Things had been different for all of them since their arrival to Thacian. There was a distance between them and uncertainty on what to do now that they were there. Of the five, there were some that adjusted far more quickly than the others, such as Moromari who took a position as a soldier with King Atherol’s guards. He was not in Thacian long, going with a small group to investigate some happening. He did not really go into detail before he left. Mikio was keeping to himself, hardly leaving his room, barely eating. Out of all of them, he was being the least sociable. Kuro took odd jobs to make ends meet. He never let on what exactly he was doing, but there was no question that he was playing hired grunt for someone that needed muscle.
Tationy just wanted the world to stop moving so quickly. It felt so rushed. If her life was a book, those reading it might have thought the same. Was there a point where it slowed? Was there a point when things settled into a routine and some semblance of normality would come to the group? She had been sitting alone at the table, drinking a cup of tea and reflecting on everything that had happened since her arrival to this world. There had never been a point more than now that she wished she was back home being yelled at by her mother for one thing or another. She pushed back, the chair scrapping against the ground as she took a breath in, resigning herself to the fact that there was no such thing as normality in this world.
Her head lifted at the sudden halt of footsteps. Iashi stood not far away from her and her breath caught in her throat. He gave her a hard stare. He had never looked at her like that before. It was a sharp reminder that he was not the man that she knew and it caused her to think back on how they all came to be in Thacian.
Hero had caught up to them as they tried to escape. Unknown to her at the time, Chochi of the Waichia, Taku of the Kensuku, Abe of the Sosa, Mikio of the Ishi, and Kin of the Kari had been assigned to protect her. Under no circumstances were they allowed to leave her side. They were forced to change course, to intercept Hero who had been closing in on them for hours. Mikio forced Tationy to travel with him as the others took it upon themselves to slow Hero. Tationy at the time was uncertain how they were fairing, until Mikio told her to continue on that he needed to turn back. She had never been very good at listening. She had tried to, but by the time she got to where the fighting was taking place, Chochi, Taku, Abe, and Kin were already gone. Mikio was struggling to stand, his body wounded. She had always been told he was probably the strongest fighter in all of Aslann, but against Hero he might as well have been a child.
She had rushed toward him quickly, “Don’t move.” She whispered.
“I told you to run.” He yelled at her.
Hero had laughed. That godawful smirk upon his face. He was enjoying himself. She was not certain what made her do it, but she lifted Mikio’s sword and stood in front of him. Hero was as surprised as she was. “I won’t allow you to harm anyone else.” She had told him. Even though her voice was filled with confidence she was trembling.
He smiled and charged her and the best she could she did what she was taught by Kuro and her guardians. He toyed with her. He laughed as he brought his sword down, unable to anticipate the attack she had nearly lost her arm. Her eyes had gone wide, her body ridged as she looked into the eyes of Mikio who had taken the full force of the attack to his back. If he had been anyone other than an Ishi, he would have died instantly. “Leave him alone.” She had yelled as she covered Mikio’s body.
“Is this the mighty Prince of Aslann? Is this the great Goddess Tearra? No, I think this is the little girl Tationy, trying to be more than what she is. You might know more than you used to, but you are still and will forever be, insignificant.” His words stung as he brought his sword up to kill her, but halted his movement mid-swing.
At the time she was not certain why he had departed the scene so rapidly. He could have easily have killed her and Mikio. “Mikio, I am going to get you out of here.” She struggled to help him to his feet, grabbing up his sword. She took a moment to look at her fallen friends, they were almost all gone. The last little bit that connected her to her old life, they were gradually falling, only Atsuki was left now. She had to fight back the unwanted emotion as she turned her head suddenly. She felt it, there were people approaching quickly. Mikio was out of it and injured so she could not rely on him for assistance and they did not have time to hide from whomever was quickly making their way toward them. She sat him down, took an defensive position in front of him, prepared to kill anyone that came through those trees.
She did not hesitate, not for a single second when the first figure emerged to the clearing and she swung, haphazardly. He had evaded, reaching out as he grabbed her hands which tightly held the hilt. She had never witnessed such an unusual movement before, “Never swing a sword with such conflict.” She heard a familiar voice say and realized she was staring at the face of Kuro. She lost it, the tension left her body and she collapsed into his arms, the sword dropping to the ground.
Tationy could see Moromari emerge from the forest and close behind him a figure she knew intimately, Iashi of the Kari. Her body could not take it and she lost consciousness. By the time she woke, they were already on a ship heading toward Thacian. Most of them were sleeping, except Kuro who sat at her side. She managed to pull herself to a seated position, but could not bring herself to look at anyone other than Iashi who was sleeping not far away. Kuro did not give her a moment to take it all in. He told her everything that happened. The information just weighed her down, more than she already was.
