Chapter 11: The Motives of the Tactician

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What you have learned is nothing. Simple preparations for my story. I am the Hand of God ~Sohma Hamara

1

A young Sohma glanced out the window of the old Victorian estate. The snow was cascading to the ground and for him it was just a sharp reminder of how insignificant he was. Such a power, such a force of nature and before to long it would blanket the land.

“Please Sohma, eat.” He turned and noticed how she sat the plate upon the table.

“Thank you, Lady.” He voiced politely as he moved to take a seat. She had found him in the East End of London, though to be truthful he had found her. He played the part of a young derelict, easily gaining her pity.

11

Quietly he sat alone in the grand dining room, eating a warm meal. He pretended to not notice when the Lord of the manor glanced into the dining hall as he passed by. Sohma pulled himself from the chair, moving silently in the direction the Lord had ventured.

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There was silence at first, as Sohma stood at the doorway and watched them. The Lord of the manor stood behind the woman who he was certain was the Prince of the Great Nation of Aslann. “Something seems different.” The Lords voice broke the silence that had been lingering.

“I cannot imagine what you mean.” She responded as she reached out toward the tree adjusting a decoration.

“I believe there is a lack of furniture in this room.”

“You must be imagining things.”

“Perhaps you are right, but I was certain…” She turned around, her eyes smiled mischievously. “Where is the staff?”

“I gave them the night off.”

“Was this before or after you had them remove the furniture from this room, to turn it into some sort of ….is the tree smaller this year?”

She laughed softly. Sohma smiled ever so slightly at how happy she seemed though the smile quickly faded. “I thought perhaps we would not be so grand this year. We always tend to overdo it.”

“It is a charming tree.”

“Charming, you only say that when you dislike something.”

“Not always.” He paused, “There is something else different. I swear I noticed a child in our dining hall.”

“Your imagination is running wild.”

“Kali are you taking in the derelict and destitute of the East End again?”

“The Ladies Society was delivering holiday cheer to the parishes in that area. It would be remiss of me if I did not assist those that are in need.”

“My wife, gives all of herself.” He voiced. Sohma watched the couple as they interacted with one another. Seiji had been moving toward the fire, though had stopped when his wife looked upon him.

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He gave her a once over before a cheeky smile traveled across his lips, “My dear lady, when do I get to unwrap my present?”

“You’re terrible.”

“Terrible you say, I thought I was being delightfully charming.”

Sohma watched as the corner of her mouth twitched slightly. He could tell she wanted to smile. “About the boy, Seiji he has no one. He was in the East End begging for food, chilled to the bone. I could not leave him there.”

“Your heart is too big my dear.”

“Seiji, can we keep him?”

“Keep him, you act as though he is a puppy.”

“Please he has no one and we have so much room. Osa could use a big brother, don’t you think? Please, Lord Shima….”

“Ohh, it is Lord Shima now. Well Lady Shima, what do I get if I give in to such a request?”

“Any….thing….you…want.”

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He laughed heartily and Sohma made a face as though he were to be sick to his stomach. “I am going to hold you to that, Lady Shima.” He responded as he placed his hand on her hip.

With her hand rested to his chest she spoke softly, “I would expect no less.” Sohma turned his back as the two leaned in to kiss one another. A scowl evident on his face. He found his way back to the dining hall, which is where Kali found him. She read him a story that night as she tucked him into bed. Giving him a gentle kiss on the forehead. She told him that Lord Seiji Shima said he could stay and Sohma could tell she was happy as she departed the bedroom leaving him alone with his thoughts.

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Though Sohma was hardly content with lying around and he trusted no one as he slide himself from the bed and wandered about the house until he found the bedroom of Lord Shima and his Lady. He cracked the door open, peeking inside though from his vantage point he could see nothing. He was not even certain the two of them were in the room at first and had been about to step inside when the voices finally hit him.

“Are you going to take in every stray?”

“Are you mad?”

“I am not, I simply wish to know if I can expect more of this behavior.”

Sohma could sense no tension in the air, which told him that it was not an argument. “Perhaps.”

“We may need a bigger estate if this is the case.”

She laughed softly, “Well Lord Shima, I shall leave that to you.”

“Lord Shima….in the bedroom?” It sounded like a question to Sohma though he was certain it was more of a statement.

“I thought you liked it when I call you Lord Shima in the bedroom.”

“Well I do rather enjoy it, though you usually only call me it when you want something.”

Again she laughed softly. He could hear the sound of a chair moving and the sound of feet padding across the floor. “Tonight Lord Shima, do to me as you wish.”

There was an excited laugh, “I do love it when you talk like that and I am glad you have freed your hair this evening from that terrible prison you confine it in.”

“A proper lady would never be caught with her locks free such is saved only for the man in her life.”

“Well then I am fortunate that I am that man.” Sohma rolled his eyes. He could hear the sounds of kissing as he left the couple behind and returned to his room.

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Sohma had simply laid upon the bed staring at the ceiling for hours. Several times during the course of the night he ventured forth to the room of the Lord and Lady where he could hear varying degrees of talking and love making. He waited hours for the two to drift off to sleep, before finally making his way back toward the room. The child’s form, stood near the side of the bed staring at the couple as they rested.

He noticed that Seiji stirred and he whispered, “Careful not to wake her.” The eyes of Seiji opened suddenly and for a moment Sohma simply watched him compose himself as he got his bearings. “Young master, are you having trouble sleeping?” Seiji asked as he sat himself up.

Sohma nodded his head, “There are many sounds that are foreign. I am a bit….”

Seiji gave a kind smile. “How about some warm tea to settle you?” With a single nod of his head, Sohma waited in the hallway for the Lord of the manor to dress.

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Together they sat on the couch, neither talking. Even as they sipped tea and enjoyed cheese and biscuits for a snack not a word was spoken. The silence was not exactly uncomfortable, though hardly companionable until finally Sohma spoke as he sat his tea cup to the table. “You really seem to be in love with the Lady.”

“You are a bit young to see love…” Seiji voiced.

Sohma hopped off the couch turning sharply toward Seiji. His spoke hurriedly, “Just because I am young does not mean I do not know love.” His tone was cold.

Seiji smiled, “Right, right young master. You are correct. It was callous of me to make such an assumption. So tell me of this love. What is she like?”

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Sohma sat down next to Seiji and sighed almost wistfully. “She was in love with another. There was always someone else.” Sohma began and Seiji turned to eye the young man who could be no more than nine years of age. “I do not even think she noticed me. I would go so far as to say I was invisible when it came to her love.”

“Yet you fell in love with this person, what was so special about her?”

“She was everything that I was not. Generous and kind, always giving herself to those that were in need.”

“She sounds like Kali. Her heart is too big sometimes that I fear trouble might befall her.”

“You are wise to be concerned. Trouble befell my love and she suffered greatly.”

“Where is this love of yours now?”

“She…” Sohma stopped talking as the sound of a crash echoed through the lounge.

Seiji stood quickly, “Sohma you stay here.” He voiced as he moved to exit the room, but was halted by the words of Sohma.

“My love is resting in your bed.” Seiji had only a moment to turn and face Sohma, as the knife used to slice the cheese they snacked on with the tea, plunged into his stomach. Sohma kept his eyes fixed on Seiji as he turned to walk toward his wife and baby, only to fall face first to the floor.

65

Sohma stood over the body of Lord Seiji Shima staring down at him. He had no doubts that he was dead as he stepped over the corpse and walked down the hallway. “Shi dah lo mai. Gee gee soo chee.” He sang softly as he walked each corridor heading toward the room where the baby Osa slept. “A child cries softly. Weap weap little dragon. Bai porti firlo maigato. The mighty fire dances. Gee gee soo chee. Weap weap little dragon.”

