her mouth as the smoke began engulfing the upstairs. She knew she had to do it, as she climbed herself onto the windowsill and prayed that he would indeed catch her. She closed her eyes as she jumped. It felt like time had completely stopped and every little thing felt intensified even when she finally landed into his arms she was not certain if she was still falling.
She could feel the heat from the fire as he deposited her to the landing and jumped over the small fence to the ground. He reached out his arms for her and she wrapped them around his neck, as he helped her over the fence before they climbed over one more to leave the yard.
Even though she asked him a dozen times about his grandmother and what had happened he remained quiet.
Silently walking, she had a feeling deep in the pit of her stomach that where he was taking her was not someplace she wanted to go. As she watched the world around them, she knew where she was from the maps she studied and the only thing of importance in this direction was the estates that belonged the Ishi. She felt a chill up her back as she stopped moving. He was walking ahead of her and his mind must have been so lost in thought because he had not noticed when she stopped.
“You’re taking me to the Ishi?” She questioned and he stopped suddenly. “I thought you were going to protect me?”
“The Ishi are strong….”
“The Ishi hunted us down and killed us.” She said and he finally turned to face her. “So did I. So did Hiko.”
She stared her mouth slightly agape at the realization that there was no one that could be trusted. They were all a party to what had transpired. “Stay away from me.”
“Wait.” He moved to stop her from taking off.
“If you follow me, I will never forgive you. Just, let me be.”
“I can’t do that. If you’re the prince of Aslann….”
“I am not.” She said shaking her head. “Just, let me be.” Turning about quickly she crashed into someone. Maybe it was the stress of the situation or perhaps because she had not been sleeping well, maybe even the sight of the Ishi before her all covered in scars, whatever it was her body gave out on her and she collapsed.
She felt arms about her, lifting her. Her head hurt and skin felt warm, “I overdid it again.” Chee said with a frown.
Tationy felt like she was underwater as she tried to make out the muffled voices. “It is dangerous for you to use the blood eyes on a member of the Tylo clan. You know this.”
“Her reaction is different from other Tylo’s.”
“Her body is in a state of flux, even though her essence is that of a Tylo clan woman she is not. With them being so closely attuned to the realms of possibility each time you use your eyes on her, her body goes into a realm state of potential possibilities. You have to be careful, using that on her. It will become difficult for her to tell the difference between what is real and what was caused by your eyes when you overstimulate her mind like that.”
The two walked, with Mikio carrying Tationy’s body. She felt unable to move, her limbs felt heavy and her mind all murky. “What do you mean that she is only an essence of a Tylo clan woman and please dumb it down for me”
Chee regretted asking because Mikio always answered a question with ‘who knows’ even if he knew the answer. He was surprised when he actually responded, “Jin and I have been investigating this phenomenon from what little information we have gotten. Most of it is only speculation, we have none of our ancient text thanks to the Kensuku and Hamara guardians. What we have gathered is that chalta used a reincarnation technique, forbidden for centuries due to how dangerous it is. Essentially the chalta binds half the soul to one location and allows the other half of their soul and their mortal body to be killed. Their souls are incomplete, so when they are sent to the realm of souls they prey on fully developed souls, essentially taking them over like a possession or a parasite. Once the process is completed they ride along with the soul to a new body and repeat the process each time until their soul is united with its other half.”
Chee bows his head as he walked along with Mikio, considering this information. “Abominations.” He said more to himself then to Mikio.
“That is the consensus.” Mikio spoke, “Though it is uncertain why the prince would go along with it or even the guardians. We can only speculate that they went along willingly or were forced. Regardless, their very existence defy’s the laws of the gods and there will be many, if this is discovered who will wish for them to be executed as the abominations they are.”
“You don’t agree.” Chee said as he glanced as Mikio.