Now here she was standing with her eyes locked on his. That cold, hard stare that reminded her of Sesiago told her that the man that he is not the man she fell in love with. He was Kari. The man she fell in love with was nothing more than a demon of the Nakamaru, named Shiano. She could not decide if Iashi’s stare was a disapproving one or not. It did not matter, she looked away quickly and walked by him toward her room without uttering a single word.
The sound of voices eventually brought her back to reality. She had wanted to just hide in her room where it was safe and no one disturbed her, but she found often within the small homestead the voices of others carried. “Do you think you are making the right decision?” The voice was familiar, relaxed and low. When he spoke in a serious fashion his tempo became a bit more rapid, but still carried a steady pace to it. She knew it to be the voice of Mikio.
“Ahh, I have spent the majority of my life at the mercy of another. My clan is gone, my family and friends I played a part in killing. You have to understand that I have things I need to settle.”
“What about Tationy?”
“Ahh, what about her?” Iashi’s voice was so emotionless and cold.
“Do you feel nothing for her?”
“Ahh, what I feel is because of that demon. I cannot say if things would have been different if I had not been possessed by Shiano. Do not misunderstand, Ishi. I am thankful for the bright light she was during those dark years of submission I was forced in, but I cannot say anything would have come of it, had the situation been different.”
Tationy turned her back and slid down the wall as she sat on the floor by her door listening to their conversation. “Are you going to speak to her before you leave?”
“Ahh, I have nothing I wish to say. Let us not make this harder then it needs to be. It would be best if all of you departed her company. She will never learn to stand on her own if ….”
“I think it is you, who misunderstands.” She could hear it in Mikio’s tone, he was annoyed. “Ishi men are not heartless when it comes to women. I suggest you not show your face again, Iashi of the Kari. I will not hold back my words, if we are forced to encounter each other again.”
“Ahh, I understand.” Iashi voiced.
As much as she wanted to stay hidden in her room, she knew that it would become an issue. Mikio and Kuro had already addressed their concerns to each other regarding her, the last thing she wanted was for them to think she was falling apart or that they needed to protect her. She wanted to tell them all to leave. Admittedly when they had first arrived in Thacian she thought that things might actually be different. They lived together in a small little shack on the outskirts of the city for a time, but eventually Kuro had done a job for a blacksmith who had offered up his daughter’s farm. She and her husband had left Thacian several years prior and he had been spending his time off up-keeping the place. Kuro gave him all the money he had acquired. Since that day, every time he would leave for a job, he would come back with something just for her to decorate the place with. She was certain he had just been trying to keep her busy, but she looked forward to him arriving home with something new for her.
She stood near the stove kneading the bread dough for dinner. Each day she would make them meals and keep up the house. There were days she felt like Snow White taking care of the Seven Dwarfs or in her case, two Ishi, a Saitama, and a Kari. “You do not have to pretend.” She heard his voice say as she was startled from her thoughts. She should have known he was there, the oomba he smoked was far stronger than the ones Hiko smoked.
“I do not know what you mean.” She responded.
“I know you heard.”
She sighed inwardly when she realized the conversation was about Iashi. “Oh, that.” Her response was short and simple. “I thought after dinner we might go to the market.”
He frowned, she had quickly changed the topic. He knew that she did not wish to discuss it, so he let the conversation drop. “Kuro should be back soon, we can all go together.”
“Alright.” Her voice gave a hint of disappointment even though she did her best to hide it. For her she knew the end result of this night. They would talk about her and she would be left feeling like the third wheel.
Dinner had been relatively quiet which set off alarms for Kuro. The three after dinner made their way to the market. Again, the silence lingered. Tationy stopped at every vendor they passed, which gave Kuro and Mikio brief opportunities to talk though they never let their eyes drift away from her for very long. “Iashi took off.”
“You want what he said or what I got from the conversation?”
“He said that he spent too many years not in-control and that he needed to settle things. I think he just wanted to be away from Tationy.”
“I had been afraid that this might happen, though I was not expecting it so soon. So she knows?”
“Yes, she overheard us talking.”
“Well that explains her silence this evening, as usual she is not dealing with it.”
“I know we have discussed this already, but I need to say it again. She needs stability. We can’t keep moving around as we have been. When she first arrived here she was constantly on the move, when things finally settled for her they only got complicated because of men with half-hearted resolve. She spent ten years with Sesiago in that union…”
“That was no union. That was him keeping her close. He did not want her because of Iashi, but he was not going to let anyone else have her either. That man was a bastard.”