Staring down at the child, there was no hesitation in his strike. He had not one single regret. Such a burden to bear. He did not apologize for his actions. He did not beg for forgiveness. These ‘people’ meant nothing to him. The only one of any importance was sleeping down the corridor, snuggled cozily in her bed.

Kali woke to a hand over her mouth, “We have to leave there is someone in the house. He killed them.” Kali was groggy as she struggled to make sense of what she was being told. She stood, asking Sohma what was going on, but she got no answer as he tugged on her arm trying to pull her from the house. He made certain to pull her by the room of her once sleeping child and past the lounge where her husband lie dead. She tried to rush to them, but Sohma kept a hold of her hand.

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They hid in London’s East End. Sohma had told her much about the Ishi and how she was being hunted. She hardly believed it and told him that she thought the Ripper who was plaguing London most certainly had killed her husband and child. Sohma could not stand how she naively clung to such nonsense so he often left her for extended periods of time, with no word that he was leaving or how long he would be gone.

There were days, weeks even that food was scarce. They stayed in the low housing. The buildings were close together, some only separated by small alleys. Entire families lived in the small homesteads. They were fortunate to have gotten the one they did. When Sohma was gone there were days that it was impossible to pay the rent. She was certain that Sohma was stealing, and there had been a part of her that wanted to tell him to quit, but without him doing what was necessary they would surely have starved.

Though, when he told her he could not be around her and left, the days became weeks and she realized that she needed that little boy far more than he needed her. She stood out in the snow, struggling with what to do. Certainly the landlord would be by in a few days and she had not a single shilling to her name. Her old life she had been so blessed as the wife of Count Seiji Shima, Lord of Westerhaven. “Good sir, would you like some company?” She asked the man as he was walking by. He had stopped mid-stride, his head turning to gaze upon her.

Her wedding ring was in prominent view. He took in her posture, her body, the way she carried herself, but most importantly the sadness that filled her unusual eyes. “Lady there is a chill in the air, certainly you should be indoors and away from this frigged cold.”

“It is no warmer inside the walls behind me. Perhaps you good sir, will lend me your warmth.”

She did not speak like a woman of ill repute. There was hesitation from him as he kept his eyes fixed on her. “Lady such a request certainly comes at a price.”

“Certainly a man of your class, could afford any price.”

He turned his body taking a step toward her. She had instinctively stepped back. Locking his eyes on her he spoke, “I perhaps could, but I am not the type of man to ….” She bowed her head, certain he was going to call her filth. “Sleep with another man’s wife.”

Her eyes quickly fixed on his, “My husband is dead.”

“That is a shame.” He said as he took another step toward her. “It is dangerous these days. Certainly you know of the Ripper.”

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“I do, but if things continue as they are I shall surely be out in the cold, then it will not matter for I will most certainly starve to death or die from this chill. A man like you, can show some kindness in my hour of need?” She stepped closer to him as her hand reached out to caress his cheek, “Please.” Her entire body begged him, “I will do anything you wish of me.”

Even though he told himself not to, he enjoyed the caress. He grabbed her wrist his head tilting to the side. “You do not understand. If I go to your quarters, I will not let you go. I am not the type of man to relinquish something I buy.”

“What are you saying?” She questioned as she tried to pull her hand away from him, but he gripped her wrist tightly.

“I am saying my dear lady that if this business arrangement transpires you will not be able to walk away.”

“You certainly are a man that takes what he wants.”

“Any good business man understands the value and importance of the financial arrangement they enter into.”

“I am only offering a few hours, good sir.”

“I am counter offering….” He voiced. “Do whatever I desire to you, and you will never want for anything.”

“You make it very difficult to say no, but how about we start with just the hour and go from there.”

His eyes took in her face and neckline. She was certain he was not going to agree with her terms, but he gave a brief nod of his head.

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For exactly one hour she let him do as he pleased. At first she did not want his name, only his money. As the minutes ticked by, the pain and heartache disappeared and was replaced with passion, intensity, and gentleness. By that point she cared little about his money. His body to her was perfect, though her own had seen far better days. Day by day she felt as though her breast were fuller and her hips more prominent. Her stomach had begun to pouch and she was certain that she was pregnant. For a split second she wondered if this man could tell.

When the hour had passed he laid next to her staring up at the ceiling. She glanced at him only briefly. His mind was preoccupied, she could tell because Seiji often got a similar look upon his face. This man had a very stern and hard way about him, even his features gave no sign of his emotions and she could not help, but wonder what he might be hiding from. “What is your name?” She whispered softly.

“Jee Ishi.” Her gasp and the frantic way she attempted to move from the bed caught his attention as he grabbed her arm keeping her upon the bed, the length of his frame holding her into place. His eyes fixed on hers as he stared down at her. “Does my name offend you, Prince Tatsuya?”

“You have the wrong person.”

“No, I don’t. I must say I was rather taken-aback when you solicited me for sex. I was only hoping to pass by your place quickly, so that I might find the perfect vantage point.”

“You going to kill me?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. It is your guardians that you need to fear.”

“Are you the Ripper?”

He laughed and she scowled at him, “I was not expecting you to be so naive. Certainly you have some notion within that pretty little head of yours that what I say is the truth. Do I seem like the type of man that enjoys carving up women?”

“If your intention is not to harm me, then I demand you get off me.” She yelled.

“As you wish, my lady. I will warn you though, if you attempt to run I will pursue you.” He rolled off of her body, laying next to her once again.

Kali did not move, simply remained laying next to him. Her body was ridged with fear. “I was told the Ishi intend to kill Prince Tatsuya.”

“You were lied too. I will say this only once, so I do hope you are listening carefully. In thousands of years, we Ishi have done our best to protect you. Your guardians though, their agenda does not have your best interest at heart. We cannot protect you unless you allow us too, I ask that you come with me.”

“And if I refuse?”

“I will take you by force.” There was a part of her that did not believe his words for a single moment, yet in the back of her mind she had a feeling. It was a dark feeling that brought more fear to her than any she had ever experienced. That part of her, told her that he was speaking the truth. He stood pulling his clothes on, “I will be back in a day. Once I have returned we will be leaving London. I suggest, you be cautious around your guardians when they return.”

“If they are the ones to fear why are you leaving me?”

“If they return while I am here, they will not hesitate to kill you. From what we Ishi can deduce they kill you, only when something transpires that forces their hand. You should be safe, for the time being.” He did not turn back to look at her as he placed his top hat upon his head, adjusting his fingerless gloves and coat. When he was finally prepared to leave he paused, “I shall see you soon. Remember my words.”

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Kali had not even gotten a moment to dress when she heard voices. The door flew open quickly as a figure entered. She might have considered him handsome if it were not for the anger that radiated off of him. Sohma followed along behind continually repeating the words, stay calm Taku. She did not even get a moment to cover her body when the one that Sohma referred to as Taku had her by the hair, his hand posed to smack her. “Did you sleep with that Ishi?”

She felt the fear radiate through her body. The better part of her, said that lying would solve nothing and the worst part of her yelled back inwardly asking why it was any of his business. Her lack of response gave him the answer he wanted as she felt a burning sting upon her face.

Sohma took a seat on a nearby bench, unconvincingly and with little emotion telling Taku to remain calm. He closed his eyes, as the second smack came.

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Her face hurt and she could feel the blood trickling down along her nose. “Why?” She managed to ask.

Sohma turned his head as his eyes opened. He did not like seeing her like this, though it had been a long time since Taku had lost control. Taku’s anger never left his face, though Kali could tell it was not just anger. He was hurt, disappointed, disgusted even.

