Chapter 16: The End, The Beginning, The Future

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In two years time, everything had changed.

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Aslann had been mercilessly attacked, by the Sweela, Takahashi, Kensuku and other clans. Those who had felt oppressed by Emperor Miroku rose up against him, unaware that they were being manipulated by the Dragon Lords and the Prince of Aslann. Those soldiers that surrendered, were put to death.

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The slave clans were set free, though only a handful of them actually managed to survive what would happen next. The Kensuku clan had been particularly vicious against those of their clan whose bodies had been sold. Suetomo and his brother Shinshi tried desperately to protect them, but against their armed advancing clansmen, it was a futile attempt. Sonchiro had an opportunity to escape, when Oro came to see him, begging him to come with him, but he refused. He was not about to leave his brothers, Kensuke and Hidesoda as well as his sister Masae behind. Pai Pai also had an opportunity to leave, when a noble from the Shinohara clan offered her freedom in Shimragata where he was heading, all she had to do was sit at his knee for the rest of her life. She refused and along with the siblings of Taku, she died being defended by Suetomo and Shinshi.

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The Sweela clan led by their Elder Seriee and his brother Tohma laid siege upon the palace. Renji Takahashi had served decades as a throne room guard and in the end had tried to protect his Emperor. There was no Ishi to stand against the Sweela and Emperor Miroku was murdered in his bed chamber.

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The Sweela clan showed no mercy, killing everyone within the palace grounds. They had found Agito sitting upon the floor in his bed chamber. Outside the Sweela had massacred a visiting Shinohara noble and a member of the Yamada. Agito had never moved from his spot, not even to beg for his life.

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Fei of the Maiba had charged into the room, bloodied sword in hand. He had replaced Hiko as a guard for the throne room and had served diligently in that position for decades. He could not protect his Emperor, but he was desperate to protect the one remaining member of the royal family.

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In the end, his attempt was futile and as quickly as he had entered he was cut down. Tohma had sheathed his sword before Fei’s body had even hit the ground. Agito had never made any attempt to help the man, only adjusted his body enough to change the position he was sitting in. Seiree crouched down before Agito, eying him suspiciously. Agito offered nothing, not a single word as Seiree stood he spoke, “Inform our kin that this one needs to be taken to the Dragon Lords.”

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Two years prior to the assault on the Emperor’s palace, Tationy and Mikio were making their journey to the lands of the Dragon Lords and not far behind them was a group consisting of Chochi, Abe, Otoha, Tatsuya, Hiko, Hero, Chee, and Oji. Zen and Oro got the unpleasant task of dealing with the assault on the Adviser Jin and the repercussions of several very important figures departing Aslann. The timing could not have been worse. Rumors and speculation were in abundance and the departure of Kuro only added to that speculation. There was no lack of tall tales roaming around Aslann about what nefarious deeds the large group of men were plotting.

Zen and the small number of Kari that resided in Aslann came under scrutiny. The Commander of the Military Hiko Kari along with the Elder of the Kari Clan had abandoned the village just after the assassination attempt on the Ishi adviser. To make matters worse, Hiko’s long time friends and closest allies, his most trusted generals, Hero and Chee had also left as well as Tatsuya’s closest friend Oji the Elder of the Waichia. The Ishi Adviser was calling for blood. Zen had a lot to wrap his mind around. He was worried about the young girl Tse who had been posing as a boy while with the Ruthlbahdo. He was worried about what trouble Hiko and Tatsuya had gotten themselves into. He was worried about the Kari. What was transpiring in Aslann would certainly drag down the clan. Zen had been so lost in his own thoughts, a common occurrence as of late that he had not noticed that Oro had stopped walking. When he did, he turned around coming to a stop near his friend.

“Aslann is beautiful is it not?”

Zen turned his attention to the skyline off in the distance and stood at the side of his Commander. “It is.”

“Do you trust me Zen?”

“You know I do.” Zen responded.

“Would you do anything I ask of you?”

Zen turned his head slightly eying his Commander suspiciously. “I would within reason.”

He sighed slightly, “I want you to leave Aslann. Take what remains of your clan and depart as quickly and quietly as you can.”

Zen turned his attention fully onto the young man before him. “Are you asking me to abandon my post, abandon my Emperor, abandon Aslann?”

“I am asking you to protect your clan.” He responded.

“This is about the Adviser Jin?”

“Old man…” Oro spoke and then took a moment to consider his words, “He is out for blood. Hiko and Tatsuya abandoning Aslann, does not sit well with anyone, but they are being accused of killing the Hamara clan matriarch as well as the attempted assassination on Jin. If things continue as they are, Jin will garner the permission of the Emperor to have your entire clan executed.”

Zen’s face hid all emotion away. “I have considered this.”

“Then you know that the situation is dire for your clan. Jin will not settle for a single head, he will want it all. Eventually the Emperor is going to have to give in to his demands, especially with the uprising amongst the other clans.”

“Hiko would not have gone along with assassinating the Adviser. If anyone is responsible it is Tatsuya.”

Oro smirked, “Never thought I would see the day you defended Hiko.”

“Neither did I.”

“Old man, leave Aslann.”

“You are asking me to commit treason.”

“I am asking you to survive.”

Zen grew silent as he looked at the young man. The two were an odd pair, as different as night and day, but they had formed a unique bond. “What am I suppose to do?”

“You are still a capable assassin I hear the Shima are always looking for a few good ones.” Zen took it as a joke, but Oro was definitely far more serious than he normally was. “You could find Tse. I have a feeling that girl has a heavy burden to carry. She could certainly use her father to guide her.”

“I am not her father.”

“Lets not fool ourselves Zen. That girl reminded you of everything you loved about being a father to Tsuna. She needs someone. Even when there are people around her she is all alone, except for when she was with you. Don’t you think that makes you her father, even if you do not see yourself that way?” Zen bowed his head, he hated to admit it, but Oro was right. He did miss that girl. That odd girl always making a mess out of his room and keeping him awake all night. He imagined her nightmares were probably worse than they had ever been. She had difficulties connecting to people. She was an awkward girl. Oro was right about one thing, she needed someone. Letting her leave the headquarters of the Ruthlbahdo was admittedly the hardest thing he had ever done in his life. He had wanted her to stay and had to force himself to make the decision to send her away. How cruel a man he was to cast her aside so callously. He told himself it was because he was Kari, but truth be told, he did not feel he had a right to ask her to stay.

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Maito sighed, “We have tried everything. I have not seen a Nakamaru with a mind so powerful.”

Togore smirked, “His seal work is impressive. Thousands of years to work out the right combinations. I am uncertain the two of us alone are going to be able to break him, and conventional torture does not appear to work on him.”

“Well we both know the kind of torture you prefer.”

“Jealous?”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

Togore’s smirk broadened, “Perhaps I shall have to remind you that I chose you as my favorite pet for a reason.”

“You can keep calling me your pet, but I will not now, nor ever belong to you.”

“Right, so you have mentioned many times.” Togore responded.

“Listening to the two of you is bothersome.” Atsuki remarked. Both men turned to look at him. Not once since his capture, just after the Nakamaru clan elder estate was attacked, had he spoken. It put both men on guard.

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Both men took up an esoteric stance, “His spiritual presence has increased.” Maito spoke.

“Be careful to stay out of his shields range.”

“I know what I am doing Togore, you do not have to treat me like a child.”

“Just be cautious Maito, we cannot be certain what this man’s true power is.” Even though Togore had lectured him, he had faith in the young man’s abilities. However,the seals that this chalta was using were different from any he had crossed paths with before. As Togore of the Ishi he was feared. His skill in the Empire of Aslann had been second to none. He was regarded as one of the strongest esoteric users if not thee strongest, though he quickly realized that this man had surpassed him in skill, worse yet, he could not be certain how long the guardian leader had been stronger than him. Struggling with his thoughts he realized it much to late, “Maito get out of the way.” He was unable to protect the young Waichia from the seal expulsion. An ancient technique regarded as dangerous because it killed anyone that was within the sealing points.

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Mikio and Chee had opted to stay behind and hold off the Saitama. For two old battle-hardened warriors like themselves, they figured this was the easier of the jobs. Both for their own reasons had wanted to travel alongside the young girl, but both opted to stay behind for their own reasons. “That staff creeps me out.” Chee remarked. They had been fighting off the Saitama, having stayed behind to allow Tationy and Hiko to get some distance between them and the Retreat of the Empress. “What was the chalta like?”

“Dangerous.” Mikio responded.

“I figured as much, but why did they send you over Togore?”

“Who knows.”

“My, my, Mikio you are as evasive as always.” Chee remarked looking over his shoulder, “How long are we going to keep that thing with us?”

“I do not know.”

“Tationy wanted you to bring it, I wonder why.”

“Who knows.” Mikio voiced as he rolled over. Chee understood that was Mikio’s way of saying he was done talking and it was best to get some rest while they could. They took shifts, and late in the evening when Mikio was keeping guard, the staff grew hot enough that he was forced to relinquished his grip on it, then watched it quickly dematerialize.

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Togore had only manged to put up a minor shield, capable of protecting himself, but not Maito. Maito lay upon the floor, he could tell from where he was sitting that he was dead that Maito’s spirit was no longer in his body. The room was eerily silent. The chalta had sacrificed himself, though Togore was not certain what the point of such a technique was at the time. He opened his eyes, he could see it the essence that was the chalta known as Atsuki Nakamaru. A weapon appeared at his side and he gasped instantly as he recognized it as the one that was taken by Mikio from the home of Jin when he left alongside that woman. The one that Mikio had taken after he had killed the chalta. The Prince of Aslann had been insistent that he bring it back, now he understood why. It captured the essence of the chalta within it. The chalta had performed the same technique that the Prince of Aslann had, only he sealed a portion of himself within that staff. He had been spying on the Ishi. That staff also meant that as long as it existed, so did the chalta Atsuki Nakamaru. His mind worked over time as he tried to understand if the Prince of Aslann had been a part of this, as the essence of the chalta turned its attention on Togore and he was forced to strengthen his shield. “Your body will do nicely.”

Togore did his best to re-enforce his shield, as the chalta’s essence broke it down layer after layer.

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When the explosion rocked the Ishi estate they were holding up in, Taku and Tien rushed toward the dungeons. Outside the room that contained Atsuki, stood Togore and lying on the ground was Mikk, elder of the Takahashi. The two Kensuku could tell he was not breathing and both looked to Togore. “What happened?” Taku questioned. Togore had not responded.

Tien frowned, “He has us marked. Two of his swords are out.” Tien eyed Torgore, wondering what had transpired as he questioned him. “Did you kill Mikk?”

“Of course I did.” Togore responded, though Tien quickly deduced that it was not Togore at all.

“The chalta of the Nakamaru, Atsuki. So you finally managed to escape.”

“Oh, you thought you had me as a prisoner?” The voice of Torgore spoke, but the one actually in control was Atsuki. “I will make this very simple for the two of you. Move out of my way or I will kill you both.”

“You think we are just going to allow you to leave, Atsuki?”

“Senri.” Tien responded, “It is better if we just let him go. Nothing is gained if we die here.” Taku turned his attention toward the elder of his clan, before he turned his attention quickly away. He did not like the idea of letting Atsuki just walk out, especially in the body of Togore. “We won’t stop you.” Tien responded as he and Taku stepped aside and allowed Atsuki to leave the dungeons. The moment Atsuki was out of sight, Taku opened the door, finding the body of Atsuki still chained to the wall and Maito’s dead body upon the ground. “What a waste.” Tien voiced as he stepped in beside Taku. “I think it is time we leave this place behind. Your friend Sohma, lost control of this situation. I told him it was unwise to bring that chalta here. He will most likely kill anyone that crosses his paths as he leaves the estate.”

“We are just suppose to abandon the plan?”

“No, we are going to abandon Sohma. We will tell the Takahashi that their leader was killed because of Sohma’s incompetence. You disagree?” Tien questioned.

“He is my friend, he has been right about everything thing. The prince ….”

“The Prince of Aslann is trapped in some weak woman who does not even know who she is. Whatever he was told Senri, matters not because the future is every changing filled with millions of possibilities. Even if her eyes have seen all outcomes before her death, things that have been changed by what she has seen, change the outcomes of anything that has yet to happen. You know this Senri. Without the Prince of Aslann to guide us, Sohma will lead us down a doomed path. It is time we Kensuku and the Takahashi join with the other clans against the Emperor. It is time, you do what needs to be done to protect your Prince. Kill Sohma.”

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Taku had allowed Tien to leave. He could have stopped him, but instead he moved toward the room that Sohma was in. Atsuki had escaped and Tien was powerful enough that he could pull all of the Kensuku and Takahashi to his side. Even with Sohma, it would be difficult to keep the Hamara from jumping ship and going with Tien. They needed to get control of this situation, but as he opened the door to the lounge where Sohma was he realized that Sohma had other things on his mind. He was on top of Nene of the Ishi. He was covering her mouth with his hand, telling her what he was going to do to her. Taku wondered when Sohma had become this person, a man so gripped by power and control. He was not even using his blood eyes to subdue her. He could have easily have just manipulated her and gotten her to spread her legs without fighting him, but he knew that the man that he had become friends with had become corrupted by the power that the Prince of Aslann had given him.

“Taku, did you decide not to be a monk today?” Sohma asked. He had not even stopped what he was doing when the explosion rocked the building. That was how far gone he was.

“I am sorry,” Taku said as he balled up his fist and punched Sohma as hard as he could in the back of his head, shattering his skull. The Ishi woman lie on the floor with Sohma’s lifeless body on top of her. She tried to push him off of her and the panic of what Taku might do to her was clearly in her eyes. He moved Sohma’s body off of her as he turned his back. “Get dressed, we are leaving.” He told her and waited for her to put her clothing on before escorting her from the building. Taku led her to the outskirts of town, “Leave and don’t come back. Find some man to make babies with and live a normal life.” He told her. For Taku that was the last time he saw her, he never knew what became of her after he forced her to leave Aslann on her own.

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Holding off the Saitama had been easy. They were never going to get past them or at least originally that was their intention. Until one night something unexpected happened. The Saitama had not attacked. Mikio and Chee had suspected that they perhaps found away around them, so they began to work to pick up their trail. As they traveled through, Bermitsoh, a way-station between the Kari Village and the Retreat of the Empress they had felt it, an uneasiness.

“My, my, what do you suppose is going on here?” Chee questioned.

“Who knows.” Mikio had only continued a few steps before stopping suddenly. It was something familiar, nagging at the back of his mind. Though he did not have a moment to take it all in when he and Chee had been attacked.

The two stood over the defeated bodies of their enemies, as Mikio glanced around. “They are not alone.”

“I know these Maiba.” Chee spoke.

Mikio knelt down to get a closer look at them, frowning deeply. He knew them as well. They were the famous twins of the Maiba, Tenzo and Denzo and an esoteric user called Haruo. “Why these Maiba?” Mikio asked to himself. Chee could feel the presence of others about as he kept his eyes glancing around the surrounding area. “These three Maiba are different from the others. Stronger than the rest of their clan, leaders amongst their kin, their combined abilities are used to take down exceptional foes. Why would someone send them after us?” Again he was more talking to himself than to Chee as he worked it all out in his head.

“My, My, we certainly are in deep.”

“I don’t think they were meant to kill us, I think their targets were Rin and Hisoka.” Mikio responded.

“To bad for them, we are one and the same.” Mikio glanced at Chee a moment. Chee only gave him a shrug, “My grandmother has been telling me for most of my life that I have a dragon within me. I am not as ignorant as I appear to be. I just don’t care about all of that. Well, not until I saw her.” Chee responded.

Mikio thought about his own decisions, giving Chee a single nod of his head to agree with him. His clan had their own plans. Things they had worked out with the Prince of Aslann and some things that they decided to do even without the Prince. They had been in deep, and he had decided the moment he caught her in his arms that his path was not the same one that his clan was walking. He had never wanted to be Rin. Never even considered it, but much like Chee when he saw her things had changed for him. He had tried to keep it all in perspective. Tried to make sure he acted as though she was the Prince of Aslann, even tried to push her toward Hiko who he was certain was not Kazuma. In the end, all he had was a hole in his heart that did not seem to be filled no matter how far he distanced himself from her.

“So who is trying to kill us?”

“Jin.” Mikio responded simply.

“My, My, I was praying you would say someone else.”

“Are you in or out?” Mikio questioned.

“In, let’s cut the head of the snake off.” Mikio nodded his head, as the two prepared to take on the advancing Maiba from Aslann.

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Otoha had moved quickly to deal with Taku. Chochi had insisted that Taku’s betrayal be dealt with, though inside himself he was uncertain if this was the right course of action. Certainly protecting the prince was important, but that was long in the past and it was not something that had harmed the prince. It was something the prince had chosen to do. The bigger problem was the girl. In his own way he could tell them that she was not the Prince of Aslann, but they were not ready to actually listen. He felt it, he was certain Moochie knew it as well. All Sweela would be able to see the Prince of Aslann, no matter the form. He had been holding off saying anything, uncertain why so many people believed that she was the Prince. He stopped suddenly when he noticed someone on the path that he was taking. His eyes instantly recognized him.