“I recall the two of you exchanged words over her often.”
“He just thought he could do as he wished with no regard for her feelings. I find myself praying each day, he does not get reincarnated.”
“You are praying?”
“I have been known to, now and again. You are right though, she needs stability. So the question is, do we want to stay here or find someplace else to settle?”
“She seems to like it here.”
“She does indeed.” Kuro voiced then turned his attention on Tationy as she arrived back to them. “Did you buy something?”
“Yes.” She responded.
“Do we get to see what it is?” He questioned.
She smiled, it was the first one he had seen that day. “Maybe later.”
The two Ishi looked at her suspiciously, but it would be Mikio who spoke first, “Is there anything else you want to do?”
“Can we stop by the lake on the way home?” She asked.
“Of course.” Kuro responded.
They sat quietly together watching the sun set. “I did not get it back then when you said, what is a man to do, when you have this face, this blood, this clan.” Her tone was serious as Kuro turned his attention on her, realizing quickly by how Mikio looked away that she was not talking to him. “I told you that true love looks beyond the physical and you told me that true love does not exist. I thought you were just being old and cynical, but you’re right. There is no such thing.” She whispered softly, “When Sesiago came to find me after he sent me away there was this child within me that thought we would live happily-ever-after, like they do in fairy tales, but I suppose the story of The Exiled Prince was never the type of story that ended happily.”
They let her talk as they silently listened. “I did not want to be with him. I was not ready. I mean….I knew when he touched me, I was not ready for everything that it entailed, but I did not stop him. I let him have me that was a mistake. I thought that if we were intimate, everything would just fall into place. It never dawned on me that my blood would be an issue. He said he sent me away to protect me from the scrutinizing eyes of his clan. That they would make me feel bad about myself and would hold me in low regard. I just thought he was trying to cast me aside. He would not be the first to be so callous. I had always been attracted to Iashi, when he showed up I naively imagined that things were finally as they were meant to be. I stopped dreaming, which was so nice to be free of those nightmares and even though there was still a lot of conflict around us all, things seemed better.”
“When I went to purgatory there was all of this stuff. I felt pushed and pulled in all sorts of different directions and I wonder now if that was the intent of the spirits there. Iashi’s mother was not trying to place us together, she was setting us up to be divided. She had to have known that Iashi was being possessed, but instead of telling me to go and find him she told me to take everyone to the Forest of the Ancients. Maybe I could have helped him. Maybe I could have done something. Now all I do is wonder why those spirits said the things they did.”
“I picked him and because I did, Sesiago would not even look at me. Do you know what it is like to spend ten years connected to someone who would not even touch you? It was excruciating. I raised his daughters, took care of his house, stood at his side as his wife, and yet I was not good enough to share his bed.” Even though there were no tears, they could hear the emotion in her voice. “I am not going to let myself be broken.” She pulled herself up from the spot she had been laying, “I am ready to go home.”
Both Kuro and Mikio understood that there were times when she just needed to talk even if they offered her nothing in return. Each word she spoke though only caused them more concern. They knew she had suffered during the twelve years since her arrival, but she kept it hidden so well that it was difficult to know just how much until she started communicating. “I should have killed him.” Kuro voiced when Tationy was out of earshot. He took a seat at the table his frustration evident. Mikio made the two of them tea as Kuro vented about Sesiago. “I told him once after he took his seat at the head of the Elder Council, that I did not like how he was treating her. He told me it was none of my business, what he did or did not do with his wife. I wanted to kill him.”
Mikio set the teapot on the table filling two cups before taking a seat and lighting up an ombaa. “I nearly took her.” His eyes were glassy, his mind elsewhere, as he talked. “That year we traveled together, I thought about it every night. When we finally arrived to Garvator, I realized she was waiting for someone. It would not have mattered at all if I had taken her because her eyes would always stare off, waiting for whomever it was to come into view. I lost control though once, ripped her clothes from her body, and nearly took her right there in that shack. I disrespected her. Asked her if her heart thought of only one and when she did not respond right away, I told her that it seemed there was more than a single man. She slapped me and I grabbed her by the wrist and forced her to her knees. She did not struggle, scream out, or fight me in any way. When she realized my intention was to have her, she finally begged me to stop. I wanted her so much I was willing to take her by force. If I was any other man, I probably would not have stopped.”
“It is the power of Tearra. Men desire her….” Kuro stopped talking when he realized that Mikio was no longer looking at him because his attention had been drawn toward the door.
