title (2)

Quietly they traveled walking the beaten path toward the market center. Neither man said much of anything as they traveled and Tationy simply took in all that was around her. It was an unusual world. She missed her I-pod, laptop, and cell phone. She missed the noise of the cars and the trains. She missed hearing the neighbor next door slamming doors and playing that awful music.

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They had past building after building not to mention the vendors that lined every possible section of the large market area. It was crowded and she instinctively grabbed onto Hiko’s sleeve. Her action had caused him to pause a moment, but he said nothing. “Is it always so busy?” She questioned as they moved through an area where there was lots of yelling and bartering.

“Usually.” Tatsuya remarked as they pressed on. The further they went fewer people were around until they finally stopped outside a unique building.

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“It’s beautiful.” She whispered under her breath and then noticed several women sitting at one of the windows. There were men standing outside looking in and talking amongst themselves. “Tatsuya, what is this place?”

“It’s called The Petal House.”

“The Petal House…Is this a restaurant?”

“Yo, woman, you are naive.” Hiko stated.

Tationy looked down at her feet as she let go of his sleeve. “Enlighten me then.”

“Those women are Abula.”

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She understood the word and she hated the fact that she spoke and understood a language she should not be able too. It disheartened her more than being taken from her own time. “Got it. They are prostitutes. Is there a particular reason we are standing outside this place?” She asked, but before Hiko could respond Tatsuya had walked toward the door and proceeded to enter.

“Tatsuya enjoys this place.”

“This goes against his character.” She said under her breath.

“Not everyone is as they appear, you of all people should be aware of that.” Hiko remarked. He did not move from the spot where he stood outside. He hated these types of places and he wondered often if Tatsuya brought him to them because he knew that he hated them.

“Is he coming back out?” She asked ignoring his previous comment.

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“No, this is where he plans to have dinner.” He noticed how she sighed, but she took a step forward toward the door. She was gathering up her courage to enter. In her mind all sorts of sordid things were conjured. After all these women were prostitutes, she expected them to be having sex right there on the floor. She was so lost in her own thoughts she had not noticed a man eying her until Hiko moved in behind her and spoke, “Lets not keep him waiting.”

She stiffened noticeably and turned her head slightly to the side so she could see his face. She felt his hot breath on her neck and could smell the sweet scent of honey from the cigarette he was smoking. She had not noticed that his left hand had gone to his sword. That was not for her to know, it was a warning to the man that had tried to approach her. She felt his fingers brush her hair aside as his hand finally rested to her shoulder.

She gasped in surprise, he was so close, but she noticed the man that had been approaching quickly move off to gawk at the women in the window. His voice had been so cold, but his actions showed a different side to the man called Hiko Kari. She did not thank him because she was certain he would not accept it. “Alright.”

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Once the two of them were inside they joined Tatsuya at a table. His eyes instantly turned to fix on a woman upon the stage.

gggg

Tationy leaned closer to Hiko, “Who is she?”

“Pai Pai of the Kensuku.”

“Pai Pai…that is so weird, I have a friend named Pai Pai.” She said more to herself than to anyone else. “Is Tatsuya and…”

“Lady Kensuku and I are not together.” Tatsuya remarked.

“Forgive me, I did not mean to pry.”

“There is no need for that. I enjoy her music.”

“She is beautiful.” Tationy said. “They all are.” She was somber as she watched Pai Pai play her instrument upon the stage. Tationy noticed that men all around the room were watching her. She wondered if that was what it was like to be beautiful.

7

Tationy’s thoughts were distracted by a loud group of men at a table not far away. Her eyes focused in on the men and she jumped slightly, which caused her to rock the table. Tatsuya and Hiko both turned their attention toward her then fallowed her gaze to the table she was staring at. “You know them?” Tatsuya questioned.

“I…” Hiko could feel her body trembling as she did her best to compose herself and put on a fake smile. “Never met them.” The Kari men knew it was a lie and not even a convincing one.

“The Ishi Clan.” Tatsuya remarked. “Nao, Mikio, Kuro, and Togore. You should probably just stay away from them.”

She simply nodded her head. Her eyes never left the one called Nao. Since her arrival in the New Aslann Empire, in her dreams he had men rape, torture, and break her. She remembered everything about him and no matter how many times she told herself to get a grip, her body continued to tremble. “He killed the prince.” She whispered under her breath.

The men sitting with her caught her words, “Yo woman, what did you say?”

Tationy was so lost in her own nightmare that she had not realized she had said anything at all. “I am sorry, did I say something?”

“You said, he killed the prince.” Tatsuya said in a hushed voice.

It was a silent moment and both waited patiently for her to speak, but instead she started laughing, loud enough that it got the attention of everyone in the room. Embarrassed she covered her mouth, “Sorry my thoughts were wandering to random things. A book I read once. It had a passage in it that….”