He had not seen Sadoo since that night when the Nakamaru Clan Elders Estate had been attacked and the whole group of them scattered. He had ended up with Sohma who had been injured. He had taken Sohma to the Sweela estate where they had remained, until one night he disappeared. He had not been certain how Sohma had been able to leave the estate unseen, but he had been unsuccessful at finding him. “It has been a long time, Otoha. You look well.” Sadoo sighed, “I was hoping it would not come to this. You and I crossing swords, but I can’t allow you to interfere with the plan of our prince.” Sadoo had kept himself hidden in the poorest district of Aslann. It made it easier for him to train and regain his memory.

Otoha eyed his old friend, a knot forming in his stomach. What plan was he talking about? How long had he had his memory back? “I did terrible things to that child.” He remarked about Tationy, “We all did. What foul men we are. I hope you understand that this is not personal, your clan has simply chosen the wrong side in this war, and we old soldiers are tools used by our masters. The Prince of Aslann, told me the plan, long before our deaths and reincarnations. Told me that someday I would have to face you. To be truthful, I hoped the cursed eyes of the Tylo were wrong, now as you stand before me, I understand the power of those eyes. Our fates have been sealed, for thousands of years. We are fated to battle, fated to die, you understand that you will always be my ‘brother’?”

Otoha nodded his head briefly to the words of Sadoo. He could not offer any words himself. He understood the burden that Sadoo had taken upon his shoulders. He did not understand what was going on. Why his clan was siding with the enemy, but he understood that Sadoo was speaking the truth and no matter the outcome of this moment that the two of them would clash in battle.

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The two never gave an inch, but both took a mile. It was a true battle, different from the one they had against each other so long ago. A mighty general versus a dangerous assassin. Their skills were evenly matched, but more importantly they knew each other better than any two people could. They could see each others hearts as they stood their ground and waged war for their respective masters. In the end, the two mighty warriors fell. They would not have wanted it any other way. One final moment with each other. Saying everything they needed to say with their swords, with their eyes, with their hearts. As they lie there dieing, Sadoo curled up into a ball and with his dieing breath he whispered an apology, “I am sorry Tationy, that we brought you here. You were never meant to come to this place, it was not your destiny. I fallowed the words of my lord, the Prince of Aslann, Tatsuya and stood by as you were brought to this horrific world, simply because of what lies within you. For that, I pray that when you rise to the sky as the Queen of the Gods, you will forgive this old soldier.” He gasped for breath and whispered, “You are the only sin I wish to atone for.”

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Kuro had traveled to Shimragata. His young lord had given him permission to kill Hiko of the Kari, but it unsettled him. In the end, he wanted the Prince of Aslann to cast aside his feelings for Hiko and the only way to do that was to make him face his past. He had found Hiko in Shimragata along with other Kari and several women, including the girl that Kuro knew to be the reincarnate of Tearra. When Hiko had gone off to find Tationy, he had been put on guard by Kuro who had cornered him outside the market square. Hiko considered that the situation would become volatile and that he and Kuro would end up battling, but Kuro much to the surprise of Hiko had not once instigated a confrontation.

At first the two just stood in silence until Kuro finally spoke. “That little girl you are sleeping with, is not Tse.”

Kuro was not telling Hiko something he did not already know. He had suspected for so long that she was Tse and then when the two of them finally began to spend time together, the more he saw it. Tse was not inside this girl. Maybe a small part of her was, but not enough to make her the woman he had fallen in love with. He had refused her when she had offered him sex. He had refused to kiss her after that first night. Just being near her made him feel guilty and disappointed. When he looked at her he wanted to see that woman he fell in love with, but she was just not there. At first he had thought it was the fact that her memory was locked away, but eventually he realized that Tse just was not in there at all. She had died and this girl was just a fragment from whatever evil sorcery that chalta had performed.

“I think you should return to Aslann.” Kuro voiced.

“Ahh.” Hiko responded. He hated to admit it, but Kuro was right. He did not know what he was doing here. He was supposed to be protecting this girl that everyone believed was the Prince of Aslann. How could he do that when he himself did not even believe it. He had looked into her eyes, had held her body close to him, and as much as he wanted to see Tse she was just not there.

“Do you want to tell that little girl you are leaving?”

Hiko thought about it for a minute and shook his head no. He knew that the Kari would not understand. The two of them had lied to them and had hidden themselves amongst them. It was a situation that would not be accepted by them. He could not take her with him. No that was not true, he did not want to take her with him. It was best that she remained amongst the Kari. As time passed, she would be given to another and taken care of. He knew that Suemeli and Eri would take care of her and that even Sesiago and Iashi would look out for her well-being. Even though her blood was Tylo, she was a part of the Kari now. They would not let her go so easily.

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“Are you not worried about her?” Kuro questioned as he watched Hiko push away from the wall.

“The moment I brought her to the Kari, she became theirs. Nothing will happen to her unless they allow it.”

“You are heartless.”

“Ahh.” Hiko responded. Kuro was not saying anything that was not true. If any man understood Hiko, it was the coldblooded killer standing at his side. He was unwilling to think about what he was doing or who he was leaving behind. His duty was to Aslann and as the Commander of the Military, he needed to face his punishment for abandoning his post.

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Not far from the Kari village, Tatsuya of the Kari and Hero of the Takahashi had done as they were instructed to do. For months they diverted the attention of the Saitama, keeping them far away from the Kari village. Things had changed between them though. Tatsuya was still mad at Hero for not telling him and Hero had felt as though he had been manipulated by Oji and others. All it did was make them fight more and talk less because Tatsuya was a stout supporter of Oji and Takuya of the Waichia. The silence gave Hero a lot of time to think about what was transpiring. There were things that he had not told Tatsuya, that much was true.  Tatsuya and Oji lived in the old ways. They were happy with how things were. Others like the Prince of Aslann had wanted progression. They could not move forward in the world with relics of the past holding the world back. Men like Oji and Tatsuya would support any means necessary to get what they wished. Hero hated to admit it to himself, but his oldest friend was part of what was wrong with Aslann.

Tatsuya benefited just as much as the Waichia if Tationy was taken by Oji or Takuya after all he was friends with them. The Kari clan would certainly be revived thanks to the help and support of Tatsuya’s long standing friendship. At what cost though? He could already see the progression of corruption that would inflict Aslann further. Removing Emperor Miroku had always been the plan of Tatsuya and the Kari, he just had not realized that Oji and others were a part of it. It changed his view on what he was doing here. That girl was not safe with the Kari and as much as he hated to admit it, she would probably be better off in the hands of the Dragon Lords assassins the Saitama.

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In the end, he thought about his decision long and hard before making it. On a chilled night, Hero struck down his friend while he was sleeping. He buried Tatsuya in a shallow grave, slamming his sword down into the dirt. He was leaving it there for Hiko. If Hiko survived what was about to happen, he would go looking for Tatsuya. He knew his Commander well and a smile passed over his lips. He never imagined that he would be enemies with his allies, but sometimes even the clearest path is an uncertain one.

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With Tatsuya of the Kari dead and Hero abandoning his post, there was no one to divert the attention of the Saitama. They would attack quickly and efficiently. The Elder of the Kari understood the situation as one that they were ill-prepared for, so he yelled for his kin to scatter. In all directions they ran as those that were capable did their best to hold off the enemy which was now divided. Elder Erobus of the Kari never imagined he would see another war in his lifetime, but that was exactly what this was. This would not go unanswered and as he was cornered by a child of the Saitama called Muramasa, he realized quickly that his time upon this land was coming to an end.

By the time Baito arrived, Erobus, Elder to the Kari was already dead. He made himself battle ready by taking up a stance and the amused smile upon the child Saitama’s face told him that he easily expected to best Baito. The child was so confident he did not even bother to draw his weapon.

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In the end that would be his undoing. Baito was a fierce warrior and was handpicked to stand as the shield to the Elder of the Kari because he was so skilled. By the time Muramasa drew his sword it was too late and Baito turned the child Saitama’s own weapon upon him.

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The Dragon Lords had been riding toward Shimragata. Oji had already faked his death and the Dragon Lords had set their plan into motion to topple the New Aslann Empire. The Divine Emperor would soon fall and everything they worked so hard to achieve would soon come to fulfillment. Oji stopped suddenly.

Toshiko and Guiren did not realize that he had stopped, but once they had they turned quickly. “Oji, what troubles you.” Guiren questioned.

“Muramasa has fallen. The Saitama attacked the Kari village near the way-station. Agara led them against the village.” He spoke, having received the information from Muramasa upon his death due to the manipulation Oji had done to his mind.

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Toshiko sighed, “Well it is not unexpected. Do we know if they have taken the girl?”

“Unknown.” Oji responded.

“Unacceptable.” Toshiko spoke. “Guiren I need you to ride quickly to our soldiers camped outside the way-station. We need to hit all the other Kari villages. With only one hit, it makes it appear that they were looking for something specific, we do not want it to become known.”

“We are not going to be able to keep it from Seiji.” Guiren responded. “With his connection to these lands and the people of it, he will know that the village has been attacked and will move to assist.”

“We will not interfere with him. Right now we need to deal with the Saitama. We have put it off far too long. First, we need to deal with the damage they have done by attacking a single Kari village. Wipe out the rest of them, leave not a single one standing. After that, bring the Saitama to their knees.”

“Do you want me to bring you their leader?”

“No, kill them all. Guiren, it is unacceptable if any escape. You understand.”

“I understand.” He spoke as he quickly changed directions and rode off toward the encampment near the way-station.

“You disagree?” Toshiko questioned.

“If any escape we will have issues.”

“I am aware of that. Let us hope that Guiren is still as capable as he has always been and not a single Saitama survive what is about to come.”

Oji silently agreed as the two of them continued on toward Shimragata.

1

Suemeli and Eri had locked themselves inside a storage shed. Neither had done as they were instructed by their husbands, abandoned the village upon attack. Instead, Eri had run to the storage shed and Suemeli had followed after her. When the locked door was kicked open and Bóre entered, Suemeli had let a small scream leave her lips. There was no one to rescue her. Those that could scatter did and abandoned the village as the Elder of the Kari had told them to do. Bóre had stood silently and watched the two, not saying a word to either of them. Suemeli had gone so far as to try to flirt with the man to get him to let them go, but he was stone-cold never once responding to her.

“What do we have here?” Agara questioned as she sauntered into the shed.

“Please, let us go.” Eri whispered.

Agara laughed softly, “Look at this Maiba pig begging for us to let her go. Tell me Bóre what should we do with this fleshy woman and her half-breed friend?”

“Sell the Maiba to her kin, if they are unwilling to pay give her as a gift to the Anami.”

Agara laughed, “Oh you devil Bóre. A sultry show with this …” Agara noticed that Bóre’s eyes were fixed on Eri. “Admiring her curves?”

“I forgot they make women like this.” He responded.

Agara looked back to the woman, she did not understand the appeal. She imagined for a moment that everything on her jiggled and swayed when she moved. Such a distasteful sight she was certain. “Bóre, kill the half-breed.”

“No.” Eri begged as Suemeli began to cry. The two women held on to each other as Bóre took a step forward, pulling his sword from its sheath. Eri stepped in front of Suemeli, “Please.” She begged.

“Distasteful. I was going to keep the fat one alive…” Her words were cut off.

“Eri, go.” Suemeli whispered.

“I am not leaving you.” She responded as she turned to face her friend.

Suemeli pushed her back a bit, placing her hand on her hip, and bringing the other to her cheek. “It is alright. If you see Iashi tell him….tell him to look forward.” Suemeli had managed to say offering a smile. Eri bowed her head, turning away from her friend and bringing her hands together in front of her. This was how Suemeli wanted to deal with this moment, who was she to try to prevent it. They were women of the Kari, so they stood proud and strong in the face of death. Agara had rolled her eyes and gestured for Bóre to strike her down quickly. Eri had stood to her friends side unable to look on and with a single clean slice, Suemeli had been killed.

After his sword was sheathed he grabbed Eri’s arm pulling her before Agara, “You are going to tell us everything you know.” Bóre had pushed her toward another Saitama who led her out of the shed. Agara looked toward the body of Suemeli. “Disgusting half-breeds.” She spit on the corpse of Suemeli before turning her attention toward Bóre and speaking, “Our prey has managed to escape the village, for now we should retreat. Burn the place to the ground.”

11

Tationy and Sesiago’s children had been ‘rescued’ by the military of Torgahdah. She had pretty much kept to herself, not telling them anything or even speaking with anyone until she exited the quarters she was given, and even then she avoided most everyone she could. “Lord Shima is concerned about you,” Moromari said as he moved up beside her. She instantly crossed her arms. Her entire stance, told him she did not care what the Lord of the Shima was concerned over. “You have not given us your name.”

“I suppose I have not.”

“One hundred percent likelihood that you are this way only with men and perhaps an occasional woman of authority.”

“Bravo, you managed to figure out that I don’t like to be lectured.”

He did not turn to look at her as he spoke, “You are willful. You need a husband to deal with that mouth of yours.”

She rolled her eyes. “Why are you here?”

“Lord Shima requested that I speak with you.”

“Of course he did because you can tell if I am lying.”

“More or less. It would be in your best interest to tell me the truth, I am not as understanding as Lord Shima.”

“Ask what you want.”

“What is your name?”

“Tationy Tylo.” She responded. He knew the name as the one the Prince of Aslann had given to Seiji the night they consummated the terms of peace.

“Are you the Prince of Aslann?”

“I have been told that I am.”

Even though he got nothing from her that she believed it, he could tell she was not. The likelihood that she was the Prince of Aslann was only ten percent. “How did you come to be in the Kari village?”

“Would you like the long or short version?”

“The truth.” He told her simply. He did not particularly care if it was the long or short version as long as she was honest with him. So she told him, every sordid detail about how she came from another time, far into the future. How she had been told she was the Prince of Aslann and eventually separated from the others that she came here with. How she stayed for a while with the Ruthlbahdo, before crossing paths with Mikio Ishi and traveling with him to Garvator. How others had arrived and they journeyed to the Retreat of the Empress where the Saitama were, before she and Commander Hiko of the Kari moved onto the Kari village where they pretended to be Ako and Tadayoshi. She did not leave a single part of it out, and the more she talked the more he inwardly frowned. She told him about what happened in her future, how she was told that they had all sacrificed themselves to be reincarnated. Even though she spoke the truth, he could tell it was not her truth. She was only part of the Prince of Aslann and someone else. He was afraid to assume what the real Prince of Aslann had done, but he suspected that someone in Aslann knew the truth about this girl. By the time she was done talking the two just stood in awkward silence. He needed to report to Seiji regarding what she had told him.

Moromari was certain that Seiji would not want the girl to leave until he understood the depths of what was transpiring, but if the Kari men arrived there would be nothing he could do. Interfering with an assassin clan was dangerous business. They would  rather they are allies than enemies.

111

Moromari had left Tationy in the market square, when he caught sight of Seiji keeping a watchful eye on the two of them. “Lord Shima.” He brought his hand to his chest. He had been untruthful with Tationy, having told her that the Lord of the Shima wished for him to speak to her.

“General Saitama.” The Lord of the Shima spoke. “Are you interested in her?”

“No sir.” He responded though when Seiji looked at him he quickly looked away.

“I do not believe you.”

“Forgive me Lord Shima, I have not encountered a Tylo clansmen like her before, my interest is purely curiosity.”

“Understand Moromari, she belongs to the Kari. Regardless of your reasons, it is dangerous to get too close.”

“I was simply asking her questions. I understand my place.” He told the Lord of the Shima.

Seiji sighed noticeably, “She is an interesting girl isn’t she? Defiant and rebellious, I don’t think I have seen a girl like her ever before.”

“This is because she is not from our world.” He told him simply and then went into detail about what she had told him.

“So she is only the essence of the Prince of Aslann. That is how she knew who I was. How is that possible though?”

“I can only think of a handful of techniques that can accomplish something like this, but they require Shima blood.” Moromari had responded.

“Shima blood, it would not be difficult…” Seiji had instantly stopped talking. “You devil.” He whispered. Moromari eyed his lord, “That is why the Prince of Aslann came to my tent, she needed Shima blood.”

“You are suggesting that the Prince of Aslann allowed herself to be impregnated so that she might use the child to transfer her essence into another body, leaving her own body as a shell to carry her spirit and the spirit of a Shima child over to the spirit realm. For what purpose?”

“That is a good question. What is the likelihood that this is the path the Prince of Aslann took?”

Moromari calculated the odds and frowned, “One hundred percent. So that woman is what remains of your blood and the Prince of Aslann, reincarnated hundreds of times over. If this is the case she is not aware of the circumstances of her ‘birth’.”

“I am sure that someone went to great lengths to keep it all a secret, but the only people that might truly know what the Prince of Aslann was trying to accomplish are those two Ishi that were with her.” Moromari nodded his head, there was much research he needed to do on the possible techniques used, but more importantly, he was certain that Seiji would want him and Yayoi to find the Ishi.