His jaw went slack as his eyes focused in on what Mikio was staring so blatantly toward. “Do you like it? I got some pretty silk fabric to do the final touches. I used that material you brought me home last week, Kuro.” Neither man said anything and she blinked curiously before responding, “The two of you do not like it?” Both men had seen her naked before, but neither were prepared for the sight of her. “Will one of you say something?” When nether responded right away she began to fidget with her hands as a frown passed over her lips. “You two are making this harder for me…”
“Making what harder for you?” Mikio questioned.
She nervously looked away, nipping her lip as she considered her words. “Will the two of you sleep with me tonight?”
They were both surprised by her request, “Tationy,” Kuro began, “Don’t do something you are going to regret just because of that Kari.”
“Is that what you think I am doing?”
“He leaves and you are here asking us to sleep with you. Just because we are Ishi does not mean…”
Kuro stopped talking when Mikio put his smoke out and pushed his chair back from the table. “Alright.”
“Mikio?” Kuro did not hide the questioning look.
“Kuro, would you rather she leave here without our knowledge and ask someone else?”
Kuro inwardly frowned. The last thing he wanted was her to get herself hurt because of the state she was put in thanks to the departure of Iashi of the Kari. He hesitantly pushed back his chair as he stood and moved toward her. Stopping close, intimately close to her, he spoke, “You have no idea what you are getting yourself into.”
“I am prepared.” She told him.
He leaned down, his face inches from hers as he smirked, “Oh, you think being with an Ishi man is the same as being with Kari scum?” His fingers lightly trailed along her bare shoulder. She shivered, goosebumps traveling along her skin as he leaned in just a bit closer, “This is your last chance to change your mind.”
Hindsight is twenty-twenty they say and Tationy was certainly ill-prepared for what was to come. Ishi men were not like other men, they were capable of regenerating at high speeds. They had stamina that allowed them to continue on, even when most had no strength left in them. They were built to last. Kuro was the first to kiss her, controlled and tentative. Mikio’s kiss was deep and passionate. The differences between them were surprising. Tationy could tell that Kuro was holding back and uncertain, not giving himself over completely to the experience, while Mikio was more than willing to get lost in the debauchery.
Her senses were in overdrive, as their hands roamed all along her body. There was not a single portion of her that was left untouched or kissed. Apprehension took over when Kuro positioned himself between her legs. He was much bigger than Sesiago and Iashi, the only two men she had ever been with. He could see it written across her features and lingering in her eyes as he leaned down and kissed lightly along her ear before whispering, “Don’t worry Tationy, you can take all of me.”
This was what she wanted. A night of debauchery with the Ishi boys. She had seen them ages ago, engaging themselves in the Petal House with some nameless abula. She had always secretly wondered what these two Ishi men had done to that girl. In the past twelve years they had barely changed a bit. They were still the men that brought apprehension to her heart and yet she constantly relied upon. She never imagined when Atsuki told them the story of The Exiled Prince and how the Ishi were responsible in killing the prince and guardians that she would ever in her life have been close to any of them. Here, she was with Mikio laying beneath her and Kuro on-top of her, penetrating and pleasuring her. She had jumped noticeably when Mikio had pressed against her bottom, a soft whimper passed over her lips which were quickly muffled by Kuro’s mouth on hers. “You wanted this.” He whispered to her between kisses. His words were not malicious or menacing, they were reassuring that this was the decision she had made of her own freewill and that they were simply accommodating her wishes.
She could not really tell them no now, well she probably could. She was certain that if she did they would both stop, but she wanted this. She made the decision to ask them. She wanted to know what it was like to be with someone without any expectations. There was no guessing or wondering what they were thinking or planning. She did not have to worry if they wanted her or expected her to be a certain way. She was how she was and they were excepting her. Her mind felt like jello and through the lust covered fog that overtook her she could hear her own voice begging them to not stop.
The great thing about working as a hired grunt for someone is that now and again you could take days off and no one would say boo about it. Kuro and Mikio kept her in that bed for three days, not relenting a single bit. There were moments her body had given out to exhaustion and the two Ishi men would rouse her from her sleep in unique and pleasurable ways. Truly there was little reason for them to stop, other than the fact that eventually her body simply could not take anymore. Kuro’s eyes opened suddenly when he felt the bed move, “Mikio where are you going?”
Mikio looked over his shoulder briefly as he sat on the edge of the bed, “Get a smoke and finish working on those salves I have been making.”
“Why are you really leaving?” Kuro asked knowingly.
“So the two of you can be alone.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, she will want you here.”
Mikio briefly chuckled, “She might, but you don’t. We do not have to pretend to like each other Kuro, just because she is around.”
