Those that resided at the palace were restless all night. Kuro had allowed himself to get lost in that journal. Tationy had found her way to Iashi and though he was awake, he silently held on to her the whole night. Seiji had paced his floor hundreds of times over. It was no different for any of the others who would be in attendance that morning. They all eventually found their way to an oddly shaped room, where statues of four of the five gods, stood erect in alcoves, hidden by oddly shaped metal and dressed with pink roses. There was tension in all of them as they gathered.
Iashi and Tationy were the last to arrive. Kuro along with Nao, the Lord of the Shima, General Saitama, and Sadamitsu were already waiting for the two of them.
Iashi stood near Tationy a moment. He did not even need to look at her to know she was trembling. “Ahh, it will be alright.” He told her, though he was more trying to reassure himself. He had argued into the wee hours with Lord Shima about this. He had disagreed with the decision to put Tationy through it, especially by the hands of that man. He did not know everything, but he knew enough about the situation between her and him to not like the man. He was prepared to kill him and as he allowed his eyes to gaze at Lord Shima and General Saitama, he realized that he was not the only one.
Iashi reluctantly took a step forward moving toward the other men as Nao came up behind Tationy and spoke. “I need you to remove your clothing.”
She had whipped around quickly. Even though she nervously stared at him, she did not protest as he had expected her to instead she simply removed her clothing and responded, “I guess I can cross this off my bucket list.”
“Bucket list?” He questioned.
“A list of things to do before I die.” She voiced simply.
He had chuckled albeit briefly under his breath, though it had not gone unnoticed by Kuro who had not seen him laugh genuinely since he was a small child. “Is it normal to have a strange thing like this on such a list?” He questioned as he offered his hand to her and she nervously accepted.
While he led her to the center of the room she responded, “Yeah, people put all kinds of things on their list.”
“What is on yours?” He questioned.
“I don’t know you well enough to tell you that.” She voiced simply, “For that matter, even if I did, I don’t like you enough to answer.”
“I need you to sit. However, is comfortable for you is fine.” He told her ignoring her words as he moved behind her. He could easily see the faces of the men who were there to both observe and protect her. There was no doubt in Nao’s mind that if something went wrong that Kuro would not be able to protect him from these men.
Tationy took a deep breath in and tried to relax as she heard Nao begin to chant. Nao was not a chalta, but the Ishi were one of the few clans that had knowledge and skills that were similar to the chalta’s of that world. She felt like her skin was burning, particularly her arms and stomach and even when she heard a soft gasp come from one of the men watching, she kept her eyes shut. She did not want to know what they were seeing, even though she felt like her skin was being carved into. She nipped her lip as fear welled up in the back of her throat and she wanted desperately to scream out for Iashi, but she suffered through it.
When Nao had finally stopped chanting, she had continued to keep her eyes shut. “This is an esoteric seal?” Seiji questioned.
“Not just any seal.” Nao voiced as he moved around Tationy to get a better view of the seal, “It is along the arms and the womb. A mother carries her child, in her womb and with her arms.”
“What does that mean?” Kuro questioned.
“It’s a rebirth seal.”
“Like a childbearing seal?” Seiji asked.
“No, more like a butterfly. Tationy is the caterpillar, and the seal is the cocoon.”
“Ahh, what is the butterfly?” Iashi inquired.
“I don’t know.” Nao responded. “This seal is not used. I cannot even recall one account in all of our history where it has been performed.”
“This is one of the Ishi seals?” Sadamitsu asked.
“No, this seal belongs to the Sato.”
“Ahh, how is that possible there are no Sato left?” Iashi questioned.
“I am not certain.”
“What?” Tationy whispered as her eyes opened and her head turned to the left toward the statue of Kazuma. “I am not ready.”
“Ahh, Tationy.” Iashi managed to say as he rushed toward her as she stood on wobbly feet. He grabbed onto her as her body gave out and she nearly crashed to the floor.
“What is going on?” Seiji questioned as he stood quickly and went to move toward Tationy.
“She is crossing to the Land of Souls.” Nao voiced.
“You did this.” Seiji voiced angrily as he grabbed onto Nao’s collar.
Kuro spoke, “He had nothing to do with this. Tationy told me last night that she was going to see Tse soon, amongst other things.”
“What do you mean she told you last night?” Seiji questioned.
“I will explain all of that later. Right now, if you have anything you wish to say to her, you probably should say it quickly.”
Seiji rushed toward Tationy, “I am sorry this is happening to you. Please come back to us.” Seiji turned quickly away moving toward the window to look out near where Moromari was standing. Moromari did not approach her, the things he wanted to say would not help her on her journey and so he remained stoic, silently watching.
Sadamitsu stood near Nao, he also decided not to say anything. He did not know the girl long enough to do anything more than wish her well on her journey.
Kuro knelt down at her side, “I wish I had more time to prepare you. I read your journal. You asked me what I thought of it and to answer you, I think it is a good start. I will help you with it when you return.”
“Do you see it?” She asked softly. “My world?”
“I see it.” Kuro lied as he moved away from her. He was not a man that often fell prey to somber emotions, but even he felt a tug at his heart knowing that where she was going no one could follow.
Iashi did his best to keep his composure. The other men had moved toward the back of the room to give them some privacy, though they were all well in earshot. “I’m scared.” She whispered.
“Ahh, I know you are. Tell me what you see?”
“It is so bright, I see the Skyscrapers of Aslann towering over the city. It is so loud from the traffic of the cars and I can smell the exhaust from them. There is so much noise, I never thought I would see or hear it again.”
“Ahh, are you by yourself?”