“Why indeed.” Sohma remarked. “You have not changed one single bit. You are still the same callous prince, disregarding the feelings of those around you. We would do anything for you, the only thing we ask of you dear Prince Tatsuya is that you are as devoted to us as we are you. Yet, you constantly do things to disappoint. You are one of the only people who can bring forth anger like that in Taku. Normally he is quite gentle. Not a care in the world, a smile upon his face, but you can be a most foul creature.”

“I don’t understand what you are talking about.”

“I could not look at you any longer. Such a sad expression on your face. For what I wonder, your beloved Seiji Shima or that child of yours. They do not deserve your tears, yet you weep for them. I thought that perhaps I would seek out someone that could bring you comfort. Someone I knew you have sought the touch of many times. Every time something is broken within you, you run to his arms. It seemed only natural that I seek out Taku. He was dealing with a matter most unpleasant in the form of Abe, your once great swordsmen. He is a miserable drunk these days…well was.”

“You talk about things that make no sense, can you not just give me an answer.”

“An answer….I suppose I can tell you how it began and ended, but you may not like what you hear.”

“I was just a young man of seventeen when I was requested by the Emperor to be one of the guardians for his unborn Prince. Being a member of the Hamara clan, I felt that this was a just decision by the Emperor after all there was no clan in my mind more powerful than the Hamara. Not far from the palace was an estate. It was part of the main palace and yet stood alone. It would be there that the young prince would be trained and taught.”

“I went into the situation with blinders. Thinking that my age would not matter. I learned quickly that it mattered greatly to those around.” Sohma said as he began the story of the guardians.

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Sohma took a seat next to another guardian who was not much older than he was. He probably had at least a couple of years on Sohma, though he could hardly be certain. He glanced at the plate of dessert sitting next to the young man. His head was bowed and he was watching the fish in the pond below them. “Does it not bother you?”

“What is that?”

“That we are sitting here and they are all over there talking about how to protect this place and the prince when he is born.”

Taku looked toward the group of guardians staring at them a moment, “No, let them do the work.”

Sohma glanced sternly toward the young man, his posture and demeanor was that of a relaxed individual without a care in the world. “I suppose you’re just happy to be free…” Sohma began, but stopped suddenly when Taku turned his head and gave him a hard stare. He could feel his anger, even though he hid it from his features. “Forgive me that was rude of me. I did not mean for it to come out like that.”

“How exactly did you mean it?” Taku asked turning his attention away from the young man.

“Let us start over. I am Yanagi Hamara.”

“Senri Kensuku.” There was a long silent pause that lingered about them and the young man who would eventually become known as Sohma was certain he had stuck his foot in his mouth. “Don’t be sorry, I am not deluded into thinking that just because I am here that things are any different. I am still a slave that is how they see me. Does not matter what I am capable of. It is not any different for you, you’re just a child to them.”

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“Have you, talked with the others? Do you know anything about them?” His attention was drawn to the men speaking on the landing over the small pond. A young girl, of no more than thirteen walked toward the group of men before stopping near the man designated as the leader of the guardians and his second in command. “Who is she?”

“So many questions.” Taku remarked then grew silent a moment as he considered them. “The Sweela is called Gouzi. His clan left the servitude of the Dragon Lords during the Second Great War. Their leader at the time had his life saved by a Hayato Tylo and they made a blood oath toward the Tylo’s that they would forever serve them. They call him the incorruptible Gouzi, because they say that he cannot be swayed with words of any nature not even by the Waichia. He has been in the servitude of the Divine Emperor since he was about our age. He is a master of the dual sword technique, they say that he is fairly strong though no one is certain of his skill. He is an assassin by trade, thus those that end up close to him are killed much to quickly to learn anything about him of any consequence.”

“Everyone knows General Hagi Takahashi of the Ruthlbahdo. His sword has downed many an enemy. It is rumored that he and the Sweela once faced each other in battle and that he surrendered his sword because the Sweela was far more powerful in skill. Of course it is just a rumor, after all, how can such a mighty general fall to such a simple assassin? They say he has a thing for the ladies and has been known to frequent places of ill-fame. He is dedicated though and protective of his men. There is not a soldier that has served under him that has not respected him, except perhaps one.”

“Which brings me to Shu of the Sosa. He is the last of the Sosa clan. His father fell at the Battle of Progmato and he was raised by Hayato Tylo, who was also his master in the art of the sword. They say he is the greatest swordsmen Aslann has ever seen. Though his skill is usually overshadowed by his sadistic nature. He specializes in torture to gather information and once served as a soldier within the Ruthlbahdo, never rising to General. Rumor has it that he felt he was more deserving than General Hagi Takahashi, so much so he attempted to kill him. That is how the General got those scars on his face they say. Despite that, he showed Shu mercy and allowed him to live though honestly for a man like Shu that was only an insult.”

“The Waichia is called Aoba. His father was Ryozo, who stood against his clan regarding its division. His father was murdered and he spent years doing mercenary work for whomever would hire him. They say that he has done many jobs for the Nakamaru and has in sighted wars throughout many nations. Other than that, not much is know about him. He keeps everything hidden and is certainly not as he appears to be.”

“Our leader is Izumo of the Nakamaru. They say he is a rather powerful chalta who specializes in rare and unusual techniques. They also say he has great skills with seals and alchemy. He is a mystery. There is not a single shred of information in Aslann about him. Those that have met him, can barely recall a single detail. What a scary individual he is.”

“Not one single….wait how do you know all of this?”

“When you’re a slave, people talk around you because you’re invisible. You learn a lot being a slave.” Sohma frowned slightly as he stared at the men and then toward the young girl again. “Your eyes seem to travel to her a lot, are you interested in her?”

“No, don’t be ridiculous. I am just curious why we are seen as children and she gets to stand over there, interacting with them.”

“She is Moochie Sweela and she is going to take care of the prince, after his birth. She will be his primary caregiver during his life. There will be other servants about, but her duty is to always be at the side of the prince and be his ‘mother’ when the Queen is not available. Like all the Sweela, she is broken. Moochie is unable to speak or see. She moves about this word, through the unique spatial awareness that the Sweela have. Don’t let her qualities distract you, like all Sweela she can kill you quickly and efficiently.”

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Things were not easy for the young guardians, Senri and Yanagi. There was more than being a former slave and age that hindered them. The Kensuku and Hamara clans were feared and hated for a variety of reasons. They were not trusted and not deemed worthy by the other guardians. The first six years, were a most trying and difficult time for them. Their opinions were often disregarded and they were not asked to participate on important decisions regarding the prince. They were expected to keep the secret, do their duty, but their positions in Aslann where hardly any better than they had been before. Despite having grown into adulthood they were still just children within the guardians.

“I certainly do not know who he thinks he is.” The young prince of six years of age, spoke passionately while walking with the guardians Taku and Sohma.

“I imagine young master, he thinks he is the Emperor.”

“The Emperor indeed. Keeping my guardians and sending me away like a commoner. If I had a moment to speak my mind I would have told him who I am.”

“I believe he is aware of whom you are, young master.” Sohma spoke.

“If he were aware, then why are we walking in the rain back to my estate instead of participating in this meeting?” Sohma sighed inwardly the confused look written all over his face. Taku was of no assistance, the smile upon his face, told Sohma that he would be of no help in talking the young prince down.

“I am the prince of Aslann and yet I am disregarded. How am I to lead this nation when he passes on to the depths of the hell-spawn he sprang from…”

“That is your father you are talking about and the Emperor of this great nation.” Sohma interjected though his words fell on deaf ears and Taku chuckling softly did not help matters.

“I am irritated.”

“I had not noticed, young master.”

“It would serve him right, if I refused to assist him in his time of need. Yes, he shall someday beg for my assistance and I will look at him and say, remember that meeting you cast me out of, yes retribution will surely be mine.”