Kuro sighed, as much as Tationy had unresolved issues Kuro and Mikio had their own. They were brothers, born to the same father, but different mothers. Kuro was older than Mikio and should have been the prodigal son, but to their father Rin he could never do anything right. Mikio in the eyes of Rin was the superior of the two children. It was impossible to compete with Mikio, he was a genius who excelled at all forms of weaponry and by the time he was sixteen years old he was the strongest fighter in all of Aslann. Even their own clan looked at Mikio and saw him as the epitome of the two Sons of Rin. Kuro opened his mouth to argue, but he was stunned silent as Tationy rolled over and cuddled into him.
Mikio’s words were cold and yet somehow Kuro could feel the emotional response behind them, “Seems there is one thing that you are better than me at.”
Kuro had gone to argue, but Mikio had already departed the room. He sighed as he tightened his hold on Tationy. “Kuro, I am cold.” She whispered. He reluctantly pulled himself away from her, sitting on the edge of the bed before standing. He turned to see her sitting there with sleepy eyes staring up at him. “Where is Mikio?”
“Oh, is he mad at me?” She questioned.
“No, he had things to do.” He responded offering his hand to her. He waited for her to take it, helping her off the bed. He was going to pull back the covers, but he stopped suddenly when he noticed how she was looking at him, “Why are you staring at me like that?”
He squinted his eyes at her, “For?”
“It has been three days.”
“Three days?” She asked the surprise clearly etched across her features. She looked to the floor and then quickly up to his eyes having gotten a good look at him, still erect and ready to go. “You’re still…”
“Mikio and I could have continued on, but …”
“Oh I see, I was holding you back.
“That is not what I said. You did really well. I am impressed actually that you are capable of standing right now, must be your Yamada blood or maybe the fact that you are a descended from the Ishi through Soti.” He responded as he took a lock of her hair and intently stared at it as he manipulated it through is fingers.
“Maybe I just liked it that much.”
His eyes focused in on hers, “Oh, you want to ride me again?”
She nervously nodded her head as he leaned in quickly and claimed her lips. His kiss was different than it was the first time he placed his mouth on hers. Gone was the tentative and controlled kiss, this one was open and excited. He was anticipating. She wondered what had changed and wanted to ask him, but was afraid she might offend him with such a question. Had she considered it for a moment she might have realized that the difference between then and now was that Mikio was gone. He was no longer competing with his brother for the affection of this woman. Even if it was just for one night or three, she belonged to him. During the past ten years while they lived in the Forest of the Ancients, he had only taken a handful of lovers. Meaningless relationships just to fulfill a need, most of the women he did not even like. Much like Tationy and Iashi, Kuro and Hiko never really resolved anything. It was not that he had been interested in the man, he was a toy that kept him humored during their travels, but it was because of him that he realized that he was tired of meaningless relationships.
Truthfully, he was probably like every other man from Aslann, hopelessly obsessed with the Prince of Aslann. He was not making love to Tse though, he was having sex with Tationy there was a big difference in his opinion. Tationy lacked the confidence that Tse had and even though she had the memories of Tse, she had purposely went out of her way to avoid any sort of confrontation with her past, especially past lovers. He took it easy on her, certain that she was not entirely prepared to go another three days even though he was more than willing, he knew that tomorrow he had to go back to work, but for the rest of the night he was going to enjoy her company.
“Kuro,” She whispered his name.
“Hmmm?” He managed to respond as he stifled a yawn and opened his one visible eye for a moment.
“What is wrong?”
“Nothing.” She responded changing her mind about speaking to him.
She brought her hand out from under the covers, running it lightly over his injured eye. “Why don’t you take this off?”
He grabbed her hand, “Nothing is gained by removing it.”
“Do you ever take it off?”
“You woke me up to talk about this?”
“You do not have to if you do not want to.”
His sigh was one of annoyance. “No I do not take it off. Mikio did it. Rin had me train him and when he was sixteen he bested me in combat. Our father said that Mikio should leave a mark upon me to show my weakness. Something everyone would see. I cannot really blame him, I would have done the same thing. To elevate him as the superior of the two Sons of Rin, he swung his sword with such precision and sliced just enough of my eye to make it unusable.”
“You removed it when you were with Tse.”
He took a breath in, he wondered how long it would be before Tse came into the conversation. “Like I told you, nothing is gained…” She was pouting, though he was certain that was not her intention. “It is a sharp reminder that I am vulnerable like any other man. Tationy you have to stop talking about things like these. Men don’t like to show weakness, especially in-front of their woman.”
“I am your woman now?” She asked.
“That is not what I meant. I am just saying you have a bad tendency of attacking a man’s pride. It will get you into trouble if you are not careful. There are things men don’t want talked about…”
“How am I suppose to know these things if no one ever talks about them to me. All of you still act like I am just suppose to know these things and understand them, but just because I have the Prince of Aslann’s memories does not mean I understand any of it.”