“What….no not yet.” She whispered. He could tell she was talking to someone which only made him more concerned, “No, not alone.”
“Ahh, who is with you?”
“Sadoo of the Takahashi, Otoha of the Sweela, and Sohma of the Hamara.” She whispered softly, “Guardians for the Prince of Aslann. They want me to go with them. I have to go.”
“Ahh, not yet.” He held on to her tightly, “Please don’t go yet. I thought I had more time to say…”
“Just kiss me Iashi.” She whispered. He held back the emotion as he leaned in and claimed her mouth to his, until her body went limp and she was gone from the world of the living.
She had been silently watching Sadoo and Otoha shoot hoops, while sitting next to Sohma. “Why is it like this?” She questioned.
“This is how you see your world, see us. You have never accepted the fact that you will never return to this life, even now as we wait for the gates to the Land of Souls to open, you still cling to a life that does not exist for you any longer.”
“Do you think I am foolish?”
“Yes.” He responded simply. Sohma was cold and serious and even now she was reminded of back then when they were all at Mr. Nakamaru’s house. He still did not like her.
“Where are the others?”
“They still live.” He voiced.
His words brought Tationy a small amount of comfort even though that was never his intention. “Where is your prince?” She questioned.
“Waiting for us on the other side.” Sohma responded.
She brought her hands up, looking at the back of them and sighing. She was still covered in bruises and she could not help, but wonder why. Why did these things remain on her if this was how she saw herself and her world. “What happened to you, Sadoo, and Otoha? Where have you been, how did you end up here?”
“After the attack, Otoha and I escaped to the Sweela clan where we remained hidden for a time. Sadoo hid himself in the Dawlaz District until his memory returned. Eventually I left Otoha and met up with Taku. I am here because Atsuki manipulated my mind which forced Taku to kill me. I underestimated the power of our leader. Prince Tatsuya told Sadoo long ago that he would someday have to face-off against Otoha. As Otoha traveled back to Aslann to assassinate Taku for bedding the Prince by order of Chochi, he crossed paths with Sadoo. The two did battle and killed each other. They are here because Sadoo was manipulated by the Prince into taking the life of his friend.”
“I don’t understand, why did the Prince do this?”
“Those are questions you will have to ask yourself.”
“So why are you all here then?”
“This is purgatory. We are unable to move onto the afterlife, whether it be to Maltola, the resting place of the dead or Shindalgo, the place of damnation until you and the Prince have been reunited. We are linked to both of you, which prevents us from moving forward. Trapped in purgatory forever.”
Tationy stood and walked toward the swings on the other side of the park. At first Sohma did not follow, but eventually he stood and made his way to where she was. She was swinging as high as she could looking up at the sky. He simply took a seat on the swing, a melancholy expression upon his face as he pondered the situation silently. “How long do you think it will be?” Sadoo asked Sohma as he and Otoha joined the two.
“It is difficult to say.” Sohma responded.
Sadoo glanced toward Otoha who had leaned himself against the swing. In purgatory, they had a lot of time together to shoot hoops and work out, just like they did back when they were in modern Aslann. It was different though, there was a rift between them that was not mended even though they both understood why they did what they did. Sadoo smiled briefly, Tationy was so oblivious to what was going on around her even when she was right there. She did not seem to understand that the three of them were in pain and suffering. For most people the awkward silence alone might have given it away, but not that girl and there was a part of him that was grateful that she had not changed. She just continued to swing as high as she could.
Tationy’s mind had been on everything they missed out on having traveled to that time. They had missed their senior year, their prom, graduation. Part of her wanted to go back and do it all over again and purgatory must have sensed her desire because it changed to accommodate her. She looked down at herself, dressed in a prom dress and the men she was with were dressed in a variety of clothing suited for Prom. The music was loud, her favorite band, led by her favorite singer. She stepped into the room and turned to look at Sadoo, Otoha, and Sohma only to realize that they had quickly moved on. She moved toward the stage staring a moment at Saitama as he sang. He and Hero of the Takahashi could practically pass as twins. His keyboardist she was surprised to see the delicate child-like face of Suemeli and on bass, the man that she had met in the park, he called himself Miroku. She did not recognize his drummer, and wondered why purgatory would make such glaring mistakes when it came to the band of her favorite singer.
She looked to the dance floor, allowing her eyes to scan it. She caught sight of Otoha dancing with a woman that reminded her of Taku, though she was uncertain who she was.
The obvious choice for prom king found his way to the only choice for prom queen. Sadoo and Tsubaki had been popular and a couple. There were not many people who were not jealous of the two of them. Tationy had always wondered if Sadoo missed Tsubaki, she supposed the fact that he found his way to her said a lot about how he felt. She sighed, wondering if she would ever feel like that about someone or if anyone would feel that way about her.
She chuckled softly as she caught sight of Sohma. She never pictured him as the type of guy to dance, but she supposed she really knew nothing about him. At first she did not recognize the girl that he was dancing with, unable to get a clear view, but when she did she was surprised to see a much younger Eri giving the nerdy Sohma a good time on the dance floor.
In the center of the dance floor was Mai and Pai Pai. She had doubted for a while that they were truly her best friends, but here they were both looking the same as they always did.
She caught sight of a familiar face on the far side of the room. Takuya of the Waichia had a somber expression, and she could not help, but wonder why he was here. His eyes were locked on hers and she quickly looked away toward the table that was near him. She recognized the one woman as a very young Luna of the Hamara, but the other she had never seen before.
