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Tationy had terrible dreams.

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She dreamed about events that had not come to pass. Events where the Kari were attacked. The entire village slaughtered in a matter of moments.

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She dreamed of her guardians. Various moments in time with people she recognized and some she did not. Each dream more vivid than the one before.

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She often saw familiar faces in her dreams. Faces of people she cared about and missed. Sometimes there were faces that haunted her. Faces she did not recognize and yet felt like she should know. A memory, stuck in the furthest part of her mind that she simply could not access. She wondered often if this was her life now, her fate. To see these images, hundreds of images in her head over and over again. Not able to make sense of it. Not wanting to sleep because the nightmares would come. The never ending cycle of dreams that kept her from enjoying a peaceful night. Sometimes, her life did not feel like her own and she took comfort in those moments when she drifted back to her own time and world.

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Tationy had been standing near the window in the small kitchen of an apartment that she lived in with her mother and father. “Now Tationy, what have I told you. If you dress like a slob, everyone is going to think you are one. The least you could do is fix your hair and wear some makeup. The boys are not going to be beating down your door, with your face looking so pathetic.”

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Tationy sighed inwardly, “Yes mother.” This was sadly not the first time they had, had this conversation. She turned around glancing at her mother. She always looked like a doll, not to mention she was always dressed in very expensive top of the line fashion despite, the fact that they lived in a tiny apartment above a run down Chinese restaurant which they had acquired along with the apartment. They were neither Chinese nor knew anything about running any kind of restaurant, even so, her father opened it for business.

“Your father has business to attend too, so you need to make sure you are home from school on time.” Tationy nodded her head, even though she knew that was code for, her father was going to the race track and would be drunk off his ass after he lost, so he would be unable to work the restaurant. “I am having dinner with an old friend, so you will need to close up shop tonight.” Again Tationy nodded because she knew that was code for, I am going to sleep with a man who buys me nice stuff.

Moving past her mother, she was halted by her words, “Remember to fill out those university forms, nothing is gained by waiting until the last minute. Seeing there is little chance of you finding a rich man, you need to at least get yourself an education. Your father and I refuse to take care of you forever.” She frowned because her mother always had to dig the knife in a little bit deeper.

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She was in such a hurry to get away from her mother that she forgot her backpack. Forgetting it was not uncommon at all and each day she waited for the bus that she would ride to the closest subway terminal, just so she could get to school on the other side of town. She was always late because every day thanks to her mother she missed the bus and had to wait for the next one, only to go fifteen extra minutes out of her way.

When she ran down to meet the bus, there was always a man sitting there dressed in an expensive suit. He never had a briefcase with him, though she suspected by how he dressed that he had been some kind of business man, though why he was taking the bus was anyone’s guess. Every Monday through Friday he witnessed this pathetic girl miss the bus over and over again.

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They would ride the same bus, and then exit to the closest subway terminal. He always moved through the crowd so easily, Tationy had always made note how no one ever seemed to get in the man’s way, but for her she was often fighting through the crowds of people heading to work, school, and various other places. This day she almost did not make it as she tried to push through people to get into the car, she found that her hand had been grabbed and before she knew it the door was closed behind her and she came face-to-face with the man from the bus stop. His body practically pressed into her as people tried to shuffle about. She was shielded from the accidental bumps and touching by the man before her.

She did not know his name. Had never once spoken to him, but this day he was her savior. Tationy was frozen, though it was not fear exactly. Her mind raced with some of the naughtiest thoughts she had ever had in her life. Perhaps it was anticipation. Perhaps it was trepidation. She could not be certain; whatever it was she had never felt it before.

When he exited the car, she finally managed to breathe. She straightened her hair and her clothing and often, more times then, she cared to admit fantasized about that man, having slipped his business card into the band of her skirt.

CaptureIn retrospect her fantasies were by no means wild. She only really thought about going to his place. She had always pictured it as a hotel room, probably because she had never been in one before and always wondered if they looked like the ones she saw on television. Tationy in her fantasy was always sneaking out late at night, it was not as though her parents would notice and she always wore her idea of her sexiest outfit which was a blue jumper and sneakers. He always answered the door, in nothing more than a pair of pajama bottoms. She always gave him a tattoo because it made him look cool and a little dangerous. That is what she told herself.

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A young girl and her “wild” fantasy that never moved past first base even though a few times she had been in her underwear. He had been her perfect ideal man, not that she had any real concept at sixteen years of age, but to her she could have her happily ever after with him. There had been many times when she had actually thought about talking to that older man at the bus stop. Never once did she dare though. She liked her fantasy just the way it was, without the complications of realism. She did not want to know his name, did not want to know what he did, did not want to know if he was gay or straight, single or married. She just wanted to dream about him at night. Picture her life as being different then it was. In her fantasy she was not invisible and this man from the bus stop adored her.

She never dared tell anyone, not even Pai Pai or Mai. It was hard enough growing up poor with a father that gambled and drank his life away not to mention a mother that spread her legs for any man that would spend money on her. She had hoped that when they moved to Aslann things would be different and for a while they were. Her father had stopped drinking, but she had become even more invisible to him. Her mother only cared about appearances, and in their world, Tationy was a blemish.

There were times that she stood near the window in the small homestead that she shared with Hiko looking out at the Kari Village, wondering to herself if her parents even thought about her. Were they frantic because she was missing? Did they even realize? Sometimes she was so desperate to be seen that in her own time she walked down a street in Aslann that she had heard a woman had been raped and killed. Each time she wondered the same thing, would her mother cry? Would her father seek revenge? She wondered often if other people felt as invisible as she did.

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Her thoughts had been shaken when Hiko had come back. They had been posing as Tadayoshi and Ako for months now. She moved to the bed taking a seat. At first she did not say anything. Had their been a clock, she would have been watching the minutes tick away. Eventually he sat on the edge of the bed. “Are we going to have sex?”

His expression had never changed. He did not even venture to glance at her as he spoke, “Do you want to have sex?” She tilted her head to the side, staring at the back of his head waiting for him to respond, much as he had the numerous other times she had asked him. “No we are not going to.”

“May I ask why not?”

“I would have figured that would have been fairly obvious because you have never been with a man before. As tempting as it might be to be your first, I am not ready for that sort of responsibility and we are not married.” He stood quickly pulling his clothing from his body, sliding the covers back, and maneuvering himself into the bed. He rolled to his side, not facing her. She had not been surprised by his answer. It was not the first time they had, had that conversation. She had started asking him a few nights after they had arrived. It had all started because one night, she had been standing at the window staring out at the night sky, when he had called out a name in his sleep. It was not her name. She did not dare mention it as she pulled herself from the bed and moved to the window to look out. She hardly slept these days and even if she could sleep, at some point he would wake her up by calling out Tse’s name.

Tationy felt like a joke, like he had been playing a game with her. She did not want to believe such a thing about him, but even though her heart told her he was not like that, her mind told her that he only even looked at her because she reminded him of Tse, the Prince of Aslann.

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For Tationy the days sort of ran together and it took more effort than she had in her some days just to leave the homestead. Eri and Suemeli had traveled to the market, while the men were off fishing. She had decided that she would stay at the village, much to the dismay of Hiko who had wished she would go with him. She laughed and told him very simply that fishing was a perfect opportunity for him to enjoy not having to babysit her every second then added that she hated fish. He had put up some resistance, but had ultimately given in and left. Tationy had been grateful he had. For her, it was getting difficult to keep up a happy persona. She had wandered the village, when she had crossed paths with the Elder who considered himself much to busy to hunt down Sesiago.

Even though Hiko had told her not to be alone with any man that was not her husband, she was asked by the Elder so she set out to find him. She came upon him in the garden, near where the waterfall was. He was running through various movements, a fighting style that she recognized as belonging to the Kari. She was mesmerized by his way, his back to her. Zen had been remarkable to watch, a true master, but with as good as Zen was Sesiago was even better. He was practically built for the style.

Tationy had called out his name several times, but he appeared to be so deeply lost in his training that he did not hear her. So she approached him. That was the moment when she had been frozen in place. It was amazing how a single moment could cause every fantasy she ever had to rush back to her. He could have killed her with a single strike of his hand because her eyes were so fixated on the tattoo that she had given the mysterious business man at the bus stop in her fantasy, a hundred times over. There it was, on the chest of Sesiago. She never in her wildest dreams ever thought she would see that tattoo here in this time.

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She was so focused on that, she had not realized when Sesiago had dropped his stance and stared at her. Several times he attempted to speak to her, finally just calling her woman she came back to reality. “Forgive me for staring.” She bowed her head.

“It is inappropriate for you and me to be standing here together.” He was lecturing her.

“Elder Kari wished for me to seek you out.” She responded.

Sesiago eyed her, “Elder Kari would know better than to send a woman to a place where a man was that is not her husband.”

“Regardless, he sent me anyway. He wishes to speak with you when you have a moment. If you do not need me for anything, I would like to leave.” She responded. He simply gave her a single nod of his head as she quickly departed.