1111

She had been watching Moromari and Yayoi make their rounds when she heard someone take a seat next to her. She sighed noticeably and looked off into the distance.

At first he did not say anything, if what they believed was true there was a possibility that she was both his ‘daughter’ and his ‘lover’ in one form or another. She was what remained of the Prince of Aslann that much they were certain about, but the particulars was all speculation without concrete evidence, for that they needed the Ishi. Every attempt he made to talk with her was met with a short temper and lots of sighs. She was annoyed that she had to deal with him that much he could tell and he wondered if it was her or the Prince of Aslann who had been so annoyed. He had wanted to ask her many questions, all of which he knew she could not answer, which ultimately resulted in him sticking his foot in his mouth, so this time he just sat quietly watching her, watching Moromari and Yayoi.

Eventually she stood up and walked away, not saying a single word to him. She was not talking to him. He told himself he would have to try to get her to say something to him, but on this day he just pushed it all aside. He was not sure when or if the Kari would arrive, but he had time to reach her, how much though was anyone’s guess.

11111

While the Saitama were massacring the Kari clan, Hiko and Kuro had been traveling to Aslann. Hiko had hoped that during their travels that they would cross paths with his cousin Tatsuya and his long time friend and General, Hero. What he found was unsettling for him. At first it seemed like any other grave. Like any other campsite where something bad had transpired. It was not as though that was an uncommon occurrence in this day and age. What he was not prepared for was the sight of Tatsuya’s sword sticking out from the soil.

He brought his hand to his face as the emotion overtook him. Kuro had simply turned away. A bandit would not have buried him that was something a friend would do. What he did not understand was why Hero left Tatsuya’s weapon behind. Amongst the Kari a sword is handed down from father to son. It was not something you just leave behind. Hero was all about tradition, he would understand the depths of what it meant to be Kari better than any non-Kari could. He saw firsthand what it was like for Hiko and Tatsuya growing up, he would understand that the sword passed down from father to son was too precious to leave behind. This was a message.

1111111

It was easy to lose track of time for Kuro who allowed Hiko to mourn in peace. Eventually he pulled the sword from the soiled ground and slid it into his belt. It was evident that he was angry, he had not seen that kind of anger on Hiko in a long time. “Kuro.” Hiko spoke as Kuro turned his attention to the man now standing at his side, “Tell me you had nothing to do with this.”

Kuro smirked, “If I had, I would take credit for it. Seeing you like this, almost makes this trip worth the effort.”

Hiko grew silent a moment before he started walking. The expression on his face never changed. It was clearly evident he was not happy and Kuro could not help, but take some perverse enjoyment out of that fact.

11111111

“You are upset.”

“Don’t read me Nao.”

“Sonchiro has refused you.”

“I told you not to read me.”

“I have no reason to read you, you are as obvious as ever. Are you concerned only for that Kensuku slave?”

“Of course not, I am not as cold-hearted as you.”

“Somehow I find that difficult to believe.”

Oro gave Nao a cold, hard stare, “I am forced to leave my sister and the man I love behind, while I prepare to sneak away from Aslann before war hits it. How am I suppose to feel?”

“Grateful.” Nao responded, “That you will live another day.”

“Is that how you feel?”

“I feel nothing. I am doing as our elder has ordered of us. We have things that we need to be far more concerned about. Our arrival in Shimragata is important, we need to make certain that the two of us arrive there first and lay the groundwork for asylum for the Ishi Clan. If we fail in doing so, all Ishi that arrive there will be taken into custody and quickly executed. Now think of our task, Oro and push aside your feelings for those you leave behind.” Nao very rarely spoke and his words caused Oro to have a heavy heart as they journeyed away from Aslann.

111111111

The two walked side by side, “You and the children will be departing soon I imagine?”

“Ahh, it is time. Tationy and Sesiago are well on their journey and have most likely arrived at their destination. We have given them plenty of time to return if that was their intent. The children and I must take our own journey.”

“I was afraid you would say that.”

“Ahh, you have been rather persistent, trying to convince us to stay, but the Kari do not serve lords.”

“Walk with me some more, I want you to meet someone who might be able to change your mind.”

“Ahh, I will walk, but I am Kari, our minds are not easily swayed by words and I will not fall prey to any devil you have capable of manipulation.” Iashi voiced as he continued to walk with Seiji.

1111111111

They had traveled to the furthest part of Shimragata, a section that most did not venture. Off in the distance, he could see a set of buildings, outside the inner wall of Shimragata. A man stood upon the stoop and it was not until they got closer that Iashi could clearly see him. He held his breath a moment, this man was Kari. He was not one of the Kari from the village though that he was certain of. As Iashi and Seiji came to a stop in front of the man, Iashi spoke, “Ahh, what is the meaning of this?” He questioned as he looked between the two men.

“This is Zen of the Kari, former General of the Ruthlbahdo. He and what remained of the Aslann Kari defected here nearly a year ago. He asked that his presence here be kept a secret, thus I never mentioned it. However, I spoke to him recently about you and the children and he asked me to bring you to him.” Seiji explained, “I shall leave the two of you to speak.”

111111111111

Both men had walked a distance toward the water. Iashi, could see several Kari around the area. There were at least ten that he could see with his own eyes. He noticed the sword on the man’s hip, it was not the sword of the Kari, but the sword of the Aslann military. He was one of the Kari that had served a fallen lord. “Ahh, there is nothing you can say to me to convince me to stay here.”

“I am not going to try to convince you. Just listen.” Iashi stared at the man. He was a lot like Sesiago, stern and hard. He displayed nothing of emotion on his face or in his voice. He actually thought that this man might actually be better at it than Sesiago, because you could generally tell when Sesiago was annoyed. “My name is Zen Kari. I was second in command under Commander Oro Ishi and held the rank of General, for the better part of my life. I have been nothing, but a soldier since I was a young man of sixteen. I have fought in wars for Aslann, bled for my nation, pledge my allegiance to my Emperor. My Elder, Tatsuya of the Kari and his cousin, Commander Hiko Kari, abandoned Aslann around the time that the Adviser to the Emperor Jin Ishi was nearly assassinated and the matriarch of the Hamara clan was murdered. My clan became the scapegoats for the real culprits.”

Iashi frowned as he listened to the man called Zen talk. “The Adviser Jin wanted blood. There were not many of us left in Aslann. Our clan had been ostracized by the other clans and we had struggled to begin with and Jin was making waves. He would not settling for a single sacrifice, he wanted our entire clan wiped out. My Commander, ordered me to leave the village with what remained of my clan. I assure you, abandoning my nation was not something I did lightly, but I am Kari and protecting what remains of my clan has always been the most important thing to me. “Kari like Hiko and Tatsuya have caused us nothing but trouble. Hiko has long defied the ways of the Kari, spitting on them and Tatsuya had done nothing to help the Kari under his rule. I do not know what either of them have been doing, but they caused the Kari of Aslann great damage by their actions.”

“We arrived here in Shimragata, almost a year ago now. They allowed us to stay and agreed to protect us against retribution if Aslann seeks us out, in exchange we work for them as assassins.”

“Ahh, so you serve fallen lords again.”

“Seiji of the Shima is many things, but he has not yet fallen. Even your eyes should be able to see that. We do not serve them, we work for them. If they need an assassin they come to us and ask for our assistance, we can chose to refuse. We even have a contract.” He responded, making sure Iashi understood that this was a business arrangement and not a blood oath.

“Ahh, so why are you telling me this?”

“All of the Kari villages have fallen,” He said, making sure that Iashi understood that not just his village was attacked, but all of the Kari had been. “There are a number of reasons to assault a clan on this level, but it is not safe for Kari who are not protected by the Lord of the Shima. You have children with you, they are the most precious gift the Kari have, you should think twice before leaving Shimragata. Seiji of the Shima will offer you protection if you abide by our contract, if you chose to leave he will not be able to protect you. You will be just another Kari hunted down, by the Saitama. Think about those children.”

“Ahh, are you the Elder of this clan?” He asked wanting to know what gave this man the right to speak for the Kari.

“No, I am just the Kari leading them. When and if someone better suited comes along, I will gladly stand aside.”

Iashi made note that it was interesting that they had not chosen a Kari to succeed their previous Elder. It said a lot about this man that he was given the responsibility to speak for them and make decisions for them, but he wondered why he was not made elder. He ventured to ask, “Ahh, you have a lot of power amongst your kin…”

Zen anticipated the question interrupting Iashi, “I am a father. That is what is most important to me. My ‘daughter’ is out there someplace and when I have the time I look for her. Until she is safe, I am unable to take on the responsibility of being the Elder full-time. If she is found safe, being her father is more important to me. You understand?”

Iashi nodded his head. He did understand, though it was rare to see a Kari man so devoted to his children. Even with how important they were, most Kari men kept them at arms-length, never allowing themselves to become emotionally involved with them, but this man had. He reminded him a little of his father. “Ahh, I will consider your words.” He voiced as he began to walk away. There was nothing more to say, he had a lot to think about.

1111111111111

“Bóre,” Agara voiced as she turned about. She had been waiting for him, “Have you turned over the pig woman to the Maiba?”

“I have.”

“You are unhappy, is it because we did not acquire Tearra?” He did not say anything and she smiled knowingly, “You young men are so funny. You fall in love so easily without evening knowing someone. Certainly her kiss did not lay siege to your heart so easily.” Again he did not respond, “I worry about you Bóre. Which woman is it that you desire the Prince of Aslann or Tearra, you understand you cannot have them both.”

“I fear that when she rises toward the heavens that she will not see anyone, not even Kazuma.”

“You still feel that you are him?”

“I do. There is no way that Hiko of the Kari is Kazuma.”

“Yet you have been concerned since we left the village. That woman told you things you had not wished to hear. Things about her husband being marked as Kazuma. Those things are weighing heavily on you.”

“If you know the answers, then why are we even discussing it?” He questioned.

“Worry not about what that woman said. It matters little and we most certainly will obtain the Queen of the Gods.”

“What if we don’t?” He questioned, but Agara did not have a chance to respond to his question when sounds of a scuffle outside broke up their conversation.

11111111111111

Bóre had pulled his sword, moving quickly toward the door. His feet planted as the door opened and he took a stance. Standing before him was one of the Dragon Lords. “Do you plan on using that against your Lord and Master?” Guiren questioned.

“Fogive me Lord Shima, I was unaware it was you.” He voiced.

“Stay on guard Bóre.” Agara shouted, but it was too late Bóre had already relaxed his stance and was quickly disarmed by the Dragon Lord.

He lie on the ground staring up at the ceiling trying to lift his body, but he was unable too as he heard the sound of a chair being sit upon the ground near him. He could not hear Agara, was she still alive? His body ached, he had been hit in a spot to completely disable him. This was the power of the Dragon Lords, quick, efficient, deadly.  “Such a waste. You Saitama were too rash and moved forward too quickly. Did you really think that having Agara around would be your saving grace? That we Dragon Lords would not see what you were doing?” He questioned as he plunged the sword through Bóre, careful not to hit anything vital. He wanted to prolong this. “You are nothing more than a Saitama. Servants of the Dragon Lords, you should have been smarter than this and know your place. He pulled the sword from him, plunging it through him again. My men are killing your clansmen, can you hear them Bóre? Do you understand what you have brought upon your own clan. I am told to make sure none of you survive, I am tempted to let you live, but you stand out amongst your kin as being powerful and dangerous. There are so few pure-blood Saitama capable of moving independently, truly that is what makes you so special. The ability to stand out amongst your kin. It is for this reason that you will die by my hand. Please understand Bóre, if this was my decision alone, I would make you suffer by forcing you to exist without your clan, but the decision is not simply mine and the Dragon Lords feel as though you and Agara have caused too much damage.”

He pulled the sword from Bóre’s chest, sighing as he tilted his head to the side and plunged it once more through Bóre chest. “Walk the path of a warrior and find your way to the great battle in the afterlife.” With Bóre and Agara laying dead around him he sighed inwardly as he took in the moment. They should have dealt with the Saitama long ago. This was going to have its own repercussions. The Kari clan had been decimated, it was uncertain at this point how many of them survived and Guiren and his solders brought the Saitama to their knees, leaving not a single survivor of Bóre’s clan.

111111111111111

Takuya of the Waichia had been looking out the window watching the rain fall. Every now and again a deep sigh would leave his lips. He had been plagued by that Tylo clan woman since Tatsuya had brought her to his estate. There were a number of reasons he was bothered. She had told him very simply that she did not like him. She amused him and yet at the same time he had been angry enough that he almost put her in her place right that moment. That was the dark part of being Waichia, a part that they hid deep inside of them. The Waichia had been divided into two factions, those that fallowed the rules and norms of polite society and those that did as they pleased. It was a division that both helped and hurt the Waichia. She was not the only thing that put an unhappy expression upon his face. Word had come to the Waichia that Oji had been killed, though Takuya had not believed it for a single second. He knew well the manipulations that Oji had been placing upon his own kin, though why he had been he still was uncertain about. Sometimes being able to read the minds of others was both a curse and a blessing. The mess that was caused after Oji left took Takuya much to long to clean up, and if it had not been for the remainder of the Kari leaving, his clan might have suffered because of the attempted assassination of Adviser Jin and the murder of the Hamara clan matriarch.

“It has been a long time Lord Waichia, that such a distasteful expression has adorned your face.” Takuya turned and looked at the man now leaning against the wall. He rather admired how casual he was. A soft smile upon his lips, the way he dressed, everything said he was a man that did as he pleased. His name was Toshiro and he was leader of the barbaric faction of the Waichia. “I like your new hair…” He waved his hand in a flippant manner, but did not finish his words at first, “Makes you look old.”

Takuya scowled at him. “Why are you here?”

“The preparations are ready.”

“So soon?”

“You said it was important, so I worked quickly.” He paused a moment, “Are you certain that this is the course of action you wish to take?”

“We both know what will happen Toshiro. Aslann is going to fall. Oji might have thought he was the master manipulator in all of this, but I was not so blind as not to see through his manipulations.”

Toshiro gave a simple nod, “It is a shame that all of the clan cannot leave.”

“The few for the many.” Takuya responded, “Those of importance will survive that is all that matters.”

“I told them to travel light, it is a long journey to Shimragata. Many of them do not wish to abandon their belongings. I was forced to use other methods to make them understand.”

“Good as long as they begin the journey. We haven’t much time to leave these parts before war is upon us.”

“About Ritsu…”

“Ritsu and his father and brother’s manipulations of this situation have put us in this position. What happens to him is none of my concern. Do not beg for his life Toshiro.”

“I would not, I understand your reasoning for leaving him behind. However, that Waichia that Tatsuya told you about. The one that was with that girl, if he is truly the one that was manipulated by Ritsu, then he will certainly seek him out. Perhaps keeping him close…”

“If you wish to stay at his side until that Waichia appears, then you do so at the risk of your life. I will not tell you what you can and cannot do, it is not my place. If you stay and find him, bring him to me.”

“Yes Lord Waichia.”

“If you will excuse me Toshiro, I have things to attend to before I make my way to Shimragata.”

“Of course, my lord.” Toshiro responded as he watched the Lord of the Waichia depart the room.

2

Chochi along with Abe and Moochie traveled back to Aslann to stop Otoha. Along the way they had stopped several times, so that Chochi might read the mind of Moochie to learn everything that she knew about the plan of their Prince. He learned things he did not want to know about his prince, regarding the motivation behind each thing said or done. There were points when he was uncertain if he should hate the prince or continue to be devoted. He was still dealing with his emotions regarding Tationy and to have all of this information in his head, he had been more determined then ever to seek out Ritsu.

“Is it painful for her?” Abe asked as he looked on. Moochie had not made a single sound as Chochi peeled back each layer of her mind to gather the information he wanted.

“It is.”

Abe smiled, “Good.”

“I see that sadistic personality of yours is coming out in droves.”

“I am rather grateful it is. The more my memory has come back, the more I feel like myself again.”

“I do not know if that is a good thing or a bad thing.” Chochi responded as he peeled back another layer and Abe noticed how Moochie’s fist clenched.

“It is all good at the end of the day.” Abe responded.

Chochi pushed Moochie to the ground as he pulled himself away from her. “Is that so?” Chochi questioned as Moochie laid curled up on the ground near the fire. “When are we going to kill this woman?”

“When we do not have a need for her any longer.” Abe responded.

“As long as you remember that.” Chochi voiced as he turned, “I am going to take a walk.”

Abe waited for Chochi to depart before he looked to Moochie laying upon the ground in obvious pain. He took delight in seeing her like that, but he offered her nothing in the way of comfort as he sat back and enjoyed her pain.

22

When they had finally arrived to Aslann, Chochi had parted company from his companions. He sought out the Waichia known as Ritsu at the estate of the Waichia. In the end Ritsu had not given him what he had wanted even though he had mercilessly tortured him for every ounce of information he had. Ultimately his frustration resulted in Ritsu being killed more than anything else. He was having difficulty controlling that dark side of him that side of the Waichia that is normally hidden by most. When he turned to leave he felt it a presence that he recognized. He wondered how long he had been there and when he turned back around Toshiro was staring back at him.