She did not understand why this prom had people she knew and did not know and when she turned to leave it she caught sight of Atsuki sitting next to the Elder of the Kari, Erobus. She recognized him even though he was decades younger. She felt unwanted emotions bubbling up inside of her as she tried to make sense of this place and this event.
Again she turned quickly to leave, but a voice stopped her this time. “Are you running away, Tationy?”
She turned around slowly to face the familiar voice. Like everything else in purgatory there was a glow of white, but yet he was cold and drained of all vibrant color. “Chochi.” He always loved how she said his name. “Are you real?”
“Do you want to find out?” He asked.
Tationy, hesitantly and more than a little nervously reached out her hand to touch his shoulder. Her breath held until her fingers trailed along the fine fabric of his shirt. She could feel his warmth, “How…how are you here, why do you feel real?”
“Because I am.” He voiced. “Your mind called to me when you were slipping into purgatory, so Takuya…” He gestured toward Takuya of the Waichia, “and Toshiro,” He gestured toward the drummer of Saitama, “Worked quickly to help me get here with you.”
“I don’t understand.”
She nervously pulled her hand away, but he reached out and grabbed it quickly. “Do you want to take a journey with me?”
“Home.” He voiced.
“This is home.”
“No, not here Tationy, our home.”
She stared at him nervously acknowledging that she would like that with a single nod of her head.
The landscape around them changed and she gasped slightly, “Why does it do this?”
“Purgatory is different for each person, this is yours. It does what you wish it to.”
“So it is like heaven?”
“No, you are the only one with free-will here, the rest are here because you wish them to be.”
She sighed as she looked around, she did not really understand any of it. “We had money?”
“Yes. We had just bought this place. The previous owner was an old man whose wife had died and he decided this big house was just too much for him. You couldn’t wait to decorate it.”
“What year is it?”
“1958.” He responded.
“How did we meet?”
“I was on tour and you came to one of my shows with your girlfriends. I had you invited backstage, slept with you, and kept you.” He voiced.
“Because I could, because I wanted to, no particular reason other than that.”
“Did you remember?”
“Yes. I watched for years as you found your way to one guardian after another, always wondering why you never gave me a second look. Even back then, during our first reincarnate all you wanted was Abe. Abe swears up and down that the two of you were never together, not until the seventies when you got married, but you were with them all and I never really understood why I was not as special as they were.”
She ran her fingers through her hair, “I don’t have an answer for you.” She voiced.
“I know,” He responded.
They retreated into the house and as they moved through each room, their clothing changed. It was as though the events themselves dictated how they looked or what they wore. She found herself standing in a bedroom, a roaring fire, Christmas tree, and she blushed when she realized she was hardly wearing anything. “This is my favorite room.” He responded.
She could not look at him at first, “Of course it is, it’s the bedroom.”
A brief smile passed over his lips, “Well seeing you like that certainly always pleased me, but that is not why this is my favorite room. It was the first one you decorated. Every little detail in this room, from the color to the flowers you made certain were perfect. You were so happy, we were happy, at least I think we were.” He voiced as he moved toward the fireplace taking a seat and she followed suit.
“We couldn’t have always been happy. Certainly we fought.”
“You wanted a baby and I told you no.”
“Didn’t you want to have children?”
“I did.” He responded, “With the Ishi and protecting you, I did not want to risk it, you weren’t happy, but you let it go.” He responded.
“No I didn’t.” She stated softly.
His attention turned toward her, “You remember?”
“Not exactly. I had a dream once. I was in a supermarket really angry at you for some reason. I met Hiko there, well a man that looked like him anyway.”
Chochi frowned and inwardly felt sick. Before he had killed her, she told him she could explain, he never gave her the chance. Now he realized why she said she could. It had nothing at all to do with Hiko, she had wanted a baby so much that she was willing to sleep with another man just to have one. “Do you remember what I did?” He asked her.
“I know what you told me.” She responded, “No, I do not remember and I don’t want to.”
“If you did, you would hate me and rightfully so.”
“I can’t hate you for something you did in another lifetime. We were all stressed and afraid, we are human beings we cannot shut off our emotions. Living a new life over and over again and repeatedly being on edge and afraid, it wears you down.”
“That is no excuse for what I did.”
“I have a lot of respect for you because you take responsibility for what you did. You own it when others would place blame elsewhere. You don’t blame it on Hiko or even the prince.”
“Why would I blame the Prince?” He questioned.
“Prince Tatsuya was a selfish, narcissistic, sociopath who manipulated and used everyone around her or him…whatever she is now. She used you and all of the other guardians, and she created me and like a puppeteer, manipulated me lifetime after lifetime. You are still in love with the prince though.”
“I am not in love with Prince Tatsuya. I am in love with you.”
“You don’t know me. You know this girl, the one that lived in this house with you. You know the other versions of me that you encountered through history. You don’t know anything about me.”
“You are wrong.” He told her.
“Show me then, Chochi.”
“You used to come here each day,” He said as purgatory changed around them. “Taku thought it was because you liked the butterflies, but the truth was you were hiding from your life. You didn’t want to go home and deal with your mother and father.”
“So, you think this means you know me?”
“Your favorite color is pink, even though you don’t consider yourself a girlie girl. You think you are terrible at piano even though you are remarkably talented at it. You love playing ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ and you always wanted someone to join you on violin. You hate how you look, every part of you. You don’t think there is any part of you that is worth looking at or any feature you like. Even though you do not consider yourself smart, you have a pretty analytical mind even though most of the time you seem irrational or unreasonable to many. You don’t like to make decisions, not because you can’t, simply because you do not want to make the wrong one. So even when you go to the store if you can’t make up your mind between cupcakes or cake you get both. You hate being confined, sometimes you even find hugs to be suffocating. You smile and go along with things because it is easier than telling people what you really want because you are afraid that person will not understand or want the same thing. You just want someone to see you for whom you are.” He paused a moment, “I always liked your hair like this. I never understood why you cut it off before the new school year.”
