In the night enemies lurked. There was no trust in this world only secrets. Secrets that seemed to breed more secrets until there was not a soul you could trust unconditionally. They cling to their secrets with a death grip because there are certain things you do not talk about. It’s a shame, a dishonor, a hatred, or even a love that you take to your grave. With a single breath you can whisper the words of love and in a single action you can betray those around you. It’s a choice. Ones will and desire dictate until you realize that the only thing left is loneliness and so the story begins.
It had been a long night. Mai had been working hard at The Petal House. Harder than most considering the majority of it was spent in the lap of Togore Ishi. Those were certainly hours that Mai would never get back. When it came time to head home there was relief. With a sore back and feet not to mention the tension built in Mai’s knees home was a welcoming sight.
A noise though broke the calm. Instantly turning and speaking, “Togore, no more. You had your fill tonight. Go back to The Petal House, you are not getting anymore from me.” Nothing but darkness and an empty road, Mai sighed and waved it off as an overactive imagination.
“Probably an animal.” Mai spoke out before stepping through the open gate.
Mai felt uneasy for a moment before moving to take a step forward only to feel pressure instantly. Chochi pressed heavily upon the body of Mai as the gate slammed shut behind them. Mai was overtaken by panic until the weakened voice of Chochi spoke before collapsing and taking them both down to the ground, “Maito.”
Into the wee hours of the night Mai had dressed the wounds and watched over Chochi. “I was starting to wonder if you were going to wake, brother.” Mai spoke.
“Why do you look like that?”
“Considering your face is different, I don’t think you should throw stones.”
“How did you know it was me?”
“You are the only person that calls me Maito.” Mai remarked as Chochi pushed himself up slightly in a reclined position. His wounds had been dressed, but they were aching from the top of his shoulders down to his calves.
“Which makes me ask again, why do you look like that?”
“Aoba.” Mai sighed, “You have been gone a while. Actually, you have been dead for a while now, almost a year has past.”
“It has been considerably longer for me.” He remarked.
“Regardless, things have changed here.”
“Not everything.” He remarked.
“Well some things take time to change, others happen so quickly we barely have time to adjust to it. You taught me that.”
Chochi looked around and frowned deeply, “Were you banished?”
Mai considered how to answer that, “I was told in no uncertain terms that I was not welcome.”
“What do you plan on doing if I answer that, brother?”
With eyes closed and a deep sigh, Mai replied, “You haven’t changed.”
“Why are you dressed like that?” Chochi asked in a much softer tone.
“Because it is who I am.” Mai responded.
“You are Maito of the Waichia.”
“I am just Mai now. The Waichia abandoned me after you died. Is your prince still alive?”
“Of course he is.”
“What is with that tone?”
“No tone. Just not surprised that someone as spoiled as Prince Tatsuya would survive in some form.”
“Keep it up Maito and I will forget you are wearing a dress.”
“Protective of the prince to the very end, Aoba.”
“It’s Chochi.” He corrected sternly.
“Well then, respect me brother and call me Mai.”
“Answer me, who told you, you were not welcome?”
“Toshiro did. He represents us to the main branch.” Maito explained.
“You abandoned us to protect your precious prince, did you really think time would stand still here? By the way, how is it that you are here? Is this the doing of a Chalta?” Chochi simply nodded his head about Atsuki being responsible. “Are you insane?
“It was the only way to protect the prince.”
“Then you let the prince die. Do you have any idea what you have done?”
“No, but I am sure you will dumb it down for me.”
Mai huffed and with clenched teeth spoke, “Your Chalta defied the laws of the spirit realm. That is the only way for you to be here. He had to anchor part of you here and force your spirits onto the realm where souls reside. You killed other souls to protect your prince. You’re an abomination that has defied the laws of the Gods just to exist outside time.”
Chochi was silent, “Maito, are you involved with Togore Ishi?” Maito choked and stared dumbfounded at Chochi. “That is the only way you would know that kind of information. We Waichia do not dabble in Esoteric Law. Is he your lover?”
“Who do you think you are judging me?” Mai yelled before standing and leaving Chochi in the room alone.
He was the most powerful man in the empire. Accompanied by one of his Elite Guardians Jiro he moves freely through the kingdom. With Jiro, was the only time he could move with such freedom. His other guardians were given the night off which allowed him and Jiro to leave the grounds. He enjoyed moving about the empire and seeing it with his own eyes.
They often frequented a park near where many of the fishermen lived. It was a small park which allowed Jiro to keep a close eye on his Emperor without losing sight of him, but more importantly it allowed the Emperor a moment to feel normal. He stood there silently watching the small girl dressed in her sleepwear lying on the ground singing an odd song, one he had never heard before. Her foot was tapping rapidly against the ground as though she was keeping some sort of beat.
I run a comb through my hair
and step out in the street
And the city’s the color of flame
in the mid-summer heat,
Hiko’s got his daddy’s car,
he’s playing up-town on the stereo
We go cruisin’ so close,
the way they did long ago
He smiled inwardly as he listened to her sing and made note of the name mentioned in the song. The Emperor had an excellent memory for facts and details. He was certain that even hearing the song once he would remember it. While he listened to the girl sing Jiro spoke softly to his Emperor. “Your majesty we should leave.”
“It is alright Jiro.”
(Turn) Turn the radio up for that sweet sound
Hold me close never let me go
(Keep) Keep this feelin’ alive
Make me lose control
(When) When I look in your eyes, I go crazy
Fever’s high with the lights down low
(So take) Take me over the edge
Make me lose control
We put the top down and park ‘neath the moon
in the sky
And the wind is so hot in our hair, like a fire in July,
Hiko’s singin’ “Stand by Me”
and he knows every single word by heart
Was love always this good,
or could this be just the start?
“Be my baby” comes on, and were movin’ in time
And the heat from your touch, makes me feel like I’m losing my mind
(And then they played) “Back in my arms” again
(We close our eyes) We start rememberin’ when
(We start to kiss) And all the feelings intense
And we just pray that this night never ends
Wohohoho, my darlin’
(Turn) Turn the radio up for that sweet sound
Hold me close never let me go
Keep this feelin’ alive make me lose control
When I look in your eyes, I go crazy
Fever’s high with the lights down low
(So take) Take me over the edge
Make me lose control
(Turn) Turn the radio up for that sweet sound
Hold me close never let me go
(Keep) Keep this feelin’ alive make me lose control
When I look in your eyes, I go crazy
Fever’s high with the lights down low
(So take) Take me over the edge make me lose control
He did not approach her until she was finished, bringing his hands up and formally clapping with two slight slaps of his fingers to his palm.She sat up suddenly and he wondered how it was that she was unaware that he and Jiro were there. “May I join you?” He inquired.