“You are a terrible liar.” Hiko remarked.

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“Those are interesting uniforms.” She said quickly changing the topic. She was referring to two men sitting close to the stage as Pai Pai continued to play.

Both men understood that this girl had secrets and each of them in their own way wanted to delve into her mind to learn everything. “Those are the uniforms of the military.” Tatsuya explained. “The gold ones are those under the command of Commander Oro Ishi and the silver ones are those under the command of Hiko.”

“Oh, Hiko you’re…”

“I did introduce him as Commander Hiko Kari of the Ruthlbahdo.”

“I think I may have been a bit distracted when you said that.”

Tatsuya refrained from smiling as he looked between the two of them, “I am sure you were. It is quite alright. Hiko is one of the two Commanders that oversee the entire military of the New Aslann Empire.” While Tatsuya explained, Hiko was eying one of his Captains who was socializing with a member of Oro’s faction. To him that was unexceptionable and the man would be executed for fraternizing with the “enemy.”

“So they command jointly?”

“No, they each lead their own factions.”

“Why is it divided?”

“It was the Adviser Jin’s doing. When he became the adviser for the Divine Emperor he convinced him that the best course of action was to divide the military because it would be difficult for them to police themselves as one unit. Hiko was just a Captain back in those days.”

“So it was something that happened a long time ago?”

“Yes, many years.”

“So they are pretty important people in the military?” She asked changing the topic back to the two men.

“Men that wear that particular uniform hold the rank of General or Captain. Hiko and Commander Ishi also wear that uniform when on duty.”

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“Hmm, I would like to see you in it.” She said turning her attention toward Hiko. He eyed her, but before he could respond to her words Tatsuya had departed. Tationy watched him as he moved to speak with Pai Pai who had finished up her performance. “They talk like they are in love.” Tationy remarked.

“They are not.”

“How are you so certain?”

“Tatsuya has been in love with the same person since he was a young boy.”

“He told me he could not have a relationship.”

“His duty is to the clan. Relationships are a hindrance for a man in his position. When you are the head of the Kari Clan you cannot allow a family or love to make your decisions. You have to be able to think of only the clan. He knew that when he took the position.”

“He is happy with this?”

“Up until recently, no.”

“What changed?”

“He met you.” She was thankful to Hiko for telling her that, but she knew he was not generally the type of man to do so. Tationy considered why he might tell her as the two went back to sitting silently before Tatsuya returned with Pai Pai.

“Lady Tationy, I will leave you in the care of Lady Kensuku.”

“But…”

“It is alright, she will take you someplace to relax for a bit while Hiko and I have a steam. We shall see each other shortly, enjoy your quiet time.” Tatsuya remarked as he and Hiko departed her company leaving Tationy with Pai Pai.

555

“Lady Tationy, if you will follow me please.” Pai Pai spoke as Tationy reluctantly stood and fallowed the woman. She noticed that the main floor had cleared out of all the people previously there and were replaced by new people. She was led through the grand building and she made note as she walked to look around and take it all in after all she could not say when she would ever be in a place like this again.

In a sitting room, she saw the men of the Ishi Clan. The ones identified as Mikio and Kuro were savoring the taste of the same woman while the one called Togore had one on his lap. Nao, however, sat silently watching the girls dance on one of the stages. She shivered noticeably and noticed that there was a drink on the table and the men seemed to be lost in their debauchery.

She did not allow her eyes to linger to long for fear that they might notice so she hurried to follow Pai Pai.

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Pai Pai showed her to a little room, dressed in ivy and flowers. “What is all of this?”

“Lord Kari felt that you might enjoy some time to relax so he asked me to draw you bath.”

“Oh, that was very nice of him.” She said as she moved behind the screen when instructed to remove her clothing. She climbed herself into the warm water as Pai Pai positioned herself behind Tationy.

“I never thought I would see the day come…”

“What day?”

“The day Commander Kari found himself someone to love.”

“What?” Tationy asked as she moved suddenly and it caused the water to spill over. Pai Pai laughed softly which caused Tationy to sigh. “I don’t think he likes me.” She said as she settled herself down.

“He has been here twice in as far back as I have known the Kari cousin’s.” She explained, “I have never seen him sit so willingly here.”

“Why does he not like it?”

“I do not know, he just finds this place and all the others like it appalling.”

“There are others?”

“Many throughout the city; of course The Petal House is far more tame in comparison.”

Tationy hesitantly asked, “Why do you do it?”

“My clan was turned into slaves after we revolted against the Divine Emperor. The Kensuku were crushed under his mighty armies. I was sold to a man who used me until he had no further need for me. He let me go, but I had nothing left. My family is long gone and my clan is scattered around Aslann. The unity that my clan once had no longer exist.”