He had changed the topic because he knew that if he didn’t she would and she understood that was why he did it. “How did you hurt your knee?” She asked.
“Taku busted it up.”
“Just after we were all separated, the night they attacked the Nakamaru estate?”
“Yeah, how did you know?”
“I didn’t really. I was with the Ruthlbahdo and any time it would rain my knee would start hurting for no reason. I noticed that even though you are hiding it really well you, have a slight …,” She couldn’t find the word, “Your walk is different. Why did he?”
“I don’t know. I know what he told me. He felt I was a hindrance. We both agreed a long time ago that if either of us became a hindrance we would take care of the issue, but I honestly don’t know who Taku is anymore or maybe I never knew. The bruises on your body…” His voice trailed off.
“Kuro has been training me, he is not exactly the kind and gentle type. Chochi, about Prince Tatsuya, I want you to find your way to Shimragata and ask to see Kuro. Tell him, I sent you. Tell him I want him to tell you everything about the Prince and what happened.”
“I don’t need to.” Chochi responded, “I can see it here with you. You already told me everything, your mind was always so open and yet there were times that it was shut off to me. I never understood why before, but I know now. The part of you that is Prince Tatsuya can block me out, but the rest of you, never learned how.”
“You know everything?” She asked, her voice a soft whisper. “Then you saw what he did…”
“I never really understood the Kari.”
“I am pretty stupid huh?” She asked.
“No, there was something wrong with them not with you. What about this other Kari…” She could hear it in his tone even though he tried to hide it.
“It is just what it is. He is a different sort of Kari, but I don’t dream when I am with him which makes me very happy.”
“Do you love him?”
“You tell me.”
“I don’t know. That part of you is guarded. I want to know if I should move on.” He responded.
“Chochi…” She whispered his name, “You don’t know me.”
“I was with you each day, protecting you. I know you.”
“Watching me from afar does not mean you know me.”
“You’re right, but that don’t mean I don’t have feelings for you.”
“Why are we doing this?”
“I suppose the others did not tell you, the gate will not open until you resolve the conflict in your heart.”
“How long is that going to take?”
“Here, it can be days, months, years, decades, centuries.” He voiced, “Even if a single day passes within the modern world, you can live a lifetime here and never resolve your conflict.”
“You should go,” She said as she turned away from him, he could hear it in her voice. She was overcome by unwanted emotions.
“I will stay with you as long as I can.”
“No.” She whispered as she turned back to face him as the world around them changed and they were back at the prom. “I don’t want anything to happen to you and this is a battle I have to do on my own. If I am going to grow and move forward, I have to overcome my conflicts without you holding my hand, Chochi. You and the others tried to protect me for centuries and look what happened, we all died, over and over again. I want you to go to Shimragata, take the Waichia with you. Tell Takuya not to be a jerk and do it. Ask for Kuro and tell him I sent you. I will need you there when I return, promise me Chochi.”
Chochi frowned, he did not like the idea of leaving her so soon, but nodded his head, “I promise.” She was trying to not look at him and he hated that sad and scared expression on her face so he leaned in and kissed her, soft and gentle. “I will wait for you, no matter how long it takes, even if you love him.” He told her, but he gave her not a single moment to respond as he pulled his mind from purgatory, essentially disappearing before her.
Tationy moved toward the back, where a bartender was tending bar. She just wanted to sit alone and not be bothered, but a familiar voice broke her thoughts before she could even take a seat. “Can I buy you a drink? Did I say that right?”
“Considering the circumstances, just Erobus is fine.”
“Why are you here?”
“We are all here because you desired us to be. So a better question might be, why did you want me here Tationy?”
“I have to deal with my conflict right that is the point of all of this….so I guess you’re here because it is my fault…what happened to you and all. What happened to the village. Sorry just does not seem enough to make it right.”
“Baito and I knew when you arrived that you and Tadayoshi….” He laughed softly, “I suppose it is fine to just call him Hiko. We knew you were being deceptive, it is our own fault for not finding out why. We told ourselves what happened on the outside of our village did not matter and with force we realized quickly that it mattered. Isn’t that right Bóre?”
She turned her head quickly toward the bartender as he spoke, “That is right.” He was missing the white and red paint, the black tattoos upon his face that screamed that he was Saitama. He looked like a different man. She almost didn’t recognize him.
“Why are you here though, I don’t understand. I thought purgatory was like a purification, the place you go to before you go to heaven.”
“In your modern world, many believe that is what purgatory is, but in our world, the Gods designed purgatory as a place for redemption. A place for the soul to cleanse itself of its sins and to make amends to the people that they wronged or the ones that wronged them. So in a sense purification might be a proper way of seeing it, but we are here because we cannot move forward on our own journeys until we have met with you, said our peace, and you have said yours. When all of that conflict is removed, then we can move forward to the resting place of the dead or damnation wherever we are to be sent, and the gate to the Land of Souls will become open for you. Do you understand now Tationy? I don’t think I can dumb it down for you anymore than I already have.” He voiced and chuckled lightly to let her know that he was only teasing her.
“There are faces here I do not recognize though, what sin did I do against them or them me?”
“You will only know that when you have encountered everyone here. The ones just in this room, are just a small fraction of the people you have to see on your journey. It could take you lifetimes before the gate will open.”