She stared at him and then let her eyes fall on Jiro. He wondered if she would tell him no. “I guess so.” She voiced after she surveyed the two of them. There had been no hesitation in her voice which surprised him.
She laid herself back down on her back and stared up at the sky. She did not begin singing again and there was silence about them. “Would it be too forward of me to ask your name?”
“Tationy.” She said simply as she stared up at the stars. The Emperor made no outward display, but inwardly he considered why someone might name their child that. It was from the teachings of the Shima.
“Are you from Torgahdah?” He questioned about the Empire of the Dragon Lords.
“No.” She said simply and then sat up suddenly pointing to the sky. “Look at that a shooting star. Make a wish.” She said as she closed her eyes. The Emporer smiled at the unusual girl and indulged her by making a wish for himself. “What did you wish for, wait don’t tell me.” She said as she turned her head finally to look at him directly. This was the first really good look he got of her.
“Your eyes.” He said as he stared.
She sighed, “Not you too.” She said as she stopped looking at him.
“It is an honor to have those eyes.”
“More like a curse.” She said and the Emperor chuckled ever so slightly.
“You are from the royal family?” He questioned. He did not know her and was certain there was no way she could be the daughter of any of his clansmen without him knowing.
“No, silly.” She said and turned to smile at him.
“May I inquire as to what clan you are from?”
She sighed again, which told him his answer. He had experienced that sort of sigh before from his son, the prince. “Do you have a name?” She asked changing the topic.
He chuckled slightly and responded, “Miroku.”
“What is so funny?”
“You remind me of my son.” He said and then got a far-off look about him as though he had suddenly gotten lost in thought.
“Did something happen to your son?” She asked.
Miroku stood and moved toward a bench taking a seat. He was surprised when he saw her stand and follow suit. She did not ask if she could sit with him, simply doing so. He was unaccustomed to people being so informal with him. “Why are you in your sleepwear?” He questioned changing the topic off of his son.
“Would you like the long or short version?” She questioned.
“I prefer the long one.” He said simply.
“The place were I was staying was attacked.”
“Don’t know. Men in military uniforms, but there was no trim. Pure black they were.” Miroku controlled his emotions. An assassination squad moving around without him knowing was impossible. The military did not work outside his knowledge. “My…keepers…We were separated. So here I am in my pajamas.”
“Pajamas.” He repeated the funny word and she giggled at him. That was when he realized she was staring at him. “Sorry, I have never heard that word before.”
“It means sleepwear.” She explained.
“You said you and your keepers were separated?”
“Yes. I am certain they all can handle it themselves, but I am a bit worried.”
“No, something else.”
“Would you like to talk about?”
“I saw something that reminded me of something.”
“One of the men had a dagger with a weird design on it.” She stated and then explained what it looked like to Miroku.
He stood up suddenly, “You will have to excuse me Tationy, I must be departing your company. It was a pleasure to meet you.”
“Miroku,” she called out as she stood and fallowed after him.
He stopped moving. “You should change your appearance. Hide one of your eyes. They will come after you again.”
“Come after me, you know something, what is it?” She asked.
“You don’t remember?” He questioned. She stared at the back of his head wondering what he was talking about. He talked like he knew something, even more like he knew her.
“I don’t remember.” She said simply as he turned to look at her. It was not a lie, he could tell. He wanted to take her with him, but he could not, it was too dangerous for her to be taken to the palace. “About the dagger….”
“It belongs to the Sosa Clan.” He remarked.
“Sosa, but there are none of them left except…”
“Except?” He asked as he stared at her. She looked away. “One of your keepers?” He questioned. She nodded her head. “Don’t trust him. No matter what he says, don’t trust him.”
“But Abe would never hurt me…” She said.
Miroku sighed inwardly, she was way too trusting. Jiro stood silently in the background listening, “Don’t trust them Tationy, any of them. Your keepers betrayed you.”
“What are you talking about?” She raised her voice.
“Just, trust me. Hide yourself somewhere they won’t find you.” Miroku turned on his heels looking back only once. He hated leaving her, his son, but she was safer away from him. As he moved away he spoke to Jiro, “Contact Commander Kari and have him meet me at the palace as soon as possible and I want you to summon my guardians.”
“And the girl?” Jiro questioned.
“Have Togore track her.”
Silently they sat with each other. It was not a contest of wills. What they were doing was something far different. The two men were observing with their senses. “He has moved toward the back part of the grounds.”
“Carrying a man and managing to avoid all the traps is impressive.”
“He is Sweela.”
“Certainly, but not one I recognize.”
“Do we stop him?”
The Elder of the Sweela Clan, Seiree silently pondered the question posed by his brother Tohma. “His skill level is high. Not many Sweela could manage to do what he is doing on our grounds without the entire clan being aware. Yet, none of them have made any movement toward him.” He grew silent a neutral expression upon his face, “I would say it was your son by his movement.”
Tohma’s had a grave expression upon the mention of his son. “He died protecting our prince.”
“His body was never recovered.”
“He died.” Tohma said with conviction. “I felt the moment when his soul left his body. He left this realm long ago.”
Seiree recalled that day so vividly when his brother for no reason broke down. He had been so certain that his son had perished in battle protecting the prince. “We will leave him for now.”
“I have my reasons.” Seiree remarked as he stood and moved toward the window. He could feel the crisp air. He sighed inwardly, like all the other members of his clan he was born defective or at least that is what other clans thought. His brother Tohma was born without his sight, his brother’s son without a voice to speak, and Seiree was born without the ability to feel pain. Born without the autonomic response to stimuli, Seiree was capable of accomplishing any job no matter what he had to do. Ultimately it resulted in him becoming his clans elder.
His mind could not help, but travel to the Sweela moving about stealthy.
Otoha stood staring out the window. Coming to this place was a risk, but it was the only place he knew of that the Ruthlbahdo and the other clans could not travel without difficulty. The Sweela did not like outsiders. He took some comfort in the fact that no one had been dispatched to take him out. He had spent the better part of the night tending to the minor abrasions on Sohma’s face and back. The rest of the night was spent keeping guard.
“Otoha.” He heard a voice break the silence as he turned his head to see Sohma pushing himself up in a reclined position. “Where are we?” He asked and then paused for a moment before yelling and jumping out of bed, “The others are they alright?”
Otoha had moved quickly toward him to keep him from bolting out of the building they were hiding in. His hand had gone to his shoulder and Sohma relaxed, but his face showed he was concerned. “How many of us escaped?”
Otoha made a gesture with his fingers, placing just two in the palm of his other hand.
“We are alone?” Sohma asked.
Otoha nodded his head once in response to the question.