“I am sorry.”

“Please do not be. You cannot apologize for things you have no control over.”

“Do you love Tatsuya?”

She laughed softly, “No, why would you ask me that?”

“You both just seem….close.”

“A long time ago, when I first came to work here I met Lord Kari in the park. He protected me from a man that wanted to do me harm. He never judged me and we spent a lot of time talking and walking. It was nice to be seen as a human. He promised me he would come and hear me play. I did not believe he really would, but one day there he was. It’s fleeting, but the moments I get with him, make me forget who I am and for that I owe him everything. Now you, tell me are you in love with anyone?”

“No.”

“No boyfriend?”

“No.”

“Are you interested in anyone?” Chochi, Abe, and Hiko flashed into her mind so vividly, but when the image of Nao appeared she shivered. Pai Pai’s neutral expression showed a hint of unhappiness at the reaction, but she placed her hand on Tationy’s shoulder and spoke, “Commander Kari is very cold and mean. They call him a demon. He has killed many people and never regrets anything he says or does. You can trust him and Lord Kari to protect you.”

“What makes you think I need protecting?”

“Your eyes. The way you shivered when you looked upon the Ishi. The way you get lost in thought so easily.”

Tationy changed the topic, “Where I come from, I have a friend named Pai Pai.”

“What is she like?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think I ever really seen the real her.”

“I have never had a friend.”

“You have one now.” Tationy remarked and Pai Pai gave a soft smile as she washed Tationy’s hair. She liked this girl and seen what Tatsuya was referring too.

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“Are you enjoying yourself?” Tatsuya asked as he enjoyed the steam.

His question was initially met with silence, “Yo Suya…”

“Yes?”

“What are you trying to accomplish?”

“I do not know what you are referring too.”

“Don’t play ignorant.”

Again there was silence before Tatsuya spoke, “What do you think of Tationy?”

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“Don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t do what you are trying to do.”

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“I like her. You have managed to avoid any sort of formal arrangement. The other members of our clan have not been happy about this.”

“Yo Suya, are you trying to irritate me?”

“I watched you both. When you saw that man approaching her your reaction was surprising. I have not seen you act that way since we were boys and you were around…”

“Don’t mention her name.”

“I am sorry Hiko, I do not mean to bring up the past, but things cannot continue as they are.”

“Are you speaking as my cousin or the Elder of my clan.”

“Both.” Tatsuya remarked, “Could you love her?”

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“The Demon Commander of the Ruthlbahdo is incapable of love.”

“Yo Maiba Scum, we didn’t ask for your mouth.”

“Denzo, stay out of their private conversation.” The man sitting behind Tatsuya spoke.

“It is hardly private Tenzo.”

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“Yo Suya…”

“You can’t kill them.” Tatsuya remarked.

“Why not?”

“People might notice if the twins of the Maiba Clan disappear.”

“I doubt anyone would notice if a couple of low life Maiba scum vanish.”

“Keep talking Kari and I will show you what we Maiba do to Kari trash.”

Hiko smirked, “I would tell you to draw your sword, but from the looks of it you would come up short.”

The one called Denzo stood, but was stopped by his brother Tenzo. “He is not worth it. He is just looking for a reason to kill you. You attack the Commander of the Ruthlbahdo, it is an instant death sentence.” Tenzo reasoned. “Let’s get out of here.” The two Maiba departed the steam room leaving the Kari cousins alone.

“Proud of yourself?”

“I am feeling pretty good.” Hiko remarked.

“You are incorrigible.”

The two of them got quiet, “Yo Suya.” Hiko began, “Don’t push things with her. You have your agendas and she could get hurt.”

“You won’t let that happen.” Tatsuya remarked and Hiko turned his attention to his cousin. They stared at each other, silently taking in all that was unsaid. “You do realize that you will most likely be attacked by the Maiba….”

“Ahh.”

“Just don’t kill them.”

“Is that an order from my Clan Leader?”

“No, it’s a friendly request from your cousin.”

Hiko nodded his head once, “Ahh, I won’t kill them.”

The cousins met up with Tationy 30 minutes later and the group walked toward the estate of the Waichia Clan. “Thank you.”

“You are welcome, Lady Tationy.”

“How was your steam, were you able to relax?” She asked.

“I did, but Hiko decided he was going to pick a fight.”

“He started it.” Tationy looked between the two. There was a bit of humor lingering about them. She found it a strange contrast to what she knew of their personalities. She enjoyed it though. Tationy could not explain why, but she loved walking between these two men. She felt safe and comfortable.

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When they had arrived to the Waichia Estate they were showed to a sitting room, where Lord Takuya and Lord Oji along with a woman were sitting. Their arrival had not been unexpected, but Tationy had not even had a chance to ask Tatsuya or Hiko if there was anything she should know.