“I don’t have lifetimes, the people in Shimragata waiting for me they don’t have that kind of time.”
“Then I guess you better start with the person before you.” Bóre responded before Erobus could.
“Don’t mind him, he is surly since he was killed by one of the Dragon Lords. His entire clan wiped from the world. None of his kin survived.”
“There are still Saitama within the world though, Moromari is alive and there are all of the others that were not part of his kin.”
“He will tell you that it is different.” Erobus responded. “We have had a lot of time to talk since arriving here.”
“So the two of you just sit around and bullshit while waiting.”
“Bull….bullshit…” He chuckled lightly, “What an odd way to put it, but yes we have been doing just that.”
“Hiko and I were wrong. He thought that we would be safe amongst the Kari. I don’t really know the particulars, he never talked about it.”
“You are not that blind are you?”
“I knew there were others protecting us, by diverting the attention of the Saitama, but I kept my mind occupied not wanting the particulars.” She voiced.
“That is part of your problem, you never want to know what is going on even when you do. You cannot continue moving about in the world ignorant to what is going on around you or pretending to not see. That only adds to the misery of those around you.”
“Who are you to judge me Erobus?” She questioned.
“I became Elder of the Kari when I was sixteen years old. When most of the trained assassins where old enough to be my father or my grandfather I was put into a position to oversee the entire village. I just wanted to enjoy it, without taking it all in. When I was forced to make tough decisions, I did just what you do, I pretended to not see what was going on around me. The hardest decision I ever made was when I outlawed any relations with the Yamada. Iashi stood before me and said ‘My blood is strong and is both Kari and Yamada, and I will not allow you to show me such disrespect, by trying to erase the influence of the Yamada on this village.’ He stayed to spite me and I ignored his pain, even when he made one bad decision after another. Even before then, I could have saved him from himself, but I made the decision not to.”
“What do you mean you could have saved him from himself?”
“His mother had died, his father was spiraling out of control, his best friend was being kept from him, and I was being pressured to erase the Yamada. I saw it that day when he left for the second to the last trial and yet I gave him no words of encouragement. I did not even give him a second look as I had Sesiago. It was easier if Sesiago completed the trials, it would make sense. A Yamada born Kazuma went against our Kari blood. So even though I could see the uncertainty on his face, I said nothing and he quit without even finishing the trial allowing Sesiago to be marked. I always regretted pretending to not notice. You noticed though didn’t you?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“I thought pushing you toward Sesiago would calm that intangible fire that seemed to be present between you and Iashi. Even though both of you completely ignored it and no one seemed to notice, I thought the smart thing to do was make you see our manufactured Kazuma, but when you thought no one was looking you would steal a look at him. I could see the envy in your heart when he was with Suemeli and I could see the same thing from Iashi when the roles were reversed. You understand that during this journey you need to decide if you want to rise to the heavens. If you decide to see Kazuma, you and the other Gods will lose your mortal-selves and forget this life.”
“What if I don’t want that?”
“If you chose a mortal life, you and the Gods will never be able to rise to heaven. You will never be reincarnated again and the world will know war like it has never seen before. Only you can make that decision though. A selfless act that will bring the Gods back to this world to save it or a selfish one which will bring war down upon it. I am going.” Erobus voiced as he got up from the chair and began to walk out as his form quickly changed.
She followed suit and stopped suddenly leaning herself against the wall, unprepared for how he looked. “What do you mean you are going?” She asked with trepidation.
“I atoned for my sin against you by telling you something no one else would. The decision to save the world or destroy it is in your hands and yours alone.” He voiced and then suddenly disappeared.
Her attention turned toward Bóre who was carefully mixing drinks. She doubted it would be so easy or simple with everyone here. He left her a little confused by some of the things he said. She did not understand how wanting a normal life was consider selfish, maybe because she was young she did not get it. She figured wanting to live would be normal of anyone, but if what he said was true her only course was to rise to the heavens to save the world. “Do you think he is right?”
“If I stay in the world of mortals that I condemn the world to war?”
“You would rise to the heavens?”
“Yes.” He voiced.
“Why are you here Bóre?”
“Obsession.” He responded.
“The Prince of Aslann seems to do that to men, but I am not her so why are you here?”
“I am here because I desired the Prince of Aslann so much that I had my people attack the Kari village to obtain you. I defied the Dragon Lords and went against their plan to make certain that I obtained what I wanted. I was told when I was a child that out of all of the pure-blood Saitama that I was one of only a handful that could think independently and that independence would destroy myself or my clan. I stand before you because any independent Saitama is as dangerous as any blade in the hands of a master swordsmen, whether they are pure-blood or half-blood they cannot be trusted.”
“Why are you saying this?”
“We each need to atone for our sins as do you, my sin against you was using my clan as a weapon to obtain you when I should have just spoken honestly from my heart. The first moment I laid my eyes on the tiny Prince of Aslann, I was her captive. I could not bear it when you left with that Kari and I truly believed that I was Kazuma’s reincarnate and that you would see my heart, but I realized after you left that I was the only one that had felt anything in that single moment and I let my weakness, my independence, bring death upon my clan all so I could obtain you. Agara said to me, ‘Which woman is it that you desire the Prince of Aslann or Tearra, you understand you cannot have them both.’ I would have easily a hundred times over chosen the Prince of Aslann, damming the world for love.”
Tationy walked around the bar and stood before him, it was the first time he looked at her completely as he turned his attention fully on her. “You just said you would rise to the heavens, but then said…”
“I know what I said.” He voiced. “The right thing to do is to rise to the heavens and as long as you were next to me, I would do that if I was Kazuma and you remembered being Tearra, but if I could have the Prince of Aslann I would gladly walk the land as a mortal forever, enduring whatever troubles befell us. It doesn’t matter though, I am just some dead Saitama whose obsession led to his demise and the demise of his kin.”