“All of us demon clans, chalta’s, the purebloods descended from the Gods, those of us different from the norms of our civilization, are all abominations. You, me, the guardians and prince, we are all the same. There are things about us that make us stains upon the Empire. We are relics from a different time. The world is changing quickly around us and we are just a constant reminder of a time they want to destroy.”
Tationy was not certain what happened, though she woke in a strange bed with muffled voices coming from a nearby room. She brought her feet over the edge of the bed and scooted herself off of it, only to wobble. Her hand went to her forehead as she closed her eyes. She was reminded vividly of the time that Mai and Pai Pai had talked her into drinking tequila, which Mai had stolen from her parents cupboard.
She hugged the wall out of the room and down a long corridor toward the voices. “It is dangerous for her in Aslann, but taking her to the lands of the Dragon Lords, I am not certain that is the best course of action.” She stopped at the sound of Chee’s voice.
“The Kensuku and the Takahashi are moving quickly. With your grandmother’s death those of the Hamara who have held out will certainly give in to the demands to spare their lives. To ensure this happens they will plot your assassination. From there they will systematically hit each clan until they have the numbers to take the palace. If what you say is true, and Yanagi is a part of this, they have the strongest military mind Aslann has ever seen to assist them.” The unfamiliar voice froze her in place.
“The emperor will be of no assistance, his mind has already been corrupted by that chalta. I was fortunate I was capable of extracting Jin from that situation.” Tationy felt the pit of her stomach knot. “That chalta was powerful, I am certain he is the one I faced off against when we went after the prince.”
“So that is at least two guardians who are a part of this.” Chee said, his voice sounded broken, saddened somehow. Tationy clutched at her chest, her breath labored. She did not understand why she was having such a hard time breathing as she slid herself down the wall and sat on the floor.
“The best course of action is for you, the prince, and those you are certain will align with you to leave for the lands of the Dragon Lords. It will be difficult, aligning yourself with them might be your only hope for survival. You will certainly be killed here and the prince taken.”
“Adviser Jin, you are in the same position. You cannot remain here. They will….”
“They will come after me certainly. I imagine they are closer than any of us are even aware. You will take Mikio, gather those you trust and leave here Chee.”
“You trust me do you not?”
“I have known you since I was a child. When I was told I would become Elder of my clan I was sent to you.”
“I trained many who are now Elders of their respective clans, I know my fate, Chee. It was sealed long ago. I just wish I would have been at the side of Luna when my time came. I will see her soon enough, but you and the prince still have much life left and it will come to an end much to quickly if you remain here. I will send Mikio with you. He is the strongest of the Ishi and once I am gone would become Elder, but I fear Kuro has other plans.”
“You don’t trust your own clansmen?” Chee questioned.
“I fear that those of the Ishi who would stand with you, are in this room.”
“Aslann cannot be this far gone.” Chee said more to himself then to anyone else.
“This started long before the prince and the guardians died. Their death was a hindrance to the plan and slowed them for a time, but now things have moved ahead rather swiftly in these three months. We have seen unprecedented movement from the Takahashi and Kensuku, the death of the Nakamaru clan elder, the return of the prince and the guardians, unusual alignments between the two fractions of the Waichia, the death of the Hamara clan matriarch, and now potentially the slaughter of an entire Sweela clan.”
“So what do you think their next move will be?”
“Yanagi is your brother, you tell us.” Mikio spoke.
“Taking out the assassins for the Emperor is a bold move, which means they already have an assassin squad, highly trained. Most likely the one that assaulted the Nakamaru clan estate, to separate the guardians from the prince. They did that, so they could deal with the guardians that were not a part of their plan. The ones that would not go along with it or did not know about it. Considering they took out the Sweela, they most likely killed the Sweela clan guardian. Sweela are not corruptible so they would never have been able to convince him to go along with whatever their plan was. They are always loyal to their master. The clan itself would have remained loyal and protective of the Emperor even turning on his guardians if they believed their master was in harm. The Sweela guardian would only be loyal to the prince.”