Sohma collapsed into a heap near the bed, his head resting as he silently sobbed. “Why did we come here.” He repeated over and over again until exhaustion overtook him. Otoha stood the stoic figure he always was watching, but offering no comfort.
Eventually, Sohma’s eyes drifted open once again turning his head slightly to look around. He caught sight of Otoha training near a large display of shelves and armories. That was when he realized that they were in some sort of storage area. He stood, his legs buckling once, but he managed to regain his composure before moving to kneel to watch him.
He was captivated by the movement. Otoha was so fluid and graceful. His mind drifted back to the events that led them to this place and he frowned deeply. Otoha had a chance to save Sadoo, but he saved him instead.
“I am sorry.” Sohma said as his head bowed. “I don’t know why I am here. I am no use to any of you.” Otoha never stopped his movements. “I never believed any of this from the beginning and now that we are here, I am worthless. They are all gone. What….what do we do now?” He asked, but then sighed because he realized that no answer would ever come. He was with the one person that could not respond even if he wanted too.
Tationy had slept in the park restlessly. Her mind had wandered many times to Miroku. She wanted to know what secret he was keeping from her, but she told herself she should not delve too deeply into this world. When the light of morning woke her she moved from the park down a dirt road near the water. There was a small group of houses that lined the area and it smelled like fish which made her crinkle her nose.
She stopped moving when she noticed a man leaving his house. She felt like a statue as she held her breath. With no place to hide he could see her and Miroku’s words stung sharply. He was right, she could not move around like this. When the man was out of sight she slide through the gate and looked around cautiously.
“Hello.” She called out and slowly moved up the steps knocking lightly on the door. “Hello.” She said again.” Reaching for the door handle she turned it. She did not know why she thought it would be locked when it gave way easily to the turn. “Thank goodness for no alarms.” She told herself as she peeked her head in and looked around. There was no way to hide. It was like a matchbox, one room.
Tationy gave herself only a moment to glance around before she looked for anything that resembled clothing. In the one room shack she stomped her one foot to the ground. “Shoot.” She said. “The man must only have one piece of clothing to his name.” She said aloud as she turned herself around and stopped when she noticed a trunk on the floor. She moved toward it and quickly opened it. She sifted through it until she got to the bottom where she found an old garment and a hairpiece that reminded her of the one Takuya Waichia was wearing.
She was curious how an old fishermen had acquired the items, but she pushed it aside. She told herself it was for the greater good and that she would pay him back someday for letting her barrow them. There was no mirror for her to check herself over, she just had to hope she put the outfit on right, not to mention the hairpiece. She moved to leave the small fisherman’s house and the swords on the wall caught her attention.
Frowning slightly she moved toward it grabbing one of them from the wall. It was part of being a man in this society. A certain number of men carried them. She sighed, not certain if she was making the right decision by taking it, but her logic was that she was safer with it than without it.
At the Red Lantern sat Guiren Takahashi waiting patiently for Taku. They would meet often around the city, but never in the same place. It was safer that way. This day though he had nearly chosen to turn around and depart when he had noticed Oro Ishi sitting at a table not to far away from his. He was one of the Commanders of the Ruthlbahdo, but more importantly not someone you wanted to get on the bad side of.
Curiously he considered why a man like him was in a place like this. This place did not cater to men looking for supple flesh. The Red Lantern catered to men looking for other men. It was in the Dawlaz District, a place were people never talked. You could move about unseen in this large district which was perfect for those that wanted to get lost in the chaos and disappear.
Guiren caught sight of Taku and thought back briefly on the years that they had known each other. His face was different now and he did not offer any explanation as to why, but during their first meeting when he had used the password that was only shared between the two of them he knew it was him.
Taku surveyed the room and kept his head down, so that the conical hat he wore would cover his eyes. He caught sight of Guiren quickly enough and made his way toward the table taking a seat without being asked. They talked in hushed voices.
Taku’s eyes looked toward the stage where several men were sitting behind lattice screens. “I am sorry that we are meeting here, but I thought that perhaps you would like to know what became of your brothers.” Guiren spoke as he poured himself a glass of Shakma, a highly concentrated form of alcohol that was popular throughout many of the host and hostess clubs in the New Aslann Empire.
Taku said nothing in response simply turned his attention toward Guiren.
“About the information you requested me to look into…”
“That can wait.” Taku spoke. “We were attacked last night by an assassination squad. Have you heard anything?”
“Nothing yet, other than the military has been mobilized toward the Nakamaru Clan Elder estate. Though there is currently only speculation about what transpired. No one from the Royal Family or even the Adviser Jin has spoken publicly on the matter.”
“Who controls the assassination squads these days?”
“Well the military commanders do have domain over their general control. There has been rumors circulating that members of the Nakamaru Clan have associated recently with the Shima and have been given their own assassination squads courtesy of the Dragon Lords. Of course there is no concrete evidence to support these rumors.” Guiren took a breath in before speaking again, “Taku about the information you requested, if the information is correct at least three of the Guardians are your enemies.”
Taku frowned deeply, “Are you certain?”
“I am still checking into it and no information on the Guardians themselves is given, but at the time you were all hunted down, sources have confirmed that at least three of them were working for…”
“No.” Taku stared at him with an unreadable expression, “Someone else.”
“I am still looking into it.”
“But you have some idea?”
“It is rumored that the Waichia are responsible.”
“The Waichia only follow rules it seems unlikely they would go to such lengths.”
“Over the past year there have been issues between the Royal Family and the Waichia.”
“What sort of issues?”
“The Waichia have not liked some of the decisions made by the Royal Family. The division between the Waichia is gradually shrinking. Toshiro Waichia is ruling over one side and Oji Waichia over the other. They have even begun to communicate with each other again.”
Taku considered the information and wondered to himself what was going on, but his thoughts were quickly broken. The men behind the lattice where moving about the room while others took their positions. They were decorative pieces behind the lattice. A certain amount of time passed while the bidding took place. The highest bidder within that time would get the evening with that man. He frowned deeply as he watched the Commander of the Ruthlbahdo, Oro Ishi paw his brother.
Guiren watched the scene out of the corner of his eye. He could not entirely understand what Taku was feeling at that moment, after all he had no siblings. Despite being from the Takahashi Clan, he spent the majority of his time alone. “I will look into it further and contact you by the usual means.” Guiren spoke as he stood up and quickly departed.
Taku gave Guiren enough time to get away and had been about to depart himself when a man took a seat next to him. “I am Kensuke, I am honored that you have requested my company this evening.” Taku cursed Guiren under his breath, he had placed bids on Taku’s older brother Kensuke just to give them time together. He kept his head low so the man could not see his face.