“I believe young master you are rather over-inflating the situation with unnecessary…”

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He cut his words short as he moved forward quickly with Taku standing before the prince. “Forgive us for raising your guard, it was not our intention.” They were Saitama, assassins for the Dragon Lords of the Shima. They were recognizable by their hair, varying shades of purple. Their eyes an unusual shade of red and white. Adorning their faces was paint which matched their eyes with hints of purple added for accents, as well as black tattoo’s. No two Saitama had the same black markings upon their faces. These Saitama were purebloods showing all of the signs that make one Saitama.

The one that spoke, stood differently then the others yet he spoke for all of them. Saitama moved and acted as one, it was unusual for any of them to move separately. It was without order to do so and the Saitama were all about unity and order. He even appeared differently, not adorned in the conical head garment that the others wore. This said more about this particular Saitama than anything else. “We beg your forgiveness, Prince Tatsuya. While your father speaks with the representatives of the Dragon Lords, we humble servants were asked to seek you out.”

“To assassinate the prince?” Sohma questioned.

“No, the Dragons Lords wish for us to only speak with the prince regarding a matter. Is there a place we might speak privately?”

“You think we are fools?”

“Sohma it is alright, they would not be so bold as to assassinate me while the representatives of the Dragon Lords are here. They are well-aware that it will be seen as an act of war.”

“Perhaps that is what they want.” Taku voiced.

“That is always a possibility, but if they wished for war they need only to attack Aslann or the villages surrounding it. An attack on me directly serves nothing, other than ensuring there is no heir to the throne of Aslann. Such an action will only insight retaliation toward the children of the Dragon Lords, such an undesirable outcome, would you not agree Saitama?”

The Saitama spokesmen gave a quick and short bow of his head in agreement. The prince moved toward the gate and his guardians reluctantly followed. They did not like this situation and certainly did not trust the Dragon Lords.

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They gathered in a small sitting room. The prince did not offer them tea, nor did the guardians. Such a formality was reserved for those they felt deserved it and the Saitama were hardly guest. “The Dragon Lords sending their Dogs of War all the way to Aslann this must be extremely important business they wish of me.”

“With all due respect Prince Tatsuya, insulting us seems unlike the young prince I have heard so much about.”

“Oh, you have heard about me. I certainly like to be talked up, so do tell.”

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The Saitama practically smiled in unison a creepy display. “We are told that the young prince of Aslann will make a fine leader someday. You are trained by many skilled individuals. Though the prince has a heavy burden to carry and a secret…” The Saitama spoke.

Sohma and Taku hid their reactions uncertain where this Saitama was going with his words, but certain that neither of them liked it. Both young guardians, had already been calculating the best possible ways to terminate the lives of the Saitama before them.

“Everyone has secrets.” The prince remarked.

“This is a true statement, Prince Tatsuya.”

“Please, tell me what has brought you a years travel from the lands of the Dragon Lords.”

“An offer.”

“An offer from the Dragon Lords, do tell.”

“The Dragon Lords ask that you only keep this in mind. You are not obligated to give us an answer. You may take as much time as you wish to consider it. When, you travel forth to the lands of the Dragon Lords, we will know your answer.”

“What if I never travel there?”

“Then we know you have decided against the offer.”

“You have intrigued me Saitama, what pray-tell is this offer?”

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“Our mighty lords requested that we make this journey with his representatives. We were to remain hidden from the eyes of the Sweela and the Kari. Other clans from Aslann cannot sense our movements as they can, it was difficult especially when you have a couple of Sweela so close to you.”

“I am told the Saitama are a vicious foe that you were created by the God of War Ryozo. Your only purpose is to kill.”

“We are not the only vicious foe created by the God of War. The Kensuku are far more vicious. Long before they became spiritual they were beast of war. Hell-hounds that devoured anything in their path, at least until your Emperor tamed them into servitude.”

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“Open your mouth again about my clan and I will show you just how vicious the Kensuku can be.” Taku voiced his anger evident.

“Seems a nerve has been struck. Forgive us, we meant no insult. We Saitama understand the burdens of a slave.”

“I am no slave.” Taku shouted as he stood, his fist ready to fight.

“Taku, if you cannot control yourself, then please leave.” The young prince spoke. Taku turned his attention toward the prince his anger not ceasing. He was hurt that the prince did not stand up for him. Defend his clan, defend him. He knew that if he left that would leave Sohma alone to protect the prince a situation that only angered him more. He swallowed his pride and took a seat.

Sohma’s eyes kept upon Taku and frowned deeply, he had only once before seen him have such a reaction when a member of the Ishi bumped into him on purpose and called him a slave. Taku had broken Sohma’s arm when he tried to intervene and pry Taku off the Ishi. The Ishi had nearly been killed. That had mattered little to either of them, until they were sternly chastised by Chochi and Atsuki over the incident.

When they became guardians, they gave up everything. Their names, their clans, their entire identity was gone. They were taught to move as one and to think of only the prince. A sacrifice not one had regretted at least not outwardly. Moments like these, though were a sharp reminder to all of them what they had sacrificed.

“If your attempt was to provoke my guardian, then you have done so successfully. However, such an action seems beneath the Saitama. Why I wonder….” The prince spoke.

“Please forgive us, Prince Tatsuya. Our words were callous. We assure you it was not our intent to insult your guardian. The Dragon Lords are concerned about the state of Aslann. Clans such as the Kensuku, Hamara, Kari, and the Sosa are being destroyed, oppressed, and humiliated. The Dragon Lords believe this will only cause problems for Aslann. The Kensuku rose up once against the Empire, certainly they could again. No slave is content with being a slave forever. The Emperor is blinded by power, greed, and there are things that are transpiring in Aslann that will ultimately destroy it.”

“So what does this have to do with this offer?”

“Your father has entered into a contract with the Waichia. This contract was created before your birth and is binding. This contract will unite you in union with one of the Waichia. Once this union is fulfilled you will be assassinated and the Waichia will rule over Aslann. Your father has long been swayed by the seducing words of the Waichia. They cannot be trusted.”

“Sounds like you have something against the God of Wars descendants.” Prince Tatsuya spoke. “My father has no such union in place. You are mistaken.”

“The Dragon Lords said you would say as much.”

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“I tire of this conversation, please get to the point or you may be on your way.”

“So be it.” The Saitama spoke, “A prophet who speaks only to the Dragon Lords told them a most unbelievable tale. You will take a great journey, far from these lands and yet they will be the same lands. You will see much, experience great and terrible things. You will be betrayed and die by your own people. The Dragon Lords offer you safe haven so that you might not fall to the swords of Aslann all they ask in return is that you unite with them under one banner, forming one kingdom. A mighty empire led by the Dragon Lords of the Shima and you.”

“Sounds like your Dragon Lords have been reading too many fables.”

“You make light of the situation, Prince Tatsuya, but you will fall by the swords of your own people. Your father’s order, though he will tell many that he had nothing to do with it. When you return to these lands, he will send people to kill you again. You cannot trust those your father favors.”

“I suppose it is only you I can trust?” The Prince questioned.

The Saitama said nothing to the question posed by the Prince. There was no need to answer such a question, any response they gave would not give the young Prince an answer that would satisfy.

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“You expect our Prince to believe this story?” Sohma questioned as he kept his eyes fixed on the Saitama.

“There is no need to use your blood eyes, Yanagi of the Hamara.” He said and Sohma controlled the expression of surprise that threatened to contort his features. “We Saitama know much of the ways of the Hamara. So I will share with you something else we were told. You and the Kensuku, Senri will become slaves to the Empire. You all will be hunted down and killed, but once you return you will become slaves. Your clans will have no rights, your people oppressed, your women taken, your pride destroyed. This is the future that awaits the Hamara, the Kensuku, amongst other clans. The Emperor has long been controlled by the Waichia, a powerful force capable of manipulating minds. This kingdom will be ruled by the Waichia and those that do not fit within their realm will be tossed into servitude or killed.”