“Seems an accurate assessment of the situation.”
“You are right they would try to assassinate me. I think they would also attempt to blame the Sweela clan massacre on another clan. One they were certain they could not control.” Chee voiced.
“Most likely the Kari clan. They remove Commander Kari from his position and order the execution of him, his brother Elder Kari, and the remainder of their clan. That gets rid of a potential hindrance to any of their plans.” Tationy held her breath as she listened to them talk. “It allows them to unite the military under one banner, which means they have to have a pretty powerful leader in the position to pick up the mantle that will be left behind when they deal with Commander Kari and Commander Ishi and their loyal generals.”
She managed to slide herself back up the wall as she stepped foot in the room. She kept her eyes averted from theirs as they all glanced toward her. “Sadoo was once a great General. He and Otoha are best friends. If they really killed Otoha and blame it on the Kari, they could manipulate him into doing as they needed.”
“You seem certain.” Mikio voiced.
“They are really close. They have known each other since they were children. Sadoo has no memory of this world, all he has is their friendship.”
“With no memory, they will use him and dispose of him once they are finished.” Mikio said grimly.
“Can’t you just send us home?” She asked, her voice cracking with emotion.
“This is your home, but you need to leave Aslann.” Jin voiced. Her eyes finally looked up and met his.
“I cannot leave without them and if I am really this prince, we tried leaving before. We were exiled and hunted down, what makes you so certain that the same will not transpire.”
“If you make it to the lands of the Dragon Lords of the Shima they cannot follow. Back then, you did not enter those lands had you none of us would have been able to kill any of you. I imagine it was the plan from the very beginning to die.”
“Please do this for me, there are three….please will you find them?”
“Three…” Jin’s voice trailed off. “Only three you wish to find why?” He questioned curiously. Jin eyed her with a discerning look when she did not respond. “Which ones?”
“Chochi of the Waichia, Otoha of the Sweela, and Abe of the Sosa.”
“Chee, go to Commander Kari and explain to him what has transpired. Make it quick and brief. You must gather your allies as quickly as you can. Mikio and the prince will meet you in Garvator.”
“There is no worry my prince, I will find your guardians and inform them of your location. You must leave here immediately though, there is little time left and if you do not leave those that wish you harm will be upon us and you will be taken. Trust in me that I will find your guardians before my fate finds me.” She gave a most reluctant nod of her head. “Chee, you should…” Chee pushed off from the wall as he looked to Tationy, leaving her in the care of Jin and Mikio.
“My prince….” Jin spoke when Chee was out of earshot, “There is no innocence left in Aslann. Corruption has taken a foothold, so deeply that no one should be spared. They will take you to the Dragon Lords and it will be up to you, to convince them to seize the lands that once belonged to their great nation. You will have to convince them, to march forth upon these lands and wage war against your homeland. You will have to make the ultimate sacrifice for your friends and your people. The choice is yours, give yourself over voluntarily or be taken. War has many causalities. Do you understand?”
“No. I don’t understand any of this.” She said holding back her emotions as she brought her hand to her forehead. She had a headache that was pounding so hard that every little noise pained her. Despite the pounding, she managed to look around the room briefly her eyes fixating on a weapon near the wall.
“Once you leave this place you have time, though not much. Think on it while you make the long journey to Garvator.”
She moved toward the weapon. Jin kept his attention on the book in-front of him, but he was well-aware of her location. Mikio looked up as her hand reached out to touch the weapon. “Atsuki.” She whispered. Both men frowned deeply at the name which was not amongst the guardians she wished to be found.
“Was that the name of the chalta?”
“It is the name I was told I gave him. He is the leader. Why do you have this?”
“Mikio did battle against him.”
Tationy glanced over her shoulder, partially meeting the gaze of the Ishi covered in scars. “I am taking it with me.” She said as she grabbed it quickly out of its place near the wall. She turned toward Mikio walking toward him, offering it to him. Mikio stood taking the weapon though she held on to it for a moment, “I do not know if they are really doing what you all seem to think they are, but….” Her voiced trailed off. She did not know what she was trying to say so she grew silent and left her unspoken words as just that.