Kensuke stared for a moment at the man who chose to not speak. He sighed inwardly, these ones were always difficult. Some men like Oro Ishi just took what they wanted others were there for just the company. That required him to talk and he was not especially interested in socializing with these men on any level. “We have a storm coming.” He began. Again, Taku said nothing. “Did you grow up in Aslann?” It became clear that the man he was sitting with was simply not going to speak. “I grew up here with my brothers, Sonchiro and …” Kensuke watched the man as he stood up suddenly and walked out leaving him alone at the table wondering what he had said to get such a reaction out of that man.
Sadoo had somehow managed to escape. He found himself in a busy district and managed to slip himself inside a building to hide. He had not been injured at least not physically. It was because of him that Atsuki had been taken. Part of him was grateful it had not been Otoha and it was that thought that made him feel guilty.
He managed to make himself comfortable on bags of corn. Fitful sleep overtook him eventually. He felt like he was underwater. Uncertain of the passing of time, Sadoo’s eyes felt heavy as he heard voices in the room where he was. “Did we disturb you?” One of them said as he blinked the sleep away. He did not respond to the two men.
The one in the black shirt gave him a piercing stare. It was one that reminded him of Chochi. Sadoo knew he was a fighter. The man had already calculated how fast he could take him down. “If you are going to sleep here, you need to work.” The man with the discerning stare finally spoke.
“Do you have a name?” The nicer of the two questioned.
“Sadoo Takahashi.” He finally spoke. “I am sorry, I just needed a place to stay. I will repay my debt…”
“Takahashi Clan in these parts that is unusual.” The man in the black shirt said.
“Suetomo, you are making the boy uneasy.” The man with the smile reminiscent of Taku spoke.
“Shinshi, you are too easy going.” Suetomo remarked.
“Well one of us has to be.” He responded, “I am Shinshi Kensuku and this is my considerably older brother Suetomo.” He remarked as Suetomo made a face and turned his back to the two exiting the building.
Sadoo wondered if the two of them were related to Taku in some fashion. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Forgive him, he is only nice to women and children everyone else he sees as an enemy.”
“Why?” He found himself questioning as he watched Shinshi lift one of the bags of corn to move it out of the storage area.
“Too many years of war, I think.” He responded. “Grab yourself one.” Sadoo looked around and grabbed up a bag with ease tossing it over his shoulder. “Definitely from the Takahashi, your clan tends to be strong like ox’s.” He voiced with a cheery smile as he moved out of the building and Sadoo fallowed.
Sadoo casually looked around, but did his best to not make eye contact with anyone. Suetomo watched from his spot near where the supplies were being laid out to be sold the next day. Shinshi was a hard worker, but he liked to talk so he spent the majority of the time chatting while he moved stuff. Sadoo was only passively listening.
By nightfall, Shinshi and Sadoo had finished moving the stuff outside. Suetomo with arms crossed glanced over their work. “You can bunk with our clan tonight.” He voiced.
Shinshi had been surprised by his brother’s words as he turned his head to look at him. “Thank you, I appreciate it.” Sadoo spoke.
“Right, Shinshi, show him where he can rest.”
Shinshi nodded his head as he led the way to a small house which had beds in it. “This is it, sorry it is not much.”
“It’s more than enough.”
“Those of us from the Kensuku that work in this area all reside here so you may see others come and go.” He explained. “I will see if I can find you something to wear in one of the trunks upstairs.” He voiced as he disappeared leaving Sadoo alone. He took a seat on one of the beds and sighed. He figured that this was as good a place as any to hide until things died down or they told him it was time to leave.
He hung his head low and sighed deeply, “Something happen?” Shinshi asked as he returned handing him a garment to wear.
Sadoo stood and turned his back to the man changing his clothing. “Lots of things, but nothing I want to talk about.”
“Well if you change your mind, you know where to find me.” He said heading toward the door.
“I have to work. The Dawlaz District does not stop just because it is time to sleep.” He stated simply before excusing himself from the building.
Shinshi had been right, people came and went, but not one of them asked who he was. He figured this district was a place you went when you did not want anyone to find you. That for him was perfect, he did not need those people coming after him.
Sadoo had decided that training was far better than sleeping seeing every attempt at sleep resulted in him tossing and turning. He worked on the fighting style that Otoha had been training him in. He felt foolish the sword that he had been given was left back at the house. He never even used it. He could not imagine himself being some mighty general when he could not even protect himself let alone his friends.
Lost in thought as he moved through the movements one by one, unaware that Suetomo was watching him. “The fighting style of the military.” Suetomo finally spoke breaking Sadoo’s thoughts and causing him to nearly fall over from being startled. “You are not a soldier and the style is not self-taught. Your movements are too precise yet lack any defining characteristics that show age and wisdom.”
“A friend taught me.” He explained as he composed himself.
“A friend doesn’t teach that style unless there is a lot of killing in a man’s future. The style is called Rom Kaga. It encompasses short punches and strikes with anything available; knees, hands, elbows, even a well-placed head butt can be effective. A soldier will use his peripheral vision to ascertain the targets around him. He goes for the weakest to the strongest. He is focused, aggressive, and concentrates only on the selected targets vital points until they are disabled, preferably dead.”
“They target…” He began as he threw a strike toward that part of the body as he called it out. He pulled each one, just in case the boy could not block it, but he targeted them; the top of the head, forehead, temple, eyes, ears, nose, under the nose, jaw, chin, back of ears and base of skull, throat, side of neck, back of neck, front of shoulder muscle, collarbone, armpit, spine, nipples, heart, solar plexus, diaphragm, floating-ribs, kidneys, abdomen below the navel, biceps, forearm muscles, back of hand, groin, outside thigh, hamstring, knee, calf, shin, Achilles tendon, ankle, instep.
By the time the man had gone through each vital point, Sadoo was exhausted. He had his hands rested on his knees, breathing heavy as he tried to compose himself. “How do you know this?”
“I was once a General in the Ruthlbahdo before my clan revolted against the Divine Emperor. I trained many soldiers. Now, I just make weapons because the Ruthlbahdo see me as an enemy to their Emperor.” Sadoo wondered if his past self, had been taught by this man.
“Whoever trained you did not put their heart into it. You should be further along. Perhaps he did not want to teach you to kill even though he felt it was necessary.” Suetomo remarked.
“Will you train me?”
Suetomo stared at the young man, “Why?” Silently he stared at Suetomo trying to find the words to say. When no words instantly left his mouth he sighed and bowed his head in defeat, “When you can answer that question, I will train you.” Suetomo remarked before departing the room leaving Sadoo alone with his thoughts.
Appropriately dressed for hiding Tationy departed the fisherman’s home and moved through the world. She had fashioned an eye patch out of a piece of kitchen cloth, it was the best she could do under the circumstances and told herself she would look for a better one the moment she had a chance.