“Go to sleep.” He told her, not giving her any opportunity to argue with him, he rolled away from her. It was a topic that did not matter and he was completely done with the conversation.
Her eyes opened to the sound of the birds chirping incessantly outside the window. She yawned and stretched, coming back to life as she glanced around Kuro’s bedroom. They had gone to his room, when their escape in debauchery began and she noticed instantly that he was no longer laying next to her. She had went to sleep with unsettled feelings, she could not say how he felt about it all. As she scanned the room quickly she noticed a letter sitting on the bed, with a bird made out of dark rose paper. She smiled as she looked at the oddly shaped bird before lifting the letter which was addressed to her. She pulled it from the envelope, looking it over as she did. The handwriting was small, block print, with minimal spacing between each word, and no slanting.
She remembered reading a book once that said it could identify what type of person you were by your handwriting. The fact that there were no slanted letters said that the writer was logical and practical. That his or her emotions were guarded. The small letters represented that he or she was focused and could concentrate easily, but generally tended to be introspective and shy. The closed loops said that this person was restricting themselves in someway and that he or she tended to be skeptical and unswayed by emotional arguments. The letter had open-ended lettering at the bottom which said that the heart was not followed, yet the printed letters indicated that the person that wrote it was versatile. She wished she could recall everything that book said as she held the letter in her hand and began to read it.
I was rather abrupt with you last night.
You have to understand that you cannot simply probe into someones life the way you do.
There are certain behaviors that are simply inappropriate.
I know what you are thinking.
I am hardly the type of person that should be speaking about what is appropriate or inappropriate.
That is not why I am writing this.
I did not want you waking up and thinking that I just left without saying anything.
I have to work, it is as simple as that, so please do not read into me not being there when you awaken.
I want you to keep an eye on Mikio while I am gone.
He will not admit it, but he is still suffering from his injuries.
I swear when I get my hands on Hero of the Takahashi I am going to kill that son of a bitch.
I apologize, I did not mean to write that.
While I am gone, work with Mikio. I want you to continue your training.
Do not give him attitude.
I should be back in a few days, depending on the job I am given.
Tationy, avoid the market unless you are with Mikio.
We cannot be certain what has become of Hero, but I imagine he is not far away.
Stay away from the sweets. I know you like them and when you get down on yourself you start sneaking them when you think no one is looking.
I promise I will be back in a few days and will bring you something.
Maybe Moromari will be back from wherever he has gone off to and we can talk about our future. You should think on it, if you want to stay here in Thacian we will. The decision is yours.
With Kuro gone it was always rather lonely. Iashi had left, not that he had been that sociable to begin with and Moromari was always working which often left Tationy alone with Mikio. He had fallen in battle against Hero, it was a blow to his ego, though Tationy did not really understand it. For Mikio he was always used to being the strongest, there had been so few men that could stand against him in battle and those that could, left scars on him so deep that his mind never really recovered. Sometimes it was difficult to keep track of how many days, weeks, and even months had past. Time seemed to go so slowly with Kuro gone. She often spent time in her room simply rereading his letter over and over again. “We should go and train.” Mikio spoke up and she awkwardly fumbled pulling herself away from the letter. Mikio’s eyes shifted to the small paper bird sitting on the bed, he had seen it several times since Kuro’s departure though he suspected that Tationy had no understanding of its significance.
Tationy stood adjusting her clothing, “Alright.” She and Mikio had not discussed what had transpired between the three of them. He had simply went about his business as though it had never happened. If she was honest with herself, she was a little upset by the fact that he seemed to ignore the fact that they had been intimate, not that she was interested in him for boyfriend material, but the selfish part of her wanted him to at least pretend like it meant something. Flirt with her and ask to go another round. Brush his hand against her now and again to let her know that he was interested. He always kept his distance, only when they were training did he ever touch her and that was not exactly the most intimate of moments.
Instead of going to their usual training spot, they walked. The silence was almost to much for her as he stopped near the lake, looking out over the water. “What do you want to do?”
“What do you mean?”
“You understand that our enemies are still out there. You also have to understand that eventually Ryozo, Hisoka, and Kazuma will be reincarnated. When they are, will you rise to the heavens as Tearra…”
“I think it is a bit late for that.” She responded cutting him off. “I got the memories of the Prince of Aslann, but Tearra is still something I am unable to touch. I wish I understood why she did what she did, but that and my life through the years is simply not there. There is still a part of me that is missing, which is perhaps why I am unable to mourn over the loss of so many people dear to me…”
“That is the princes influence.” Mikio responded.