She was given clothing to wear before they made the journey toward Garvator. At first she thought it was a brief journey and the one called Mikio was of little help. She did not study the lands of other nations, so she was unaware that it would take a years time to reach Garvator.
Time, hardly passed with ease and there was a part of her that felt as though she had aged drastically in a year’s time. The first couple of months was met with silence. Mikio was not much of a talker and when he did he usually responded with ‘who knows’ which only made her sigh. He was unwilling to speculate on what was transpiring in Aslann and he killed anyone he even suspected might be following them regardless of whether or not they were.
Through a couple of seasons they resided in Garvator, farmlands outside the great empire which belonged to the Dragon Lords of the Shima. Each day, she stood out in the small yard looking out over the horizon in hopes that she might see them again. Each day that passed there was no sign. One winter had passed and another was quickly upon them since they departed Aslann. Tationy felt older as though she had lived a lifetime. Her memory still had not returned and the nightmares were worse than ever.
“You should not be out here, you will get yourself sick.” She heard his voice. Glancing briefly over her shoulder at him. It was a strange thing for her to see him covered up and in such ‘formal’ clothing. When they had arrived in Garvator he had changed his clothing almost immediately. He had told her that such informal garments would stand out within these parts. Tationy had made a comment about his scars standing out more to her, which elicited a comment from Mikio that she should stay out of other people’s business.
There were a few nights during the course of their travels and even after they had arrived to Garvator where she had woken up and spied him cutting at his face and body. She had even grabbed the knife from him, wrapping her arms around him tightly and begging him to stop. He had told her that it was a compulsion so great within him that he was unable to resist its siren’s call.
“I don’t care.” She finally responded.
His scrutinizing gazed took in her posture. There were months that he had asked who she was hoping to see, though she never gave him an answer. Even at that moment, he was certain that there was someone she wished to see come into view, though he was certain she would not know how to respond even if that face did appear. “We cannot afford for you to become ill.” He stated, crossing his arms over his chest and keeping his eyes fixed on her.
Her head bowed, her shoulders balled forward. “They are not coming are they?” She questioned.
She turned quickly to stare at him, “Can’t you just give me an honest answer.” Her voice had raised and it was evident that she was upset with him. It had not been uncommon during their travels. Though he turned on his heels not answering her question. It was his way of teaching her that such outburst would get her nowhere.
Frustrated with him, herself, and the situation she found him sitting inside the old farmhouse. She moved to take a seat next to him. At first they sat in silence, but eventually Tationy spoke. “I am sorry. I do not mean to take my frustration out on you.” He said nothing just silently listening to her speak. “My mother never let me ask questions or worry about anything. Such things to her, just got in the way of what I was meant to do. I am not used to having all these questions and thoughts in my head where I can vocalize them. Do you…do you ever wish you were someone else?”
He seemed to her to be rather proud to be a snake of the Ishi clan. Even his clothing was adorned with snakes on the sleeves. He seemed to embrace his insanity. “Who do you wish to be? You are Tationy Tylo, Prince Tatsuya, and the Princess of Aslann. How many more people do you need to be?”
The question threw her. She had fought so hard not to be the prince or the princess. She had always just wanted to be Tationy Tylo. Somewhere deep within her, she did not even want to be her. “I think I would just like to be one person, where it all makes sense to me.” She finally said.
“For someone who is such a contradiction and who lacks any sort of logic, such a thing will be difficult.” She felt the anger bubbling inside her. “You need to decide what it is you want, who it is you want to be, and be realistic about it. You spend much to much time living in some fantasy or some world that has yet to be created.”
“It is all I know, how do you expect me to so easily give it up?” She voiced, a bite evident in her tone.
“If you truly want too, you will.”