He had always hated him, though had no doubts that the reason he was chosen as leader of the second division of the Waichia was because he was more than capable. He had exiled his brother, cast him out of the Waichia. “I imagine the information you received was not at all as you wished it to be. Now you got unwelcome things added to the already unpleasant stuff floating around in that mind of yours.”

“What do you know about it?”

“Nothing. I am just Toshiro, of the lesser branch. If you want to know about what the main branch is up too it is best to ask the person in charge.”

“Oji is not here,” He said.

Toshiro laughed, “Oji is a different matter entirely. Takuya is the one you wish to speak with and he has already left for Shimragata.”

Chochi seemed surprised, “Why?”

“Come now, your Waichia blood cannot be all that deluded. Can’t you feel it, hear it that sirens call?”

He considered the words of Toshiro a moment as he listened for what sirens call he was referring too. He realized it, but it was too late now. He wondered why he had not noticed it before. Was it as Toshiro had said, was his blood deluded? “How long?”

“Not long. Those that can leave have already done so or are in the process of doing so. Are you curious about your brother?” Chochi was surprised once again that Toshiro knew who he was so easily and Toshiro had anticipated the questions running around in Chochi’s head, “Your mind is pretty open. I imagine that is why it was so easy to manipulate you to come here.” Chochi stared at him blankly. Manipulation, by whom? “If you want to live you should leave Aslann. If you want the answers that are dragging you down, seek out Takuya in Shimragata.” Toshiro had responded as he turned his back, not giving Chochi an opportunity to say anything to him before he disappeared from sight.

222

Chochi had moved quickly. He needed to find Abe so the two of them could escape the city before the battles began. Once the war waged, there would be no escaping, at least not without extreme difficulty. He felt someone following him and turned about quickly. The woman, had stopped moving. She turned to her side, clasping her hands in front of her. It was what women in this time did to appear delicate. She was Zenaku, he knew she was not as pristine as she appeared. “Take me with you.” She whispered.

Chochi looked about casually to see if anyone else was around. He could not rule out that this was a trap set by the Waichia. “Why would I do that?”

“I have no one else to turn too.” Her voice was a soft whisper.

“If you slow me down I will leave you behind.” He voiced. He did not know why he was allowing her to go with him. He had turned his back and prepared to move again.

22222

He had only managed to take a few steps as he heard her scream that this was for Ritsu. As he turned, a movement caught his attention and the situation was quickly dispatched by Abe. He rubbed the back of his neck sighing, had he gotten slow? There were too many questions running around in his mind. “You’re getting soft old man.” Abe responded.

Chochi smirked, in terms of how they appeared they were the same age. In the grand scheme of things, back before they had begun their journey of reincarnation he had been older than Abe by several years. “Seems so.”

Abe sheathed his weapon turning to look at Chochi, “You did not get the answers you wanted I take it?”

“We don’t have time to discuss that. There is a war brewing and if we do not leave we will be caught in the center of it. We need distance between us and Aslann as quickly as we can move.”

“What about Otoha?”

“He is on his own.”

Abe gave a single nod of his head. They moved to leave Aslann, staying off the main roads and moving through the forest as fast as reasonably possible.

222222

Baito had been tracking the movements of the Saitama. They had taken only one prisoner, his older half-sister Eri. He was certain that they wanted information, though what kind was anyone’s guess. Why they would take Eri, he could not figure out and he stayed as close as he could not wishing to be detected. He told himself when he got the opportunity to save her he would, but that opportunity did not come until much later when she was sold to the Maiba. A single Maiba led her through the dark forest that led the way to the territory that had, centuries earlier had been gifted to them by the Dragon Lords.

Baito struck out quickly, breaking the Maiba’s neck before he even had a chance to stop the attack. “Let’s go.” Baito said as Eri stepped away from him.

“I don’t want to return to him.” She told Baito.

“By him, I am assuming you mean Sesiago.”

“Please don’t make me go back to that.”

“You are his wife.”

“I never wanted to be. You know I loved Erobus, I still do and will always. Please do not make me go back to Sesiago, I cannot bear to be with that man. His touch makes my flesh crawl. His voice makes my stomach lurch. He makes me hate myself. He makes me not want to live, please Baito, if you have any feelings in that Kari heart of yours let me go.”

Baito stared at his sister. He knew the depths of her feelings for Erobus, he also knew how she felt about Sesiago. Baito was Kari and such an action was not allowed. She belonged to the Kari and had to face punishment for being taken prisoner and for the sins against her husband. “I can’t.”

“Then kill me,” She said as she looked him directly into the eyes. “If you take me back there I will cause great sin to the Kari when I take my own life. I cannot live in this world without Erobus, especially at the side of that man. You have no idea what he is like. Seventeen years of being treated like I was nothing. Seventeen years of being invisible in his eyes. His touch made me want to die, a hundred times over. I was too weak back then, but I am not now. I have nothing left, Baito. Please….”

He bowed his head as he turned his back to her. She took it as a sign that he was going to let her go so she walked to the small bridge overlooking the water. It was a long way down and certainly anyone that might jump from there would most certainly die. She glanced at him only once as she climbed onto the railing. She did not say anything further to him. Her thoughts were not of her children, her clan, the Kari, or even Sesiago. They were of joining Erobus in Maltola, the resting place of the dead.

Baito only remained long enough to take it all in. The ways of the Kari are strict and hard. Sometimes they were unforgiving, being a Kari man was a burden sometimes. He thought of that burden as he traveled in the direction of Shimragata.

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Baito had found his way to Shimragata, later that evening. By that point, Iashi had already made the decision to stay amongst the Kari so he and the children were welcomed in with open arms. Iashi told him about the contract between the Kari of Aslann and the Shima. They discussed a bit about what had transpired while they were separated, though they were careful not to talk about Tationy and Sesiago. That was a matter that was between them, and if they returned, then they would deal with it. “Ahh, I will be honest, it is good to see you.”

“I wish the circumstances were better.” Baito responded.

“Ahh.” He voiced, “Zen here has made a good arrangement with the Shima. I know that there might be some Kari that find their way here that may not agree, but to protect our young, I think it is a good deal.” Zen stood back and remained quiet as Iashi spoke with Baito.

Baito was quiet a moment, remembering what happened not very long ago when he listened to his sister jump off a bridge to keep from returning to Sesiago. There definitely needed to be changes made, but if things continued as they were, the Kari would not see another century, they might not even make it past a year or two. “I agree.” Baito voiced. “The Kari have been divided for too many years. Instead of protecting our own, we aided those that did not have our best interest a heart. I have no doubts that the Lord of the Shima will keep his word. He is not known as the benevolent Seiji of the Shima for nothing. However, we should always be cautious. We need to always remember that this contract was entered into, only to protect our children. We do not serve the Shima and we Kari will never serve a lord again. We work for them because we chose to, a decision not made lightly.”

“You speak like an elder.”

“Ahh, Baito stood as the shield for the Elder of the Kari for many years.”

“Then we have found our Elder.” Zen responded.

Baito balked at the idea. “The Kari will never see me as Elder. I am Maiba.”

“While some still hold prejudices held over from the old days and some from days not long since past, the Kari that came from Aslann, will see you as Elder, if it is so deemed.”

“Ahh, you are the best person for the position Baito. You stood at the side of Elder Kari for many years, you know the inner workings of being the Elder of the Kari.”

Baito sighed, “Certainly your people would feel better having you lead them.”

“My people, your people, we are all Kari. We will never be able to unite if we are constantly dividing ourselves.”

“Ahh, he is right. We need to be one united clan. For too long we have been divided and look at what has become of us.”

Baito stood up grabbing a knife from a nearby table. A deep sigh left his mouth as he closed his eyes and cut his pony-tail off. Both Zen and Iashi looked on with restrained shock. “A new Kari,” He said tossing his pony-tail to the table. “Today the Kari moves forward. We will no longer focus on regrets because they keep us trapped in the past. We are going to look toward the future, one Kari clan, united by blood.”

“Ahh, see I told you he would make a good Elder,” Iashi said with a smirk.

Zen refrained from smiling, but he liked this young Kari. He had passion, something that had been lacking for far to long amongst the Kari.

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Baito had gone to soak the first moment he got. It felt like it had been a while since he bathed and he relaxed in the hot water. He heard footsteps and then Iashi speak, “Ahh, how are you feeling?”

“Lighter.” He remarked. “You have chosen not to tell Zen about Ako, why?”

“Ahh, it gets complicated.”

“Are you going to tell me about it?”

“Ahh.” He remarked then grew silent a moment. “You know that Sesiago bares the mark of Kazuma. What you do not know is that when we were just seventeen, a Zenaku told us that a girl would be coming to the village with a Kari. We did not want to believe it, forgot about it even. Never talked about it, then one day she showed up and Sesiago insisted on continuing to not discuss it.” Baito remained silent as Iashi talked, “We headed to Shimragata after the village fell. When we got here, we were met by the Shima who informed us that our Kari children and one of our women had made it here. They called her Tationy, then quickly corrected themselves. Turned out she was not Ako, her name was Tationy Tylo. She told me that Tadayoshi was Commander Hiko Kari and that the Saitama believed she was the Prince of Aslann.”

“They attacked the village to get to her?”

“Ahh.”

Baito frowned, closing his eyes. “The Elder and I had suspected that they were being deceitful, they should have told us. We were not prepared for such a large scale attack without warning. Where is she now?”

“Ahh, with Sesiago. The two … ”

“She is Tearra to his Kazuma?”

“Ahh.”

“Do you believe she is the Prince of Aslann?”

“Ahh, there is some confusion about why someone would try to convince her that she is, but no I do not believe it. I think that someone has been thoroughly manipulating her and probably others.”

“Is there anything else I need to know?”

“Ahh, about Eri and Sesiago.” Baito said nothing as he spoke, “Eri was sleeping with Elder Erobus, she and Sesiago did not even like each other. Unless she has found her way to him, they have remained apart long enough for the union to be dissolved, I think that Sesiago will most likely make his feelings known to Tationy. I do not know when and I am sure he will go outside of his comfort zone to do so, but …”

“Eri died,” Baito said, though did not go into any further detail about it. Iashi, nor Sesiago needed to know the particulars. He was not particularly happy to hear that Sesiago might try to unite with Tationy, knowing what he knew about the man’s personality. However, if she truly was Tearra, it was not his place to get in the way of such a union. “It is probably for the best. She would have had to have returned to face her punishment for her betrayal of her vows.”

“Ahh.” Iashi responded. Baito did not say anything further. Did not offer his friend comfort or regards for his loss of Suemeli. The Kari had been damaged and it was best if they did not look to the past.

2222222222

He had cursed himself a hundred times over for letting her go, so much so that he went after her. He had just cast her aside so easily, sent her out when the snow was beginning to fall simply because he did not wish to deal with her any longer. Truth was, he had not prepared her for her journey nearly as well as he should have, and when he departed the small homestead they had been staying at on the beach, he told himself he was not going to be so rash again. He had eventually caught up to her on the other side of the way-station. She had gotten much further than he had expected, considering she was not dressed for the weather and she was a woman traveling alone. At first she would not even speak to him, eventually when he grabbed her arm and forced her to look at him, he told her simply that she belonged to the Kari and that he would not let her go so easily.

She did not fight him as they turned around and began to walk toward the way-station. There was a chill in the air and even though she was trying her best not to he had noticed the shiver. She casually looked around as she walked, which was terribly dangerous if you made eye contact with people you should not. He changed his direction and she followed suit, stopping at a small vendor, “Are there any rooms available?” He questioned.

“Just one.” The old woman told him and he simply nodded his head, handing over the appropriate amount of coin. She escorted them around the building, walking through a narrow alleyway as she slid open a door and gestured for the two of them to enter. She left them alone after that mumbling something about Kari assassins that Tationy really could not make out. Sesiago had told her to stay put, disappearing from the building and returning sometime later. He had purchased them some clothing, more suited to the weather and something to sleep in, also getting them different shoes.

“If the weather lets up we will head out tomorrow toward Shimragata.” He told her simply. Then, told her she should get ready for bed. She had taken the clothes from him, it was not as though there was anyplace to change, so she turned her back to him and pulled her clothes from her body. What he got her to wear, left nothing to the imagination and you could practically see through the front of it.

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When she finally climbed into bed, she lay on her stomach, afraid he might be able to see every part of her. Only Mikio had seen her naked before, and it made her nervous thinking that Sesiago might as well. She felt him climb into the bed next to her and when his hand rested to the small of her back she tensed as she lifted her head slightly. She could hear his breathing, feel his eyes on her, she was not certain what was about to happen, but she was pretty sure she was not prepared for it mentally. She felt his hand slide over her back and eventually playing with the ties that kept the top securely in place. “Do you understand what it means to belong to the Kari?” He asked her.

“No.” She whispered.

“It means you’re valuable. It means that you are as important as breathing because you have the ability to bring life into this world. It is the greatest gift the Gods could have bestowed upon us. Tearra could not have children of her own, as a Goddess such a thing was not possible. So when she was defiled upon the shrine of Hisoka, she begged Kazuma to bless her with the joy of a child to help her bear with the pain of what Rin was doing to her. So he did and because of her, women were given the opportunity to bring life into this world.” His fingers quickly untied her top before trailing lightly along her bare flesh. “Do you want children?” He asked her.

“I don’t know.”

“Do you think that there is any circumstance where you might consider having children?”

“If I was in love maybe.” She voiced.

“Do you find me attractive?” He questioned.

She felt a tingling sensation along her arms as she considered his question. She did find him attractive, for an older man. He did not look nearly as old as he was and was in fairly decent shape. She liked his eyes, how blue they were. “Yes. May I ask you a question?”

“You may.”

“Why are your eyes blue? I thought all Kari had dark hair and dark eyes unless mixed with the Maiba.”

Sesiago considered her question, “My mother was Shima.”

“Like Seiji?” She questioned.

This time it was he who tensed. She was too familiar with men it was not appropriate. “Yes, like Commander Shima. It is unacceptable that you say his name in such a way. He should be Lord Shima to you, not Seiji. The only man you should speak of so familiarly is your mate.”

“I am sorry, where I come from it is not as much of an issue.” She voiced simply. “You just call people by their given name or even a nickname. The only people you ever refer to in such formal fashion was usually adults, teachers, or people not in your social peer group. I could not even imagine calling Chochi, Mr. Waichia. It seems so strange that such a thing is such a big deal here.”

He frowned, yet another man’s name had left her lips. “It is disrespectful to your mate to use another man’s given name so casually. You need to be aware of how it looks and how it makes your mate feel.”

“I don’t have a mate.” She told him.

He closed the distance between them as his body pressed into her, “Didn’t Hiko teach you anything?”

She was so distracted by something hard pressing into her hip that she did not answer him right away. “No.”

“When you touch a man that is not your mate it tells him that you are interested.” He responded. Tationy tried to think of any of the times she had touched a man, and there had been way too many. “You never spend time alone with a man that is not your mate.” Again she thought of all the times she had made this mistake.

“Why?” She asked, “Why can’t I be alone with a man that is not my mate?”

“When a man and a woman are alone when they both have mates, whether anything happens or not, it is considered an act of adultery.  When they do not have mates, it tells all other men within the Kari, that she is taken.”

“Do I belong to you Sesiago?” She asked him directly.

22222222222222

He pulled his hand away from her as he moved from the bed. He pulled his hair down freeing it from the confining pony-tail he normally wore it in. He watched her as he removed his clothing from his body and climbed back into the bed with her. “I want you to remove these,” He said tugging on the clothing ever so slightly. It was not exactly an answer, but there was no way he could tell her that she belonged to Kazuma. That she was Tearra.

She sat herself up, she did not know why she was doing as he asked of her as she pulled her clothing from her body. She blushed and she had not even turned around for him to see her. “Are you going to have sex with me?” She questioned.

He took a deep breath in and slowly exhaled as she turned about to look at him. Iashi had been right, she had little breast, and hardly any hips. Her body was not built for having children. Even though he knew that, his cock felt painfully ridged. He told himself it was Kazuma who desired her, but deep down he knew that it was just as much him as it was Kazuma and he was not even sure when it happened. “I want to.” He told her. “Tonight though, I just want to touch you a bit. I just want to explore you, learn everything there is to know about your body.”

“Why?” She asked.

“A Kari man gives himself completely to the woman in his life. He holds nothing back from her and she accepts it.” He told her. She had heard similar words from Hiko. “I want to know what makes you moan, so I can bring you pleasure. That is my job as a Kari man. If I ever do anything that displeases you, then correct me because in the bedroom I answer to only you.” She slid into the bed next to him. For him he could tell she was nervous, he knew from a previous conversation that she had never been with a man before so he wanted to do this right and take it slowly. He wanted to savor every moment. For a while he just kissed her and the more his mouth met hers, the more he could feel the pressure building in his cock. It was almost painful, it had been so long for him. “Tationy.” He whispered a soft beg leaving his lips, “Touch me please.” He anxiously guided her hand to his need, and she was surprised at how smooth and warm it was to touch. Sesiago had helped her, by manipulating her hand to show her exactly how he wanted her to stroke him. He stifled a moan, by biting into the soft flesh of her shoulder.