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“Lord Kari, Commander Kari.” They were eventually addressed. There had been a long lingering silence after they had entered the room and took their spots. Tationy had no idea what she was doing and looked to the woman who was sitting with the other men for some sign of what would be considered proper in this world. She did not want to make some huge cultural faux pas. Little did she know, the position she took would be a neon red sign.

They were formal as they sat there, “Elder Waichia, Lord Waichia we thank you for allowing us some of your time.”

“Is this the woman you spoke to us about, Lord Kari?”

“She is, Lady Tationy.”

Both of the Waichia grew silent and Tationy watched them out of the corner of her eye. They were beautiful. She was not surprised knowing that the Waichia were considered the most beautiful of all of the clans. Chochi certainly was which only added to the difficulty of talking with him.

“Lady Tationy…” She was addressed by the man with the purple hair who despite, being modestly dressed was the Elder of the Waichia Clan.

“Yes?”

“Your clan is?”

She paused in answering the question. She could not tell them she was from the Tylo Clan, that would add difficulties that she was not certain would benefit them. “Saitama.” She had chosen the name of her favorite musician and then noticed instantly the subtle reaction of each man there.

“Saitama….”

“Yes.”

“You don’t look like a member of the Saitama Clan.”

“Is it so abnormal for a member of one’s clan to not resemble everyone else? Look at the Ishi, the one called Mikio had green eyes and the one called Togore had black in his hair.” Hiko had frowned inwardly at her response, he had not noticed that she had paid such attention to them while they were at The Petal House.

“Oji, she does have a point. Certainly it would be rare, but not uncommon for a member of a clan to stand out as being different, but the fact remains Lady Tationy that your eyes are unique to the Tylo Clan. So we will ask you again, what clan are you from?”

“I told you. I cannot tell you if anyone in my clan has ever been with a member of the Tylo Clan, but these are my eyes and that is who I am.” She had stuck by her lie.

“Do you belong to Commander Kari?” The one called Takuya asked.

“No.”

“Your body language says otherwise.” She blushed noticeably, “You position yourself to the side at an angle just behind him, which tells us that you are his consort.” Hiko and Tatsuya said nothing as Takuya spoke to Tationy in such a fashion. They had expected an interrogation of her while she was there. It was what the Waichia did. They were able to use verbal cues to unlock the mind.

“We do not sit like this amongst my family.” She voiced, “My ignorance is not an excuse.”

“Tell us about your family.”

She wanted to say there was nothing to tell, but she knew well enough that she would never get away with it. “My mother is only concerned about appearance. Forced to do things you do not want to simply because it looks well on paper. My father never really wanted me so I was only good to help him with the family business. I was just in the way.”

“Is Tationy your real name?”

It was a curious question as she stared at them for some time before finally responding, “Yes.”

“Do you work for the Shima?”

“Shima…no.”

“You must be worthless to the Saitama then.” She wanted to know what he was talking about, but she chose to keep her mouth shut. Sometimes that was the only course of action.

“You have been seen with a member of our clan….Who is it?”

She bit her lip. Tatsuya and Hiko sat silently as they allowed the Waichia to interrogate her. “I won’t betray him.” She finally said.

“You betrayed him once.” Her surprised expression did not go unnoticed. “Interesting.” Takuya spoke. “You feel guilty over it and yet there is something lingering about you regarding this event.”

“I fallowed my heart once and it got him hurt.” She responded.

“Not just him.” The Waichia Elder spoke, “You were hurt as well. You have scars on your soul and mind. Who are you really?” He asked.

They did not believe her. “Just a girl who got herself mixed up with the wrong sort of people and dragged someplace she never intended to go.” There was sadness in her voice, “I miss my home. I miss my family even with how they are. I miss waking up every morning and having everything makes sense. So forgive me if you do not think I am who I am because I don’t know who that is anymore.”

“Come closer so I can see you.” The Waichia known as Takuya requested. Tationy stood and positioned herself next to Hiko.

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Takuya of the Waichia was amused. He had expected her to come closer to them, but she took a spot next to Hiko. Despite her protest, he was certain the two were together. He stood, which surprised all the men there as he moved toward where she sat. Kneeling down he brought his hand up to her chin, lifting her face so he could better see her.

“You have the hair of a noble man.” Takuya scolded.

“I like my hair.” She spoke.

“You have a mouth on you as well. Do not know when you should speak.”

“I have never been very good at biting my tongue when someone is being a jerk.”

He found the word jerk interesting and chalked it up to slang from wherever she had come from, “Jerk, me?”

“I don’t like you.” She said simply.

He laughed, “I don’t care.”

“Takuya.” Oji spoke as Takuya squeezed her face a little roughly.