No one seemed to pay her any attention as she walked. Those that did notice moved to the other side of the road and she was curious as to why they moved from her. She never considered it might be the fact that she was carrying a sword. She had never noticed that only the military seemed to carry weapons. As she walked she noticed a man walking toward her. He was staggering and stumbling about. She peered at him suspiciously as she continued on in the direction she was heading. As she approached closer he tripped over his own feet and landed face first on the ground.
Hesitantly she stopped moving and turned to look at the man now trying to gather himself off of the ground. “Are you alright?”
His words were slurred and it was nearly impossible to understand him. She waved her hand in front of her face as the smell of liquor hit her. She knew enough about men who liked to drink from her father’s restaurant. She had seen many men try to drown themselves in drink. She sighed, “Where are you heading?” She asked as she crouched down next to him.
What he said made little sense but through a series of questions she managed to infer that he was almost to his destination. She tried to help the man up, but sighed when she realized that he was too far gone so she simply did what her mother always did when her father had lost his job and he had begun drinking heavily, she grabbed him by the collar and dragged.
“Is this it?” She asked and got a response to indicate it was. When she entered through the open gate she tripped over shoes which were tossed in the walkway rather than gathered neatly near the stairs. “You have to help me here.” She told him as she positioned herself to help walk him to his quarters as he lifted himself up and leaned heavily on her. She nearly tumbled over from his weight as they moved toward a section of the estate where the man indicated his room was.
She used her foot to slide open the door with a frown having noticed dishes sitting outside his door in stacks. When she got the door open her frown only deepened. Papers and clothing scattered all over the place she simply let the man go and he dropped hard to the floor. “Do you need anything before I go?” She asked.
“Tea.” He said as he gripped his head.
“Right.” She responded as she walked out of his room and traveled about the place looking for anything that resembled a kitchen. She passed several rooms and peeked in only to see men in military uniforms with gold trim lounging about lazily.
She could not imagine being anymore shocked or even appalled, then she arrived to the kitchen. “Unbelievable.” The smell nearly knocked her out as she coughed and then gagged. There was food still steaming in some parts and in other parts there were flies from food rotting and dirty dishes. The floor was covered in dirt and they had run out of counter space and began to just place them anywhere. “Well this explains all the piles of dishes around.” She told herself.
“Disgusting pigs.” She said aloud as she pulled her sleeves out of the way and moved to clean up the kitchen.
Lost in thought and cursing the Ruthlbahdo under her breath he watched. His name was Zen Kari and he was a General under the Command of Oro Ishi. He cleared his throat which resulted in Tationy turning around. “Who are you?”
” Rio.” She said. “Who are you?”
“General Kari.” He noticed the look of recognition as he surveyed the young boy in front of him. The boy’s hair was red, the oddest shade he had ever seen and a rarity in Aslann. He wore an eye patch and an informal style of dress which contradicted the noble hairstyle and hairpiece.
“Did Commander Ishi hire you?” He questioned.
“If you are referring to that drunken slob I dragged here by the collar and dropped on his face in his room….” She began, but Zen interrupted her.
“Of course he is.” He bowed his head slightly, “I apologize for our Commander.”
“I think you should be more concerned with the state of this place then that drunken bum.”
He looked around the kitchen and noticed that the young man before him had cleaned it. He bowed his head slightly, “I thank you for your assistance.”
“Have you considered hiring someone to clean this place up?”
“I submitted the papers to the Commander months ago, but he never gets around to approving anything.”
“Of course he doesn’t.” She said. “I will get those damn papers signed. He is about to find out what happens when you do not do what you are suppose too.” She said as she walked out of the kitchen and Zen turned to allow his eyes to follow the young man with the brazen personality.
When Zen arrived he could hear a lot of racket coming from inside the Commander’s quarters. He pulled back the door and slide himself inside unprepared for what he would come to see. The young man had the Commander down on his knees in front of an unsigned stack of papers. “Worthless Commander of the Ruthlbahdo, you will stay in this position until you sign all of those papers you hear me or you will get another butt kicking.” She said.
Zen stared in disbelief at the scene. “Fine fine, I will sign them. You are bossy.”
“What did you say?” She asked as she put further pressure on his back with her foot.
“Nothing, nothing.” He responded as he leaned down as close as he could get to the papers and began to furiously sign them. Zen watched the scene for hours as the young man kept the Commander in line and he was dutiful for the first time in his career. Once he was finished she lifted the papers from the floor and handed them to Zen. “What a tyrant.” Commander Ishi said under his breath and she turned and glared at him which caused him to look away as he pretended like he said nothing.
She and Zen left the quarters of the Commander who was still feeling the effects of the booze and the butt kicking he got at the hands of Tationy.
Zen had invited the young man to tea and Tationy accepted. “Rio is it?” Zen had begun, “I have never witnessed anyone manage the Commander in such a fashion.”
“Why is he your commander to begin with?” She asked boldly.
“The Adviser Jin wanted someone he could trust in the position, I don’t think he really cared whether or not the person was capable or even wanting to do the job.”
“I apologize for my behavior.” She told him after a moment of silently contemplating his words.
“I don’t think the Commander minded being roughed up by you, he has a thing for…well let’s just say he has some odd tendencies. Despite how he may look he is quite a fighter. If for no other reason he has our respect for his skill.”
“He is of the Ishi Clan right?”
“I heard that all members of the Ishi Clan are equally skilled.”
“I would not say equally because no two men are built the same and experience plays a great deal in skill, but the Ishi Clan tends to be well trained from the time they are small.”
“And the Kari Clan?”
“I imagine you are asking me that for a particular reason.”
“You do not serve under Hiko.” She said and he made note that the young man calling himself Rio referred to Commander Kari by his first name.
“Commander Kari and I have different views on many things. I just generally do not like him.”
“He gets to do whatever he wants with no regard to the clan.” He stated simply.
“Your clan is in bad shape?”
“We are dying out.”
“How long have you served under Commander Ishi?”
“A few years now and I served another 10 under the previous Commander. Did the Commander hire you as his page?”
“You do not serve in the military.” He stated and she simply nodded her head in response. “Yet you are here.”
“Some things defy explanation.” She remarked simply and he considered her words before agreeing.
Hiko had been dealing with the situation at the Nakamaru Estate when he was summoned to the palace. He left General Hero Takahashi in charge as he moved toward the palace making the long walk through the numerous gates and past many guarded checkpoints. He had put out his cigarette and stuck it in his pocket probably not the most logical place to put it, but Hiko did not much care if it got bent as long as he could smoke it still.