“Sesiago.” She whispered. “I’m hot.”

As he pulled back enough to look at her, he could see it. The heavy breathing, her erect nipples, the pink hue along her face, it only turned him on more. He cursed himself for looking as his hand moved down between her legs. He allowed a single finger to slide within her expecting some resistance, but received none because of how wet she was. He worked a second finger into her, he told himself she was not ready for him yet, but seeing her like this made it difficult for him to keep from taking her. He watched all the little expressions as a wave of pleasure washed over her and he could feel her tightening around his fingers. “Tationy you have to stop, moaning like that you are making me want you more than I already do. I don’t think I can stop myself,” He said as his mouth greedily claimed her lips.

“Please.” She whispered and his whole body tensed with need as she softly uttered a little beg, enticing him. He did not want to pull away from her, but he knew if this kept up there would be not a single person in this world that would be able to keep him from taking her. “Please don’t stop.”

Her last little words pushed him over the edge as he claimed her mouth to his, “A Kari man never apologizes, but today I have to ask for your forgiveness because no matter how you tell me to stop, I am not going to.” He told her simply. He was careful to be gentle with her, forcing himself to keep a slower pace as not to hurt her. It had been over nine years since he had been with a woman. Having sex with Eri had never been like this, she had never even bothered to moan, just lie there and let him do as he needed to, to ensure that she was pregnant. After a while, he did not want to touch her anymore. She was cold and dead to him, the two had never wanted to be with each other it was an arranged union from the start, and even though Eri had insisted she did not wish to marry him, in the end the two of them had been joined in a union. She had never moaned for him, not once, not even to humor him.

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Early in the morning she woke up from nightmares, but Sesiago was not laying next to her. She looked around the room and sitting upon the clothing he had gotten her were some hair pieces. She took it as a sign that she was supposed to be up and dressed, if Sesiago was already awake. She stood moving toward the clothing and lifted the hair pieces. She sighed, she was not sure how these things were supposed to go in her hair, but she was going to do what she could with them. She sat them on the bed and grabbed up the dress and the socks. Sitting down on the bed she flinched slightly, having not expected to feel a bit of pain after her night with Sesiago. She released all of the air from her lungs just as Sesiago entered. “Are you alright?” He asked.

She blushed noticeably. The morning after he was so casual and she felt awkward. “Yes, a little sore.” She explained.

Sesiago frowned, “I apologize, I was too rough with you.”

“No, not at all. I was a little tense during parts, not knowing what to expect.” She responded.

He sat down next to her on the bed, brushing a strained of hair from her face as he leaned in and kissed her lips. “Did you enjoy what we did?” He asked her. She nodded her head nervously. “I did to.” He acknowledged. He felt like he was seventeen years old again, trying to talk to any girl that he was interested in. Not that any of them were ever interested in him, but he did try. “You should get dressed. The snow has lightened, we want to try to get to Shimragata by nightfall.”

“So soon?” She questioned.

“We need to find Iashi and the best way to do that is to head to Shimragata and see if the Shima know which direction he went.” She nodded her head as he moved away from her gathering up a few things as he adjusted his clothing and turned to see her awkwardly trying to adjust the belt. He shook his head as he moved toward her, standing behind her as he ran his fingers down along the front of her clothing to adjust the neckline, before moving to adjust the waist. Her breathing had increased and he felt pride knowing that he could make her body react to his proximity.  He had told himself afterwards that they should not have progressed as far as they did that it was too soon and much to quickly. They had skipped over steps and had gone straight into a union, without giving each other time to get to know one another. He had been thinking about it though, counting down the days until he was free of Eri. He did not even wonder what happened to her and that alone told him what a cold-hearted Kari he truly was.

“Thank you,” She said nervously as he gave a single nod and turned back to what he was doing. She fixed her hair and when the two of them were ready they stepped out into the snow.

It was still a little dark, the sun had not completely risen. She grabbed onto Sesiago’s hand, which halted him from moving forward as he turned to look at her. She smiled meekly. He understood that she wanted to hold his hand out in public or walk arm in arm, but he was Kari that was not an option. If people knew that he felt anything for her, they could use it against them both, it was not acceptable.  He looked down the alleyway, behind them, and anyplace else he could see. When he was certain no one was about he pulled her in close to him and kissed her. He ran his tongue over the sensitive part of her bottom lip, asking in his own way for her to open her mouth so that he might deepen the kiss. He was surprised when her mouth opened just enough for him to allow his tongue to enter and her tongue met his in a dance of lovers.

The couple was so enthralled with each other that they had not realized that there was someone watching them a little too closely. A devilish smile traveling over his lips. When the couple moved away he spoke, “Interesting.”

1

They had dealt with the Maiba and eventually arrived to Aslann, just before the war so that they might seek out Jin, by the time they found him they realized that not all the pieces were fitting as nicely as they would have hoped. “My, My seems someone got to them before we did.”

“Most likely the Emperor.” Mikio responded.

“So we came all this way for nothing.”

“It was not entirely a wasted trip.” Mikio spoke. Chee tilted his head to the side, staring at Mikio. “We at least know that the head of the snake has been cut. His manipulations are dangerous, as long as no one picks up where he has left off, then we should not have to contend with the Ishi.”

“You make it sound as though we would have difficulty if we had too.”

“We would. He most likely assumed that the Maiba could lock away Hisoka and Rin, it would be the only reason to send them. His thinking was flawed. Under normal circumstances, the Maiba might have been able to seal the Gods away, but they have already been awoken by that girl. Their power has already begun to strengthen.”

Chee’s eyes grew dark, “So you are saying that if he sent the Ishi we would be dead right now?”

“We would never have seen them coming.” Mikio responded. Mikio glanced off into the distance, “We should leave Aslann.”

“So soon?”

“We both abandoned our Emperor, we are wanted criminals. What we came here to accomplish has already been resolved, we have no reason to remain unless you want to be put to death.”

“My, my, I rather like my head where it is.”

“As do I.” Mikio responded as the two quickly departed Aslann.

11

By the time Hiko and Kuro had reached Aslann, the city had fallen. Ancestral homes had been ransacked and burned to the ground. The great palace of Emperor Miroku showed heavy damage from the siege. Inside, dried blood stains lined what was left of the buildings. The bedroom of the Emperor had large amounts of blood splatter lining the floors and walls. There was a heaviness that lingered in the air as Hiko stared at what remained of a handful of books in the Emperor’s private collection. They had been damaged, and were not even able to be opened because the pages were stuck together. He did not want to think of why this happened or where he was during it. He was not at the side of his Emperor. Was not leading the military against the onslaught. The only truth was that he and Kuro had failed in their duties.

Hiko turned away from the shelves and caught site of Kuro. His hand was to his lips and he had a scowl adorning his face. He had never seen this man angry before. He was old, as old as Mikio and just as dangerous. There were stories about this man killing women and children and he was not known for his compassion or mercy. In truth, they had a lot more uncommon than Hiko even cared to admit. Kuro had rushed out of the Emperor’s quarters quickly and Hiko followed suit. He caught up to him in another room, one belonging to a member of the Royal Family, though Hiko was uncertain which one. Kuro had moved toward the nightstand lifting a tattered book. There was blood on the floor, though no bodies. “The Sweela did this.”

“Ahh.”

“Heavy reinforcements, large scale invasion. They would have had to have help.” The anger in his tone never once dissipated.

“Aslann has suffered internal conflicts for centuries, it could be any number of clans.” Hiko responded.

“Tse never mentioned this.” Kuro stated as he tucked the tattered book inside his clothing and turned to look at Hiko.

“She never mentions a lot of things.”

“If the Sweela are responsible Tse is alive. Their issue would have been with Emperor Miroku, but the Prince of Aslann is a different story. Tse is still their master.”

“They most likely took her to whomever is pulling their strings.”

“The Dragon Lords.” Kuro voiced.

“Ahh.”

“So they are en-route to Torgahdah.”

“Even if we head in that direction, we have no idea who the Dragon Lords are. They could be housed in anybody, even friend or foe.” Kuro had looked away and Hiko peered at him suspiciously. “You know which bodies they are inhabiting?”

“I know what Tse told me.”

“What exactly was that?” Hiko asked finally losing his cool for a moment.

“Oji of the Waichia, Toshiko of the Kensuku, and Guiren of the Takahashi.” Hiko stared at him in disbelief. The Dragon Lords had been in Aslann the entire time, behind the scenes manipulating things and causing unrest amongst the clans.

He moved forward quickly grabbing onto Kuro’s collar, “You tell me everything, right now.”

Kuro relented and told him about what the Prince of Aslann had done to himself to ensure that Tearra was reincarnated. What he knew of why the Prince had done it. What he knew of all of the players involved. He told him every sordid detail, even the part about him having been given permission to kill him. He left not a single detail untouched, even the stuff that perhaps would have been better off if he had kept it quiet. By the time he was finished talking, Hiko could not even stand and collapsed onto his bottom to the floor.

1111

Yayoi moved up beside Oro who was leaning against the wall looking out over the market square. He had been watching him carefully since his arrival to Shimragata, along with the other Ishi, the one called Nao. He recognized instantly that Nao appeared to be the more dangerous of the two, but this Ishi was formidable, though perhaps not as strong as most in his clan. He liked his lean casual body, his unusual eyes that signified that he was in fact from the Ishi clan. His hair was short and messy, he was young. Yayoi had at least five years on him. “That thing stinks.” Oro had remarked about Yayoi’s smoke.

“Oh, is that a hint that I should quit?” He had wanted to ask the young man if he was cold. The air had started to chill and snow would soon begin to fall, yet this man was dressed as though it were summer. He imagined it was because of his Ishi blood.

“Do what you want.”

“You have been rather antsy since your arrival, I never imagined that one of the Commanders of the Aslann military would be so impatient.”

“Who are you to judge?”

“Did I do something to offend you?” Yayoi questioned. The man had been short with him, every attempt he made to engage him in a conversation was met with hostility.

“Not as of yet.”

“You left people behind in Aslann?” He questioned. When his body tensed noticably, he realized that he had found what it was that was making the young man so angry. “If you wish to talk about it, I will listen.”

“So you can gather information to take back to your Shima lord?”

“Of course not. Nothing you say will be spoken, I will lock it away inside of me, if that is what you wish.”

Oro turned to stare at the man. He was typical of the Shima, with blond hair and blue eyes. There was nothing that particularly stood out about him as being unique or interesting, other than the fact that he smoked the worst smelling oomba’s he had ever encountered. “I asked someone to make the journey with me, but he refused to leave his brothers and sister. Makes me feel guilty because I left my sister behind, simply because I was ordered too. What type of man does that make me?”

“A loyal one. It is rare in this day for someone to remain loyal to their elder. It is a good quality.”

“How good is it, when the people I should have protected I just cast aside?”

“I think you are purposely adding more weight to your burden, you cannot save everyone. I doubt that they fault you.”

11111

“Right,”  Oro said as he leaned his back against the wall.

Yayoi had changed positions, putting his leg up on the bench as Oro waved his hand in front of his face letting Yayoi know that he did not appreciate the nasty smell of the smoke any closer to him. Yayoi had smirked, pulling the smoke from his mouth and tossing it to the ground. “I must like you, getting me to put out my smoke.”

Oro rolled his eyes, “How long is your Lord going to give us the run around?”

Yayoi shrugged, “He does not trust you. However, he is willing to consider your request, if he is able to meet with the two sons of Rin.”

“Kuro and Mikio, why?”

“They were with the Prince of Aslann, when the Maiba and Zenaku worked with them to negotiate peace. I assume he has questions, especially after meeting that girl.”

“What girl?”

Yayoi smiled, “Called herself Tationy, had the eyes of the gods.” Oro hid his emotional response the best he could, but Yayoi caught it. He at least knew who she was or perhaps knew of her. “Until they arrive, there will be no agreement though there will also be no execution.”

“What if they never arrive.”

“Well I suppose you had better hope they do,” He said moving away from the young man, “Oh, by the way, Oro of the Ishi, it has been a while for me, but if you ever need someone to keep you warm at night, feel free to come and find me.”

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They walked silently next to each other. “You’re annoyed.” Oro broke the silence.

“What gives you that idea?”

“You’re not the only one that can read someone pretty well.”

“The Lord of the Shima is giving me the run around. Insisting on speaking with Kuro or Mikio, before agreeing to asylum.”

“I heard.”

Nao turned his head slightly eyeing Oro. “Who exactly did you hear that from?”

“The one called Yayoi.”

“Well this is certainly something I had not anticipated. Perhaps you should…”

“Don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“I am not sleeping with him.”

“There are worse men you could sleep with. I think a Lord of the Shima, is far above the slave of the Kensuku you had let climb on top of you.”

“I think you are the last person who should be giving me advice about sex. Have you even experienced the comfort of a woman’s touch, or even a man’s. What exactly turns you on other than torture?”

“We both have our vices. Let neither of us judge.”

“Good idea.” Oro paused, “Do you want me to see if I can track Kuro or Mikio?”

“Yes. Do your best to locate them.”

Oro gave a nod of his head as the two continued to walk around Shimragata, casually talking and more than well-aware that Yayoi was not far away, listening.

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Yayoi had been surprised to see the two of them return to Shimragata and even though he probably should have waited and told Seiji before directing them to the other side of the city, he sent them there anyway. He told them simply that they might find something of use to them there. They wandered around the market, Tationy had not stopped looking around. The snow had only just begun to fall in Shimragata, though Sesiago was certain it would not last. It was rare for the inner city to ever get much snow. He could not recall a time that it had ever been knee deep, like the way-station which was in a snow belt. Tationy would stop now and again and he would turn his attention toward her. She liked looking at everything and he made a point to remind himself to ask her about her world. The two had never discussed it, they never discussed anything. The entire time they had been together they avoided every important topic and he told himself that he definitely could not put it off any longer. They had things they needed to discuss.

Sesiago had stopped moving suddenly and Tationy stopped as well turning to her attention away from the vendors and toward him. “Is something wrong?” She whispered.

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“Ahh, the old man is shocked.” Iashi responded.

Tationy’s attention was quickly drawn to the men that Sesiago was staring at. They were dressed in fine clothing, similar to what you might see the citizens of Shimragata wear. She smiled as she looked upon Iashi and Baito, whose hair was considerably shorter than it had been previously. She wondered for a moment, what had happened, but her attention was quickly drawn to the man in the center. “Zen.” Tationy spoke as she took a step forward and he eyed her a bit longer than Sesiago liked. He recognized her as he moved toward her and before he could stop himself his arms had wrapped around her tightly. Each Kari man stood in restrained shock, as Zen held on to Tationy. “I take it you missed me,” She said and Sesiago could hear it in her voice, she was happy which caused the pit of his stomach to knot, wondering who this man was and why he had his hands all over his woman.

He had to keep it all in check, with so many people about it was unwise to react to this man’s hands being on her. Of course, this man had also lost control. He had never witnessed a Kari other than Iashi be so forward in public. Zen pulled back from her, bowing his head. “Forgive me.”

She smiled, “It is alright, I know you were just taken by surprise at seeing me,” She said thinking that he was apologizing for the hug.

“No, forgive me for sending you away.”

Sesiago tensed when he heard the words. There had been another man in her life. “Forgiveness is not needed. You were right to send me away.” She looked around a moment, “This is probably not the best place to discuss it though.”

Zen had nodded his head in agreement as he stepped back from her. “Ahh we have much to talk about it seems.” Iashi had voiced. Baito and Sesiago had remained quiet during the entire thing.

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Baito, Sesiago, and Iashi sat toward the back of the dining hall and kitchen area of the homesteads that the Kari were residing. None of them were talking, because they were much to curious about what was going on with Zen and Tationy. Zen had offered her a seat, which she accepted, before he took a seat across from her, moving his chair much to close for Sesiago’s liking. Zen looked her over before finally speaking, “You look beautiful.”

She blushed noticeably, “Are you flirting with me Zen?” Sesiago had not liked her response so he stood up to leave only to be stopped by Baito.

“Flirting with you, would get any man in trouble.” Zen responded simply. He noticed how she blushed so he changed the topic quickly, “I have been worried about you.”

“I have been fine, really you do not have to worry.”

“I cannot help it.” He told her simply. “I have so many questions, I…I should not have let you leave.”

Sesiago had not liked those words and Baito grabbed Sesaigo’s wrist to let him know that he should stay to hear it all out, no matter what was said. “You had to, my place was not with you or the Ruthlbahdo. I had things I needed to deal with and was just finding more and more reasons to put them off.”

“Did you manage to deal with those things?”

She laughed awkwardly, “Not a single one.”

Zen shook his head, he was more certain now that the decision he made to encourage her to leave was the wrong one. “Why were the esoteric users after you?”

She frowned, “I am not even sure where to begin.” She voiced.

“Start at the beginning.” He told her.