“The same could be said for you. I wish you would stop hurting yourself. Why…”
“You already know why.”
“No, why are you the only Ishi I have seen that does it?”
He could have avoided the question or even lied, but he answered her. “I was born from two demons. My father was of the Ishi Clan, my mother from the Tylo Clan. To be born of two demons is both a blessing and a curse. The Ishi clan, descended from Tearra and Rin are far more prone to bouts of insanity than any of the other clans. Rin’s blood tainted him when he became mortal and it was passed down through the bloodline. I may not appear to be, but I am one of the oldest of my clan. Having been born from Tearra and Rin my blood is pure.”
“So you’re like a pureblood or something?”
“Yes. Anyone born from two demon clans is considered a pureblood by today’s standards. Though long ago a pureblood was only those descended directly from the lines of the Gods: Hisoka, Tearra, Rin, Kazuma, and Ryozo.”
“So your parents were Rin and Tearra?”
“Yes. Tearra gave birth to twins, a son born of the Tylo Clan and a son born of the Ishi Clan. Soti my brother became the First Divine Emperor of Aslann. All of this land and Aslann used to be part of the great nation that belonged to the Dragon Lords of the Shima. Myself, Soti, Bak of the Ishi, Ryou and Sakura of the Waichia, Koshi of the Hamara, and Somè of the Kari once served as the assassins for the Dragon Lords. Soti became disillusioned and wanted more. He wanted a life, a love, and when his half sister, Narie of the Sato was kidnapped he gathered us together to find her.”
“My clan, led by Rin and his son Bak who was born of the Ishi and the Sato, had kidnapped Narie and blamed the Dragon Lords of the Shima when she was killed. Soti was so beside himself, he tried to convince us to join forces with him against the Dragon Lords. We raised armies, a grand force that defeated the forces of the Dragon Lords and seized half their lands. Soti became the Divine Emperor of Aslann and Rin became his Adviser. Rin though felt that he should rule and there was much plotting during that era, between him and Bak. Eventually Soti would be assassinated and his son would rise to the throne.”
“What happened to Rin and Bak?”
“Rin and Bak once again assassinated an emperor, and the child Prince Miroku came into power. The Ishi clan could not allow Rin and Bak to continue. The clans had already begun to divide and were no longer aligning themselves with each other. Clans such as the Sosa and the Kari were dieing out. Jin’s father, Kenta requested that I kill Rin and Bak.”
“You had to kill your own father?”
“He was only my father in the fact that the union between him and Tearra created me. I was closer to my mother then to Rin.”
“What was she like?”
“Beautiful, kind, intelligent. No matter what torment Rin put her through she suffered in silence and always kept a kind smile upon her face.”
“Do you look like her?”
“No. You look more like her.” Mikio responded. She did not hide her surprised reaction. “Your eyes and your hair color, it reminds me a great deal of her. I always longed to look like her.”
“Because I did not look like the Tylo’s I was branded an Ishi. Everyone assumed I was like Rin, because I had his blood.”
“I saw you that day at the Petal House. You and the others…” Her voice trailed off.
“What is a man to do, when you have this face, this blood, this clan?” He questioned his green eyes flashing for a moment.
“True love looks beyond the physical.” She whispered.
“True love does not exist.”
There was not much point in arguing with him over such a thing. He was obviously a man that had yet to experience love. So she changed the topic back to him and his mother. “Not all children look like their parents.”
“I asked her once. Why my eyes were not like hers, she always had the best answers for everything. She told me she asked the stars to bless me with eyes as green as the grass and hair the color of the mist at dawn.”
“You were lucky, Mikio to have such a beautiful person in your life. She sounds amazing.”
“Why did you not rule over Aslann when Soti died.”
“Those designated as Ishi cannot rule. Such power with our blood’s instability is dangerous. Kuro I am sure has designs on the throne.”
“Kuro is your brother right?”