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Tationy had spent the remainder of her day hidden in the homestead she shared with Hiko. She had been trying to make sense of it all, but for her all it did was confuse her more. She told herself to avoid Sesiago, no matter what and forced herself to think about other things, such as the fact that she was sick and tired of wearing the same four outfits over and over again. She was grateful when Suemeli had given her something other than that ugly green thing Hiko had taken from a travelers camp, but still she rather missed being able to wear a different outfit each day. She let her mind wander to the modern world and there it remained until Hiko arrived back.

She told herself to put on a smile and pretend like nothing happened. She had a feeling that nothing good would come of him knowing that she was alone with Sesiago, even though it had been completely innocent though very disturbing for her. So they talked about the fishing trip that Hiko had attended with many of the other men of the village. It had not been anything special, it was something that they did often enough to help feed the village, but it was an important bounding moment for Hiko. Tationy had been listening to him talk when a knock upon the door interrupted their conversation. She opened the door only to come face-to-face with Sesiago. He must have suspected that she had considered shutting the door on him because his hand pressed against it as he spoke, “Is your husband available?”

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Tationy looked over her shoulder and got a single nod from Hiko to allow Sesiago in. The men seated around a small table in the corner and Hiko asked Tationy to give them some privacy so she moved to the other side of the lattice. It wasn’t as if she could just go to the other room. They were residing in a one room dwelling and it was the middle of the night. There was silence for some time and though she pretended to be occupied with other things she was listening, waiting for either of them to say something. She wondered why Hiko did not speak right away. Was it some sort of test of wills? Was there some sort of protocol that she was not aware of? She was prepared for him to tell Hiko that they had been alone together.

“Elder Kari has requested that I head to Shimargata to sell some of our goods. Iashi and I along with Eri and Suemeli will be leaving tomorrow if you wish to join us, you and Ako.”

“We will be ready.” Hiko had responded. They talked for about thirty minutes, regarding the trip before Sesiago said his good-nights and departed the small dwelling. Hiko‘s eyes turned to Tationy, “Are you going to tell me what he wouldn’t?”

She sighed, he was way too perceptive. She imagined you did not become the Commander of the Ruthlbahdo, if you could not read people. “What makes you think there is something that needs said?”

“He kept looking at you.”

“I didn’t notice him looking at me at all.”

“He did.” He responded then paused a moment before asking, “Are you going to keep avoiding the question?”

She sighed noticeably, “Elder Kari asked that I inform Sesiago that he was looking for him. I found him near the waterfall; we were together for no more than five minutes, just the two of us.

Hiko had frowned. “I warned you about that.”

“I know, but what was I suppose to do? The Elder of the village asked me.”

“It was a test.”

“Why was he testing me?”

“To see if you would go against your husbands words.”

She frowned, “You did not say I would be tested. You just told me to not be alone with other men. What was I suppose to do tell the Elder of the village no?”

“No.” He voiced. He stood and moved toward where she was standing. He took a seat on the bed, eyes focusing in on her. “What happened? Don’t lie to me.” He had said that to her before, back when they were talking about Ritsu.

“Nothing happened. I was somewhat just taken by surprise. Sesiago was training and when he turned, I noticed his tattoo. I might have stared a bit too long. It was no big deal, I was just surprised because I had seen it before. Are you mad at me?”

“No, just worried.”

“It is fine really; I was just taken by surprise. I never imagined I would see that tattoo…”

“It’s the mark of Kazuma.” Hiko interrupted.

“I don’t understand.”

“It is something held over from the old ways. He was most likely marked as a young man because he embodied everything that was Kazuma. It is an old Kari tradition. If you are seeing that tattoo, then you are most likely dreaming about Kazuma.”

She did not dare tell him that it was not a dream. That she had fantasized about a life with the bus stop business man, and had given that tattoo to him. She had always believed it was something she had just come up with, she had no idea it was a real thing that meant something to anyone. He had turned his head slightly giving her a look, which she understood. It was concern over her safety and he thought she was naïve. All of it was there. “Do you think Sesiago is mad at me?”

“No.”

“You are bothered by something though.”

He took a breath in before exhaling and speaking, “It is not the Kari way to not say anything, especially a Kari like him, yet he never once mentioned to me that you and he had been a lone. It concerns me.”

“Why?”

“It just does not happen amongst the Kari.”

“Maybe he thought it was not worth mentioning.”

He did not respond to her words. He stood for a moment stretching before finally saying, “You should try an sleep. Your eyes are starting to show signs that you are not sleeping much.” Even though she had told him she would try to sleep, Tationy had waited for Hiko to drift off to sleep before she left the homestead.

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There was a time not long after their arrival that Sesiago had noticed her sneaking from the small homestead she was sharing with Tadayoshi. Months of it and he simply stood near the entrance near the shrine watching her. It had not concerned him at first, but as time continued on, he began to wonder what was troubling her. The bags under her eyes made it fairly obvious that she was not sleeping. Then, there was the fact that Tadayoshi seemed unaware that she was leaving the small homestead at night. Not to mention, there was the fact that Tadayoshi had not seemed to have trained her in any of the ways of the Kari. What had transpired earlier that day, was a perfect example. He moved up behind her, stopping just short as he crossed his arms. She had not moved at first, not even to turn and acknowledge him until he spoke. “You should not be out so late at night, alone.”

He watched her body jump in a start as she turned suddenly and glared at him. He could tell her mind was racing and figured she was wondering how long he had been there and why she had not heard him sneak up on her. She had composed herself rather quickly and adorned a rather neutral face. She had one of the best ones he had ever seen. It was rare for a woman to not show emotion, but she managed to keep that expression often enough. Now and again he would see cracks in her armor. It was clearly evident that she was quick to temper just by the glare she had given him. He was adept at reading people, but he had to admit, he could not figure her out entirely. “I just needed some fresh air.” They once again silently stood, staring at each other.

When she had arrived at the village along with Tadayoshi, Iashi had appraised her. He talked about how little her chest was, how her eyebrows did not match her hair color, how her eyes might be hardly noticeable, but stood out more than anything.How young she was and certainly how she was not built to bear children. He had even gone so far as to say such things and more in front of her husband. “Your husband lets you do as you wish with no regard for your safety.” It was a statement, not a question.

“He is sleeping.” She voiced though there was something she was trying to hide. He had gone to speak, but voices caught his attention. Sesiago grabbed her hand quickly, pulling her up toward the line of trees so they might be hidden. He stopped her from speaking, when he wrapped his hand around her mouth his eyes focusing in on the direction of the voices.

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“We do not have much time.” Eri’s voice could clearly be heard.

“Well then we will make use of as much time as we have.” The Elder of the Kari spoke out as he pulled Eri in close and kissed her. They had talked for some time in hushed voices, amorously kissing one another.

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Sesiago could feel Tationy’s body relax so he had uncovered her mouth. Neither of them dared to speak until the cheating couple was long gone. When they finally disappeared she sat herself down on the ground and sighed. It was not something a Kari man like him ever wanted anyone to see and yet here they were. “How long?” She asked.

“Seventeen years.” He voiced.

He could hear the surprise in her voice as she asked, “Why do you stay with her?”

“The shame she causes me and our children by her actions will cause me disgrace amongst my kin if it becomes known. I am a Kari man that could not control his woman, could not satisfy her, and could not make her see only him.”

“What will you do?”

“It is in my right to have them both executed.”

“Sesiago, you have children with her, you can’t kill their mother.” She responded as she grabbed onto his arm. He turned his attention toward her before looking down to her hand which was gripping his arm tightly. Amongst the Kari when a woman touched a Kari man, it told him that she was interested in him. He stared, at first unable to process what was happening. “Please, is there nothing else you can do?”

Her question brought him back to reality. “I can leave.” He voiced. “If I remain away from the village for six months, I give up my claim to her as my wife.”

“Is there no other way?”

“No.” He said as he stood and she followed suit.

“Where will you go?”

“I don’t know.” They both became silent again as he stared at her. There was a part of him that wondered if she would ask to go with him. Her simple touch told him she was interested. He realized when the silence continued that he was perhaps just an old fool. A young girl like her would never have eyes for him after all she had Tadayoshi.

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“You shouldn’t leave, your children need you.” She finally spoke up. “I don’t really understand why you stay with someone like that, but it is not my place to judge. You are not really what I expected.”

“What do you mean?” He asked.

“You seem really confident, I just never imagined you as the type of man to tolerate….forgive me it is not my place. I am hardly one to judge what goes on around me. This place does not make any sense to me.”

He smiled briefly, he had not in years. He did not really understand her statement. She was somewhat peculiar, it was the only word that fit her. The moment she had said he seemed confident he had inwardly laughed because he had pictured Iashi in his head and could clearly hear his comment to her remark. Sesiago got it though, why Iashi was so interested in this oddly shaped girl with an unusual mentality. When he realized he had not responded right away he noticed she was staring at him. He quickly removed the smile from his lips. “What is going on with you and Tadayoshi?” He questioned. He knew it was something he really should not ask, but the fact that she was still standing there with him told its own story.