“Yo, Takuya. Remove your hands from her before I do it.” Hiko spoke up. Tatsuya sighed inwardly, this was not going at all how he had expected.

“Of course.” Takuya remarked as he pulled his hand away and moved back toward his position next to Oji.

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The room was silent again. “Tsubaki, please show Lady Tationy to the garden while we speak.” Takuya addressed the woman sitting to his right. She simply stood, bowing her head to acknowledge his request.

“It is alright Tationy.” Tatsuya spoke. She reluctantly stood and moved from the room fallowing along behind the women called Tsubaki.

“She is amusing.” Takuya remarked. “If she were anything, but a noble woman, I would have struck her down for her insolence, but I believe you are right Tatsuya, she is most definitely of the Tylo Clan. Oji and I used several verbal cues during the course of our conversation. Her body never relaxed and she did not relinquish any information freely. There was no hint of pain from the experience, in fact her body did not appear to be affected by it at all. I have peered into her eyes and have caught no glimpse of anything. Only the Tylo Clan has shown a level of control of that caliber.”

“So will you help me?” Tatsuya asked.

“You are asking us to help overthrow the Divine Emperor and his Adviser Jin. Going against the rules of our society is unacceptable.” Oji spoke. “However, we will not mention her unless we are asked directly by the Divine Emperor or the Adviser Jin.”

“Thank you.”

“Her retainers…have you approached them?” Takuya asked.

“No.”

“Perhaps that might be a path for you to walk.” Oji remarked.

“You should leash her.” Takuya added.

“Yo Takuya. You say that only because she has no interest in you.”

“Would you like me to make her mine, Commander?”

“Try it…” Hiko remarked in his ever cold tone.

“I am not above having a Tylo Clan woman as a pet.” Takuya voiced with humor.

Hiko’s steely gaze never left the man, “She is my woman.”

“You claim her yet she did not claim you.”

“I have decided.” Hiko spoke as he stood and walked out.

Tatsuya had been surprised by his cousin’s reaction. “Please forgive them.” Tatsuya finally spoke. He was at a loss of why Hiko would say what he did. He had never seen such a reaction in him toward any woman.

“You are an old friend Tatsuya we do not take what either of them say as something to hold against you.” Oji remarked. “We find it curious though.”

“Yes, Hiko’s reactions today have surprised me. It is unusual for people to get under his skin so easily.”

“His interest is genuine, but he is uneasy.” Oji spoke. “He does not appear to understand or even acknowledge those feelings. Our verbal cues worked well on him displaying his subconscious feelings. It will most likely only get worse if they are separated.”

“So you are saying I should not allow her to go back?”

“It would be in the best interest of her and the Commander to not separate them at this point. Her retainers most likely will not agree.” Takuya stated.

“I must admit I do not feel entirely comfortable allowing her to leave, but I cannot keep her a prisoner.”

“Perhaps you should consider what it is you really want out of this and what would be in her best interest.” Oji remarked. “If you will excuse us Tatsuya it is getting late.” Tatsuya stood and bowed to the two men before making his departure.

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Tationy was escorted to the garden by the woman called Tsubaki. Tsubaki was silent, never once speaking. Tationy could not help, but notice the elaborate dress and markings on her face. She wondered briefly what they meant before she realized that Tsubaki had stopped walking. Her eyes had fallen upon a man sitting alone in the garden.

“Ritsu.” Tationy whispered though she had not realized she had said anything. Tsubaki’s head had turned slightly toward Tationy when she heard the soft whisper and noticed how the young girl stared at the man sitting in the garden.

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He turned his attention upon the two women and Tsubaki instantly bowed to him. Ritsu stood and moved toward the women without a word, his stride was mesmerizing in its fluid power. Tationy did not bow, just stood in awe of this man that she recognized. She was not certain why her memory jarred at seeing him, but she stood there faced with the image of this man from long ago.

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He was different back then. Not like the somber man sitting in the garden. He was happy, young, and his hair was considerably shorter. He sat on the left of his father Yuudai. On Yuudai’s right sat his brother Daishiro. Back then they ruled over the Waichia Clan. Tationy felt the tears well up in her eyes as the memory assaulted her.

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It had felt like any other meeting until they began talking about a future heir for the prince. That was when her defiant side had come out so sharply. Arguing with the Divine Emperor in front of his guest, the Waichia. Ritsu’s smile had faded rather quickly after that. He had been happy that he had been chosen, honored, and in an instant the prince had crushed him by simply saying, “I would rather be killed.”

She had not changed, she was still a spoiled brat always doing what she wanted with no regards to what was expected or how others felt.

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“Ritsu.” She said as though his name was ripped from her throat. He stopped suddenly, turning on his heels and moving toward her.

“Do I know you?” He questioned. Tsubaki watched on inwardly unhappy as she watched the man she loved from afar interact with this woman.