“He is my older brother, though only by a few months. He was born to Rin and a Hamara woman.”
“You have a lot of siblings?”
“At one point there were many.”
“I cannot even imagine what it would be like to be descended from a god or in your case gods.”
“Do you know the story?”
“Luna Hamara told me it. Though I am not certain why.”
“Luna only knows the tale told by her people. The one that cast the Ishi as a demon who arrived into the heavens under unknown circumstances.”
“Is that not what happened?”
“Rin was indeed a demon of sorts. He was the God of Death and the keeper of the darkness. He was represented by the void and a great serpent which people often confused for a dragon. Like a snake, he ‘shed’ his skin giving himself a new life, new vigor. The Ishi clan possess remarkable regeneration allowing them to heal quicker than those of normal parentage. That of course does not make them invincible.”
“Hisoka was possibly the most powerful of all the gods. With a simple touch, single word, or a glance in to ones eyes he could control them. He could easily bend them to his will. He was the God of Love and keeper of the hearts passion. Though love is a very broad term. It was not as simple as the love a man has for a woman, but all love in all its forms. He was represented by water and the great dragon. The Hamara clan have what is called the blood eyes of the Hamara. It is uncertain why so few of them are born with those eyes, red as blood. They are dangerous though, easily they can sway a weak mind, break it even, make them feel things they never imagined possible.”
“Ryozo was the worst of the gods. He had a temper most foul. He was the God of War and keeper of chaos. He held sway over the minds of all living beings and caused many a war amongst mortals simply because it amused him. He could erase your memories, change them, learn your every secret without uttering a word. He was represented by fire and a powerful tiger. He often traveled to the realm of mortals, in sighting wars and conflict as much as he could. The Waichia clan see all things and there is nothing you can hide from their minds. Their will is strong, their mind is stronger capable of bringing about strong emotions and walking around in your mind as though it were a casual stroll through a lovely park.”
“Kazuma was the King of the Gods. He was emotionless, caring little for the mortal realm. He never intervened when the other gods played around with the lives of mortals. He has always been represented by the Earth and the mighty tortoise. My mother described him as incapable of feeling compassion or remorse. A trait that is often displayed by those of the Kari clan. He was formidable, seemingly slow moving and yet the most effective at all things. The Kari clan do things that defy the laws of this realm. They survive things they should not and yet seemingly do it at a steady and unmoving pace.”
“Tearra was the Queen of the Gods. She was beautiful and sought after by all the other Gods, except Hisoka. She stood at the side of Kazuma as his Queen. She had an affair with Ryozo, she chased after Hisoka, and Rin she ignored entirely. She was never happy, never content with what she had. She always looked for something better. She always longed for something more. Her mind was always filled with someone new or something new. She had a fickle heart. She was represented by the wind and the phoenix. Her eyes could see far beyond any realm, to all possibilities. Amongst the Tylo clan they are called the cursed eyes. There is only one known Tylo to have ever developed this ability and his name was Hayato. Though it is suspected there have been others, the eyes drive them to madness.”
“Ryozo loved war and to often he caused great despair amongst the mortals. Tearra would become angry with his callous behavior and cast him from the heavens, cursing him to live a mortal life. Up until that point she never stepped foot on the lands of mortals. Even though she had cast him from the sky, he was still her lover. She graced him with her presence many times. Kazuma watched from the heavens, caring little for what his Queen did, for he knew she would always return to him. Rin grew angry that he could not possess her as he wished too.”
“Kazuma was right not to worry. She did return to him though she would not remain. Hisoka gave up his immortality to live the life of a mortal because his passion could not be constrained. He wished to love, be loved, have love, and could not do so within the heavens. Tearra was content in the heavens as long as Hisoka was there, for she desired him so greatly that she would do anything for him. Hisoka left the heavens, casting aside his immortality and Tearra followed him.”