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He watched as she brought her fingers to her face. It was evident she was considering how she wished to answer his question. He noticed it when she had found her resolve to speak. It was clear in her eyes. “I am competing with a dead woman.” She responded and then shrugged. “It started just after we arrived. He has been dreaming about her more and more. He loved her and he still loves her. I am just….the image in a mirror.” She responded. “He looks at me and sees her, but I am not her.”

He could hear it, even though she had kept it from her face. She was sad. “You are a woman, it is alright to feel.” He told her.

“I don’t want to feel.” She responded. There was a moment of silence before she added, “I am sorry about earlier. Tadayoshi only told me not to be alone with men that were not my husband, he did not go into particulars.”

“Is it safe to assume your knowledge is limited?” He questioned. She had given just a single nod of her head, which caused him to frown. He certainly did not understand Tadayoshi at all. He did not act Kari. Everything about him reminded him of the Kari of Aslann, and the more time he spent with him the more he disliked him. Iashi had told him to not read into the actions of Tadayoshi, that not all Kari are built the same, but that Kari carried traits that he despised. “You should try an rest. We have a long journey tomorrow.”

“You are staying?”

“For now.” He responded, “I ask that you not mention this to anyone.” She had given him a nod of her head. He was certain she would bite her tongue, she seemed the type of girl that was used to carrying a burden.

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In the morning they would journey with the others to sell their goods in Shimragata, despite that she could not get the night’s events out of her mind. They rose in the early morning and began preparing for their journey. It was going to be a long journey, with one burro and six people. It was hot and Tationy cursed under her breath for having to suffer through wearing so much clothing. Hiko had practically choked one day when he walked in on her, wearing nearly nothing in the middle of the day. When he found out that she was so hot that her clothing was sticking to her, he had smirked and essentially called her silly. She could not help, but stare at the back of his head as she walked, wondering what he would say to Sesiago. She had hardly said anything to Suemeli or Eri during the journey. Tationy must have seemed terribly rude and apologized to Suemeli telling her that she was simply not feeling well that the heat was too much for her.

After they had arrived to Shimragata, Suemeli and Eri took off. They had asked if Tationy had wanted to come, but she had originally told them no. Eventually she changed her mind when she realized Sesiago was going to put her to work, so she made a quick escape after saying she changed her mind. She could hear Sesiago lecturing Hiko and Iashi laughing as she walked away. She felt a little bad for leaving them like that and got herself lost in Shimragata. It was familiar to her and yet oddly not at the same time. She walked through a section or two, turning left and then right, and eventually she lost track of which way she turned. She was lost. She had stopped moving looking about casually. She figured that Hiko would eventually come and find her, which only made her sigh more. How hopeless was she that she got lost and was already thinking he would come to her rescue. When did she become that girl?

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She had started walking, and then heard a noise which caused her to stop and look behind her. Not noticing anything she began to walk again, only for the sounds to get louder. Though when she turned there was nothing there. Her breathing had gotten heavy; her body tense, she did not understand what was going on as she looked about cautiously. It was like flashes of light, sounds she could not recognize, like metal hitting each other over and over again. What was the sound? She took a step forward and then turned suddenly. Panic overtook her body as she took off into a run, only to crash into someone. She was screaming, struggling, as his arms gripped around her. “It’s alright.” He whispered as her body settled, though her breathing still came in pants. He still had his arms around and she could not bring herself to open her eyes, even though he kept telling her that it was alright.

The more he talked the more she relaxed, until her body finally gave out to the stress of it all and she whispered, “Seiji.”

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She could hear voices. Her head was pounding and the voices that were speaking were not familiar. “We apologize Kari; this must be rather uncomfortable for you. The moment it happened, I sent General Shima to gather you. We understand that the Kari are rather protective of their women, having her alone with men that she is not in a union with…”

“Don’t pretend as though you understand the Kari, Commander Shima.”

“Forgive me, you are right. I do not understand the Kari. I have never understood the point of caging a beautiful woman and leashing her like a dog.”

“If your agenda is to cause me to lose my calm Shima, you have chosen the wrong Kari. I am far beyond that level; your comments will not get a rise out of me.”

“Sesiago.” She whispered and a brief smile traveled over her lips as his attention focused in on her face. She was trying to sit up, but she could not seem to move her body.

“We shall give you privacy.” The soldiers responded as they departed the small dwelling.

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Sesiago took a deep breath in as he took a seat next to her. She was still trying to sit up. “Don’t bother to move, you have stressed your body.” She was not exactly conscious. In an out of a state where her mind was focusing in on the past. By the time Iashi had arrived she was sitting in a corner mumbling to herself. “Did you find him?”

“Ahh, no.”

Sesiago frowned, “He could not have just disappeared.”

“Ahh, I tracked him outside the city. He was traveling with someone, but I lost their trail.”

Sesiago stared at Tationy, she was shivering as she sat on the floor rocking back and forth. “He just left her?”

“Ahh, it seems so.”

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For Sesiago there were too many questions. “The soldiers said that when they came upon her, she was turning about as though she was hearing sounds.” Sesiago explained. “That she had charged them, like she was in the middle of a battle. The Commander managed to subdue her, and he said that she had called him, by his given name. Now, I have to wonder how a farm-girl from Bicorla knows the name of the Commander of the Military of Torgahdah.”

Tationy was listening, well trying to listen, but her thoughts were all over the place. “Ahh, seems unlike a farm-girl would know that. Then, there is that other thing.” Iashi said.

“What other thing?” Sesiago questioned.

“Ahh, the two of them weren’t married.”

“What makes you think they were not?”

“Ahh, if the two of them knew each other carnally, she would not blush so much. That habit a true Kari man would have broken her of a long time ago.”

Sesiago found it hard to argue with that logic. It was a true statement.

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After their arrival back from Shimragata, Tationy had hidden herself away in the small homestead she once shared with Hiko. Iashi and Sesiago broke the news to her that Hiko had taken off. Originally in her head she told herself that was not possible, and even came up with reasons he might have left, but as time passed she had given up hope that he was returning. She kept her distance from everyone even Eri and Suemeli. Tationy had told herself several times that she would be leaving the Kari, that it was better if she did not stay and yet she had difficulty forcing herself to even take a step out of the village. Her dreams were not getting any better and Zen was right, it was a progression, it was going to get worse. After the incident in Shimragata, she was not certain how worse it was going to get and she did not really even attempt to explain what she was going through to Sesiago or Iashi, even though they both had insisted that she talk to them. She had just wanted to be left alone and everyone in the village had given her space up until the night the Saitama had attacked.

Bóre had led the Saitama in attacking the Kari village. She saw his face so clearly standing over the corpses of fallen Kari. She knew that she had brought this upon the village. He had crossed the grounds making his way toward her, so she ran. She had practically made it to safety when she caught sight of Eri’s children. Kin and his sisters were trying to get out of the village. Her first thought was that Hiko would be mad at her, but Hiko had already abandoned her, so she wondered why she cared. So Tationy had run through a battlefield to get to the children. She was fortunate to have made it to them unscathed, and they were as well no worse off. In the pit of Tationy‘s stomach she knew that this onslaught was brought upon the Kari because of her, and because of that she vowed that she would not allow these children to come to harm. It was the least she could do when so many were giving their lives, for something they had no knowledge of.

She and Hiko had been wrong to hide amongst the Kari. They were wrong to pretend to be Ako and Tadayoshi, and the people that paid the price were the Kari. So she escaped with the children into the darkness.

“We cannot stay here.” Kin had spoken. He was troubled by what had transpired, and in a very un-Kari-like fashion it was displayed over his entire body.

Tationy looked to the girls. Elizie lie on the ground next to her younger sister Asuka. Asuka‘s twin Hana sat on a rock, her head in her hands. They were just children, and now their memories were filled with battle. She wondered to herself if it was wrong to pray that she was anyplace other than this world. Even though she told herself it was not their fault, she cursed her guardians for bringing her there and briefly wondered what fate had befallen them.”I know.” She finally managed to whisper. “Do you know these lands, Kin?”

“Not as well as I should.” He responded. Sesiago had been so stubborn about training him in the ways of the Kari. He knew the lands around his village well enough, but they had kept moving and the further they got from the village, the less of the area he knew. Tationy could not help, but give the young man a once over wondering why it was that he was lacking in training, but she supposed deep down those were questions she needed to ask Eri and Sesiago.

“Are there any towns?”

“Torgahdah is massive, there are many towns.”

“Are we near Garvator?”

“The farmlands, no they are in the other direction.”

She frowned. Tationy was certain she could find her way to Aslann from Garvator, having made the journey with Mikio in relative silence, which allowed her to pay attention to where they were going. They were still in the lands of the Dragon Lords. Her understanding was that it rivaled Aslann in size, which meant that it would not be difficult to hide.

“We could probably go to Shimargata.”

His voice had broken her thoughts. “Which direction?” She questioned as she stood looking about. Even though she had traveled to Shimragata, not long ago, she was not certain where she was at this point or in which direction even the Kari village was let alone Shimragata.

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“North.” A man’s voice spoke up. Tationy and Kin both instantly reacted to the presence of this potential enemy. His hair was the color of the Saitama even though his garment was far different from those of the ones that invaded the village.