“I think you give the Waichia far more credit than they deserve.”

“We are told amongst your clan, you Yanagi have a great military mind. You are accomplished at all things war. Think on what we say, let your mind see this as a battle and decide from there if we speak the truth.”

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The Saitama all stood in unison, except the one speaking for them. “Please consider the offer. When the time comes, travel to the lands of the Dragon Lords and together Aslann will be reborn.” He remained kneeling for a moment his eyes remained upon the young prince.

“Your eyes are lingering much to long Saitama.” The young prince spoke.

He paused and when he did speak, he was no longer speaking for the Saitama as a whole, but for himself. “Forgive me, this is the last I shall see you like this. When next we meet, your appearance and way will be far different as will that of your guardians.” The prince eyed him suspiciously, as he stood. He turned to depart glancing back briefly, “I am called Bóre.”

“You seem rather confident Bóre that I will be venturing to the lands of the Dragon Lords.”

He kept his back to the prince speaking in a softer tone, not monotone as it had been before. “Perhaps it is simply wishful thinking on my part.” Bóre departed much to quickly for the Prince of Aslann to respond.

Neither the Prince nor the Kensuku and Hamara guardians spoke right away. “Kill them.” Prince Tatsuya finally spoke.

“Are you certain, my lord?” Taku questioned.

“If we allow them to live and it is discovered, then what they have just told us is true. We will be executed. Saitama are not allowed in these lands, any conversation with them is considered an act of treason against the Empire. Kill them, quickly and quietly. Don’t let even one escape. They know you are coming, be efficient.”

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They had been dispatched to kill them, quickly and efficiently by the time they returned they were no worse for wear. Though they had not been successful, a fact written all over their faces. “How many escaped?”

“Just one, young master.”

“The one called Bóre?”

“Yes.” Sohma responded. “You do not seem at all surprised young master.”

“Something about him. Something dangerous yet, I cannot put my finger on it. The Saitama are a very dangerous foe, you have done well to take out as many as you did.”

“They were protecting him.” Taku voiced.

“You are certain?”

“Yes, he was very important to them. Any attempt we made on his life was met with one of them saving him.”

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“Oh, that is a valuable piece of information. Though we still know very little about the Saitama to make any informed assumptions.” The prince paused before continuing, “Moochie, I would like you to discover what you can about the Saitama. Any little piece of information, no matter how insignificant you might think it is perhaps may be of value.”

“You are dispatching your servant?” Sohma questioned.

“Moochie can move about unseen better than the guardians of the prince. She is Sweela, her skills are not limited to my care-taking which you are well-aware of.”

“She may report to the other guardians and her eyes are a hindrance.”

“She will do no such thing. Sweela will kill themselves before betraying their master, she knows her place. Her vision may be non-existent to us, but she can still see sometimes far better than we can. The most valuable information she can obtain is that of which only a spy can procure.” With her hands folded into the layers of her dress, Moochie simply bowed her head in acknowledgement of the assignment she was given.

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The prince grew quiet as Atsuki came into the room. “Prince Tatsuya.” He said quickly and then bowed, “I wish to speak with you on a most pressing matter. Sohma and Taku please leave us.”

“They do not need to leave, anything you wish to say, may be said in front of them.”

Atsuki did not hide his dislike of them staying, “As you wish, Prince Tatsuya.” Sohma and Taku stepped to the side, so that Atsuki might fully address the prince. Both were grateful that they were allowed to stay. Such meetings they were often asked to leave, this being the first where they were given permission to be there. If Atsuki had his way they would have been cast aside, they had not a single doubt. “Your guardians have returned from the meeting with your father.”

“I assume seeing you are standing here that, that is the case.”

“In a week, your father wishes for you to join a meeting he will be having with the Waichia.”

“What is this meeting about?”

“I am uncertain.” Atsuki voiced though the young prince could tell he was untruthful. Atsuki was very good at putting walls up around emotions, information, and other such matters he did not wish to discuss.

The prince tilted his head bringing his hand up to brush a loose bang aside, “So be it, send word to my father that I will be there.”

“My prince….” Atsuki said giving the young Tatsuya a look as he tried to ascertain the agenda of his young master.

“Is there a problem Atsuki?”

“No, my lord. I am just surprised you agreed so easily.”

The prince did not dignify his words with a response. There was not one reason to speak on the matter. “If there is nothing else, I wish to retire for the evening.”

“Of course.” Atsuki bowed as did Taku and Sohma before departing the room of the young prince.

“Did something happen?” Atsuki asked the youngest guardians.

“No.” Sohma said.

“You are certain?”

“Of course.”

“So be it.” They both watched as Atsuki wandered off.

“He will have Chochi try to engage us for information.” Sohma remarked.

“I will keep Chochi occupied. The prince does not wish for them to know what happened otherwise Atsuki would have been informed immediately. I will make the Waichia my new best friend. He will never discover what happened, unless the prince wishes it.”

“Don’t get attached.”

“You have nothing to worry about, I know my place with them.”

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The years passed and the young guardians had grown ten years. They were not young men anymore. The youngest of them was quickly approaching thirty-four. They were still looked upon as insignificant to everyone, but their prince. “I have been thinking that I will tell Tationy how I feel about her.” Taku voiced.

“Do you think that is wise, you know she is still harboring feelings for Hiko Kari.”

“Atsuki had Abe put an end to that union long ago. I think perhaps it is time.”

Sohma brought his hand to his head, sighing deeply. “I am not sure Taku.”

“I know how you feel about her, Sohma. You are my friend and I am asking for your support. It is not a little thing I ask of you. I am asking you to put aside how you feel for her and allow me the chance to stand at her side.”

“You know they will never allow that. Even after what happened all those years ago with the Waichia, she is still obligated by that contract her father has with them.”

“I have been thinking about that. Tomorrow we go off to war, we are to storm the lands of the Dragon Lords. It will take us a year to get there, certainly your mind is capable of finding us a way to escape with her.”

“Do you know what you are asking?”

“I know, she is unhappy. We both see it. Each day that passes she gets closer to that union with the Waichia. That day with the Saitama is stuck in her head. She is having nightmares and I think that perhaps she is seeing things.”

“Cursed eyes of the Tylo?”

“I cannot be certain, but I think she is walking that path.”

Sohma looked to the Bagola board before them, pushing himself back from the table in their cozy little quarters. He paced the floor. “We would be betraying the Empire.”

“I know.”

Sohma wrung his hands together as he turned to look at Taku. “I would ask you if you truly love her that much, but I already know the answer. I will do it.”

“Really?”

“Yes.” Sohma said. For the two of them there was nothing more to say on the matter.

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That night Sohma stood guard outside the bedchamber of the prince. He could hear the coming and goings of anyone, including the arrival of Moochie. She had spent years doing as was requested of her, hunting down any piece of information she could find on the Saitama. She dropped into the room, from a trap door located at the ceiling appearing before the prince. Sohma stepped into the room remaining near the door. “You have something for me?”

From her belt she pulled a small scroll, which was quickly read over by the prince. She tossed the scroll to Sohma who looked it over. He frowned, but torched the scroll using a nearby candle. “Moochie, what I ask of you is very dangerous and may result in your death. You will never be able to return to Aslann. Leave here and go to the lands of the Dragon Lords. You are my messenger, your presence alone will speak for me.”

Sohma remained quiet as Moochie bowed her head to the prince and departed. “If she is caught she will be tortured and executed.”

“I know. Let us trust in her skills.”

“That scroll, confirms what they say. What we have feared would come to pass. How do you wish to proceed?”