“I thought it was at first, but when I think about Hiko there is nothing. She loved him so much and yet I am unable to mourn him. I think I am simply incapable of feeling anything.”
“Do I?” She asked.
He ignored the question, “Do you wish to stay in Thacian?”
“I like it here, but if I am honest with myself I feel a pull to be elsewhere.”
He frowned, “Kazuma is calling you?”
“What would you do, Mikio?” She questioned, though Mikio never responded. She noticed that Mikio’s eyes were focused and she turned her attention in the direction he was looking and there silently walking with a woman at his side was Iashi. She swallowed the lump that formed in her throat, as she tried to make sense of what she was seeing. “Iashi….” She said his name.
The woman he had been strolling around the lake with spoke, “You know her?” She had big eyes, beautiful dark hair and freckles and Tationy felt a little envious that she was standing at Iashi’s side.
“Ahh, Asina this is Tationy Tylo and Mikio Ishi. I journeyed to Thacian with them.”
“Oh it is so nice to finally meet you. Iashi has been rather tight-lipped about his companions, I was starting to wonder if you all really existed.”
Tationy wanted to hate her. “It is very nice to meet you.” It was strained, she had to force herself to hide the pain at seeing him with another woman. She knew deep down he was not the man she fell in love with. That man was trapped, sealed away inside the eye of Moromari. This man was a stranger, but that did not take the pain and jealousy away. She had hoped he would come around, find his way back to her, but here he was standing next to another woman and Tationy could see it in her eyes. She loved him.
Whatever Tationy was forcing herself not to feel, Asina did not seem to notice. “We are scouting locations, Iashi has asked me to marry him. He said he always loved this spot….Are you alright?” She asked Tationy, who suddenly went pale.
Mikio could have easily have responded with who knows like he normally would, but instead he grabbed her hand. “She is just surprised. Tationy was friends with Iashi’s wife, they were close. It is hard for her to see Iashi with someone else, though it is nothing against you.”
“Oh, I can understand. Iashi has talked a great deal about Suemeli. I apologize, I truly did not know.” Mikio felt Tationy’s hand squeeze his. It was not enough that the two of them were getting married, he had talked to her about private details of his life. Sure Tationy knew little things here and there, but they had never really had the chance to get to know each other. “How long have the two of you been together?” Her question confused Tationy, not thinking for a moment that Mikio holding her hand tightly might be taken for something.
Mikio responded before she could say anything, “We are not together. Tationy belongs to my brother.”
“Oh, I just assumed….”
“Ahh, Asina it is best to not try and understand the ways of the Ishi.”
Mikio smirked, “A Kari dog has no place to speak.”
Asina nervously looked between the two men. “Ahh, Asina I think it is time we leave, this place feels tainted.”
He had turned quickly and began to walk away, leaving Asina there a moment without him, “I am not sure what just happened, but I apologize for Iashi, he is just stressed over our nuptials.”
Mikio let Tationy’s hand go and turned away, prepared to begin walking. “Congratulations.” It was the only thing she could manage to bring herself to say to Asina as she turned and let Mikio know that she was ready to go home.
“It was nice meeting you.” Asina hollered though received no response from either.
A man enters a small homestead that once belonged to the Elder of the Waichia speaking as he moves toward an office, “The power here is just as the King’s enchanter said it would be.” The man had stopped suddenly tilting his head as he questioned, “What are you reading?”
“A journal, written by a girl who was preparing to escape the nation with others.”
“So there were people who survived this massacre?”
“According to this journal, yes, but that certainly does not mean they actually survived.”
“These lands were seized by the Maiba nation. Barbarians who fight like dogs. Those bodies hanging out there took a lot of damage, this nation put up a fight, but dogs are dogs especially when they are in packs. They were easily overwhelmed by sheer numbers, if any escaped, they would have gone south, toward the sea. If they managed to find a boat, they are most likely within our lands by now.”
“It does not matter, refugees from the wars caused by these savages happen so often it is difficult to keep track. Let us finish our work here, gather what we were sent here for and then destroy these lands so its power can never be obtained.” He voiced as he stood from behind the desk, closing the journal quickly, before tucking it into his armor. The man that had joined him cocked his head, an all-knowing smirk upon his lips, though he offered no words to the fact his companion had kept the journal.
The two men moved outside, stopping suddenly. “It has not stopped raining since we got here.” The man with the shorter hair paused a moment, before speaking to a soldier that had been waiting outside, “Hey you, recruit….what’s your name?”
“Moromari Saitama, sir.” The man with the longer hair recognized the name from the journal, but covered any sign of that knowledge with a stone-cold expression.