“Don’t say that, it is because of your attack that I have moved forward. If it didn’t happen…things might be very different now. You should not see it as a mistake, it is because of you….”
“Is this what you have to say to me?” He questioned. “Thank you’s over stuff I do not care about? You know what I want to know. Look at me and tell me what was in your heart, princess.”
It was the first time he had called her princess. He had always treated her that way when they were at the Retreat of the Empress. He called her princess, my lady, asked how he could please her. The memories rushed back to her. “If you had asked me to run away with you, I would have.” She responded. “I was attracted to you, loved how you looked at me, spoke to me and your kiss lit a fire within me, but your kiss was not meant for me, it was meant for the Prince of Aslann. Any relationship we would have had, would have been a lie. We would have enjoyed each other’s company for a while, but eventually the heart wants what it wants and you like Hiko would realize that I am nothing more than a fragment of the woman that has captured your heart.” She voiced as she leaned in, her hand rested on his shoulder. She allowed her lips to brush over his as his hand moved up to touch her cheek and rub it lightly. She opened her eyes and looked upon the ghostly silhouette of Bóre Saitama before he disappeared from sight.
“Well the tomboy can turn into a lovely flower when she wishes to, though that dress is hardly appropriate. A woman should keep herself covered a bit more, leave a little something to the imagination,” Luna said and Tationy had stopped walking.
Tationy had been heading to find Sadoo, but she should have known it was not going to be that easy. “You were sitting with someone earlier, where did she go?”
“I cannot say, an odd Yamada woman.”
“Yamada?” She questioned.
“Yes, but let us not talk about her. Why are you not with my grandson?” Tationy noticeably frowned as she took a seat across from Luna. “Do you not find him attractive?”
“It is not that.”
“What is it then? I hope my death was not for nothing.”
“I didn’t know…”
“Really child..” She voiced, “If you concern yourself over every little thing you are never going to find any sort of happiness.”
“You are not upset that you were killed because of me?”
Luna laughed, “Such arrogance, my death had nothing to do with you. My grandson, the one you call Sohma, wanted me to convince Chee to go along with their ridiculous plan against the Emperor. I refused, it is as simple as that.”
“Why did you refuse, you would still be alive and Chee…”
“Chee would have been killed. Sohma always had designs on the elder’s position, he felt that he was more deserving than his brother. It did not matter what I did, they were going to kill us both, either way. You and Chee simply had bad timing or good timing depending on how you wish to see it. Chee does not wish to be Hisoka, he never has. He never wanted to be elder either. My brother, Rikumaru forced the position on Chee when he was small. Sohma probably would have been the better choice, but he was just a baby then and Chee, as rebellious as he was, Rikumaru thought he could tame him. Chee is a dragon of the Hamara, they are not tamable. I know he would not wish to rise to the heavens, but he will not say as much, not to you. He promised to protect you though, did he not?”
“Yes, but I have not seen him in a long time.”
“He is closer than you might imagine.”
“Lady Hamara, if you have no sin to atone for against me, then why are you here? Did I do something against you?”
“Against me? No, not exactly. I will tell you what your sin is though because it is not one so easily seen by eyes like yours. You are a woman who acts like a man. The world is controlled by men, even if you have infinite power given to you by men, you are still nothing more than a woman to the majority of the men in the world. You need to understand that, and prepare yourself for the fact that if you remain in the mortal world you will need to hide your voice so it can only be heard amongst your kin. A woman’s voice can be strong and powerful, but men of that world are not yet ready to hear it. Do you understand?”
“I got it, don’t be myself.” She voiced obviously unhappy about Luna’s words to her.
Tationy stood and moved around the table and Luna followed suit. “Cover your eyes, Prince Tatsuya.”
Tationy had wanted to argue that she was not the Prince of Aslann, but she said nothing and brought her hand up to cover her eyes. Luna was vein and did not wish for Tationy to see her leave this world, so as the young girl had her eyes covered she faded from purgatory. Tationy had waited a few minutes, then realized the music had stopped playing so she uncovered her eyes to realize she was the only one left in the room. Sighing deeply she left the building, not certain where she was going to go, until she spotted a familiar figure standing outside.
“I find the clothing of your world to be uncomfortable.” Eri spoke softly.
Tationy chuckled, “I imagine it takes some getting use to. Did you die in the attack on the village, Eri?”
“Baito did not tell you?”
“I did not wish to return to Sesiago, so I took my own life.”
Tationy almost could not believe how casually she said it. “Why would you do that?”
“I imagine someone like you does not understand what it is like to be a woman trapped in that world. You marry because it is expected of you even if you do not love the man, sometimes even when you do not like him. You do it because it is the proper thing to do for your family because it has been requested of you by your village, and you do not wish to go against the ways of your people.”
“Then you say no.”
“Women are not allowed to say no. I fell in love with Erobus when I was sixteen years old. Just a young girl, but by that point arrangements were already being made for me to marry Sesiago. He refused many times. He did not like me because I was Maiba, but I am sure that was more his father’s influence at the time, he would not truly grow to hate the Maiba until centuries later when he and Iashi protected the Lord of the Maiba, Akizuki during the negotiations between the Prince of Aslann and the Lord of the Shima.”
“Sesiago knew that you were cheating on him.”