“There is a snake amongst my guardians. One of them will betray me, but which one; Chochi, Abe, Sadoo, Otoha, or Atsuki.”

“It could be any number of them or a combination of them.”

“You and Taku are the only ones I can trust. I do not know what will happen, but no matter what you do as I command. We will head to war against the Dragon Lords and I will betray the Emperor.”

“My prince…”

“Hear me out Sohma.” Sohma bowed his head growing silent. “My father cannot risk killing me. He will surely exile us, but he cannot risk us going to the Dragon Lords so he will hunt us down. Kill all of us. There is a technique that I overheard the Ishi, Togore speaking of. It is an ancient technique of resurrection belonging to the Ishi. You will use your eyes and convince Atsuki to steal it, learn it, and use it when the time is right.”

“What of the others?”

“We divide and conquer. We will start with breaking Chochi. He loves me and we will use that to our advantage, by manipulating Atsuki into having Abe come to me. Abe has no feelings for me other than duty, but if we manipulate the situation appropriately we can convince Chochi that he does.”

“Together they are formidable. If Abe and Chochi united together, they could combat any foe with ease. It is wise to separate them, to make certain that the two are never allies and always enemies. Taku will have to further strengthen his friendship with Chochi.”

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The prince stood pulling her shirt from her body. Her chest was heavily wrapped, and Sohma did his best to not allow his eyes to linger to long upon her. She had clasped her hair up quickly taking a seat on the edge of the bed. “We need to push Abe into that dark place. We need that sadist to come out. We need to make certain that the others do not trust him. We want them to fear him, to the point that they believe he may harm me.”

“It should not be too difficult to manipulate him using my eyes.”

“Be careful when using your eyes on him, Abe is not a fool. He is capable of telling when a member of the Hamara and the Waichia are manipulating him. Be tactful, subtle, and make sure to only use it when he is otherwise occupied. Even then it will still be dangerous.”

“What about Otoha?”

“We need to let it slip that Moochie has left.”

“We put her in harm’s way doing that.”

“We certainly do. We will give her enough of a lead, then set her clan loose. The Sweela do not take kindly to betrayal of any sort, Otoha will be too occupied to focus on what is going on around him, especially where his little sister is concerned. If they manage to capture her….”

“I will have Taku kill her.”

The prince smiled softly, “You and I think too much alike Sohma.”

“I will take that as a compliment, young master. Sadoo’s weakness is women, he has a lover we could exploit that.”

“Have Abe bed her, let that sadist loose upon the woman that Sadoo’s desires.”

“That is ….”

“Any woman that would sleep with Abe, deserves what she gets.” The prince said coldly.

“You can be most callous and vicious, young master when it comes to affairs of the heart.”

“Love isn’t real Sohma. It is just an illusion we cast upon our heart.” The prince stood and dressed quickly, “I am going to pay a visit to the Waichia, I hear their elder is remarkably handsome. He and I have much to discuss.”

“Do you wish for me to seek out the Takahashi listed on that scroll?”

“I do, but tread lightly he is a General in the Ruthlbahdo and close to Hiko Kari and your brother Chee Hamara.” Sohma bowed his head in acknowledgement, “Everything we do from this point on, will change everything. We cannot walk away, once we set this in motion. Make certain Taku understands that.”

“Yes, young master.” Sohma remarked as he departed quickly.

36

Sohma had cut the story short and as much as Kali wanted to ask what happened, there was no point. Sohma had recommended that Kali get herself cleaned up, so she moved toward the room with a large basin tub. She thought for certain she would be able to be alone, but heard the door open and then close. As she sat in the water, she felt a hand rest upon her shoulder and her body tensed. It was not the hand of a child, so she was certain it was the one called Taku.

Her face hurt, her right eye she could barely open. There was a silence as she held her breath uncertain what was to come. “Are you afraid of me?”

“Yes.”

“Why did you sleep with him?”

“The rent is due and Sohma was not around. He normally takes care of such matters. What was I suppose to do?”

“No, I understand that. I want to know why him?”

“He seemed safe.”

“He is Ishi, they are not safe. They are the worst sort of people.”

“Why do you hate them so?”

“My people were enslaved because of the Ishi. Long ago we had a beautiful language, customs, beliefs and it was all taken away from us. All we wanted was to be treated like every other clan in Aslann, so our Elder Tien organized a revolt, hoping we might be seen as something more than a barbaric clan. All we got was death and slavery. You were going to change that. You were going to help make Aslann better.”

“What do you want from me?”

“What do I want?” He repeated as he pulled his hand away. She could tell he was still laying there. “Lifetime after lifetime, you repeatedly bed one man after another; Chochi, Abe, Sadoo, Otoha, even the Shima and Ishi. Was nothing sacred to you? What do I have to do, is it money you want?” He questioned.

He stood quickly, reaching into his jacket and pulling out a coin bag which he tossed to the floor. It was not securely latched so the bag opened and the coins scattered onto the wood. She turned to look at him, as he grabbed her by the arm pulling her from the basin tub. “Seems money does get your attention.” She pressed her hands against him as he pushed her to the floor, “No point in struggling, you have been paid.” He said coldly.

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Sohma sat behind the door listening. He knew that Taku would not do anything that eventually he would stop, but this was the first time he had ever been worried. The Kensuku had been battled hardened warriors, long before Soti Tylo had become the First Divine Emperor of the New Aslann Empire, back when the lands belonged to the Dragon Lords of the Shima.

They had devoured lands, people, and never once considered the consequences of their actions. Next to the Saitama they had been a terrible force that were still feared even after they were enslaved. Sohma could hear the crying of the prince and the disgusted words of Taku. “I don’t know who you are anymore.” The door opened and Sohma could hear Taku walking out. He did not say a word to him, simply let him exit the house. He needed to cool down.

“Are you alright?” Sohma asked after he was certain that Taku had departed the dwelling.

“I…” He could tell she was lying on the floor, fear stricken.

“He would never hurt you like that. You have to know he is just upset over the Ishi. You probably are wondering what gives him the right to be so angry.” Sohma talked knowing she was laying there listening. He could hear her breathing, settle bit by bit as he spoke, “We had departed the grounds together under the guise that we were going for a walk and returned sometime later. We conducted the business we needed to separately and once we returned you rested. You had been having terrible nightmares. We all knew it, though not one of us was certain why or what they were about. We could really only speculate at that point, though Taku seemed to think it was the cursed eyes of the Tylo Clan developing.”

“That night was no different. You woke in a terrible start, screaming out and I ran into your quarters ready for any battle that might ensue. I asked you if you were alright as I surveyed the room cautiously, and your only response to me was asking where Taku was.” Sohma sighed deeply as he closed his eyes. It had been a long time since he thought back on that day and he had done so, twice that evening.

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“Young Master he is in his quarters, he has the night off.”

“Take me to him.” Sohma had simply nodded his head. It was not the first time that he had taken the young prince to the small quarters that he shared with Taku.

They had to be careful walking past the other quarters belonging to the guardians as Sohma stepped into his quarters and spoke, “Taku.”

Taku was not exactly sleeping as he laid upon his bed in the darkened room. He peered at Sohma who brought his thumb up, gesturing over his shoulder before stepping aside. Taku propped himself up, “Prince Tatsuya are you alright?” He questioned. Tationy had stepped into the room, moving toward the small bed that Taku was currently occupying. Sohma took a seat on the floor over on his own side of the room.

She sat on the edge of his bed, “Can I stay?”

“Of course, did you have another nightmare?” Taku questioned as he moved over enough for her to lie down if she wished. She pulled her garments from her body, revealing a wrapped form as she laid down next to him.

“Yes.” She finally responded.

“Do you want to talk about it?” He questioned as his arm wrapped around her.