“Kazuma grew angry. He was a god of no emotions generally, but his Queen had cast him aside so callously that he sent Rin to the mortal realm. He told Rin to do as he wished with her that her punishment for leaving him would be great. Rin took her at a shrine for Hisoka, broke her of her spirit and impregnated her with twins.”
“That though was not what Kazuma had wanted and he attempted to cast Rin from the heavens so that he might smite his mortal form down for what he had done. Rin was unwilling to become mortal alone, and grabbed onto the King of the Gods and dragged him to the lands of mortals thus sharing the same fate. Even though they were mortal they were still gods, each person they bed their offspring was born different, unique. They were called demons by those that did not understand and eventually there were eight demon clans descended from the Tylo, Kari, and Ishi.”
Tationy had listened to his version of the story, “Why is their version so different?”
“Who knows.” He said and he noticed how she scowled at him. “You said you wonder why she would tell you the story…”
“Yes, I do not really get why it is so important.”
“It is fate.”
“What do you mean?”
“In the lives of each Tylo there is always a Waichia, Kari, Ishi, and a Hamara.”
“I don’t understand.”
He rubbed his face a moment as he considered how he might explain it to her. “Do you have any Waichia, Hamara, Kari, and Ishi that you are close too?”
“Chochi is from the Waichia. Chee perhaps or Sohma. Though I really do not know either. Zen, Tatsuya, maybe Hiko, but I really don’t think he likes me much.” She bowed her head as she thought about it, “I guess you. We have known each other a while.” His frown was evident. “What is wrong?”
“It will be one of us.”
“One of you what?”
“One of us will hurt you. One of us will be your lover. One will be your husband. One will be the one you want and yet can never obtain. It is your fate.”
“You are mistaken.”
“I wish I was. Luna Hamara told you the story because she wanted you to connect with Chee. Anyone who forms a union with you, will be very powerful. It would be good for the Hamara and Kari clans to have you. The Waichia were promised you. The Ishi, we are never even considered. As the prince you will be forced to have a union, an heir. Your heart is probably as fickle as hers was. Young hearts usually are.”
“Don’t say that about me. You don’t know me.”
He glanced toward her, “Does your heart think of only one. I know you are waiting for someone, who is it?” She paused before opening her mouth to speak, but the words would not form. Bowing her head she heard his words, “Seems it is more than one.”
He felt the sting of her hand upon his cheek and the anger inside him boiled. He grabbed her wrist twisting her arm until she was on her knees, bracing herself with one hand. His pelvis was pressed to her bottom and he gave her held wrist a slight twist so she understood the position she was in. “You seem to think that you can do whatever you please without consequence.”
“I never said that.” She said wincing at the pain emanating from her wrist.
“Do you understand how vulnerable you are?”
She bit her lip. She could not tell with him if he would hurt her or not. Normally she got a good feeling from certain people, but with Mikio there was nothing. There was no hint of his intention not even in the compromising position he had her in. That scared her more than anything. She was uncertain if she should panic. “You are the prince of Aslann it is time you accept that.”
“What if I don’t?” She asked.
“Then I will treat you like any other woman.”
She felt her stomach knot. “What do you mean?” She questioned and he pulled hard on her arm which resulted in a sharp scream coming from her mouth. She felt the tears well within her eyes as his freehand ripped at her hair, pulling it free. It cascaded down around her face as she felt his hands pulling at her clothing. “You will dress like a woman in my presence if you are not going to take your rightful place as the prince.”
At first she thought for certain he was going to rape her. She begged him to stop.
When he finally did he pulled away from her leaving her naked sitting in a corner. Mikio had not touched her sexually, other than to pull her clothes from her body. He stared at her and the realization of what he had done must have hit him because he fell to his knees suddenly, bowing before her. Even though she had tears rolling down her cheeks she found herself moving to her knees, reaching forward to touch his head. “I am sorry, I did not mean…” His words were sincere, she was certain as she felt chills run up along her arms and backside. When her hand touched his head he looked up at her, catching sight of her naked form and quickly bowing his head again to look away. “Forgive me.”