“I know, I never hid it from him. I wanted him to catch us. Erobus was extremely cautious, but I definitely didn’t care if we were caught. I thought if we were, he would react and leave the village so I could move forward, but he just stayed. When you arrived, I for a moment thought things might change. The only issue was your husband, who I suppose was not really your husband at all. He tried to hide how he looked at you, but he could not hide it from me. He never looked at me the way he did you, not once, not ever. He might as well have been cheating on me, seeing his eyes and mind were always on you.”
“You’re blaming me for this?”
“Yes. You could have made him love you, but you didn’t want to. You wanted that pathetic Kari, Tadayoshi…or is it Hiko? You still want him even though he does not want you and to make matters worse your Yamada blood has ruined everything.”
“I thought after I died that you and Sesiago would wed and you would protect my girls from that life. That you would protect them from being given away to some man to make babies. I watched it all fall apart. That is the great thing about purgatory, we get to see the world continue on without us. You have no idea the suffering we are all going through because of you.”
“You chose death over your children Eri, you cannot blame me for that.”
“You are right. Is it strange that I don’t care that I did? A mother is supposed to love her children and protect them and all I could think about was getting away from him and the faces that look like his. It would have been better if they had died.”
“Don’t say things like that.”
“I suppose this is the sin I need to atone for before I can move onto damnation with Erobus.”
“There is a special place there for cheaters, but we will be together so that is all that matters. I don’t expect someone like you who is incapable of love to understand that. I will tell you my sin though and the reason I am here. When the village was attacked Sesiago told me to protect the children and leave the village. It is what a Kari man would tell any woman of the Kari. Instead I followed Suemeli across the village and we hid in a small storage shed. I left my children on purpose, praying they would die. I figured if I survived what was to come and they were dead that Sesiago would not want me any longer. I knew though that when Baito came to get me that Erobus had fallen and my hopes of being reunited with him and freed of Sesiago were dashed. Why did you save them?”
“Are you seriously asking me that?”
“I want to know why a woman that comes from a selfish world like this was so willing to sacrifice her life for children that were not even hers?”
“Children should be cherished Eri. They are the most precious gift anyone could ever have. I do not understand…were you always like this?”
“He made me like this.”
“You are wrong, you made yourself this way.”
“You are telling me that if you were his wife, you would not grow to hate him?”
“How could I? He is cold and heartless, but that is just what is on the surface. You never took the time to get to know him. Each day when we were together he made me tea, except once when I made it. After we made love, he was so concerned that I was alright and his touch was gentle and filled with longing and passion. He did not hide his feelings in that moment, it was all there in his touch. He says the wrong thing, he makes mistakes he is only human, but you have to look beyond the surface if you are truly going to see him. I wish I had more time to get to know him because I am certain that he is a remarkable man, with quirks, hobbies, likes, and dislikes. I am sure that he is a man who is strong of will and heart and that who he is in public is a far cry from whom he really is if given half a chance to be loved. You did not love him, why would he have ever showed his real self to you?”
“So you are capable of love.” She whispered softly. “You know you cannot have them both.”
“Sesiago already decided, he chose to be alone then with a Yamada woman.”
“What if he changes his mind.”
“He won’t. A Kari man like him cannot be with a woman that cannot have children.”
“That is true, but women start out unable to give birth and then end their life unable to give birth. Someday, your Yamada blood will not matter because you will be old enough that you can no longer bring life into this world. He will be an old man then, if he is still alive, but there is always a chance that he may change his mind.”
Tationy frowned wondering why Eri was trying to convince her that Sesiago would decide to come back to her. She found it suspicious as she looked at the woman she both respected and admired at one point. She had thought that Eri had been happy and all put together, but truth was much harder to swallow. The women of the Kari village had their own secrets and could be far colder and harder than the men could ever. Eri did not like her. She had always thought they were friends, but the truth was in Eri’s eyes. She was only standing there with Tationy because she had to, not because she wanted to. “He will not change his mind, but I will always be there for his children.” She made certain she stressed the word his. As far as Tationy was concerned, Eri had no right to call herself their mother. She wondered why Baito allowed her to commit suicide, it seemed unlike the Kari and she suspected that perhaps it was because she was his older half-sister, but she was certain it was not just limited to that. There was plenty she wanted to ask the new Elder of the Kari.
“I don’t really care if you do or not.” She voiced as her body began to glow and change before Tationy. “What happens to them is none of my concern. The two of you will be perfect together.”
Tationy sighed noticeably, this was exhausting. The more she learned the more confused she was and she completely did not understand when Eri had become that person. Was she always like that? She wished she knew.
She had found a nice quiet spot by the water to sit. Tationy had told herself she had just wanted to be alone, but truth be told she wished a little that she had someone to talk to. She was not expecting him to find her. “No singing?”
Her head lifted as she locked eyes on the man she knew as Miroku. She did not understand why he of all people was there. “Tell me Miroku, what sin do I need to atone for against you?”
“None.” He remarked as he took a seat.
“Then why are you here?”
“That is a difficult question.”
“You were one of the few people that that helped me without wanting anything or expecting anything. I don’t understand how you managed to be here.”
If she had looked at him, even for a second she might have noticed the somber dark expression that had overtaken his features. “My father was assassinated when I was a boy and I was made Emperor of Aslann.” He began and she finally looked up quickly in surprise. She had not realized, no one had told her, not Hiko or Zen, not one person mentioned that the man she had crossed paths with was the Emperor of Aslann. She wondered if she was so self-absorbed that she truly did not pay attention to what was going on around her. “My first action as Emperor was to order Mikio to kill Rin and his son Bak. I did not understand then the weight I had burdened Mikio with, by making him kill his own father and brother. As if he was not burdened enough when my father, his twin was assassinated. I ordered my uncle who I saw as nothing more than an Ishi to kill his family to kill my family.”