“We met a long time ago.”

“I am sorry I do not remember.”

“You let your hair grow out.” She managed to say as she chocked back on the emotion.

“Yes, we must have met a lifetime ago.” He remarked. He had not had short hair of any kind in years, in fact he began to grow it out almost eight years ago.

“It looks good on you.” She complimented.

“Thank you.”

“Forgive me, I do not mean to keep you.” She said.

He nodded his head once before turning on his heels and stopping. He turned slightly to address her, “Your name?”

“Tationy.”

“It has been a pleasure, Lady Tationy.”

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She watched as Ritsu disappeared off into the distance before Hiko finally emerged from where he had been standing, hidden by the shadows. “Leave.” He told the woman called Tsubaki who bowed her head and departed. She was hardly disappointed in being told to leave. Hiko crossed his arms over his chest as Tationy smiled and began to talk, “You are not going to get me to apologize and if you are going to lecture me, you might as well hold it in.” Her smile was a far different cry from the attitude she displayed.

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He kept his arms crossed over his chest and stared at her until she finally relented and stopped talking. Her head bowed, her body posture changed and his mind flashed vividly back to a time he had long since forgotten.

She had the same look that the Prince had when he left the meeting with his father and the Waichia. That was a long time ago, back when he was a guard for the throne room. In that room he was not allowed to hear anything and the Adviser Jin used Esoteric Incantations to keep the conversations private. He had wanted to know what was said because he had never seen his Prince with such an expression before.

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He hated that look. How he longed for the playful smile that he would often see on his Prince. He had always desired to be one of his guardians. It was what every soldier desired. To be of use to the royal family in such a way gave a meager soldier’s life meaning.

662

He moved past her and took a seat on the bench in the garden. When Tationy realized he was no longer standing there she turned and watched him. She hesitantly moved to take a seat next to him. “I am sorry for my behavior with the Waichia. He was making me angry and my mouth sometimes gets the better of me.”

“Do you know him…”

“Who?”

“Ritsu Waichia. Don’t lie to me.”

“Yes.”

“How?”

“I met him and his father and brother at a meeting with my father.”

“Meeting about what?”

“A union.”

“What happened?”

“Nothing. I refused and it just never happened I guess.” She remarked.

“What clan are you from?”

“I…”

“Don’t lie to me.”

“Then I won’t say anything because I can’t answer that.”

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Tatsuya watched from a distance the two of them. Both of their behaviors had surprised him greatly and yet at the same time he was grateful that they both were the way they were.

Hiko did not ask her anything further even though he wanted to know who she was. They both turned their heads when Tatsuya cleared his throat. “We should leave before we overstay our welcome.”

Tationy and Hiko both joined Tatsuya in departing the estate of the Waichia. They walked silently together each having much on their mind. There were things said that needed to be addressed and yet none of them could find the words to even approach the conversations.

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“It is getting late.” Tatsuya finally spoke.

“Ah.”

“I think I will stay at Headquarters.” He remarked.

“Been a long time since you have stayed there, Suya.”

“It’s a long trip home.” He remarked. Tationy quietly listened to the two of them, not offering anything in the way of conversation herself. She walked with her head down slightly ahead of the two of them. As always she was so lost in her thoughts that she was not paying attention to what was going on around her, until her arm was grabbed.

She found herself positioned behind a man who she recognized as Abe. Chochi stood next to him.

Tatsuya and Hiko had thought nothing overly suspicious about men wearing the uniform of those under his command after all they were close to Headquarters. When he realized they were not his men it was too late Tationy had already been grabbed and positioned behind the men. Hiko took a relaxed posture, but was ready if the need arose to fight them. He watched the young man with the blond hair. His stance was unusual. He did not grip his sword hilt from the top, rather from the underside.

He had only known one fighter to position his hand in such a fashion. That was not all he noticed. He paid attention to the wrapping around his hilt, white a color reserved for the royal family, again his mind drifted back to a fighter who was so brazen he felt he was entitled. The other man had a much more relaxed stance, but his hand was up and ready to draw his sword.

“We meet again.” Tatsuya spoke. Hiko paid attention to the conversation, “Lord Waichia.”

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“Chochi, Abe. Stop this.” Tationy spoke.

“He gave Otoha the slip. They could have done anything they wanted to you during that time.” Abe said. Tationy sighed inwardly, resting her head to Abe’s back. She wondered why they gave Otoha the slip. She understood that Hiko was not happy about him being around and there was a small part of her that had wished he wasn’t, but to actually go out of the way to do so.

“Yo, children.” Hiko began, “Who do you think you are impersonating a member of the Ruthlbahdo?”

Neither answered him right away. “If you try to interfere with us, we will kill you.” Chochi finally spoke.

“I won’t be killed by brats like you.” Hiko remarked.