“Not really.” Taku understood that the prince would speak on it, if she wished too and the silence that followed told him that pressing the matter was not a good idea. With the silence of the room, Sohma could hear the soft breathing of both his friend and the young prince.

It was probably hours that passed, though it was difficult to be certain when Taku’s eyes opened suddenly. “Tationy.” He whispered feeling her hand run down along his stomach until it stopped upon his manhood. “What are you….”

“You going to tell me no?” She whispered.

“We have had this discussion before. You are not old enough. The Kensuku do not enter into such unions until both parties are at least twenty. It is something we Kensuku take very seriously. The joining of a man and a woman, signifies their eternal devotion to one another in this life and in the next.”

“Taku, what we are working toward to free your people may not happen overnight. My father bound me to the Waichia, there is a chance that they may have me before you do. You tell me all the time the Kensuku never stray. Their bodies are given only to the one they love and no other. What happens if I am given to the Waichia before I turn twenty?” He held his breath, a knot forming in his throat. “Please.”

There was silence as Taku considered her words. His body was tense from her touch. His pride in his people told him to refuse her that it was important to wait until she reached the age of shitorma, the age of understanding. Waiting strengthened their union not just in the mental, spiritual, but also the physical. Kensuku never strayed because their passion was so strong for the one they pledged themselves too. They took love in all its forms very seriously. It was not something you did with just anyone. Those whose bodies had been sold into slavery who had been turned into slaves of the flesh had been shamed. “I don’t know if you truly understand what you ask of me.”

“Forget it.” She said as she pulled her hand away and rolled to her back.

He stared at her, his eyes looking past the darkness of the room to her eyes shining. She was angry with him, he did not need to be a mind reader like the Waichia to know that. “I want too.”

“I said forget it.”

“Tationy, I love you.” He said as he rolled over on top of her, pinning her to the bed, “I am no fool. I know how you feel about love. You think it is an illusion, you told me many times, but I love you. If we do this, I can’t turn back. This lifetime, the next, you are it for me. If we fail in what we are doing and you are forced to be with the Waichia, there is nothing for me. The Kensuku have one love in their lives and giving my body to you solidifies everything I feel. I won’t be able to be with another. I won’t be able to love another. I can’t do this, if you still love him.” He said as he looked down at her. “Do you still have feelings for Hiko Kari?”

“No.” She whispered softly.

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Sohma grew silent as he thought back on that moment, “Even though Taku knew you were not being truthful, he still kissed you. When I was certain that it was going to progress further than it had ever before, I made a quick exit. Taku was so happy the next day. He was truly blinded by how he felt for you. When you slept with Abe, he could not wait to get away from you. Making everyone think you slept with Abe was one thing, but to actually do it…not even I could believe you would be so callous. We let Atsuki send us back to Aslann. We figured if death was going to come for us, it might as well be on our terms. He never stopped thinking about you. Then we were reincarnated for the first time.”

He could hear her moving around as she asked, “What happened?”

Sohma stood and moved toward the bed, looking around for her clothing. He found her dress under the bed. He sighed as he grabbed it up quickly and moved toward where she was, reaching his hand through the opened door. He was careful not to look as he retook his spot on the floor. He considered her question, “I can only tell you what Taku told me.”

“What did he say?” She asked as she stepped through the doorway, looking down at the small child sitting near the wall. Kali eyed him a moment before taking a seat next to him.

Sohma gave her a sideways glance as he spoke about Taku’s first incarnate.

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“How long has this been going on?” The elder monk had questioned.

“It started after that woman’s arrival.”

“Did she have any contact with him?”

“No, he was in self-imposed seclusion at that time.”

“It is the style used by the military of Aslann.” The elder spoke.

“He has been here almost his entire life, there is no way he should know such a thing.”

“I will handle this, please make certain that preparations are completed for this evening’s supper.” The elder waited a moment until he was certain the two of them were alone. The young man of fifteen, with the tall, thin frame seemed lost in his own thoughts as he ran through each position of Rom Kaga. “Is this part of that past life you speak of, Shiso?”

The young monk stopped his movements suddenly, bowing his head. “Shiso is only the name of this form. I was born Senri of the Kensuku and given the name Taku by my prince. I would prefer you call me Taku.”

The elder monk sighed as he took a seat on the landing, “There was a woman here, three days ago.”

Taku turned quickly. His eyes searched the face of the elder monk, “This woman…”

“She had two different color eyes and hair the color of fire. The expression on your face, tells me she is the prince you have told me about. I had been worried that you were perhaps going insane or simply not meant to walk this path, until she was standing before me. She said she was simply passing through the area, but felt pulled here.”

There was a hopeful look in the eyes of Taku, “Which way was she heading?”

“Shiso….forgive me, Taku. I do not know what it is you expect to find or expect to happen, but to walk with her is to walk a path of violence. I can see that war surrounds her and no spiritual man can find wisdom in fear, blood, and war.”

“I pledged my life and my love to her. No matter the cost, I will follow her. I will protect her. My hands were stained long before this life and they will continue to be, long before I return to Aslann.”

“I was afraid you were going to say that. You have yet to fully commit yourself here. Your vows are unfinished so if you chose to walk this path, you are free to do so. She told me she would return in a few days, if you truly wish to walk with her, then that will be your opportunity to depart. I implore you, Taku, to truly consider this. I believe this path will only lead you to heartache and death.” He paused, Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

Taku eyed the elder monk, “Anyone can quote Buddha. Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.” He looked up at the sky, “No matter the outcome, I will not fear what is to come. Each moment is precious and will be taken one day at a time until we arrive back in Aslann. Until she frees me of my duty, I will walk whatever path is laid before me.”

The elder monk clasped his hands, as a sprinkle fell from the sky. “My words will not reach you.”

“No, I am sorry. There is nothing you can say to make me change my mind. Only the words of my prince can reach me.”

The elder monk sighed as he stood, with his hands behind his back be began to walk, “Come let us eat this evening and think not on these dark matters. I still have three days.”

Taku chuckled, “You think, three days is enough time to convince me that I am walking a doomed path?”

“Perhaps not, but that does not mean that I cannot try to touch that stubborn mind of yours with reason and wisdom.”

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Three days later she had returned and the two set out on their journey together. She had spoken to him, “They do not wish for you to go, you do not have to if your heart is here.”

He had stopped walking suddenly, bringing his hand up to rub the back of his neck, “Nahyi, Tationy.”

“Oh, seems your memory is coming back in waves Taku. To speak the language of the Kensuku, must be liberating. I am glad, my memory is a jumbled, fragmented mess. What I remember is few and far between. The feeling that all of you need to be found, has nagged at me since I was young, but little reasons and understanding about why. I am honored that you will take this journey with me, but I have a feeling that your memory will come back long before mine will.”

Taku turned his head to eye her. She was not being deceptive, there was something that surrounded her. He could tell by how she looked at him that not all of her memories had returned and the ones that had, altered her. She was not the same. With a nod of his head he took a step forward, never glancing back at the monastery or the monks watching their departure. “So where do we go first?”

“I do not know, but I have a feeling we must find Abe.” Taku had hid well the frown and inner conflict. The man that she had slept with was the one she wanted to seek out. He did not want to find Abe, but she was his prince and he journeyed with her regardless of his feelings. They would find Chochi in the grand Imperial City, as a guard for the Emperor, then hear rumors about a fair haired, fair skinned man learning martial arts.

Sohma pushed the thoughts from his mind as he turned to glance at her. He tried to consider how he wanted to say his next words, “Taku had thought for certain that when you were reunited that things would be as they were meant to be. That Abe was some passing fancy during a moment of weakness. Then, when you said you wanted to find him, it crushed him. He vowed never to allow himself to feel those emotions again. He said he would always be at your side, and yet always keep you at arm’s-length. It was his way of protecting himself. I made a mistake I think, going to get him. I thought you had changed, but you are no different from how you were back then. You are still doing things to hurt him, whether intentional or unintentional.”