“I thought Jin’s father Kenta ordered Mikio to do it.”
“Kenta did, but it was my order.”
“So Rin was your grandfather?”
“Did you know Tearra?”
“She died before I was born. I was told by my father that Ryozo was with her during her final moments, though Mikio is probably the best person to ask about her.” He turned and looked at her briefly, offering a soft smile. “I never wanted to have children. Sounds terrible doesn’t it?”
“No, there are a lot of people that do not want them. There is nothing wrong with that.”
“I was given no choice, as Emperor I needed to have an heir. The line of succession could not be broken so my wife and I did what we could. We were fortunate she got pregnant. Tatsuya was born first, a boy, but he was pale. I was not concerned for him or my queen only in the fact that my line of succession might well be broken. Then, another child was born, twins. It could not have been better and yet worse at the same time. A girl, could not believe it. The terrible things we men plot. Jin and I worked out the details and her guardians were sworn to secrecy. I had them take my son away and kill him so he would not suffer and let them pose my daughter as the Prince of Aslann. My wife was beside herself with grief and refused to tend her unless she absolutely had to.”
“Tatsuya grew to hate me, hate her, hate the whole kingdom. I was not surprised when I uncovered her plan to bring about the downfall of Aslann. My brother Hayato, suffered the fate of the cursed eyes. He told the Sosa guardian and Hiko that there would be a snake amongst the guardians, he was right.”
“You told me not trust them, especially Abe, why?”
“The leader of the guardians, Atsuki arrived to the palace shortly after your arrival there. He informed me that the Prince of Aslann had been a devilish woman and had did something so deceitful and underhanded that not even I could believe her capable. He told me that at least one of her guardians was well aware of the actions she planned to take and he believed it was the Sosa. Thus I warned you against him.”
“I am so confused.” She whispered.
“Talk to me.”
She glanced at him a moment and then sighed, she was exhausted. “Alright, but I have no idea where to even begin.”
“Let us start with the easiest thing to talk about, children. Do you plan on having any?”
“I am Yamada, I don’t know if it is even a possibility for me, but I have been thinking lately that I might like to have a son, but I don’t have a husband which is kind of a requirement in your world. In my world, not so much.”
“What about Hiko?”
“That ship sailed a long time ago. He loves your daughter and I am just not her. Sesiago does not want me because I am Yamada. Chochi swears up and down he knows me and loves me, but he does not. Iashi….” She paused a moment, but it lingered unable to find the words.
“You’re in love with him.”
“Yes.” He voiced. “Why deny it?”
“He was just someone to climb on top of. I love listening to him talk and his arms are so supportive and comfortable, but he left the Kari and I don’t really understand why. I don’t really understand any of it and then Erobus hinted that there might be a chance Iashi is Kazuma. That just puts me back in the same place I was, I don’t want him to have feelings for Tearra, I want him to have feelings for me. I think I should just give up on this love crap all together. I am so tired of it all falling apart.”
“It only falls apart if you let it.” He voiced.
“That’s your fatherly advice?”
He chuckled under his breath. “Take it one day at a time with him. Just be yourself, you will know if he cares for you or if he is just wants you because of Tearra. A smart girl like you, should be able to tell the difference.”
She sighed, “You really suck at this.”
“Well that explains why my daughter hated me enough to topple my empire.”
“It is probably to soon.” She whispered.
“He and I have known each other for a while, but our…relationship only recently started and yet I have really strong feelings for him. I am probably rushing forward to quickly, especially with all of this other crap going on. He is probably not even thinking about me.”
“You know that is not true.” He voiced. “Why do you have such a defeated personality?”
“I don’t know what you mean?”
“You seem so negative these days, not like the girl in the park in her pajamas. Back then you seemed accepting, ready, confident, and even happy. You had just as much going on then, as you do now and you seem to have become so …. you are different.” He voiced not able to find the words.
“I feel different.” She responded.
“I imagine you do.”
The two of them got quiet. It would take either of them a while before they began to talk again, “You see what happens in the world from here?”
“I cannot answer that, but I can tell you that your instincts are right.”
“He is going to kill Seiji while I am here, isn’t he?” Miroku did not respond, “Everyone keeps telling me that if I do not rise to the heavens there will be war, but if what I think about Sadamitsu is right, then war has already begun. I think everyone just uses the Gods as an excuse, maybe they need something to hold on to, something they think will make it all better, but there was no guarantee Prince Tatsuya’s manipulations would work and I would be brought here. It could have easily have gone the other way. Right?”
“It could have. People need hope, a symbol of strength and power. Something god-like that inspires them. Even a mortal can inspire the men around him. The Gods are a symbol of hope, but I don’t believe they need to rise to the heavens for people to be inspired and motivated by them. I do believe war will come one way or another, and I believe that preparations have most likely already been made to prevent the Gods from returning to the heavens. Men like Sadamitsu thrive on war and a symbol of divinity like the Gods are a hindrance to such an action.”
“I wish I could get word to them, tell them to send someone to investigate that Chantry. I should have let Chochi stay.” There was a small intake of breath as Tationy felt her body give out and her head rested to the shoulder of Miroku.
“You have exhausted yourself.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You are still alive, being here is taxing on you. This world is meant for the dead and your training was never completed. We should find someplace for you to rest.”
She nodded her head to his words as she pulled herself to a standing position. “My home is nearby, we can go there.” She responded as she led the way.
To Be Continued