As he walked through the last of the arched gates he stopped suddenly and moved to bow when he noticed the Emperor was waiting for him. It was unusual. “That is not necessary.” He voiced, “Walk with me Hiko.” Hiko stared after the Emperor as he began to walk toward the garden. He was a lot less formal than he normally was. This was the Emperor from back when he was a guard in the throne room.
By the time he caught up to the Emperor he was humming a tune. Hiko joined at his side reluctantly as he kept pace with the Emperor. “I met an interesting girl last night.” He finally spoke after having stopped humming suddenly. “Unusual personality. She talked using words I have never heard before with red hair and the eyes of the gods. She called herself Tationy.”
“Tationy, is she alright?” Hiko asked and then stopped suddenly going back to a neutral state.
The Emperor stopped moving and turned to look at him, “I thought you knew her. What is your relationship with her?”
“She is a friend of Tatsuya’s.” He stated.
“A friend of your cousin, are you certain she is not something more important to you?”
“Then you would not mind if I pursued her.” The Emperor stated and watched the look in Hiko’s eyes. He hid it well, but these two men had known each other for a very long time. The Emperor sighed and closed his eyes, his head bowed slightly. “You disappoint me, Hiko. You have so much pride and strength in your sword yet you are always so unwilling to lay your heart on the line. Don’t you want someone to make you lose control?” No response came, “Do you want to know how she is?”
“She seems well enough considering. She is alone though.”
“Separated from her retainers.” The Emperor remarked as he began to walk again.
Side by side they strolled into the garden. “Do you know where she is?” Hiko finally asked and the Emperor stopped walking. Hiko stopped moving as well as a silent moment overtook them.
“Togore is tracking her, but I left her in the park near the fishermen shacks. I am glad to see you do care about her, it makes what I am going to ask you much easier.”
“Emperor?” Hiko asked as he turned to look at him, but the Emperor began to walk again.
The Emperor took a seat on a bench located in the small garden. “Please join me Hiko.” Hiko stared at the Emperor before moving to take a seat next to him. “You must be curious about why I am being so informal with you.”
“I am sure you have your reasons Emperor.”
“Do you remember back when the prince walked out on the meeting with the Waichia Clan?”
“I tried to force him to do something he did not want too and he told me and the Waichia that he would rather die. His words shamed the Waichia very deeply so much so that I never believed that the sin would be forgiven. To my surprise they pretended it did not happen and up until recently it had never been mentioned.”
“Emperor, what does this have to do…..”
“Tationy told me last night that the place she was staying was attacked.”
“The Nakamaru Clan Elder Estate.” Hiko spoke. “Assassination squad of unknown origins. We recovered 15 bodies including the Nakamaru Clan Elder, Mikira.”
“Tationy informed me about the men that attacked. She also said one of them had a dagger with him.”
“The Sosa Clan Dagger that I gave to Yuudai Waichia as a promise….”
“What kind of promise?”
“That my son would marry a member of the Waichia.”
“The more that is uncovered the less this makes sense. Certainly the Waichia would be well-aware of the consequence of killing an Elder of any clan.”
“Their target was not the Elder.” The Emperor stated, “It was Tationy.”
Hiko frowned deeply. “Emperor, are you going to tell me what is going on?”
The Emperor changed gears, “You were so disappointed and yet honored to be a guard in the throne room, but I know you desperately wanted to protect the prince. You were just a young man of twenty-two when you became a guard in my throne room. Now you are practically an old man looking over the cliff at mid-life. Makes me feel old.” Hiko silently listened to his Emperor. “Before the prince was born, I entered into a contract with the Waichia. In hindsight it was a mistake. The prince was never happy with any decision I made for him. His guardians became difficult. They served only him and had little regard for those around. It was as though they lived in their own world.”
“I was concerned with the empire and how the prince would succeed me especially after what happened with the Waichia. With no heir he would simply be put in the same position, I had been. It was not a path I wanted for him. You want your children to be happy and healthy, but that does not always happen. I failed him and I realized it the moment I saw the two of you together. The prince was just thirteen at that point and you, you were considerably older and had just been promoted to Captain. I had wanted you to reconsider and stay on in the throne room, but you wanted to protect the prince in some fashion. You wanted to tell the prince so desperately your good news that you had not even switched into your new uniform.”
“Emperor?” Hiko questioned as he turned to look at the Emperor who was staring off into the distance.
“Please forgive me Hiko, it was never my intent to spy on you. I had simply wanted to speak with you when I fallowed you into the garden. I could not bring myself to approach the two of you and stood there watching.” Hiko considered what it might be that the Emperor was speaking of as he replayed his memories in his mind. “It was the first time I saw the prince like that.”
“The two of you stood staring at each other. Your eyes were practically smiling and I held my breath as I stood there and silently watched you. We have to stop meeting like this. You had said and the prince blushed nervously in your presence.”
“I had thought it was a chance meeting until you did something I had not expected.”
Hiko felt a nervousness building throughout his body as the Emperor talked about the past.
“The two of you laid upon the ground together as though it were the most natural thing. The prince teased you about your sword position and I was surprised when you joked back and said it was not your sword. You both exchanged words of love and I was in shock.”
“I had no idea the prince was in love with you and you were in love with the prince.”
“Emperor, you are mistaken. I had no such encounters with the prince.”
“Hiko, I would know my son anywhere.” The Emperor said and then paused before continuing, “Shu showed up.”
Hiko swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat as he felt a tightness in his chest. He would never with a man. The Emperor was mistaken. He felt every curve, tasted her lips, he knew there was no way she was a man.
“Shu began to yell, what the hell are you doing? I thought he was talking to the prince, but I was wrong. He was talking to you. He told the prince to leave and my son walked away leaving the two of you alone.”
“Shu poked you in the chest and told you he would not allow you to continue a relationship with the prince. He told you that you were not in the same status. He told you he would kill you if you came near the prince again. He meant it.”
“Did you….did the two of you ever see each other again?”
Hiko sighed inwardly, “Emperor with all due respect, why do you think that was your son?”
“I could not, not have a son.” The Emperor replied, “Sacrifices were made to ensure that I did. That girl in the park, Tationy. I don’t know how, but she is my son. She is Prince Tatsuya. She is the prince and the princess of this empire. It is because of this that I must ask you a difficult favor.”
No matter the loss of his Emperor’s sanity, Hiko knew that he would obey any order. “Anything for you my lord.”
“I want you to protect Prince Tatsuya. Choose men that you trust to assist you. No matter who’s sword you cross you protect my son. Don’t trust her guardians, don’t leave her in their care. Whatever it is you have to do to keep Prince Tatsuya safe, you do it.” He remarked as he stood up and began to walk away, but stopped to inform Hiko one last thing, “I will have Togore contact you when he finds her.”