Silently she sat next to him, uncertain what she should say. How could she defend herself against something she could not even remember. Sohma stood stretching his small frame, the child before her was so different then when she had first encountered him. “I am going to find Taku.”

“What if that Ishi returns?” She questioned as she reached out quickly and grabbed his hand.

He looked down at her hand grasping his before finally speaking. “Do you really care?” He asked his tone cold as he pulled his hand away. “In our next lives, I hope that the old prince returns. The one that would never play with Taku’s emotions. The one from before the war. The one that would never disregard the feelings of those around her so callously. The prince that wanted to change the world and make a difference.” His words were sharp and decisive as he moved from the small building that they had been staying in for months, leaving her with her troubled thoughts.

582585

Sohma’s thoughts were sharply broken, when he realized that Taku stood at the doorway watching him. There had been many days lately where his mind had been drifting back to different periods in time. He noticed that Taku shook his head before moving to take a seat across from him and his ‘pet’. “You Hamara, sure do like to bed the Ishi. Are her skills in the bedroom so powerful that you risk her fangs being sunk into you?”

“We Hamara rather like living dangerously, besides she values her life.”

“She is still Ishi.”

“What do you want me to do Taku. Wait around for our prince?”

“Forgive me Sohma.”

Sohma waved his hand non-nonchalantly, “Don’t Taku, it is alright. We both know that the prince has never had eyes for me. I cannot harbor these feelings any longer. Seeing her, you have no idea how many times I wanted to go to her and tell her to look at me, see me, but I am not you, Chochi, Abe, or any of the others. I don’t have the qualities that attract her and as much as I would love for her to tell me that she has always loved me, I am not a fool. I am not a child unable to see reality. I serve our young master best as her mighty tactician and I will continue to do so until I am put to death. Until that time, there is nothing wrong with having someone warm my bed. We can’t all me monks, like the Kensuku.”

Taku bowed his head, “I am sorry. I never meant…”

“I know. You are my old friend Taku, you never need to apologize.”

“Which Ishi does this one belong to?”

“She is the sister of Oro. Tien found her hiding in the home of Jin when he went there to terminate that man’s foul existence. He thought she might be useful.”

“Has she been useful?” Taku questioned.

“Her mouth has been, but that is all she is good for. Seems the men of the Ishi do not talk business around their women.”

56632

Taku considered that piece of information as he kept his eyes focused on Sohma’s face and not the naked form of the Ishi woman. “Are you worried?”

“No. Things are going according to the plan.”

“So you say, though I do not know how comfortable I am leaving the prince in the hands of that Ishi and those that followed.”

“For now, it is for the best. They will distract her long enough for us to accomplish what we need to here. With her mind overstimulated by boys it will be unlikely for her to develop the cursed eyes of the Tylo. She needs to be in a centered place with no distractions of the flesh for such a transition and we have managed to avoid it throughout history.”

“What happens if she somehow defies your plans?”

“We will deal with that scenario when and if it happens. For now, those men will wreck havoc on her mind, body, and heart. In that state we are safe from her eyes. If her memories were intact, it would not be a concern.” Sohma paused looking into the eyes of his friend, “You are worried. Are you afraid that she will indeed fall in love with one of them?”

“Seems unlikely she would, but it does concern me. This is the first incarnate we have had where she has not fallen hopelessly in love with one of them or their descendants. However, pulling her from them will be much harder to do if that happens.”

“I believe you hold more power over her than any other guardian. Are you worried about Commander Kari?”

“I am more worried about Chochi.”

“Chochi has only managed to profess his love and have it reciprocated once, why does he concern you?”

“It is not about the prince, he is smart. He is on equal footing with you, even if you are unwilling to admit it. I do not think it will take him long to figure out what is going on.”

“I think you overestimate his abilities besides, you and Tien did well letting him overhear that conversation. He is as lovesick as ever and did exactly as we expected he would. He ran to Hiko Kari and then went hunting for answers.” He paused gauging Taku before once again speaking, “You feel we are the villains in this tale?” Taku looked away. “My old friend, we are just simply removing the stain that burdens Aslann as our prince asked us too. We have lived far to long under the oppressive ways of the New Aslann Empire, it is time that those of us held down, rise up and seize this kingdom.”

“What of the Dragon Lords? Sending her their might….”

“Those old relics of ancient times have no real power. Their kingdom only remains intact because of the Saitama. Once our prince has arrived in the lands of the Dragon Lords, her presence will ensure that the Saitama massacre the Dragon Lords and anyone that supports them.”

“I would prefer for Prince Tatsuya to be under our watchful eyes.” Taku voiced.

“She will be, first though she is needed elsewhere. We need her to convince the Saitama to rise up against the Empire of Aslann and the Dragon Lords. Only when they bring about war against Aslann, can we truly strike against the palace. We will bring her back to us and deal with the others after that is accomplished. For now, it has to be this way. With her memory locked, nothing we say to her will matter. She will believe Chochi and Abe.”

“We have the power of the Emperor…”

“His power means nothing. Emperor Miroku lost his sway with his people when the prince died. Our allies made certain that the minds of his people were poisoned. Miroku only remained in power because we allowed him too. I can see the trouble etched across your face. If you are worried she will not forgive you, then there is no concern. You lost your temper once with her, in a heated moment long ago. You still let it weigh heavily on you. You have to let it go. Our prince will not hold it against you.”

“I pray you are right, Sohma.”

“You worry to much, my old friend. There is no need for such a foul expression. This will be no different from any other time. Everything the prince and I have planned for, will come to pass. We will be successful and she will remember. Speaking of which, shall we pay a visit to our dear friend?”

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They traveled to the dungeon of the Ishi estate belonging to Nao. Deep in the bowels of the estate, was a torture room made of brick and stained with blood. Adorning the walls were chains and there was one lone person shackled there. Sohma took in the scene before moving toward the once proud and dedicated leader of the guardians. He crouched down, moving his hand up to touch the face of Atsuki. “Please forgive Taku, Atsuki he has a most foul temper when it comes to our young master.”

“You think what I did to him was painful, you should have seen what Nao did to him. Like all the Ishi, that man is insane and perverse.”

Sohma shivered noticeably, “Atsuki, don’t you want to be freed of this suffering?” Silence through the small dungeon. “You must tell us what you did to the prince. How did you lock her memory?” More silence.

“He has not spoken, even when Nao let Togore play with him, he bit his lip and never uttered a single word.”

Sohma eyed the guardian leader, sighing deeply and staring into his eyes. “You are forcing our hands, Atsuki. Why do you resist telling us? What master do you serve that you are so willing to go to your grave so easily for?” There was not a single response. Sohma frowned as he stood, taking a step back. “Even with his hands chained he is using esoteric seals, my blood eyes are worthless with those in place. Summon Maito and Togore, it is time we break Atsuki.”

To Be Continued

2 comments

  1. I finally get to read another chapter! ^_^
    Okay. That was really awesome to learn about Sohma as a child, and his earlier relationship with Tationy. Was this set in a past life?
    Also, how his friendship with Taku been quite long. I feel sorry for Taku, that he loves the Tationy but cannot be with her. Especially being her guardian and being aware of all her relations with everyone else.

    • Yeah it was one of many past. Over a 100 years before modern time during the days of Jack the Ripper we see Sohma as a child.

      They have certainly known each other for a long time, he and Taku, and being the two youngest they formed quite a bond.

      Yeah it was hard for Taku especially with how the Kensuku view relationships. There was nothing he could do about it, time is just one of those things, and sometimes someone else gets to her before he does. All he can do is set on the sidelines and be supportive.

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