“Ohh.” Chochi smiled, “You are pretty confident in your skill Hiko Kari.” Hiko and Tatsuya both hide their reactions, “Even with your cousin, Elder Kari, you would have a difficult time taking us.”

“Your arrogance knows no bounds, brat.”

Tationy could feel the tears stirring. She felt like she was on an emotional roller-coaster. “Stop this.” Tationy said as she gripped the material of Abe’s clothing, “Please. I command you to stop this.” She screamed out and both Abe and Chochi flinched as they moved their hands away from their weapons.

“We are leaving, don’t follow us.” Chochi spoke.

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The Kari cousins watched as they turned on their heels and took off with Tationy. Silently they kept their eyes on them as they moved off into the distance both men had wanted to stop them, but her words kept them from doing so. She commanded them. She was not some normal girl, this young woman had power over a group of men that included members of the Kensuku, Waichia, Sweela, and this new guy.

“He’s from…”

“I know.”

“How is that possible? Tatsuya asked.

“It’s not. The last of that clan died with the Prince.”

“Hiko, I don’t ask this often, but what is going on?”

“I don’t know.”

“Should we have stopped them from taking her?”

“Ahh.”

“Why didn’t we?”

“I don’t know.” Hiko replied as he began to walk toward the entrance of the headquarters.

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The cousins departed company retreating to their own rooms. Tatsuya had sat upon his bed in the room that once belonged to him when he was a General in the Ruthlbahdo. That to him seemed like a lifetime ago. “Yo, Suya. Keep getting lost in thought like that and someone might sneak up on you.”

“Sorry.”

“How is everything?”

“My room has not been touched. Everything is where I left it when I left the Ruthlbahdo. A little dusty though, but you did not come here to ask me that did you?”

“No, thought I would check on you. I figured you were replaying it over in your head.”

“I still cannot make any sense of it.” Tatsuya remarked, “Why did you let her leave?”

“They are her retainers, it was not my place to interfere.”

“What about, what you said to Takuya?”

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His expression was cold and distant, “Doesn’t matter.”

“How can you say that?”

“Did you see the way she clung to him. Who was I to interfere?”

“You are not going to fight?”

“Fight over what, some woman I don’t know and don’t care about?”

“Don’t lie. I saw you with her.”

“What you saw was me remembering the past that was it. Goodnight, Suya.”

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He was not the type of man to lust after a woman. He was used too staying awake. It was not uncommon for him to have many sleepless nights, but this was the first time he had one over a woman. He had someone in his life once and she chose money over love, it was such a fickle emotion anyway. Hiko was not certain the time or how many oomba he had smoked and the night made less sense to him the more he thought about it.

He was plagued by the man’s stance, his sword, the way he eyed him. He was certain he was of the Sosa Clan, but that was impossible.

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Hiko sighed that boy reminded him of Shu. They were rivals and friends, trained under Hayato Tylo. Shu was the last of his clan. The Sosa had died out after the alliances between the Demon Clans broke down. He had been raised by Hayato. Back in those days, they were just boys who wanted nothing more than to protect their emperor and their kingdom.

“It is not enough to learn to use a sword or a spear. There will come a time when you are disarmed. You need to become the weapon yourself. Each movement is an extension of yourself, make them fluid, strong, precise.” Hayato instructed as he watched them.

“Yes Master.” Both young men spoke in unison.

“Hiko your movements are reckless, precision must be mastered.”

“Yes Master.”

“Good Shu, excellent form.” Hayato never complimented Hiko. Shu was always given the praise, perhaps that is why Shu became the greatest swordsmen Aslann had ever seen. Hiko had always felt like he was chasing after him, but in truth it had always been the other way around.

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Hours, they had been instructed. When they were not training under Hayato they were training with the military. They were both soldiers in the army of the Divine Emperor. Just boys of seventeen, but they had already seen more war than most people their age.

That day there was a heavy silence after they’re training. They said nothing as they waited for their master to speak to them. Eventually they feared he might never speak and his silence concerned them. “I must tell you something.” He began. “My eyes no longer see the truth in this world.”

“Master?” Hiko questioned.

“A great enemy is coming that will destroy our kingdom as we know it. I….fear for your safety.”

“Don’t worry about us Master.” Shu spoke.

“It is you I worry about most Shu because I see your death.” He remarked. Amongst the Tylo Clan, his eyes were the only ones capable of seeing beyond this realm, past life and death, with an infinite number of possibilities. The brother of the Divine Emperor had the cursed eyes of the Tylo Clan, a heavy burden that would ultimately drive him to insanity.

“Listen to my words, Shu. You must not walk the path of a guardian.”

“A guardian?”

“But being a guardian is a great honor.” Hiko argued.