Hiko sighed noticeably as he pulled the crumpled up cigarette out of his pocket and stuck it between his lips. His mind was lost in deep thought as he considered the prospect that the Emperor was going mad. Alone in the garden he sat as the rain gently began to fall. It had been threatening to rain for days and everyone in the empire had been preparing for a storm. It seemed one was brewing that had nothing to do with the weather.
Hiko’s thoughts had been broken sharply as the bench shook when Mikio Ishi had taken a seat. He did not sit down in any kind or gentle way just flopped himself down on his butt, arms crossed, and legs slightly parted. With as relaxed as Hiko was in his posture, Mikio was three times as relaxed. They were not that much different in a lot of respects. Both men casually smoked on their cigarettes as the silence lingered about them, “Wondering if the Emperor is going mad?”
“Who knows.” Mikio remarked. “The past that he talked to you about, did it really happen?”
“There was a woman.” Hiko remarked in an emotionless tone.
“There was an incident.”
There was silence once more about the men. “We were handed down the order to retrieve the prince after he had been exiled.” Mikio explained. “During our pursuit we got different orders.”
“To kill them?”
“From the Emperor?”
“We thought so, it had his seal, but we found out later that we all had been tricked. You were there…”
“Just for the last fight, the one with the Waichia Guardian. It took the might of two armies to stop him.”
Mikio anticipated his question, “The prince and Shu were found by Nao. Your expression tells me that does not surprise you.”
“The woman said as much, unintentionally.”
“Seems unlikely she would know that…”
“What is going on?”
“Who knows.” He remarked.
“Arn’t you suppose too be some sort of genius.”
Mikio simply shrugged his shoulders. “I can tell you this. The chalta that I faced off with from the guardians, didn’t seem at all concerned about dieing.” He remarked as he stood up and stretched causally.
“Could a chalta be responsible?”
“Who knows…” He said as he turned slightly to look at Hiko. Hiko noticed the new additions to Mikio’s scars. The Ishi Clan had its own sanity threatening to degenerate. Mikio was the most powerful of the Ishi Clan, so powerful he could lead them, but he was hardly sane these days. From the way he looked to the way he acted it was not difficult to ascertain that he was formidable and dangerous both for his skill and his mental degradation.
Mikio had turned his back to Hiko once again and took several steps forward. He stopped moving when Hiko stood up and Hiko noticed instantly that he had done so. He was cautious because one could never be certain what a member of the Ishi would do. “If you have any designs on the woman I would not hesitate.” Mikio spoke. “The Emperor is obligated to the Waichia due to that contract, even if they are behind this, he cannot go against it. Once the Waichia are aware that she exists, they will stop at nothing to obtain her. Any man she marries will have the power to rule. I don’t believe they were trying to kill her. I believe they were trying to capture her. If she is in their possession they could easily force her to marry one of them or even force themselves upon her to produce an heir.”
Hiko felt the pit of his stomach knot at the thought as he stared at the back of the head of Mikio. He and Tatsuya had brought her to the Waichia and potentially put her in danger, after all only a few hours later the place she was staying was attacked. “Why are you telling me this.”
“Who knows.” He said with a shrug as he walked off leaving Hiko to depart the grounds on his own.
Having departed the palace Hiko made his way to the last place the Emperor had seen Tationy. The small park was deserted and nightfall had quickly approached. Despite the rain stopping there was a slight chill in the air and the scream of a young woman broke the thoughts that had been plaguing him since his talked with the Emperor and Mikio.
He moved from the park finding a young woman standing alone. He recognized her as a member of the Maiba Clan and when he turned to see what had scared her he realized it had all been a ploy. The woman bowed her head and whispered she was sorry as she walked away.
They were talking about why he had this coming, but in truth, Hiko was no longer listening to the dribble. He had promised his cousin he would not kill any of them so he never once ventured to draw his sword nor did he position himself in any sort of physical fighting stance. When the first blow hit his face he cursed his cousin, Tatsuya.
He took the beating like a man as he braced himself upon the ground for the next assault from the Maiba scum, but the attack never came. In the form of a devil, movement so quick, Hiko managed to yell out. “Don’t kill them.” As the final one fell.
This man posed before him, standing over the dead bodies of the Maiba clan was one of the retainers of Tationy. He was the one she clung too so desperately and the reason he did not stop them from taking her. He managed to get a glimpse of the man’s skill with a sword. He was fast, though a lot less efficient, than he thought he might be. More importantly he was ambidextrous, having switched hands easily as he fought. He had little regard for the people he just murdered.
He watched the young boy, who could not be any more than seventeen sheath his sword and stand casually staring at him. He had blood on his face and his tongue darted from the corner of his mouth ever so slightly to taste it. He could practically see the enjoyment in the boy’s eyes. Hiko stood, brushing himself off though never took his eyes off the young man.
“I figured she would be with you.” He finally spoke. “Guess she was smart enough to avoid you.”
“Considering what you just did, I think she should probably avoid you.”
“You are bothered by what I did?”
“You are wearing the uniform of my faction and you just killed members of the Maiba.”
Hiko’s face knitted with concern as he found himself wondering if this man was capable of understanding the consequences of his actions. He wondered if this was the real him and if the one he saw along with the Waichia was a disguise. “Who killed the Elder of the Nakamaru?”
“Don’t know, don’t care.”
“You were there.”
“Then you must have seen something.”
“I saw lots of things and yet nothing at all.” Abe remarked, “Do you know where she is?”
“If I did, I wouldn’t tell you.” Hiko stated.
Each man position themselves in a manner that let the other know that if this was to come to swords that they were both more than ready. Silently they stared at each other. It was a test of wills to see which one would break first. Abe though had little patience at this point for dealing with a man that acted like his father. “I suppose it cannot be helped then, I will be staying by your side until she is found.”
“Yo brat, what makes you think I will allow that?”
“I don’t really care if you allow it or not. I am pretty certain a girl like her cannot pass up seeing you again.”
“For a man that is supposed to be one of her retainers you certainly do not seem to like her very much.”
“I don’t like her at all. Now and again she amuses me or makes me curious, but for the most part she is just another stupid girl.” It was not entirely true, but he was not about to let this man Hiko Kari know that. She had surprised him on more than one occasion which was difficult to do.
Hiko’s eyes kept on the young man, “Yo, child.” Hiko spoke, “What is your name?”
“Abe Sosa.” He remarked and Hiko hid the expression that threatened to overtake his face.
“The Sosa are long gone.”
“I assure you that is not the case.”
“The last of them fell protecting the prince.”
“So I have been told, but again I assure you, I am very much alive.” Abe remarked not hiding the fact that he was the guardian of Prince Tatsuya, but not confirming it either.