“He is part of the Military of Torgahdah.” Kin voiced as he stood in front of his sisters to guard them.

“You must be the Kari from that village that got burned to the ground.” The gasp of the girls that had been stirred from their reverie echoed through the small area.

“You’re a foul man. Show some respect.” Tationy voiced. It was not uncommon for her to speak out of turn or open her mouth when it was best to keep it shut. Women were not as brazen in those parts as she was.

The Saitama was eying her. He realized instantly that she did not remember him. Of course the state she was in at the time that was not entirely surprising. His thoughts were quickly broken, “I like this woman she can see that Moromari is a foul man.” The one whose name was revealed to be Moromari was joined by two others.

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“Their Shima.” She could hear the trepidation in the voice of Kin as she took up a fighting stance.

“A woman that belongs to the Kari who can fight, I have never seen this.” The Shima with the oomba hanging from between his lips spoke.

“The likelihood that you will successfully defend against us is five percent.”

“Moromari, you are always quick with the odds. You are making her tremble with fear.”

“She should be afraid.” He responded coldly. The two talked back and fourth so casually only now and again acknowledging Tationy, while the one Shima remained silent to the side.

Tationy was so tense from being put on guard that she had not realized that the men before her had recognition in their eyes. She herself could not really recall the events that had transpired at Shimragata, other than she had been in a rather unsettled state. Most of it she had blocked from her mind entirely so to her, these men were complete strangers. She changed her stance and each man before her noticed instantly.

“The style of the Snake Clan, what do your odds say now?” The talkative Shima questioned his companion.

“Her odds have increased to forty percent. The likelihood that she would injure you is eighty-five percent.”

The Shima made a sound as he expelled the breath from his mouth, “You have such little faith in me Moromari.”

She stared at them before finally speaking, “You are right it is the style of the Snake, but that is not the most important thing he taught me. He taught me that when an enemy feels the need to talk so much, it is because they are hesitant to attack. So while I might be trembling, it is you three that are afraid.”

The Shima who had been silent smiled ever so slightly before finally speaking, “You are right, we are afraid. We cross paths with a girl that has the eyes of the Gods that we have met before. We figure she is the same girl that everyone is looking for. So we find ourselves in a rather unpleasant position. We could take you with us where you will be safe and potentially put our people in harm’s way, or we can leave you and the Saitama that are approaching from all directions will take you.”

“She had not realized.” The other Shima spoke when he noticed Tationys reaction. “Guess the snake clan did not teach her everything they know. Would you like Moromari to calculate your odds of survival against the Saitama.”

“The Saitama won’t kill me.” She voiced.

“You are right, they won’t, but the same cannot be said for the children.” The one called Moromari stated.

Tationy frowned as she glanced to her side toward Kin and the girls. “Don’t the Saitama work for the Shima?” She questioned boldly.

“The Saitama work for the Dragon Lords.” The relatively quiet Shima responded.

“They are called the Dragon Lords of the Shima, I cannot imagine you not just turning us over to them.” His entire face had gone serious. His eyes focused in on her face. “It seems I am not the only one that has not realized something.”

He controlled his expression. He considered it all, she was right the Dragon Lords had been operating outside the knowledge of the Shima and the military of Torgahdah. “Moromari, what is the probability that others survived the attack on the Kari village?”

“Not including this woman and these children, two percent.”

“You are considering taking them with us?” The Shima asked as he removed his smoke from between his lips, tossing it to the ground before stepping on it.

“We will take them to Shimargata.”

“Are you sure Lord Shima?”

“If any Kari survives they will come for them. No Kari man will allow his woman or children to be left in the hands of the Shima.”

“So we are prisoners?” Tationy asked.

“If that is how you wish to see it.” The Shima remarked. “I suggest you do not resist, Moromari does not have the restraint I do in regard to women and children. He will not hesitate to kill.” In the end, even if they fought the likelihood that they would escape this situation unscathed was unlikely. If the Shima was right, any surviving Kari would come.

444

“Are you waiting for him?” The Shima asked as he approached her on a balcony overlooking the market square. She had washed the dye out of her hair, no longer hiding the red and he held his breath a moment, having only seen the color up-close a handful of times. They had all been surprised when days after they had arrived she exited the room she had been holdup in with her locks as bright as the sun. She glanced at him only briefly and offered nothing in the way of a response. She had refused to say anything, even after their arrival. “I see you are still not talking to me, perhaps I was a fool to think that you wished for some company.”

“Why are the Shima and the Dragon Lords no long associated?”

Her very direct question halted his movement. “You are not the type of woman to bite her tongue are you?” She said nothing to his question, “I will make you a deal, for each question you ask me and I answer, you allow me to ask one of you and you answer.” With a passing glance she agreed to the deal. “The Dragon Lords are abominations. While they still rule over these lands, they were given powers by the Gods that have caused their people to resent them. When they die, they are reborn in another body. It has allowed them to weave distrust amongst the other nations and has caused great unrest. The man that you are waiting for, do you love him?”

“I care for him deeply.” It was not the answer he expected. “So what power do the Dragon Lords have?”

“They control the Saitama and the Sweela.” Tationy had noticeably frowned. “Why are the Saitama really after you?”

“Something to do with Aslann I imagine.” It might have seemed like she was avoiding the question, but truth be told, the more she learned about what was going on the more she did not understand. “Your men referred to you as Lord Shima, are you the master of this domain?”

“I am descended directly from one of the Dragon Lords. Thus, I am referred to as Lord. I suppose one might say I am master of this domain. I hold the highest rank within the military of Torgahdah.” He allowed his eyes to focus in on her briefly, “Do you remember me, from our previous meeting?”

It was an unusual question that finally got her to look at him directly. “I cannot say.” She voiced, “The one called Moromari, why is he not with his people?”

Moromari is different even among the Saitama. He is pure-blood. Have the cursed eyes of the Tylo clan developed.”

“No,” She responded simply before considering his words and asking, “Are the Saitama that follow the Dragon Lords not pure-blood?”

“They are in a different sort of way. The Saitama that follow the Dragon Lords are pure-blood because they are unions between the Saitama and one of the Demon Clans. Those Saitama that have unions outside the Demon Clans are generally killed. Moromari is from a union between two Saitama, so even amongst his kin he is a rarity and looked upon as a stain of ancient ways. The children are not yours, have you had any?”

It was a personal question and she peered at him suspiciously, “If that was your attempt to find out if I could have children that is none of your business. I have no intention of forming any union with you, Shima.”

He could not help, but smile just a little bit at how she reacted; it was the most emotion he had seen from her since their arrival. “Forgive me such a question was forward. I imagine your mate would not appreciate me asking such a question of you. I am told that Kari men are highly possessive of their women; I imagine such a question would result in my death if he were here. Perhaps you should consider that he might not return to you and what might be best for those children.” He said as he left her with her thoughts.

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She had walked around the market square, though there was never a member of the military that was not far away. She might have thought they were trying to be sneaky, but truth be told they were not trying to hide that they were keeping an eye on her. Her mind continually wandered to everything she knew as she tried to make sense of it all. She wished that she understood it. It was a situation that with the more information you got the less it all made sense. She felt she was dealing with a complex math problem that the formula just kept going until you were pulling your hair out screaming in frustration as you tried to figure out why exactly the answer was a.

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Her head tilted back as she looked up at the sky and sighed. She was not sure how long she was standing there in the center of the market square, but when she finally came back to reality she noticed Kin sitting up on one of the landings. She moved through the crowd making her way toward where he was. “May I join you?” She asked as he glanced very briefly at her before giving a slight nod of his head. His attention turned back to his sisters who were walking with a young Shima boy. “You’re a good brother.”

“Am I?” He questioned.

“You are protective of them and keeping a watchful eye on them. I think that makes you a pretty good brother.” Kin was fourteen years old. Tationy felt so much older than him, though she was only nineteen now. It was hard for her to believe that when she had first arrived in the New Aslann Empire, she was just seventeen years old. She would be twenty soon, and she certainly did not feel any wiser or smarter than she had been before. She thought as she got older that things like that would change, but coming here she realized just how naive she was.

“I can’t protect them if the Shima attack.” Kin finally said, his voice sounded defeated. She wondered if it was the same in her world, if a big brother could not protect his little sisters, though she quickly determined it was not the same. That in this world all they had was their honor, pride was everything. Being able to protect the ones they loved was the duty of a man and if a man was not capable of doing that, then he was considered worthless.

“Why didn’t your father train you?’ She cautiously asked.

“He felt my Maiba blood was weak. Iashi tried to train me early on, but my father would not have any of it.”

“There is a lot of hatred between the Maiba and the Kari. How did all of that get started?”

“The Maiba once ruled over a small nation called Shinretic. The Kari were sent by the Dragon Lords to help them defend it during the war, but the Kari were continually shuttled around between battles never allowed to engage the main enemy force with the Maiba. When the Maiba palace was overtaken and the Lord of the Maiba fell. The Kari were blamed. That was just before the Prince of Aslann seized the walls of Shimragata and defied his nation, ending the war. Why have you been hiding amongst the Kari?”