She stood to her feet moving before him. His head lifted and she could tell he was reluctant to do so. He kept his eyes averted, her hand rested to his head, her other to his shoulder. “I forgive you.” She whispered softly. Perhaps it was her forgiveness, perhaps it was the way she shivered slightly, or even how his heart begged for her to truly mean that. Whatever it was his hand’s seemed to move on their own, wrapping around her. His head at first did not move, he felt rigid. Such an intimate pose even if it was innocent was inappropriate. “It is alright.” Her words encouraged him to relax as he rested the side of his face to her stomach.
For many hours he just held on to her and she allowed him too. By daybreak, he was exhausted and gave in to sleep. Tationy simply sat there watching him. His behavior was what she expected from a member of the Ishi and yet deep down there was a part of her that knew such behavior was in Chochi, Abe, and Hiko as well. She was in a world, where men ruled and such was considered normal behavior. Mikio though had felt great guilt after he had pulled her clothes from her. She knew those emotions to be genuine. She was not so certain that Chochi, Abe, or Hiko would have asked for forgiveness.
She smiled as she watched him thinking that his mother must have been an amazing woman. Even though he was an Ishi, he knew the difference between right and wrong. He crossed a line and he asked for forgiveness. She doubted any other Ishi would have done the same. She doubted many men in this time would have. He was a perfect example of a man that you could not judge by his appearance or by his clan. There was no doubt in her mind that he was insane. He had many of the qualities that were prized by the Ishi, such as a sadistic nature, a killer intent, and a strength beyond explanation. Despite this, there was so much about him that told Tationy that he was not all bad.
Sighing she stood, gathering up her clothes and quickly dressed. There was a small part of her that wished to remain there watching him which in and of itself was an unexpected and strange feeling. She knew she needed to train and moved from the old hayloft and did so for hours before finally returning and laying next to Mikio to get some sleep.
Mikio woke in a start, due to the presence of others nearby. He moved so quickly he did not have a moment to consider that Tationy had been laying next to him. He gave her only a passing glance, surprised he did not wake her. He was more than capable of taking on multiply foes if necessary so he left her in the relative safety of the hayloft while he moved out of the house waiting for those approaching to shift gears or continue forward.
“Yo, Mikio.” Hiko finally said when the small group came to a halt in front of the farmhouse. None of them were even remotely dressed for the freshly fallen snow that had arrived the day before. With Hiko stood several he recognized, Oji Waichia, Hero Takahashi, Tatsuya Kari, and Chee Hamara and three he did not, but could safely assume by their presence that they were the Sosa, Waichia, and Sweela guardians.
“You should come in.” Mikio spoke from where he stood on the other side of the wood fence near the door. He turned on his heels quickly. He was not worried they would attack him, if they did he would deal with them swiftly. Perhaps together they would give him a challenge, but he doubted highly that any of them one-on-one could take him.
Mikio took a seat near the wall while others moved in one after another, settling in around the fire. “What is wrong?” Hiko asked giving Mikio a once-over before kneeling not far away from him.
“Who knows.” He responded.
“Did something happen?”
“Nothing worth discussing.” He voiced as he glanced at him.
The others carried on conversations casually around the fire. “Where is Tationy?” Tatsuya questioned.
“Up in the loft resting.” For a moment there was a hush that befell the room as the others listened briefly to what Mikio had to say about the location of Tationy. “Best to let her rest, she does not sleep well.”
“She is still having nightmares?” The Waichia guardian questioned.
Mikio gave just a brief nod of his head. “Different ones or is it the same one?” Tatsuya asked.
“Seems to be the same one, though she does not talk about it much.” Mikio responded. “If you have further questions, you should probably ask the prince. I would rather discuss the situation in Aslann and what took all of you so long.” There was an ominous silence that befell the small single room farmhouse which told Mikio more than any words could.
To Be Continued