“The beginning.” She whispered and then gave a single nod of her head as she spoke, “I was born to Miroku and Chilè Tylo, on January 1st, 1995.” Each man in the room grew even quieter. “My parents did not really want me. My father was a notorious gambler who loved betting on the ponies and my mother would sleep with anyone that bought her nice stuff. My life was miserable. I did everything around the house, cleaned up after them, took care of the restaurant. Whatever needed to be done, I did. The perfect child that no one wanted. So sometimes I have an issues with authority figures, especially ones that like to talk about how I wear my hair, how I dress, or even how I talk.” She responded. “My mother was always keeping me busy with something. At school, my life was no better. I was always called names and picked on because of these eyes. They really are cursed you know. They bring nothing, but bad luck.”

“The truly bad luck did not start until we moved to Aslann after my father lost everything that we owned and we had to start all over. I was invisible there too. Things started to look up a little, I got picked for Mr. Nakamaru’s community service trip. We were to spend the summer, just doing things in the city of Sobatole. I figured I would be stuck with a bunch of losers, but I was with some of the most popular guys in school and I was the only girl. I mean it could not get any better than that. Except, none of them really cared about me, they were too busy arguing with each other.  I was invisible in a room full of guys. I mean how pathetic is that?” Her question was rhetorical so Zen did not respond.

“There is this old fairy tale in my time, about this Prince. I never really knew it was based off of the Prince of Aslann. I just thought it was some bedtime story that parents told their kids. My mother used to tell it to me when I was little, back when she liked me.” She voiced and Zen grew intensely angry at how Tationy’s mother had made her feel. “Mr. Nakamaru started telling us the story, little pieces here and there. It sort of sucked you in, like you were a part of it. That was how it felt. I could identify with the Prince of Aslann and others could identify with the princes guardians. At the time, I did not know what happened, but we were told we were heading on a trip. The trip made me really sleepy as we headed into the mountains of Sobatole. When I woke up, I was in a strange little ancient house, dressed in ancient clothing, and Mr. Nakamaru was telling me that I was the Prince of Aslann and he and the others were my guardians. That we had done a technique that separated our souls, leaving part bound here to this time and part that transcended to the spiritual realm.”

Zen frowned, he knew the technique she was referring too. It was an ancient forbidden technique of the Ishi Clan. “Seven days later I woke up here, in your world. I was so angry at them. So I took off and I met Tatsuya of the Kari. He made sense. Some strange man I never met before, made sense, and I felt safe and comfortable around him. I figured they brought us back here to deal with the Emperor and the Adviser Jin, after all why else would we come back to a time that we were killed in, it just did not make sense to me. So I figured that they needed allies to help against the Emperor, so I convinced Mr. Nakamaru to let me see Tatsuya again. That is how I met Hiko, and as much as Tatsuya made sense, nothing felt more right than Hiko. I was so nervous around him, I could not understand it.” She voiced. Sesiago clenched his jaw tightly. “Instantly attracted to him, he made my heart pound really fast and I thought wow, maybe this world is not so bad.”

“Abe and Chochi, two of the guys that just the few days before had been just guys from my school, found us. As the guardians of the Prince of Aslann they threatened violence against the Kari men if they interfered. When I commanded them to stop, they did so and we left them behind. I was so angry with them and eventually just stopped talking to both of them that night. Later that evening we were attacked, soldiers, a lot of them in unmarked uniforms. No identifying trim.  They had this dagger that I recognized, I had seen it in one of my bad dreams which had started just after we had arrived. At the time I really did not know much about the dagger, but as time has since passed I have learned more about it. It was a dagger given to the Waichia, that belonged to the Sosa, by the Emperor regarding an arrangement for a child between the Prince of Aslann and Ritsu Waichia. Even with everything that was going on, I kind of hoped it was all a bad dream. So when we were all separated, I ended up at some park, just lying on the ground singing like I had no care in the world. Foolish enough to think that they would come and rescue me. They never came, but a man named Miroku found me and he seemed to know who I was. Told me to disguise myself, cover my eye, and not to trust my guardians.”

Zen, much like Hiko, did not tell her that Miroku was the emperor, the father of the Prince of Aslann. “So I did as he told me too. Took some stuff from a fishermen’s house, sword, some clothing, noble hairpiece. Dressed like a boy and crossed paths with Oro. The drunken bum Commander of the Ruthlbahdo,” She said and Zen had to hold back the laugh that threatened to surface. “Then I met you,” She said and her voice had softened. Sesiago could hear it in her tone that she really cared about this man. It made him feel ill from jealousy. “You took really good care of me. I wanted to tell you, but I just did not know how to say it and even if I did, would you have even believed me? You probably would have thought, just another Tylo clan woman losing her marbles from the cursed eyes. I am perfectly sane.” She responded, “I know that sometimes my behavior seems a little strange. I might seem passive or even emotionally withdrawn, but that is just how I cope. It is easier when your ignorant, no one expects anything from you.”

“I feel like the eye of the storm. It is all clear and bright where I am standing and yet around me is all of this chaos. I am the center of it all and yet a part of nothing.” She voiced. “You were right to send me away to deal with it all, though none of it got dealt with, if anything it got more complicated. I figured I would start at the last place I saw anyone, at the Nakamaru clan elder’s estate. There I ran into Chee Hamara. He used his blood eyes on me and I felt weak. Just completely drained and yet…” He could see the pink hue travel a cross her cheeks, “Completely turned on. All I knew was this man was dangerous for me to be around and yet I was drawn to him. I hated the feeling. Feeling of being completely out of control of myself. We traveled to his grandmother’s house.” She voiced and Zen stared at her for a moment, coming to the realization that she might actually know more about what was going on in Aslann at the time, then he did. “She told me the story about Tearra and Hisoka, criticized the fact that I dressed and sat like a man. So to humor her I went and changed when she told me too. Eventually Chee and I talked some, but he went back to speak with his grandmother while I rested. When he came back he was telling me the place was on fire. We escaped.”

“I was so self-involved I did not even ask him about his grandmother. I tried to leave him behind when I realized he was taking me to the Ishi.  I had been told so many times that the Ishi had killed us for centuries. Each new lifetime, we died by their hands and here he was taking me to them. He used his blood eyes on me again and I collapsed, caught by an Ishi called Mikio. When I woke up I was at the Ishi estate. Chee, along with Mikio and the Adviser Jin had been talking. I did not really understand everything they were saying. They were talking about the Takahashi and the Kensuku moving quickly, about how the Hamara would give in to their demands now that the matriarch was dead. That they would plot the assassination of Chee as well, to ensure the Hamara loyalty. They said that the Emperor would be of no help that his mind had already been corrupted by ‘that chalta’. I am assuming that they were referring to Mr. Nakamaru, Atsuki, but I am not certain. They never gave the chalta a name and they narrowed it down to at least two of the Guardians of the Prince being behind what was transpiring.”

“The Adviser Jin said that the best course of action was for us to leave for the Dragon Lands. Chee even tried to get the adviser to leave as well, but he was not having any of it. He told him to gather the people he trusted and to leave and informed Chee that the only Ishi he could trust were the ones in that room. Jin said that the death of the Prince of Aslann and the guardians was a hindrance to the plan, which only slowed them, but now that the Prince and Guardians were alive the plan could move forward. They talked about other things, the death of the Nakamaru clan elder, the alignment of the two factions of Waichia, the potential slaughter of the Sweela clan. They seem to think that Yanagi as they called him, who I know as Sohma was the responsible party. They were trying to figure out what moves he would make next. They determined he most likely had an assassin clan backing him and his supporters and that they would most likely attempt to assassinate Chee and blame it on the Kari. They said it would remove Hiko from his position of commander, and make it so the entire clan was executed along with him and their elder, Tatsuya.”

Zen frowned, essentially that was what happened, though Chee had not been assassinated, but the attempted assassination of the Adviser Jin and the murder of the matriarch of the Hamara, Luna had been plenty enough ammunition against the clan. “They thought it would allow the military to be united under one banner. They take out Hiko, his two loyal generals, Hero Takahashi and Chee Hamara, as well as you,” She said looking to Zen. “They would just need a leader that could take their place, and I believe that is where Sadoo comes in. He was once a mighty general of the Aslann military before he became the Prince of Aslann’s guardian.”

“Jin wanted me to convince the Dragon Lords to march against Aslann. So Mikio and I traveled to the Lands of the Dragon Lords.” Sesiago quietly listened, having not expected so much to have gone on in such a short time for her. She had been alone with numerous men, he was surprised that not one of them had tried anything with her. “Every day I waited outside in the snow. He kept asking me who I was waiting for. It always resulted in some sort of argument because he really pisses me off with the who knows responses. He told me about his mother. His story was far different from the one that the Hamara clan matriarch had told. He said that each clan puts their own spin on the tale to benefit their clan. He said she was beautiful, kind, intelligent and she always had a smile on her face, no matter what Rin did to her.”

“It was nice hearing about her. How he talked about her, I could just tell he loved her so much. He asked her once why he did not look like her, and she had the best answer I have ever heard. She told him she asked the stars to bless him with eyes as green as the grass and hair the color of the mist at dawn. I hope I can say something that amazing when I have children.” She responded and Sesiago turned his attention toward her. She did not say if, she had said when. “He really talked about all the gods, but when it came to his mother’s descriptions of them, he only told me the one for Kazuma. He said she described him as being incapable of feeling compassion or remorse. It made me sad hearing that. Loving someone that is unable to feel such a thing, no wonder she put all of her hate into creating Emi Sosa. It probably took everything in her to keep from knocking Kazuma’s block off.” Iashi suppressed a laugh. He liked her spirit and found it amazing the way she made the creases on Sesiago’s face increase. “Eventaully Chee arrived along with Hiko, Hero, Oji of the Wiachia, Tatsuya, and three of the guardians of the prince, Chochi, Abe, and Otoha.”

“I know you sent me out into the world to deal with my stuff, but having them there I still did not deal with any of it. I just avoided all of them. Eventually we found our way to the Retreat of the Empress, where the Saitama were. Things got complicated after that. Moochie of the Sweela was there, turns out she was the caregiver of the Prince and she was sent there a long time ago by the prince for some reason only she knew. Otoha and Chochi both tried to kill her. I pretty much stayed in my room and I was visited by Bòre. He told me all kinds of stuff about the Saitama having paid a visit to the Prince of Aslann, and that an agreement was made if the Prince came to Torgahdah, that it meant that the prince agreed to the arrangement. Lots of stuff about the Prince of Aslann siding with the Dragon Lords and working with them to seize Aslann. Bòre kissed me, which was completely unexpected and when he left, Hiko entered. I think he might have been a little jealous and of course I was nervous to be around him to begin with because of all the times I had been told that he and the Prince had been in a relationship together. I wanted him to see me. Anyway, he left then Chochi came in and he was so angry. Talked about taking me by force and I kept saying that was not him. He told me that I cheated on him in another lifetime. That he walked in on us, and he looked exactly like Hiko. He said that I told him I could explain, but he did not give me a chance too. He said he raped me and killed me.” She voiced and looked down at her hands which were now folded in her lap.

Each man hid his feelings. No matter the lifetime, they were none to happy to hear what had happened to her. “I don’t remember it.” She told Zen, “I should be mad at him right? I keep thinking about it and I should be mad that he did this horrific thing to me, even though I completely have no memory of it. I just can’t remember. How am I suppose to be mad at someone for something I don’t even have any recolection of? I want to tell him, I am not mad, but I don’t know what happened and even if I did, what answers can I give him. It has been almost three years now and I don’t remember anything. I get little glimpses of things, sometimes I remember a person or something about an item, or a language I should not know, but everything else is just not there. All of this history through the centuries, I don’t have. So I can offer them nothing. I cannot even imagine any possible reason why I would do something like that. What type of woman was I?” She questioned, “It makes me feel so guilty and the me that is before you was not even there.”

“Anyway, we all separated and Hiko and I made the journey to The Kari Village. We lied to them, said we were Ako and Tadayoshi, that we were newly married making a fresh start. When Hiko kissed me I actually thought I might have gotten the guy for a change. It did not last though, he quickly began to distance himself. Hardly said anything to me, would not touch me or kiss me. I just think I did something that he disapproved of, but I just don’t know what. We traveled to Shimragata, myself, Hiko, Suemeli, Eri, Iashi, and Sesiago. Hiko disappeared and I have not seen him since.” Hearing that Hiko had abandoned her bothered Zen. He could tell she was hurting by what Hiko had done, even though she did not vocalize it. “I had an incident, where I collapsed. I don’t really remember anything about it. Sesiago was there for me during it. We returned to the Kari Village once I recovered. I was having bad dreams at that time about the village being attacked. I should have said something, but I have lots of bad dreams. I have been having them since I arrived in Aslann, I really had no idea that they meant something. When the village was attacked I tried to escape, but I saw the children and just could not leave them to fend for themselves. So I turned back and we escaped together. We were found in the forest by Commander Shima and his Generals. They convinced us to come back to Shimragata.”

“I did not really talk to anyone, too much going on. To much to explain.” She voiced. “Seiji…Commander Shima, kept trying to talk to me, but I just…I feel annoyed when he is around. I cannot really explain it. So I tried to avoid him as much as possible because it kept turning into arguments. I talked a little with General Saitama, it was easier to talk to him. Probably because if I lied to him he had no qualms about killing me.” She voiced. “I told him everything and then Iashi and Sesiago had arrived.” She blushed as she thought back to when Sesiago collapsed on top of her. “I talked with them a little bit, but did not know what to say. Not like I could fix any of it even though I desperately wanted too. I really did not tell them anything. I probably should have. Sesiago and I left together after that and now we are here,” She said skipping over what in her opinion was the best part of the story. Zen could tell she had skipped over something, but when he looked into her eyes, he did not need to know what it was. “I don’t know anymore now, then I did before I started this journey.”

He reached out touching her cheek, rubbing it lightly. “I was wrong to let you go, I mean that. I am not going to do it again. I see you as my daughter and this journey was one you needed someone you could trust on. Someone you could talk to and I feel horrible that I was not there for you.”

“You’re here now.” She voiced.

“I am. How about you take a bath, relax, then try to sleep. Let us men talk for a bit.”

“Alright.” She whispered as he told her where she might do all of that before turning to the men at the far side of the room.

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Zen waited until she left the room, before turning his attention on the three men. He moved toward them, “So which of you is going to tell me what she does not know?” He questioned as he looked between the three of them.

“Ahh, I suppose we probably should. Sesiago bares the mark of Kazuma. We were told by a Zenaku witch that Tationy was going to come to the village along with a Kari man. That she is Tearra.”

Zen blinked as he looked between the men. The one that he had yet to introduce himself too he assumed was Sesiago. “Is she Tearra?” He asked as he looked to Sesiago for the answer.

“Yes.” He responded.

Zen sighed noticeably as he rubbed his hand over his neck. “That does not give you the right to just sleep with her.” Zen responded and Sesiago turned to look at him quickly. This Kari was perceptive. The stare that Zen was giving Sesiago was cold and his words not filled with any emotion because there was none needed. “I find this whole thing between the two of you unacceptable.”

“Excuse me, who do you think you are to tell me what I can and cannot do?” Sesiago questioned. Iashi frowned it was almost like seeing Sesiago go toe to toe with his father again.

“Did you not just hear anything she just said? She is not emotionally ready to be in any sort of relationship to begin with let alone in one with a man she does not even know. How long are you going to keep the fact that you are Kazuma from her? How long are you going to pretend like she is not Tearra?”

“He is right Sesiago.” Baito voiced, “If you do not want her to grow to hate you, you have to tell her the truth. She has been used and manipulated by those around her. Like she said, she has been in the center of it all and yet not a part of any of it. You are doing the same thing, by keeping it from her.”

Iashi stood and moved around the table toward his old friend. He leaned in close to him as he spoke, “Ahh, Sesiago, I have been worried that you would not be able to see her and now I realize that it is you who is afraid that she won’t see you. That is why you do not want to tell her. Right now she sees you as Sesiago of the Kari, but what will she think of you when she learns you are Kazuma. Will she hate you? Will she love you? Will she walk away from you? You will never know until you tell her. I know it is difficult, but you are not that same awkward kid I grew up with. You are the finest Kari I know and a Kari man does not lie or keep secrets, he says what needs to be said, and deals with the consequences of those words,” He said, slapping Sesiago on the shoulder. “Zen here will probably freak out if you go and have sex with his ‘daughter’, but I think at the very least you need to go be at her side, we can all talk tomorrow.” Iashi voiced, pushing Sesiago out the door, before turning his attention to Zen. “Don’t be so hard on him, he has never been good with women. He always messes things up, by saying and doing the wrong thing. Sesiago is a good man.” He voiced.

“We are Kari, none of us are good men.” Zen responded as he stepped out of the room, leaving Baito and Iashi to discuss all they heard and what transpired between Sesiago and Zen.

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“You sure about this?” Abe asked as they stood outside the Waichia estate outside of Shimragata.

“Yes.” Chochi responded. “For what it is worth Abe….”

“Don’t,” Abe said. “You and I we have never been the type of men to apologize or make excuses for the things we do. Don’t start now. Do you want me to find Tationy and make sure she is alright?”