She froze; she had not really discussed it with Kin or the children. When they had arrived she had remained hidden within her room, and when she eventually emerged she did not really offer any explanations regarding who she was, her hair, or why their village ultimately was destroyed. She was certain that he had heard the soldiers talking. Tationy wished she knew how to explain it to him, “Tadayoshi….Hiko thought it would be safe.”

“So are you really the ruling body of Aslann?”

“It is really complicated Kin.”

“Do you think me a child incapable of understanding?” He questioned.

“No, I think me a dumb girl that is incapable of explaining.” She voiced with a sigh and he turned his attention away from his siblings and directed it fully on her. “There are a lot of expectations and yet I really have no idea what is going on. I am getting dragged here and there and only given bits of information while the men talk amongst themselves or give me half-truths. Even after we arrived at your village, Hiko hardly talked about what was going on and only told me that we were running from everyone. That everyone was our enemy. He would probably be pretty mad at me right now, for allowing the Shima to take us.”

“Probably, though I don’t believe the decision was wrong.” Kin responded.

“You don’t?”

“They could have killed us and taken you anyway and I don’t think that one that calculates the odds is ever wrong. I heard stories growing up about true pure-bloods of the Saitama, that with a simple glance they can calculate odds of any given situation, by being able to analyze the people involved.”

“So his eyes are similar to the Tylo clan eyes.”

“Without the dangers from what I understand.” He grew silent a moment, “Have they developed at all?”

That was the second time that day she had been asked about the eyes. “I have bad dreams a lot.” She responded.

“Did you dream about the Kari village?” She looked away, which ultimately gave him the answer. “Did anyone survive in your dream?”

“No.” She responded. He could tell she was trying not to cry and that the emotions were threatening to overtake her.

“Have faith that particular dream was one of the ones where the outcome was changed. Tylo clan eyes see all possible outcomes, in a dream you only see one. That one, could be one of the ones that does not happen, you have to hold on to something, any little bit of hope that you can.”

“I never imagined that a Kari would be telling me to keep my chin up.”

“Well according to my father, I am more Maiba than Kari.”

“I think your father would be proud of you Kin.”

“You don’t have to say that, I know what he thought of me.”

“Well it might not mean as much, but I am proud of you and I will train you if you want me to.” His eyes locked on hers, “I probably do not have the skill of Iashi, but I do know the styles of both the Kari and the Ishi clans and if nothing else, you should be able to protect your sisters.”

“Trained by a woman, my father would certainly roll over in his grave.” Tationy could not help, but laugh as she covered her mouth and tried to stop herself. She had a laugh that reminded Kin of his mother and Suemeli, of home. It brought more comfort to him than any words that she had offered.

544

The heat was ungodly as she lie on her bed in the lavish room she was given. She was restless, her mind was jumping from one thing to another and she imagined if she wrote her tale down on paper that others might think she had no idea what was going on. From her point of view, the reader would know exactly what she did, nothing at all. She always hated stories she could not figure the ending out on. She rolled to her side, then to her back. The rain had begun to fall, but it did nothing for the mugginess that had overtaken Shimargata.

So lost in her own thoughts she had not noticed when someone entered her bedchamber until a figure was perched above her whispering, “Who are you exactly?” She screamed out, which caused guards to enter the room in a rush, though the figure never left his position. When the light of the moon shined brightly into the room, she recognized the blue eyes staring back at her as the ones belonging to Sesiago.

“Lady Tationy.” One of the guards spoke as he moved to rush forward.

Her words halted him, “It is alright, I was just surprised. Everything is alright.”

After her words reassuring them that everything was fine, the situation no longer looked like the Kari man was intending to harm her, but more like a man positioned over his woman, so the guards made a hasty exit.

Tationy noticed how rigid Sesiago’s body was as he let all the breath leave his lips and collapsed on top of her. She sighed, he was heavy and she could only imagine that the exhaustion that he had been fighting off since the attack finally overtook him. She tried to push him off of her, and was only successful after several rather uncomfortable failed attempts. His clothes were covered in blood; his face had bruises and gashes. The emotions threatened again, if he was the only one here that meant…no she would not think such thoughts and she quickly pushed them aside.

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She looked over her shoulder to the sleeping Kari on her bed. This was her fault and she knew that she had to find a way to make it all right. How though she was uncertain. She tried to process all she knew and sighed in frustration. “Ahh, I see he found you.”

Tationy whipped around quickly catching site of Iashi. “You’re alright.” She said not hiding a bit of relief as she glanced toward the door expecting Suemeli or even Eri to enter behind him. When she looked back to him she saw it, the one thing she did not want to see, the fate of the Kari village. She quickly turned away from him, her eyes focusing on anything.

Iashi looked to Sesiago who was asleep on Tationy’s bed before glancing back to her. He could tell her he was sorry for her loss, but those were just words. Words people say when they have nothing else to say. It was not like he really could understand. Certainly he had lost Suemeli as well, but it was different for a Kari man. They just picked up and moved on, such feelings were buried so deep that they rarely came to the surface. “Ahh, we Kari are callous men.” He said under his breath as he rubbed his neck. He avoided the topic of conversation that needed to be discussed; he would leave that for Sesiago to deal with. “You were brave protecting the children.”

“I would have hated myself if I left them to fend for themselves, besides I owe the Kari a huge debt for their sacrifice, it was the least I could do.” She voiced.

Iashi frowned; he already knew how the conversation with Sesiago was going to go, just by the few words she had said to him. He most certainly did not wish to be a part of that conversation. “Ahh, is Ako your real name?” She glanced at him briefly giving a single shake of her head. The Shima had called her Tationy, though had corrected and referred to her as Ako in all later conversations after he and Sesiago had arrived.

“Tationy.” She responded.

“Ahh, so Tadayoshi was?”

“Commander Hiko Kari of the Ruthlbahdo.”

Iashi controlled his emotions as he took a step back from her. “Ahh, I see.” It answered more questions than he cared to admit. He looked to Sesiago once more, before departing her room without saying anything further to her. Tationy took it as a sign he was not happy with her.

5455

Three days later, Sesiago had woken up. The moment he saw her standing near the balcony, he left the bed rushing toward her. He had grabbed her arm so tightly that when he jerked her around to look at him, she felt portions of her arm twist in rather uncomfortable ways. When his eyes met hers he had not expected to see pain. It was not the pain from her arm, but the pain of loss. She had really cared about them, the Kari. He let go of her arm, turning his attention to the grand water off in the distance. He was still covered in dirt and blood. He vaguely recalled rushing toward her room, when he found out she was there and what little bit that transpired before he had collapsed on top of her. He frowned at himself for losing his control. “You should not allow them to adorn you in such dresses.” He finally spoke.

“It is just a dress.” She voiced, remembering a time when Hiko had said similar words to her. She never thought she would ever say such a thing and though she tried not to choke on the words, she did nonetheless.

“It is more than just a dress.”

“I thought the Kari were not obsessed with material possessions.”

“We are not. The Shima, however, like to adorn their people in anything that can be bought with coin, even women. You wearing that dress, says that you can be purchased at a price.”

“You have nothing to worry about in that regard. A man’s wealth is not going to sway me. I will call a jerk a jerk.” She wondered how long it was going to take him to ask her. He hardly seemed the type of man to not get straight to the point. Perhaps he was waiting for her to just tell him.

There was a period of odd silence as he considered his words. Never in his life had he felt a need to be careful about how he approached a conversation, but he was worried that he would lose control and as a Kari man that was unacceptable. “Who are you?”

“Tationy Tylo.”

A Tylo clan woman hiding amongst the Kari, she brought this upon them. “Tadayoshi?”

“Commander Hiko Kari of the Ruthlbahdo.” She responded. His eyes flashed with anger, though he forced himself to look off into the distance. “I am sorry about your village.” She said softly. She should have kept her mouth shut as she found herself pinned to the floor.

“You’re sorry?” He repeated, “What does a Tylo know about being sorry? Your clan has always just done as it pleased. Your clan has started more wars than any other clan. Your clan could have prevented what has become of any number of clans, but your watchers. You start it, but it is not your clan that ever finishes it. You just sit back and enjoy what you have done. My clan, other clans have sacrificed for your clan and because of your clan more times in my life then I can remember. Your clan deserves to be destroyed. So tell me again how sorry you are, Tylo woman.”

She stared up at him. Her mind flashed to Chochi and how he had laid into her like that when they were with the Saitama. With how angry Chochi was, Sesiago seemed far angrier. “Where I come from there are no clans, just families.” She said softly. “I lived with my mother and my father in a small two bedroom apartment, not much bigger than the dwellings the Kari lived in. When I was little no one talked to me. They thought I was weird because my eyes were like this. A freak I was always called. I never had any friends until I moved to Aslann, not the Aslann from this world, but one that exist far into the future. It’s a very different place, far different from yours. I don’t know anything about clans and war. I was still hoping that this was all a bad dream and that I was sleeping in my bed, with the pink blankets, and my mother is yelling at me to get up for school because nothing good will become of me if I just stay in bed. That only those people that amount to nothing sleep in. I don’t feel any different then, I did when I came here. I still don’t know what is going on. Hiko was the only thing in this world that made any sense and he left me.” A tear ran down her cheek and Sesiago realized how deeply she was hurting. She was hiding it. He had to wonder why she was forcing herself not to feel anything. It was not the first time he made note of her lack of emotions. “It is my fault they attacked your village. It is my fault that everyone is dead. I can’t bring them back; if I could I would in a heartbeat. I will atone for this sin, and whatever sins the Tylos have caused. I just need someone to point me in the right direction.” She said softly.