“Being a guardian is a death sentence to anyone that takes it. Shu if you walk that path you will certainly die and Hiko your hands will be stained with blood far beyond any other. Follow your own paths, away from here.”

“But Master…” Hiko went to argue.

“I am telling you to leave this place.” He yelled. “If you stay, there are things that can never be forgiven or forgotten.”

“I walk my own path Master Hayato.” Shu said as he stood up. “I will not fall.”

“Your arrogance knows no bounds.” Hayato spoke as he hung his head low.

Shu had turned on his heels and walked out, leaving Hiko alone with their master. “Master..”

“Hiko, there will be a snake within the guardians one that slithers beneath the brush where no one can see it. He will wait for the right moment to strike.”

“I don’t understand, Master.” Hiko said as Master Hayato began to clutch his chest. He stood on wobbly legs as Hiko rushed to help him.

“Severe the head of the snake before it strikes.” Those were the last words Hiko heard his master say before he collapsed into the darkness of his own mind. He was a danger to himself after that, locked away where no one would ever see him again. Hiko had chalked his words up to the madness of having the cursed eyes of the Tylo Clan.

He shook the thoughts from his mind as he stood and dressed quickly.

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He had moved toward the rooms that housed two of his generals, stepping in without knocking. He found Hero Takahashi sitting at a small table looking at himself in a mirror. Hero quickly covered his eye with a bandage before speaking, “Commander.”

“I need you up and ready.”

“You seem concerned about something.”

“Just get ready.” Hiko remarked before departing Hero’s room and heading to see Chee.

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He arrived at the room of one of his other generals, Chee Hamara. He spoke in a slow lazy voice, “My, my, your face is not the one I wanted to wake up too.”

“Get dressed we need to head out.”

“Always in such a rush to work Commander, can’t a man get a moments rest.”

“Get up or I will take your head off.”

“My, My, seeing you put it that way, I suppose I have no choice.”

His most trusted generals dressed and made their way outside where he was standing smoking. “Yo, Hero. A woman and two men left this area about an hour ago. I need you to find them.”

“An hour? You really do believe in miracles, Commander.”

“My, My, Commander. Aren’t you in a mood. Failure is not an option Hero, he already threatened to take my head.”

“I never fail.” Hero remarked.

“Minus the time you lost your eye.” Chee teased.

“Would you like a matching one?” Hero asked with a wickedly evil smile.

“Maybe another time.”

They had spent the better part of the night tracking the group until they finally located where they had headed too. It had been on the other side of town, where the Nakamaru Clan Elder resided.

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“My, My, this is pretty ominous.” Chee spoke as the three of them stood outside the open gate to the Elder of the Nakamaru Clan.

“I don’t like this.” Hero remarked. “We should be cautious. Despite our authority we are treading on the lands of the Nakamaru Clan.”

“Afraid of being cursed?” Chee questioned.

“Wouldn’t you be?”

“Well I am rather attached to anything they might shrivel….”

“Yo, Chee, Hero.”

“Yes Commander.”

“Stop talking.” Hiko said as he took a step forward.

Chee leaned closer to Hero, “Is it just me or is his mood more foul than usual.”

“Something is agitating him.” Hero remarked as he stepped forward fallowing his Commander. Chee sighed inwardly and fallowed along behind them.

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“I would just like to say for the record, I am thoroughly against going any further.” Chee remarked from the entranceway of the Nakamaru Clan Elder’s home.

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Despite Chee’s comment they proceeded further into the home of Mikira Nakamaru, Elder of the Nakamaru Clan. “Tell me what you see?” Hiko spoke.

“Multiply assailants, considering the large number of bodies still here I would say most likely a squadron of 50.” Chee voiced. “Their uniforms are military, but missing the identifying markings.”

“Lots of blood-splatter, I don’t think they expected a fight, but they certainly got one.” Hero remarked.

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They checked every room of the estate. When they came to the office of the Nakamaru Clan Elder they realized the severity of what had transpired there. “Killing the elder of a clan is war. Who would be mad enough to do this?” Chee asked as he moved behind the desk and began looking over the scrolls that lined it.

“We all know who.” Hero remarked. “Pretty distasteful killing an unarmed man.”

“Yo Hero, Search the grounds from top to bottom. Chee head back to Headquarters and gather men. We need to lock this down. There will be fallout from this. Once you get back I will inform the Nakamaru Clan and the Adviser Jin.”

“Yes Commander.” Chee remarked as he took off leaving Hero and Hiko alone.

“Forgive me Commander, but did you find what you were looking for here?” There was a heaviness that seemed to linger about Hiko. Concern that etched through his body as he shifted his stance. Hero knew the answer. At this point what he was looking for was not here and he was worried. It was not something he had seen often on Commander Hiko Kari, but when he did, he knew that trouble was right around the corner.

To Be Continued

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