Hiko looked down to the ground at the men killed by Abe. It was easy enough to deal with this, after all attacking the Commander of the Ruthlbahdo was an instant death sentence. He told himself he would have to send men back to deal with the situation as he turned on his heels and began to walk, none to surprised that Abe began to follow him.
They had only managed to step through the gate when Hiko was surrounded by soldiers of the Ruthlbahdo under his command. He instructed a handful of them under one of his generals to deal with the mess Abe had left as he along with his shadow moved through the headquarters. He entered into a small sitting room, where he was soon joined by his Generals, Chee Hamara and Hero Takahashi.
Abe could feel the eyes of both generals on him as he leaned against the wall behind Hiko. “Commander you should take care of your wounds.” Hero finally spoke.
“They are nothing.”
“My, My, looks like someone used your face as a practice dummy.” Chee remarked.
“Yo Chee, are you trying to test my patience?” Hiko questioned though did not wait for a response, “Where are we on the Nakamaru incident?”
“I have analazyed what I could at the scene. There was certainly a large number of men, a squadron of at least 50. An unusual size for an assassination squad.”
“Why would you use a squad that size?” Hiko asked.
“I personally would use that size squad if the opposing force was formidable. I will study the possible battle movements of both sides and see if I can discover further information.” Hero responded.
Chee eyed Abe suspiciously before finally turning his attention back to Hiko, “Commander, I never knew you to take pets.”
Abe smirked, “Keep talking and I will make you swallow your tongue the hard way.”
“My, My this one is all attitude. Should I see if he can back it up with that toy sword of his.” Chee mocked.
“Yo, Chee. You don’t want to do that.” Hiko remarked and both Hero and Chee turned their attention back toward their Commander. “Yo, brat….”
“You know my name.”
“I don’t care.” Hiko remarked. “Start talking.”
“You, the woman, what happened. Don’t leave anything out.”
Abe stood up and walked himself to the other side of the room, taking a seat on a shelf. Hero could not hide his disgust at the fact that this boy had little regard for history, tradition, not to mention the ways of proper society. Abe silently considered the question. Atsuki would not like it if he spoke to them, but at the same time he couldn’t care less about protecting the prince and being a guardian. He licked his lips slightly still tasting the blood on his face though it was dry now and he made note that the taste was different.
“What do you want to know?” He finally asked.
“Where did you come from?” Hiko questioned as he adjusted his position so he could look at the boy.
“Impossible, the Sosa are long gone.” Chee remarked.
“I never said I came from this Aslann, I just said Aslann.”
Hiko considered that regardless of the question the boy might find a way around it. “You say you are Abe Sosa, what about the others with you?” Tatsuya was listening outside as they questioned Abe. He slide himself in the room silently, standing toward the back as he listened.
“Atsuki Nakamaru, Otoha Sweela, Sadoo Takahashi, Chochi Waichia, Taku Kensuku, Sohma Hamara, and Tationy Tylo.”
“I know everyone in my clan.” Chee spoke, “There is no Sohma Hamara.”
“Look, I will tell you what Atsuki told us, but I will leave out the boring stuff. We were guardians for some prince in this time and we were hunted down and killed. Before we were killed, Atsuki did something that would bind part of our souls to this time and the rest of us would die and be reincarnated over and over again until we could return here. Atsuki was the leader of the guardians, a member of the Nakamaru Clan and an expert at something he called esoteric incantations. Otoha was a bodyguard and assassin for the Emperor before becoming a guardian. Sadoo was some sort of great general. Chochi I guess could have ruled over the Waichia, but he was from the wrong side of the clan division. He became a guardian because he knew that the prince would be surrounded by war. The man loves to fight, something about wanting to go on a rampage so great it would scar the earth for an eternity. Taku was a slave after his clan revolted, but he managed to earn his freedom because of his skills with his fist. His fist were said to be so strong they could shatter a sword. Sohma was some sort of tactician and became a guardian when he was really young. He was supposed to be some sort of genius at all things war. I got told I was some sort of great swordsmen, and Tationy well supposedly she is the prince.”
“My, my what a tale.” Chee said rolling his eyes at Abe.
“You don’t remember?” Hiko questioned.
“I remember one of my past lives, but nothing from this time. Chochi, Taku, Atsuki, and Otoha are the only ones that remember their past. Sohma and Sadoo have not appeared to recall anything and Tationy has been having bad dreams about our death.”
“We are not really believing this nonsense are we?” Chee asked.
“So that is it for your memory?” Hiko asked ignoring Chee.
Abe looked up at Hiko briefly, “I know I don’t like you, but if your asking me why, I could not tell you.”
“If you are one of her guardians why has she been wandering around on her own?” Tatsuya questioned.
“She is a spoiled brat.” Abe said simply. “The girl has no regard for her safety and she certainly cannot tell who she should and should not trust.” Abe stated as he stared directly at Hiko.
“You little…” Chee stood, “Who do you think you are? From where I am standing you’re the one that can’t be trusted.” Chee shouted.
“Chee…” Hero spoke, “There is no point in getting upset after all this boy likes the reaction.”
The men sat silently staring at the young man called Abe. He seemed to be lost in thought and each of them waited in their own way for him to speak. Abe eventually stood and stretched his limbs, “Which way to get cleaned up?”
“Yo, Chee. Show the boy…”
“That is not necessary, just point me in the direction I need to go. Unlike others, I never get myself lost.” Hiko did his best to hide the dislike he had for this young man. He was arrogant and his general disposition was one that he was certain not many would like. He himself never considered once that he had a similar disposition in many ways which put people on the wrong side of him.
“I will show him.” Tatsuya said as he turned on his heels to lead the young Sosa Clansmen to a place where he could get cleaned up.
The moment he was out of sight of Tatsuya and the others he sighed. He was exhausted and every part of his body hurt. Killing those men had taken a lot out of him. Chochi had told him that his skill would come back quickly because it would be almost an autonomic response when the need arose to use it, but Abe had not worked this hard since he was on the baseball team.
Though everything he ever did came naturally his body still ached afterward. The water was hot and it relaxed the tension he could feel throughout him. He leaned back, resting his head to the back of the wood tub while staring off into the corner. There was a part of him that prayed she found her way to Chochi and yet another part of him that did not want her anywhere near him.
The conflicting emotions of liking her and hating her were getting to be too much for him. They had only been in the past for just a short time and he was already starting to understand why no one trusted him. He had these feelings bubbling up from deep within him. He liked to make people miserable. He enjoyed watching them squirm when he made a fool of them, but the feelings deep within him were darker and much more sinister than anything he had ever felt.
He told himself it was better she was not with him. He had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach that he would eventually hurt the prince. That was not the worst part of it though. For Abe, it was the feeling that he had which told him that he would enjoy it.
To Be Continued