He might have thought she was crazy, but the Saitama did not just attack people on whims. “Who do they think you are?”

“When I came to this world I was told I was the Prince of Aslann who had been killed by his people.” He pulled himself away from her and exited the room. He did not wish to speak with her any further.

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“Ahh I was wondering where you got too.” Sesiago did not even bother to respond as he continued to look out toward where the market square was off in the distance. Iashi stared at Sesiago trying to determine how he wished to engage him in a much needed conversation about Tationy.

“She had the nerve to say she was sorry.” Sesiago spoke up, which brought Iaishi some comfort that he would not have to figure out how to approach this conversation.

“Ahh, do you believe her?”

“There was no deception, but she is Tylo clan, all they know how to do is lie.”

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“Ahh, perhaps she is different.” The hard stare Sesiago gave him when he turned around, told him that he doubted that was possible. “Did she say why the Saitama were after her?”

“When I asked who they thought she was, she told me the Prince of Aslann.” Iashi let a low whistle leave his lips. “She was not being deceitful.”

“Ahh perhaps she is losing her mind.”

“I don’t think so.” Sesiago voiced. “I think someone told her that lie, perhaps to convince her it was true.”

“Ahh, manipulation to overthrow the Emperor of Aslann would not be out of the realm of possibilities; however we should probably talk about what happened, when we were young.”

“There is nothing to speak on.”

In a fashion far more serious than Iashi ever was, he spoke, “Kazuma, will not be locked away forever.”

Sesiago frowned noticeably as he thought back on the past.

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“Ahh, Sesiago, your father is really pushing you hard. Before you know it, you will have a wife and so many children you will not remember all of their names.”

“Not if I can help it.”

“Ahh, your father is going to beat the Shima out of you.”

“My father can try, but I will never be what he wants me to be.”

“Ahh, being all Kari is not so bad.”

“How would you know? Out of all the Kari you are the least like them, must be that Yamada blood.”

“Ahh, Sesiago you should not talk about my Yamada blood so casually. The Yamada might seem like a free-loving clan, but that just hides how vicious they are. You should’ve seen my mother when my father did not do what he was supposed to.” The two young men laughed. When it was just the two of them, they could be just boys with no cares in the world. They did not have to be Kari. Being Kari carried with it responsibilities that were sometimes hard to fill. You had to become cold and heartless. You had to give up any sort of feeling, even the love for your wife, mother, and your children; the only things that mattered were being Kari.

Back in those days when they were just young men of seventeen the world was before them. They fought being Kari. It was a different time, a different world. Their movements were halted when a woman appeared before them and kneeled. There was nothing of particular interest about her, in fact, the young men ages later could only really recall her words and that she was of the Zenaku clan.

“Forgive me Lord Kazuma.” She had said as she bowed before the men.

“You have me mistaken for…” He got elbowed by Iashi, which halted his words.

“Ahh, what fun would it be Lord Kazuma if you corrected her so quickly.” Sesiago rolled his eyes at his clansmen. He knew well Iashi’s reputation with the ladies, there was not a single one he could not get into his bed if he so desired, and there had been a long list already that he had conquered. “Speak woman, what troubles do you wish to lie at the feet of Lord Kazuma?”

Sesiago could tell that Iashi was enjoying this a bit too much. “When you are a man much older than you are now a Tylo clan woman will appear in your village and bring with her death. Everything that you know, everything that you are Lord Kazuma will cease to exist; this is too free you of this mortal realm. With no ties to it, you are able to move forward and once again secure your kingdom alongside your queen.”

Sesiago laughed, “What nonsense.” He moved past the woman only to be halted by her words.

“If Tearra and Kazuma do not fall in love, the world will be destroyed.”

“Ahh, I’ll bite, by whom?” Iashi questioned.

“Wars will wage on all fronts. Not one Kingdom will be spared.” She responded. Sesiago had kept walking and Iashi followed close behind. They had only talked about the crazy Zenaku woman once, on the way back to the village and then never discussed her again.

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“Ahh, back then you did not wish to believe it, you even told me never to talk about it. Don’t you think it is time we talked about it?”

Sesiago rubbed the back of his neck. “Tell me Iashi, what do you expect me to do?”

“Ahh, when she arrived at the village and I told you of her arrival, you could not stop yourself from asking me questions about her.”

“You could not stop yourself from telling me things in front of…” His voice trailed off, he did not wish to call him Tadayoshi, because that was not his name, at the same time he did not wish to acknowledge that he and the other Kari were so blind as to not see through their lie. No that was not true, many could tell they were being deceptive, but simply decided to look past it. He had suspected something, though he had pushed the past so far to the back of his mind that to him none of that stuff mattered. Now he found himself wondering if he could have prevented all of this.

“Ahh, I admit I wanted to see if Kazuma would become jealous. My questions were answered when you went out of your way to ask your own wife about Tationy. The part of you that is Kazuma, just could not help himself.”

“I don’t wish to discuss this any further.”

“Ahh, how long are you going to run away from it?”

“I am not running. I don’t run from anything.”

“Ahh well I would not say anything, you run away from your feelings. Always have.”

“Are we really doing this Iashi?”

“Ahh, we are.”

“I have a clan that needs rebuilt, children that need to be trained and put into unions with other clans so that ours might survive. I do not have time to deal with Kazuma’s legacy.”

“Ahh, that is why you are going to let me do all of that. I will tend to your children. I will make certain the Kari are rebuilt. I will become the iron hand that leads the Kari.”

“You?” Sesiago had to hold back the amused expression. “Your Yamada blood has made you the least Kari of all of us.”

“Ahh, Sesiago, I told you not to talk about my Yamada blood so casually. I know what is expected of a Kari. We received the same training. Do you not trust me with your children?”

“It is not that.”

“Ahh, then why is it you are resisting so much? There is a chance nothing will come of it, but don’t you think you need to find out?” Iashi was surprised when Sesiago had simply given a nod of his head. He had never once; in the entire time they had known each other had ever witnessed Sesiago give in to anything. It was not his nature. He was Kari, stubborn to a fault.

Iashi had made quick work of the preparations. He and the children would remain with the Shima for a time, before moving on. More importantly, Tationy and Sesiago would be setting out for a location only known to Sesiago. Any others that might have been aware of the spot, were long since dead, so there was little concern that the two of them would not be safe there for a time.

She did exactly as she was told and Iashi found it interesting and slightly suspicious that she put up no resistance, though there was nothing much he could do about it other than warn Sesiago that she was highly compliant, even though she had no idea where he would be taking her too. The journey was relatively uneventful, other than the fact that Sesiago made note that the two weeks it took for them to journey to the other side of Shimargata that she had nightmares every single night and that the bags under her eyes from the lack of sleep had gotten worse.

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Tationy had finally gotten her beach. It was almost like a dream to her and before Sesiago could stop her, she had her clothes off and she was heading toward the water. He had considered stopping her, they had work to do and there was no time for play, but he really did not feel like talking to her at that point so he let it go. Eventually, he realized that she was not just going to leave the water without being told.

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“We have things that need to be done before dark.” He hollered. He could see the pout travel over her lips. “I need to do some fishing for dinner. You will tend to the garden.”

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She stared at him from the water. “I don’t like fish.” She responded, though did not venture right away to leave the water. She could see the tattoo peeking out from his clothing. She wondered how it all ended up like this. She still tried to figure out why Hiko had left her and had settled on the fact that she had been alone with Sesiago. It was the only explanation she could come up with, even though deep down she was certain it had nothing to do with her. Knowing that made her feel worse.

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Tationy sighed, forcing herself to leave the water. Sesiago had not left his spot on the beach. He still stood with his arms crossed, his head cocked to the side as he waited for her. She knew well enough he was not going to let her enjoy herself. He was a slave driver who was all work and no play. She had only seen him smile once and that night she had stared so blankly at him because it had thrown her for a loop. He was simply not the type of man.

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“Well you will have to learn to like it.” He responded and her nose wrinkled at the thought. He did not give her a moment to protest. He told her quickly what he wanted her to do before he himself disappeared. She sighed, she was already not enjoying herself. It was not as though this was a vacation, though she kind of wished it was as she moved to dress and get to work on the garden.

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Her body hurt. Sesiago was a true monster when it came to getting chores done and he did not let her slack off, not even for a second. She sighed as she sat on the stoop watching him as he ran through the Kari style of fighting. Since their departure she had hardly spoken more than a few words to him. Though it was a two way street and he had made no attempts to speak with her either unless he had to. She had lost track of time and her mind often wandered to things she wished she could forget. The night air had started to carry a chill though he never stopped his movements.