Chochi nodded his head. “You going to deal with this one?” Chochi questioned as he pointed to Moochie standing at the side of Abe. She had been with them since they left the Retreat of the Empress.

“I might keep her around for a while.” Abe responded.

Chochi smirked, “Find some place and settle down, have babies.”

“Stuck here, might as well. Not much use for an old soldier trapped in a young man’s body other than killing people.”

“We have both done enough of that.”

“You think the others survived?” Abe questioned as he looked toward the grand water.

“I don’t think any of us were meant to survive. Fate is fickle, we just got lucky this time.”

“I make my own luck.” Abe responded.

“That is probably why you are still alive. Keep making your own luck Abe and tell Tationy that….just tell her to take care of herself.”

Abe knew that there were other things that Chochi wanted to say to her, but the man that did the horrible things to her through the many lifetimes they lived was unable to say anything more than that. “I will tell her,” Abe said as he turned on his heels and beckoned for Moochie to follow him. Chochi stood and watched him for as long as he could. He was not certain if he would ever see Abe again, but he knew that at this point this was where he needed to be, so he took that uncertain step toward the door of the Waichia estate.

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Toshiro and Takuya of the Waichia were in the parlor waiting for Chochi. When he had arrived, they sent him to get cleaned up and changed into something more fitting of a Waichia. Eventually he joined them and was offered a seat and a drink. He accepted picking up the cup and taking a sip before sitting it back on the table. He was not certain what he wanted to say or how to approach any conversation with the Lord of the Waichia. “It seems your death has been exaggerated.” Takuya finally began. “I would ask you how it is that you are still alive, but your mind is remarkably open at the moment, so there is no need to ask such a question. You have given me easily all the answers to all of the questions I might have. I wonder though, how it is your mind has become so fractured.” Takuya spoke. “I do not believe that it was just the manipulation of Ritsu or even Oji, a chalta perhaps. I have encountered blocks in your mind that are not made by a Waichia.”

“Most likely something Atsuki did.”

“The leader of the guardians. Did you know that the one you call Atsuki was meant to rule over the Nakamaru clan?”

“No, I did not know that.”

“His father, Mikira refused to allow him to obtain the position, even though amongst the Nakamaru, Mikira was considered much to old to continue on as elder. Remarkable irony don’t you think?” Chochi considered it, the night they had been attacked Mikira was the first to be killed. “There was considerably speculation about whose side everyone was choosing in the war, but it was fairly evident that there was an assassin clan moving about unseen. The problem is, we all know each other. So this particular assassin clan had to come from outside Aslann. A clan that could not be identified. I would be willing to wager that the chalta created them using very old and very dangerous esoteric magic.”

“I was unaware that chalta’s could perform such incantations.”

Toshiro spoke, “It has only been speculation for a number of years, but after I read your mind over the corpse of Ritsu, I have discussed it thoroughly with Lord Waichia. It is the only explanation for why you would not know who the assassination squad was. It also explains why you were not able to anticipate the attack. Beast devoid of emotion or mental patterns would make it nearly impossible to predict. A squad of fifty is nothing for a Waichia of your caliber or even a chalta who was meant to be elder of his clan. The two of you alone could have handled them, but you were forced to retreat and you yourself were injured.”

“I don’t understand what Atsuki would have to gain from attacking us though.”

“The attack was most likely for deception.”

“He used us to kill the elder of the Nakamaru.” Chochi responded and Toshiro made a sound of agreement.

“I think he is only part of the issue though.” Takuya spoke up. “The girl you were with was brought before myself and Oji, by Tatsuya of the Kari and his cousin Commander Kari. Oji protected her mind during the entire meeting. He was purposely denying me access and doing everything he could to make certain it was not obvious.”

“You were not fooled though.” Chochi spoke.

“I should have been elder of the Waichia, but it was given to Oji. I never understood why he was put into the position until after that girl arrived. It ensured that he would be at that meeting and that he alone would meet with the Prince of Aslann.”

Chochi eyed Takuya as Toshiro spoke up. “Takuya has never met with the Prince of Aslann directly, only Oji has had the pleasure of being in the company of the prince. When he met with that girl he was certain there was no way she could be the Prince of Aslann, but because he never met the prince, he could not be for certain so he had to rely on Oji who insisted that the girl was in fact the prince. You have been in the company of that girl and the Prince of Aslann, are they they same?”

Chochi thought about the question and had nearly went to say that they were, but he paused. “You did not think that girl was the Prince of Aslann.” Takuya responded before Chochi could speak.

“Early on, before we even came back to this time. Taku and Atsuki had both insisted that she was the Prince of Aslann. I did not see it. Even after she crashed into me, I still did not see what they were seeing, but Abe defended her and I could not understand why Taku, Atsuki, and Abe could see her as the Prince of Aslann and I could not. Considering what you have said about Atsuki, it is possible he manipulated Abe to react to her presence using incantations, but no back then I did not think she was the Prince of Aslann. When we came here I started to believe it more. She started having nightmares, started being the same difficult prince that was sometimes hard to manage, and….”

“You were blinded by your emotion for the girl.”

“I am certain she is the same girl that has been reincarnated with us, but she feels different. Less like the Prince of Aslann and more like….someone else.”

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“She is still the woman you fell in love with, it most likely helped to influence you and make you easier to manipulate. However, I tend to agree that she is someone else.” He paused as he brought his hand to his face and smiled a moment, “There is a story that my father told me about the Queen of the Gods, Tearra. Ryozo got word that Tearra was on her death bed and traveled to Shimragata to the home she shared with Rin when they were mortal. Ryozo sat at her side as she lie asleep, coughing up blood. He asked her son Mikio to leave them alone for a time and after the child left the room, he kissed her. Coaxing her to open her eyes and look at him one last time because he knew she was going to die. She had smiled as she opened her eyes and saw him and he told her that he wanted to see her once more before she passed onto the afterlife and was reincarnated. She told him very simply that he would not see her for a long time. That she already locked her soul away so that she would only be reincarnated at the right point in time. He told her he did not understand what she was talking about. She responded that the world would go on for thousands of years without the Goddess, because the other Gods needed to grow and live without her. She passed and centuries later there has been no sign of her amongst the Tylo clan, not until that girl showed up.”

“What are you saying?” Chochi questioned.

“She told me she did not like me and my first thought was to take her and make her mine. I have not experienced the beast of the Waichia since I was six years old. I have struggled with how I felt about being the reincarnate of Ryozo since I was young. I imagine all of us that bear the mark of our respective god carry a heavy burden, but having her in front of me I was moved to anger. Something that does not just happen with me. She is special because she bears the mark of Tearra. Tearra was so stubborn that she ran away from this world, waiting thousands of years for the right moment to return. Very particular set of circumstances had to have transpired to bring her here, I am certain she is the Goddess and right now if I am right, she has found her way to Kazuma. When he sees her, our world will be changed forever.”

Chochi consider his words, “If what you say is true and Tationy is Tearra, I don’t think the issue will be with Kazuma seeing her. I think the problem will be having her see him. Her memory is a mess. She only has nightmares and remembers very little if anything.”

“Obviously there are forces manipulating the situation. Those that wish to see the Gods resurrected and those that wish to prevent it. Perhaps that is the chalta’s goal is to keep Tearra from falling in love and seeing Kazuma.” Toshiro responded.

“Why would anyone want that though?” Chochi questioned.

“He who controls the gods, controls the world.” Takuya responded.

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Chochi had gone to stand, but Toshiro stopped him by putting his hand on his shoulder. “Rushing off to her rescue is not going to help. We need to know what exactly is truly going on. Right now it is just all speculation. Our best bet is to uncover who the other gods are and bring them all to the same place. The four of them together are the only ones that can for certain uncover if she is truly Tearra.” Toshiro responded.

“What if she is not Tearra?”

“Then we uncover who she is. If she is the Prince of Aslann, there has been far to much damage done to her mind. She will most likely never remember who she is.” Takuya responded. Chochi frowned, “First thing is first though. The state you are in does not benefit any of us. We need to repair the damage done to your mind and close it off. Toshiro will work with you. I suggest you prepare yourself, he will not take it easy on you.” Takuya responded as he stood and departed the room leaving Chochi and Toshiro alone.

“You care for that woman.” Toshiro broke the silence.

“I was married to her once. She does not remember though.”

“You did terrible things to her.” Toshiro responded and Chochi cursed because of how opened his mind was to the other members of his clan. “Do you wish to see her?” He questioned though he already knew the answer.

“More than anything, but I am afraid.”

“What if she is not the Prince of Aslann, do you still want to see her?”

“Yes.” Chochi responded bowing his head.

“Then I will make certain you see her again.” Toshiro responded and moved to depart the room, but was halted when Chochi had gone to speak, but stopped suddenly. “I was in love once.” Toshiro responded. “She died before I got to say all the things I needed to say. That is the only reason I am helping you. Right now you are in no state to see her though, especially seeing you cannot control yourself. Takuya has the same issue.” Chochi stared at the back of Toshiro as he continued to talk, “When the divisions began to work with each other he was thoroughly against it, but Oji thought it was for the best. He still thinks it is a bad idea, but he sees now that it was dangerous dividing the clan into separate factions. It made our side of the clan vulnerable to manipulation and it made their side of the clan restricted by structure. Now they are all seeing that there is no difference between any of us, just in how we deal with things. Takuya is suffering the same as you with his control and with how he feels about that girl. I am telling you this so you go into this situation with your eyes opened. If she is truly Tearra, then she belongs to Kazuma and the other gods and she will never see you as anything more than a mortal. Prepare yourself, Chochi,” He said as he left Chochi to think about his words.

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Abe had forgotten how fickle the weather was in Torgahdah. In Shimragata, one minute it was snowing, the next raining and that little bit of peppering was quickly washed away as though it had never been there to begin with. It reminded him of the times he vacationed with his parents  in some of the Mid-Western states of America. The weather never made any sense. His mind though had been so lost in thought as they left Chochi in Shimragata amongst the Waichia that he had little time to consider the weather other than having stopped to purchase some new clothing for their journey through the way-station which was being pelted by snowfall. At his side was Moochie, she had been near him in one form or another since their arrival to the Retreat of the Empress. Chochi had wanted to kill her along with Otoha and they were quickly stopped. He knew that her loyalties were questionable. She was Sweela, she served her master only, which of course made him wonder if her master was the reason she was still at his side.

He promised Chochi that he would seek out Tationy, so he and Moochie had traveled toward the Kari village. Abe worked out in his head what he remembered about Commander Hiko of the Kari. They had been old friends and rivals for as far back as his mind would allow him to remember. The more time he had spent in Aslann the more his memory surfaced, but it was not until he spent time in the company of the Ruthlbahdo that he began to truly remember. Being around Hiko had cleared his mind and allowed him to see himself as he truly was. He was not Abe Sosa, rich, popular son of Emitoya Sosa in the modern world. He was Abe Sosa, last of his clan and the greatest swordsmen Aslann had ever seen. Some days it was a fine line though and he could not entirely wash away the young man that he was in modern Aslann.

“Were getting a room for the night.” Abe had said as they changed directions and asked a small shop owner about a room.

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Moochie had stripped out of her clothing and had gone to remove the under garments she wore, but had been stopped by Abe. When the two of them where alone and in a position to be intimate with each other they had been, this night was different though. She could feel it in the air as he pulled his clothes off and sat himself down against the wall. Moochie frowned inwardly. She could tell something was troubling him as she relaxed on the bed. She waited for him to talk. When the two of them were alone he would often rattle on about various things when he was not forcing her to submit to his will. This night though she was brought back to old memories. She could only recall him this quiet once, back when she was fifteen years old and he came to her bedchamber.

He had wanted to talk that was what he had told her, but he had never said anything to her the entire night. Simply sat at the side of her bed as she lie there on top of it, much as they were now. “You understand I have to kill you.” He broke the silence. Moochie was unable to see or speak. She knew where he was through her special ability called spatial awareness. She could see him through her mind’s eye, though the little things such as the expression on his face was lost to her. How she wished that she could see his face.  She sat up suddenly reaching out toward him, but he had grabbed her hands. She bowed her head as he stared at the delicate features of her pale face. She had always been beautiful. There was a woman in the modern world called Moochie, she was a maid for his father. He had watched his father do terrible things to her, and the sick part of him had enjoyed seeing it, simply because she looked like this woman sitting before him. He wanted to do terrible things to her, he had always wanted too. It was that dark part of him, the sadist.

He let go of her hands and she reached out tracing her fingers along his face. She wanted to touch every contour, every single little line. She could tell by his mouth, the way it frowned that he was unhappy. It was more than just the unfavorable situation. She was certain he was sad. Her fingers trailed along his cheeks, over his nose, tracing along his eyes, and brow. She wished she could see him. She always thought there was something deeply wrong with her because she had been in love with this man, this sadistic, narcissistic man. Abe had always been prideful, boasting about how good he was. He had an ego for miles, but those were just some of the things she had loved about him. She knew she was probably a little sick herself. A woman who allowed this man to dominate and torture her for his own amusement. There was something small about both of them, something dark that allowed them both to suffer in this humiliation together. That was why she was at his side. She wished she could tell him that she was there because she wanted to be because she loved him more than any words could say and had since she was a young girl of thirteen.

Moochie was not a child anymore, she had grown into a woman. Compared to the young body of Abe she was an old woman. She was well into her thirties now and she wondered if he still felt the same for her. Certainly he had done terrible things to her and gave her a gentle caress afterwards, but was it the same for him? It was strange for her, how the roles were reversed. When she was that thirteen year old girl playing with fire with the considerably older man, she felt naughty. She could tell his body was not the same and by his voice and the way he moved how young he was, and it made her feel more guilty than naughty. She pulled her hands away clasping them in her lap as she bowed her head. She understood he had to kill her and why. She had abandoned the prince, had kept secrets from the guardians, and had done things that had set this all into motion. She felt his fingers running along her cheek as she lifted her head. “You are going to have my child.” He told her simply, “After that, your life is forfeit. Do you understand?” He questioned. Moochie simply nodded her head.

She could not voice how happy she was that she would be allowed whatever time she could with this man that she loved. She knew that eventually she would die. An assassins path is marked with death, but to be able to live for a little bit at his side, for her was well worth it.

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He had leaned in and kissed her, saying not a single thing as he stood helping her to her feet and taking her back to the bed. He was more gentle with her than he had ever been. This moment was special, just for her. One that she could think about and hold on to for the remainder of her days. It was all he was going to give her because in the end, he could not allow her to live. What she did, going against the guardians, doing the secret bidding of the Prince of Aslann which ultimately led to this situation, sealed her fate. They both knew it and it was only because of Abe that she was still alive. If Chochi had his way she would have been killed months ago. Abe felt like a cruel foul man, but he knew that was because he was one.

a

The Sweela and their captive made the long journey away from Aslann after its destruction. They had done everything the Dragon Lords had told them to do with one noticeable exception, and that exception was being escorted back to Shimragata. No one spoke to the captive. When they arrived to the compound of the Dragon Lords, they walked in moving through the building passing guards and servants until they found the room belonging to Oji of the Waichia. They knocked upon the door and entered when they were granted permission. Their captive struggled and Tohma tightened his grip, twisting his wrist and kicking him in the back of the knees until he was down on the floor with his head bowed. Seiree had inwardly frowned at how rough Tohma was being with their captive, but he did not correct his brother.

“What is this?” Oji questioned.

“We apologize my lord, but this one we were unable to execute.”

Oji stepped in closer lifting the captives face until he was able to look into his eyes. He was shocked at what he saw in his mind. “Prince Tatsuya.”

“Did you really think I was going to let you do what you wanted?” The Prince defiantly yelled as he stared into the eyes of Oji.

Oji frowned, “What did you do?”

The Prince of Aslann smiled, “I made certain that the Dragon Lords would never resurrect the gods. Forever reincarnated, but never resurrected. That was Tearra’s wish, and you foul beast think that you can defy the goddess herself. She used the last bit of her soul to make certain you would never reach her. When I learned of what you had planned, I cast aside my humanity to make sure that even if you managed to reach her, you would never be able to make her see Kazuma.” The Prince of Aslann spit in the face of Oji and got a hard smack which landed him to the ground.

“Leave us.” Oji demanded and Tohma turned on his heels departing the room, but Seiree had paused. “Do you have something you wish to say?” Oji asked as he looked to the Elder of the Sweela.

Seiree glanced at the Prince of Aslann just once before turning his back, “No, my lord.”

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Toshiko had just arrived back to the compound and Seiree stood waiting for him by the door. “My lord…” He paused and looked away.

“What is wrong?”

Seiree could not bring himself to mention what was transpiring, but mentioned that they had brought a captive back that was with Oji. By the time Toshiko made it to the room, Oji had already done plenty of damage. Toshiko glanced down to the broken body of a young man laying upon the floor of Oji’s room. This was the beast of the Waichia. The one that all Waichia’s hid deep within them and only the lesser division had embraced. They could be far more dangerous than the Ishi, the Kensuku, and the Saitama combined. He could see the bite marks, the telltale scrapings from fingernails, marks from his fist, even some that looked like they came from a sharp object. “What did you do?” Toshiko questioned. Oji just sat silently on the bench staring down at the broken man at his feet. Toshiko had always thought that Oji had a naive smile, which hid what a beast he was on the inside. He never imagined he was right. “Answer me.” Toshiko demanded.