Even with what Hiko had told Tationy about the Kari, it seemed different. This Kari seemed different. Was there such a thing as more or less Kari, she could not truly begin to understand the depths of ones devotion to ones clan and beliefs. She had never really had anything like that to hold on to. She wondered briefly if the prince had felt some pride in being a Tylo.

She lifted the cup which was filled with something she might have described as warm tea by first glance. She had never asked Sesiago what it was even as he had placed it at her side before he started his training. His attention was drawn to her when he heard her soft curse as the cup fell to the floor and she went to her knees to clean it up.

She sat on her legs, eyes closed a minute and when she opened them she came face-to-face with him. He had quickly and diligently cleaned up the mess while she sat there like a helpless child incapable of doing anything for herself. “I am sorry.” She managed to whisper.

“The Kari do not apologize.” Even after he said it he inwardly thought of all the times Iashi had said Ahh, Sorry Sorry.

“I am not Kari.”

“I suppose you’re not. You have a foul mouth on you, a lady should not curse.”

“I don’t like being lectured.” She responded defiantly.

“I imagine a Tylo would not.”

“What do you mean by that?” She asked. He watched the way her body tensed. She was quick to anger, even quicker than Hiko had been. Her emotions were unpredictable; he suspected that was why the cursed eyes of the Tylo had been relatively quiet. She was only having dreams, which meant she had no control over it, but she was powerful enough to access the powers while in a relaxed state. He was troubled by the fact that her mental state was in such an unhealthy balance. His mind worked with worse case scenarios and he suspected that her current state was not natural. It was no coincidence that her mind was in such a state of unrest. He refused to answer her simply turning on his heels and walking away from her.

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Each day they had the same structured routine. The city they were holdup near was just big enough to get lost in or go unnoticed. Each day they walked the market and he kept a close eye on her. She always seemed lost in thought, sad even, but that could change quickly and before you knew it she was on the defensive ready to fight.

At night they ate a meal together, never speaking and then he would go and train for a bit after making her something to drink. She sat on the landing a cup in her hands and looked to her side when he took a seat next to her, lifting the other cup. He had never once before joined her. “Do you miss them?” She asked breaking the silence. An exasperated sigh left his lips as his eyes closed, which instantly made her frown. “Forget I asked.” She stated as silence once again overtook them.

Eventually, much to her surprise, he answered her. “I have no feelings on the matter what so ever.”

“Eri was your wife and you have children, don’t you love them or miss them?”

“I am Kari.” He responded.

“Right, I forgot. The Kari men could give a flying …” She let her voice trail off.

“Finish your words.” He responded, his voice never once rising.

“You’re cruel.” She remarked. “She gave herself to you and you treated her like she was nothing, like your children are nothing. You show them no ounce of love. What kind of man does that? Even as I ask that I already know the answer, you’re Kari. Selfish, cold, egotistical men that only care about breeding and their clan; everyone else can just disappear as far as all of you are concerned. You disgust me.” She was not angry at him. She was not even sure why she was angry. She knew Eri had cheated on him, she understood why he might not have any feelings regarding her, but his own children. She really did not understand the Kari.

Even as she spoke the words of how she felt about him, he never let her see any hint of emotion though he was annoyed that she felt she could talk to him like that. “Did he disgust you?” She frowned, by him she assumed he was referring to Hiko. She bowed her head. “I see your hatred is only reserved for me.” He paused as he looked to the sky, the weather was quickly changing a new season would soon be upon them. Even with such thoughts in his head, he continued speaking, “My marriage to Eri was arranged. She was chosen because she could breed many children. She was under no illusions regarding our relationship. Your relationship with Hiko was not real either.”

“My relationship with him is none of your business.”

“You were attracted to him. You wish to be at his side and yet I have no doubts that you could never have pledged your love to him as you are now. Am I wrong?” She looked into the cup frowning further. “You and I are no different.” He voiced.

“Don’t compare us, you know nothing about me.”

“In your head, is he the only person there?” He asked. Her shoulders slouched which gave him the answer he was looking for; it was not the first time she had been asked that question. Maybe she was as fickle as Tearra, though Sesiago half expected her to deny it, but the words never left her lips. “Do you really think Tearra would have forgiven Kazuma?” He asked her.

She lifted her head to eye him a moment suspiciously, wondering why he switched gears so quickly. “Yes.” She responded.

“Why?” He questioned.

“I don’t think she had it in her to hate him, even if she should. Even if every part of her wanted to blame him, I don’t think she could. I don’t think it was simply because she loved him either, though I do think that is part of it. I think she couldn’t because she made just as many mistakes as him. To fault him for his, she had to fault herself as well. I think her ego was too big to do that.”

“What of your ego?”

She turned and glared him, “Do you have something you wish to say to me?”

“Many things.” He voiced casually. Tationy had never known a man that could be so cold and callous in such a natural fashion.

“Well don’t hold back.” She said as she slammed the cup down on the tray. She was defiant and angry again, it was that quick with her. When he said nothing to her she stood up and stormed inside the small hut that they had made their home.

The next few days were spent avoiding each other, unless absolutely necessary not too. By the time Sesiago went to train she was sitting on her spot and next to her a tray with two cups. He had not made the drinks this time, and he stared at her sitting there as the rain began to fall. There was still a chill in the air; it was heavy and getting colder day by day. “It is too cold for you to train outside.” She voiced.

“There is no need for your concern.”

“You will get sick and I refuse to take care of you.” She stated.

He glared at her, “I have never been sick.”

“There is a first for everything.” She responded. She took a sip from one of the cups and sighed deeply when he did not listen to her. She had not expected him too, though it would have been nice if he had. She stood, cup in hand and walked into the hut, leaving him alone to train.

Over the next few days the initial signs of illness cropped up, before eventually he was not even able to lift himself from his bed. His fever was high and Tationy sat at his side tending to him; most of the time he was in a delirious state and making a mess out of himself from sweat or vomit. Two days later his fever broke and he opened his eyes. It took him several tries to focus.

As he moved to sit up he caught himself, the woozy feeling overtook him and he had to brace himself a moment to collect himself. That was when he noticed her lying on her side next to him. He was so shocked seeing her there that he had not realized that she had been stirred from her slumber, “Oh, you’re awake.”

It took him a moment to consider an answer as he stared at her, “Yes. How long have I been…”

“Two days.” She voiced. “I was really worried about you there.” She said as she reached her hand out toward his forehead and he instinctively grabbed it to stop her. “You are going to be a stubborn Kari?”

He relinquished his grip on her, as the back of her hand rested to his forehead. “Well your fever seems to have subsided, but you should still rest a bit. Would you like to try and have something to eat, I have some soup prepared.”

Blankly he stared at her wondering what demon had possessed her. Before he could even offer a response, she was up and heading outside toward the cooking pot. He rested his hand to his forehead a moment as he went to stand up and then heard her clear her throat. He turned about and she instantly blushed and he realized much too late that he was without his clothing. He grabbed a pillow holding it in front of himself. “Where is my clothing?”

“I had to remove it. You were sweating so much from the fever that it got soaked and leaving you in it would not have helped your condition.” She placed the tray of soup down on the floor and gestured for him to sit. “I cleaned it for you, I will get it.”

“You removed my clothing?” He asked his tone sharp.

“Yes, I just said that.”

“How dare you.” She stared at him blankly then noticed the pink hue to his cheeks as he kept his eyes averted. A Kari man as old as he was could still feel embarrassment. She wondered why he was embarrassed. Though she had never seen a man naked before other than the few times she accidentally did a web search and got more than she bargained for, she had not seen anything that stood out as abnormal. She wondered if it was because he was married to Eri that he was reacting this way.

“I am sorry.” She said and his eyes met hers. “I should have left you in the soaked clothes so you could keep your pride. That is what the issue is right, Kari men are all about their stupid pride, stubborn to the point of death; ridiculous nonsense.” She said as she turned on her heels and went to get his clothing. He sighed deeply as he sat himself down. He was probably too rough on her when she was trying to help him, even after he had blown her off when she warned him. He lifted the soup bowl, which contained some kind of broth, which he drank down quickly and without hesitation. “I am sorry they are still a little damp. I will put them by the fire and try to get them dried quicker for you.” She voiced.

“I apologize.” He said and she whipped about quickly to stare at him. “I perhaps overreacted.”

“Why did you react like that?” She questioned as she turned away from him.

“Eri is the only person to have seen me without clothing. It is something that is meant to be only between a man and his wife.”

“You have seen me in nearly nothing, so has Iashi.” She voiced recalling the day that she along with Suemeli and Eri played in the water near the waterfall. “Why is that any different?”

“Did Hiko not teach you anything?” He questioned, though he already knew the answer. She had told him previously she knew nothing of the ways of the Kari.

“Hiko really did not talk about being Kari and what it meant much. He had a lot of issues I guess, was a rather rebellious sort so I suppose he sort of spit on being Kari. It sounds bad when I say it that way, but from what he had said and others, being Kari was not all that important to him.”

“That explains his hair.” Sesiago said under his breath. He sat on the bed, pulling a blanket over his lap. She was standing at the entrance of the small hut with her back to him, his clothes in her hands. He knew he could let her go and put his clothes by the fire, which meant that they would most likely never talk about this again or he could tell her what Hiko could not. “Kari men, do not have eyes that wander. A Kari man only has eyes for the woman he loves. We have control over ourselves to a level that allows us to look past all other women and only see the one that has captured our hearts. Iashi on the other hand, will sit sideways because his eye’s wander. When we are young, Kari men are trained as assassins. Women too often use their sex to seduce men. It becomes a weakness, so we are trained to look past it, in some cases not even see it. Kari men do not lust after women, they are for breeding, nothing more.”

“The Kari sound like misogynist. So why don’t you all just say you hate women and be done with it all?”

“We do not hate women; we simply see them for what they are.”

“I take it back.”

“You take what back?” He questioned.

“Tearra would not have forgiven Kazuma. No wonder her eyes wandered so much, when the man that she loved hated her. No woman in her right mind would fall in love with a Kari.” She said, walking out of the hut and leaving him alone.

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Sesiago’s head hurt and had for well over a month. He and Tationy had been avoiding each other, which was difficult to do considering they were residing in the small hut that his mother had been raised in. Her nightmares were getting worse, and now they were keeping him awake. They had avoided every topic they should discuss and any time they came in contact with each other, it was just one more reason to begin arguing. The final straw for Sesiago had been one night when she was half asleep she had said, “Hiko, I’m cold.” The pit of his stomach had been knotted ever since. He cursed Iashi for convincing him to do this.

As time passed nothing improved between them and Sesiago had begun to go to the marketplace alone rather than take her with him. There were a few times she had gone, though they were few and far between and the last time Sesiago had been so angry with her, he had remained outside for the better part of a couple of weeks.

He sat himself down next to her. She had been watching the snow fall for several hours. He knew this could not continue on as it had been, though there was no easy solution either. He had to force himself to remove the sternness from his tone, “When was the last time you slept through the night?”

She tilted her head to the side as she glanced at him. “Before I came to Aslann.”

“You are barely sleeping.” He voiced, “You cannot continue like this.”

“What am I suppose to do? The only Tylo’s that know the process are already dead and the ones that could help are in Aslann, on the palace grounds.”

“There are many clans that can block the process, the Waichia, the Hamara.” He noticed how her body tensed.

“The Waichia may be my enemy and the Hamara; most of them are as well. There is only one that is not and he…I can’t go to him.” She said softly.

The way her body reacted when she talked about the Hamara, it sent a chill through him. If he was Kazuma and she Tearra, then that Hamara had to be Hisoka. He forced himself to ask, “Has there been a Waichia or an Ishi that has caused your body to react the same way.”

She turned her head sharply to stare at him. He could not read her expression. It was not exactly shock, perhaps offended, perhaps something else. “Why are you asking me that?”

“You know why.” He told her simply.

She turned her attention toward the snow once again. “No, I mean I am not sure.” Sesiago could not read her. “How is it that Tearra was not driven mad by these eyes?”

“I suppose only Tearra can answer that. What do you think she would say to you?”

It was an odd question and at first she did not even think it was a legitimate one, until she remembered who she was sitting next too. Sesiago would hardly ask a question that was not meant to be answered so she considered it for a moment, and then responded. “It was because she gave herself over to Kazuma. He was her king and even though her eyes wandered, she gave him no reason to doubt she belonged to him. I wonder though, once she no longer did, and she was with Rin in the world of mortals, how did she die?” She questioned.

“I do not know.”

“I don’t remember Mikio telling me when we talked about her.”

“The son of Tearra and Rin?”

“Yes.” Her eyes watched him as he stood and moved toward the blinds. She was not entirely surprised, there was chill entering the hut. He released the ties, allowing two of the three to open fully until they reached the floor. He turned and eyed her a moment before sitting next to her once again. This time he sat closer. “May I ask you a personal question?”

He eyed her a moment, before giving a single nod of his head. “Have you been with a lot of women?”

Sesiago could not hide the surprise at her question. It was simply not a topic that the Kari discussed so casually. “Why does it matter?”

“It doesn’t. It is just really common where I come from. It is everywhere. Everyone talks about it like it is nothing. There is innuendo in everything you see and hear. I was just curious, with how you blushed that one time if you had been with anyone other than Eri.”

“She was the only one.” He told her. “Does that make me less of a man in your eyes?”

“No. I certainly can’t judge anyone on this topic.”

He knew that her relationship with Hiko was not entirely real, but he had not figured that the two of them had never done anything. “You and Hiko…”

She blinked at him, “Oh no, no we never. He kissed me once, but he kept saying he did not want that responsibility and that we were not married.”

“So you wanted too.”

She shivered; it was not because of the chill, but rather the thought of being with Hiko. Tationy had only managed to nervously respond to his question with a nod as she looked down at her hands. “Does that make me a horrible woman here?”

“No, it is only natural to wish to be with the one you care about.” He responded. “However, had the two of you progressed, I imagine Hiko would have made certain that he was responsible.”

“What do you mean?” She questioned.

“He would have married you instead of pretending.”

She bowed her head further. “I am sorry we were deceptive. He thought it was the best course.”

“I don’t think that was it at all. I don’t think he could stand the thought of you being out of his sight. That first day, when you screamed he tried to rush to you, but I stopped him. He could no longer tell if you were really in danger. I suspected then that something had transpired something that caused him to panic at the thought of losing you.”

“I was told that when I was the Prince of Aslann that Hiko and I were together, but the union was ended. He said he was hurt. I don’t know the particulars. Everyone keeps me out of the loop. Do I seem so delicate that I do not need to know what is going on?”

“Perhaps they are afraid.”

“Are you afraid Sesiago?”

“Me? I am not afraid of anything.”

“Then what are you keeping from me. I have done this dance a few times now, where some man takes me on a journey and yet says nothing about the whys or says it is to protect me. If I am not so delicate, why are you not telling me what is going on? Why did you leave the children behind and Iashi?”

“Please don’t ask me this.”

“Why, is it so terrible?”

He quickly changed the topic as he stood. “I think perhaps it is time you returned to Aslann.”

“But…”

“I have been working on a map to show you the way.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You have things that you need to fix, I imagine both as Tationy and the prince. Until you do that..”

She stood, “Why are you sending me away? I don’t understand. What are you not saying Sesiago.” She was hurt and angry, though he hardly understood why.

“Your place is not with me or the Kari. It never was.” He knew what he was doing that was what he told himself. He just could not do this anymore. Iashi thought that Sesiago needed to walk this path with her, but the things that needed to be discussed he could not even bring himself to speak on. He made excuses, it was the first time in his life he could not be honest with himself about his reasons. He told himself it was because she still loved Hiko. That she had unfinished business in Aslann. That he could not help her with the cursed eyes. He had a hundred excuses, “When you have settled your debts in Aslann, I expect you to settle the ones you have with the Kari.” There was no chance for her to respond because Sesiago had decided. It was how it was with a Kari man.

4555

That night she had some of the worst dreams she had ever had and in the morning Sesiago had sent her on her way, without even a passing glance.

To Be Continued

Note: Chapter 15 I was working on along with Chapter 16 and then my neighborhood started acting up. I consider all of the pictures for Chapter 15 and 16, to be of poor quality. They were all going to be redone. There are some parts of the chapter that have a lack of pictures, because the neighborhood is giving me issues. It is a really old neighborhood that I used the summoner and add family abilities from Insimenator to add people to households. Doing this for years and years and years has had an adverse effect on the neighborhood households. Some of which I can no longer enter without the lots crashing. I cannot remove the sims from the lots to even just save the lots. I did terrible things to this poor neighborhood by not moving sims out normally because of this I am currently working on building the sets for Shimragata. There is a point in the story where it moves to Shimragata full-time, though I was not expecting to do it so soon, but due to my neighborhood hiccups, I have decided that it is time and I am currently building those sets and making certain I back it up. I was not going to post this Chapter 15 and 16 at all and was going to do a complete rewrite of them skipping all of this and dealing with it later when the sets were built in flashbacks. I have condensed (more or less) the information from Chapter 15 and Chapter 16 into one chapter, which ultimately even though it is by far not a perfect chapter and the pictures are not great, I decided I would post it because I did not want to condense the information even further in it in flashbacks and just passing little blurbs. The chapter does not go into detail as much as I had originally planned for it because it was meant to span over two chapters and pretty much has been posted as is. So it is not a perfect chapter, but with the neighborhood issues and getting sets ready, I decided to work with what I had and the next chapter will be much better I promise and deal with some of the things that have not been addressed such as Hiko’s sudden disappearance which as you may have noticed was skipped over. Information regarding Tationy going into detail about where she is from and how she got here, which as you can also see was skipped over. As I mentioned this was meant to be two very in depth chapters that ultimately got shafted due to the neighborhood issues. The sets are being built and before I even play the lots, I am backing up the hood, the lots, and all of the sims. So thank you for your patience and understanding on this rather oddly written chapter.

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