“The Prince of Aslann…” He said never lifting his head to look at Toshiko.

“This is?” Toshiko bent down rolling the man over which caused him to flinch, but he never once screamed out in pain, not even when Oji was violating his body. “What did you do?” Toshiko yelled.

“I lost control.” Oji responded simply and he could hear it. There was a sadness in his voice. He was filled with pain and regret over what he had done, but he was well aware that he could not take it back now. Toshiko lifted the body of the young man and carried him out of the room. He ordered servants to clean and tend to his wounds, but not to talk to him.

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He had been standing near the window when the servants showed the young prince to the room where Toshiko waited. The door closed quickly behind him and Toshiko turned to look the young man over. Toshiko carried himself with a smugness. Moved like he had never in his life been a slave of the Kensuku. He pulled a chair out, turning it and stood waiting for the prince to take a seat, “Please.” He voiced and the prince took a step toward the chair, eying the swords positioned on the table. “In your condition, do you really think it is wise to consider escape?”

“I wasn’t considering escape. I was thinking about killing you.” The Prince voiced taking the offered seat. Toshiko smirked as he took a seat in the other chair. “Is this outfit to humiliate me?” The prince questioned and Toshiko’s smirk only broadened.

“Perhaps. I am surprised at your strength of will, you must be in a terrible amount of pain, yet there is not a hint of it shown upon your face. Your guardians trained you well. I imagine, torturing you will do no good.”

“If you wanted to torture me you would have done so already.”

“I have to ask Prince Tatsuya, why? You most certainly must have known what would have transpired by allowing yourself to be taken.”

“I wanted to see the look on the faces of the Dragon Lords, when they realized everything they did was for nothing.”

“So your guardian, Sohma and that little girl were a well placed distraction. Is she at least Tearra, will you give me that much?”

“She is, but having her here is a mistake. The Kazuma that was destined to see her is in the modern world she came from. She will never see the Kazuma of our world. She will grow old and die here, and the gods will be forever reincarnated and never revived.”

“Don’t you care what happens to this world? Without their revival the world will fall to war and be destroyed.”

“I care nothing for this world or its people and Toshiko of the Kensuku, don’t sit there and pretend as though you care because we both know that the Dragon Lords only want power. The power that will be bestowed upon them for reviving the Gods and being thee eternal servants of the divine heavenly rulers.”

“Have you always been this way?”

“What way is that?”

“A heartless soul, moving through the world waiting to die?”

“Why do you care?”

“I don’t Prince Tatsuya, but I imagine your guardian would. The one called Taku. When I was six years old, he was hand-picked to become the guardian for the Prince of Aslann. Our clan had never been so fortunate. Most of us had been nothing more than slaves and would continue to be for the rest of our lives, but there was a ray of hope knowing that Senri of the Kensuku would stand at the side of the Prince and Aslann and protect him.”

The prince laughed, “You talk as though they are your clan, Shima scum. The Dragon Lords are Shima, even if their bodies are Saitama half-breeds. It was the curse of your immortality, to always be reincarnated in the body of a half-breed Saitama. The gods did that to make certain that you remained humble in the face of disparity. You and the other Dragon Lords are far from humble. You may talk as though you understand the plight of being a slave, but don’t ever compare yourself to Senri. He truly rose up from the bottom and grabbed his freedom. You, you are a slave to the gods, always have been, always will be.”

“We are both slaves then, Prince Tatsuya. You have given up your very soul to ensure the outcome you wished transpired. You are no better than we Dragon Lords. You may think about this for the remainder of your days. Locked in this room until the cursed eyes take you. Only we Dragon Lords will be able to keep you company.” He responded as he stood and grabbing his sword from the table and traveled to the door. “By the way, Prince Tatsuya, tomorrow, when the sun is high look out your window.” The Prince gave no response to his words as the door closed behind him.

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“Senri, there you are,” Tien said to Taku as he found him outside the temple. “Never thought I would be walking the lands of Togahdah a free man.”

“The only reason we are free is because you managed to make an ally with the Dragon Lords, otherwise we would have been killed by the Sweela the moment the Emperor fell like so many of or countrymen.”

“Do you think me wrong?”

“No.” He responded.

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Tien chuckled, “You are probably the only Kensuku that still follows the old ways. Why bother?”

“There are too many Kensuku who are willing to cast aside their identity, they might as well cut their own heads off.” Taku spoke.

Tien could hear it, the surly way he talked. He was not the light and cheerful Taku he once knew. So much had happened during the war, his brothers had been killed by his own clansmen. His best friend had been devoured by the temptation of power and he was forced to strike him down. They had join the side of the Dragon Lords, forsaking his Prince. He imagined that Taku was feeling as though he had betrayed everything that he held so dear, and was not too surprised that he was standing before the statues of the gods praying. “Is Tearra talking to you?”

“She has not spoken to me in many lifetimes. I imagine that my sins have caused the great goddess to frown upon me.”

Tien smirked, “I doubt the great goddess has time to look down upon us humble slaves of course maybe she will look down upon us now that we are free men. We are being foolish men though, she has not been in the heavens for a long time. There are no gods looking down upon us. I do not understand why you still pray to them.”

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“I believe it was you who told me that if we lose our faith, then we lose ourselves.”

Tien chuckled, “When you were just a young man I told you that to get you off my back.”

“I know you believed it at one point.” Taku responded.

“Perhaps at one point.” Tien voiced. “I have had a lot of years to change my opinion of the people in this world, the world we live in, and the gods that we prayed so dutifully to.”

“So have I.” Taku voiced as he finally turned around and looked at Tien. “More years than you can even comprehend and I assure you Tien, my faith in the gods is stronger than it has ever been. It is men, I have no faith in. Do not confuse my faith with the inability to see the truth and do not think for one minute, I will let you or our clan abandon the gods so easily.”

Tien smiled, “We shall see if you are capable of accomplishing that. Now let’s go, the Dragon Lords want to speak with us regarding the gods.” He voiced as he turned and began walking down the beach, toward Shimragata.

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The Prince of Aslann had heard voices outside, which distracted him from his painting. It was about all he could do. He was locked in the room, guarded, and no one was speaking to him by order of the Dragon Lords. He recognized the one man instantly as Tien of the Kensuku, the other the prince could not see his face. Tatsuya wondered if this was what Toshiko had wanted the prince to see.

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Tien and Taku gave a half bow when they appeared before Toshiko of the Dragon Lords. “Thank you for coming so quickly. How are you enjoying your freedom?” Toshiko had questioned.

“We are enjoying it very much.” Tien responded, “The Kensuku owe the Dragon Lords a debt of gratitude.”

“Nonsense, we are kin.” Toshiko spoke. His blood was that of the Kensuku and the Saitama, even though he was one of the reincarnated Dragon Lords.

“Of course, my lord.” Tien responded. Taku had remained silent feeling a set of eyes on him as Tien spoke with Toshiko.

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The Sweela stood behind Toshiko, silent and observant as their lord spoke. “I wish for you to seek out the following individuals. Do not engage them, I simply wish to know their whereabouts.”

“We are at your service, my lord.”

“Good, I wish for you to find Mikio of the Ishi, Takuya of the Waichia, Chee of the Hamara. We also wish for you to seek out that girl, the one called Tationy. We believe she is currently with the Kari that belonged to the village just outside of Shimragata. Certainly some of them survived and that young girl is with them.” Taku had wondered what had become of Tationy often. He had never wanted her to go off with Mikio and the others. It was something that Sohma had set into motion. “I know I said it before, but it is important you do not engage them, simply learn of their whereabouts and anything you can of their current situation.” Toshiko responded. “Do you have any questions for me?”

“No, my lord.” Tien responded. With there being no questions, Toshiko turned on his heels and moved toward the building followed closely by the Sweela. Tien had started talking to Taku about where he would like to begin in searching for the individuals the Dragon Lords wanted information on, but he quickly realized his attention was drawn toward a window. He saw the curtain move as a figure quickly moved behind it. “Who is that?”

“I did not get a good look, but he had hair the color of the sun.”

“Yamada or Tylo clan then.” Tien responded. “He was watching us?”

“Yes.” Taku responded and Tien found himself wondering why he had not noticed. Why was it that Taku’s eyes had focused in on the person spying on them and his entire body had not sensed him. He frowned, it had been a long time since someone was able to evade his senses. He never knew of any Tylo or Yamada powerful enough to do that, but they were the only clans with that color hair. It was rare and easily identifiable. “We should go.” Taku voiced quickly turning and moving down the beach. Tien pushed the unwelcome thoughts away as he moved with Taku.

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He felt the bed move and rolled to his back. They had arrived at a small inn just outside Shimragata, late in the evening. He never imagined it would be like this. Hiko kept his eyes focused up at the ceiling as Kuro sat on the edge of the bed. He had no clothes on. After they had arrived to the inn they bickered about whom would get the bed, in the end, they both shared it. Hiko simply rolled to his side and did not speak to Kuro at first. He knew Kuro was reading that book that he had picked up in the palace. He had been reading it every night since their journey back to Shimragata began. While he read, Hiko let his mind wander to things he did not particularly want to think about. He tried to push the thoughts out of his head, the ones that he kept saying not to ask, but he found himself asking anyway. “How could you with a man?”

The question had caused Kuro to look up from the book and toward the back of Hiko. “I do not see Prince Tatsuya as man or woman, I see Tse as my little prince. The day Tse came to the Ishi to tell us that the cursed eyes had developed and that the Saitama had visited that little child had watched me train. Long before she loved you, I made her heart move. When I look at Tse I do not see a man or a woman, I simply see the person I fell in love with.”

“Is it really love?”

“It is for me.”

“You doubt that Tse loves you?”

“Tse is a master manipulator that does everything that needs to be done to accomplish a goal. I would hope that those feelings are genuine, but I would be an old fool if I truly believed in them.”

“So why are you doing this?”

“Doing what exactly?”

“Trying to find her…I mean him.”

“I have to see it. That look in Tse’s eyes when he sees you. His words are perfect, exactly what I want to hear and yet dangerous enough to make me doubt. A rarity that I cannot read someone, it puts me off guard, but I admit I also like it. Tse has a way to make you feel special. Like you are the only man capable of bringing pleasure to his life. It pains me to no end that I doubt my little prince, but I am not foolish enough to think that his feelings for you were not genuine as well. I watched you two. Stood by as you engaged each other in a young romance. I was there when she slept with Seiji of the Shima, and was well-aware of her relationship with her slave guardian, Taku of the Kensuku, but none of them was like you. Whether Tse is man or woman, those feelings cannot remain hidden when you are near. That is not the question burning a hole in you though is it? If you want to know what it is like to be with a man, I could show you.” Kuro remarked.

“Don’t be…” He was about to say ridiculous when he found himself staring up at the ceiling with Kuro on top of him. He pushed against his chest, feeling his strength as he realized he was not capable of budging him so easily. Kuro’s lips were inches from his, as he turned his head away, “I want to be the one in control.” He told him and Kuro had smirked. Kuro rolled to his back as he waited for Hiko to do as he wished. At first he had been apprehensive, until his fingers reached out and trailed over his skin. Kuro’s one viable eye closed as he contained a noticeable shiver.  Hiko had told himself a hundred times over he would never with a man, he did not know why he was doing this as he rolled, positioning himself over Kuro.

He tried at first to think of him as a woman, but he was unable to see him that way. His skin was remarkable for a man, he had not expected it to be so soft, and then he wondered if it was because of his Ishi blood. He had the ability to regenerate at an alarming rate that was why he never seemed to age much. “Relax.” Kuro voiced, “You do not want to hurt yourself or me do you?” He questioned and Hiko realized he had gotten lost in his own thoughts and had begun to tense. His body felt rigid and he wondered if he was always like that. He did not understand why he was so nervous, he was never the type of man to suffer from anxiety, but he could feel it in every muscle. Kuro smirked almost knowingly which made Hiko frown, “Want me to relax you?” Kuro questioned.

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Hiko had pulled himself away from Kuro and off the bed. He was certain he had lost his mind. He kept telling himself that this was a mistake that he could not with a man. That this with Kuro just solidified the fact that he could not see Tse as a man. He had closed his eyes, lost in thought again as he felt his clothing be tugged. His eyes opened instantly and there was Kuro standing face to face with him. He could just see the one devilish eye of his and between them stood his erect cock. He swallowed, Kuro was bigger than he was. Tse had never complained about the size of his penis, but looking at Kuro somehow made him feel inadequate. It was not like he was small by any means, he was about average he supposed, but Kuro had to be at least nine inches and he did not look at all like he was completely hard.

He stared at the man that most people called a devil. He never imagined him to be human. Here, he was though, helping to remove his clothing a look of anticipation on his face. He did not stop Kuro as he slid down his body, taking his under garments with him. They pooled around his ankles as Kuro’s hands went to his hips and his mouth enveloped him. He lost it, instantly. Kuro had not expected to get a mouth full so quickly as he swallowed every drop he could and wiped his lips off as he looked up at him. He could see it, the blush on Hiko’s cheeks. The way his body was shaking, he was embarrassed. “Don’t look at me.” Hiko shouted.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Kuro did not smirk, not like he had when Tse had lost control, for some reason he wrapped his arms around Hiko tightly, resting his head against his stomach. “You Kari men are a funny sort. You bottle up all of that emotion to much I think.”

Hiko did not say anything at first as his hand moved on its own to rest on the top of Kuro’s head. “You Ishi say and do as you wish with no regard for discipline.”

“Don’t be confused Hiko, we Ishi are far more disciplined then we might appear, we just know when it is time to lose control and when it is time to keep it all in check.”

“I don’t need you to lecture me about control.”

“I would never dream of lecturing you, I am not your father.” Kuro responded and again Hiko tensed. He wondered what it was that Kuro knew of his father, but did not get a chance to ask him, “Are you going to continue to torture me?” Kuro questioned. At first Hiko was not certain what Kuro was talking about until Kuro pulled back enough to finally venture looking up at him and he noticed that Kuro was still rock hard. “It’s alright if you say no, I won’t force you to do anything you do not want too, Commander Kari.”

“I don’t think I can.” Hiko responded as he pulled himself away from Kuro. He pulled his under garments on as he moved to the other side of the room sitting down on the edge of the bed before laying down and rolling to his side. Kuro was not speaking so when he finally did take a seat on the bed, Hiko rolled to his back. He was not certain what to say. He felt bad that he had led Kuro on. For a moment he felt like Tationy and nearly asked him, if he was mad at him. He cursed himself for being so foolish. He was certain if Kuro had wanted too, he could have taken him, despite any resistance that Hiko might put up, but he never said anything the remainder of the night, not a single word about what had happened, not even about the fact that Hiko had left him hard. He simply lifted that tattered old book, leaned back on the bed and began to read as though nothing had happened between them.

To Be Continued

Author Note: This chapter actually had several other parts to it which were lost because of my computer dieing. I am very fortunate to have had this part of the chapter saved at WordPress, thus I am releasing it as is. There are things that were not covered that I will hit up in the next chapter when I get my new computer. There are just a few additional things I want to mention. First, Eri has a body type change. She was always meant to be a bigger girl, but I did not have the meshes I needed. I eventually got one of the meshes, thus her body type has changed to what it was always meant to be. Sesiago is supposed to have a scar on his chin, I forgot to add it so almost all of the pictures of him do not have the chin scar. Sorry it was an oversight on my part. Also, this is really long. As most of you know my world with all my lots got corrupted and I could no longer get into the lots. I had to rebuild mini-sets to do all of the pictures for the Kari Village, Aslann, Garvator, Retreat of the Empress, etc. The story was eventually meant to move to Shimragata and the Way-station at chapter 25. Chapters 16 to 24 were to take place at the Kari Village, Aslann, Way-station, Shimragata, Retreat of the Empress, Garvator. So I have condensed chapters 16 to 24, focusing only on the key points of the story to move it ahead in time to Shimragata to the sets that I actually have built (Hopefully, Shimragata is still backed up on my external hard drive, dear goodness, I really hope it is). This essentially covers three years from the time Mikio and Tationy left for the Lands of the Dragon Lords and covers what transpired with all of the characters during those three years, which would have been covered over chapter 16 to 24 in-depth, but as I mentioned has been condensed.

Before the start of this chapter, I have one additional note. At the beginning you will see mention of two years time. To give you some rough insight into the length of time as these events unfold (I say rough because I do not have my notes any longer), when Aslann finally falls, it is two years after Tationy and Mikio leave for Garvator. So when Sesiago tells Tationy to go to Aslann in Chapter 15 that is at the time when Aslann is under siege. So events in this chapter span from just after Tationy and Mikio leave for Garvator together, to well after Hiko returns to Shimragata from Aslann, thus the three years mentioned in the first part of my author note. I felt that there needed to be a bit of clarification, seeing I mentioned two years have passed in the beginning, but by the end of the chapter it is actually three years having passed.

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