“Hmmm, we will just have to call you rookie.” The man said with a smirk, “So rookie, tell me what do you think happened here?”
Moromari made an unreadable expression, “Death finally caught up to them.”
It was a cold response, which caused the man with the longer hair to cock his head to the side. “Show some respect for the fallen, rookie.”
“You misunderstand Captain, it is not with disrespect I speak such words. It is because of respect that I do. A true warrior battles not against an enemy, but against death itself.”
“Oh, that is a good answer.” The man with the shorter hair remarked with a smile. “Our Maker certainly would like that response.”
Moromari averted his eyes a moment, it was brief and the untrained eye might not have noticed, but both men before him did. “Are you a heathen rookie?” The man with the longer hair questioned.
“In your eyes, perhaps, Captain. Where I come from, a single god is a novelty. No disrespect intended.”
“Oh, I did hear rumors that you came from these parts. You are one of these savages.” The man with the short hair once again spoke.
“No sir, I am not one of these savages.”
He smiled at the response as he stepped forward, “Declan, take this rookie and walk him through how we do things.”
“Yes, Lieutenant.” Declan responded.
The two walked for some time, silently. Now and again Declan would stop and direct other soldiers, but he himself did not say anything to Moromari. Eventually, they stopped taking shelter under some trees. Moromari took the opportunity to pull a cloth from his belt, he ran it over his hair quickly, before tucking it back in place. “It is going to be difficult to keep the fact that you dye your hair from the Lieutenant and our Captain. Want to talk to me about why?”
“I wanted to blend in.” He responded simply, “My natural hair color would stand out in Thacian. I am seen as a savage enough, I do not need to give people any further reasons to consider me such.”
“I see. Well you are new here so I will tell it to you straight. Don’t keep secrets form the Lieutenant or the Captain. If trouble happens because you kept a secret, you might as well kill yourself.”
“Good, well as you might have heard I am Declan. You might have noticed we have a strict policy of using only family names. You will get to know everyone overtime, but the two most important people are Captain Kane and Lieutenant Ravi. The rest of us are just grunts that work for them. They answer to King Atherol, though during some rare instances they might also answer the call of the king’s enchanter, Kisho. All you need to know is we work for the king. If he tells you to jump, you do it. Do you have a family?”
Declan noticed how Moromari pondered his question, “If you take to long to answer, the Captain will most certainly assume you are coming up with a lie.”
“It is not that. I would just rather not speak about them.”
“That is a good enough answer for me. Keep it to yourself. We have a duty to the King, what happens when we are out of uniform is our own business as long as it does not go against our lord. Keep your hair short. If you prefer it long, do not allow it to go past your ears. Beards are generally allowed, neat and trimmed. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, Lieutenant Ravi especially likes those that are vocal. However, be cautious with your words around Captain Kane, he is strict and is not above disciplining you if he feels your response is out of line.”
“Only on the rare occasion do we take missions like these. The king’s enchanter, Kisho told our lord that across the sea was a small nation that contained power that was dangerous. The kind of dangerous that changes the world. You may have noticed we have several officials from the chantry with us. They specialize in finding these powers, containing or in some instances, destroying it. Much of this place has already been ransacked, there is not much we can do about savages taking items after their victorious battle, but we can ensure that whatever remains does not fall into the wrong hands. We have operatives this side of the water, keeping track of the movements of the various armies and making note of anything that might be too dangerous in the wrong hands.”
“So we do not bring these items back?”
“No, it is extremely rare that we are asked to recover anything from this side of the water. Usually if we are sent here, it is to destroy something. How long have you been with the guard?”
“Just a few months.” Moromari responded. He never gave more information than he needed to.
“Well you will learn all of this rather quickly. Normally our duty is pretty mundane. Protect the King, protect Thacian, protect its people, occasionally jump when told. Right now, you and I are going to get back to work. You are just going to be my shadow for a time. Normally your training would take place in the city, but we needed every able-bodied we have for this assignment.”
When Moromari finally arrived back from his journey to their former home, he quickly made his way to his ‘family’. It did not take him long to realize that Iashi and Kuro were both gone. Mikio was at his workspace, working on what he could not be certain and he found Tationy in the kitchen. There was something wrong, he could tell just by looking at her. He wondered if she truly understood the pain that lingered around her. He was certain he was not the only man to notice. “What happened?” He asked, breaking the silence that had allowed her to get lost in her own thoughts so thoroughly.
“Nothing.” She lied, managing a meek smile.
He did not believe her deception for a moment. “Tationy…”
“Are you staying or will you be taking off?”
There was something in her tone, but it was more in her question that his own was answered. Someone had left, someone had abandoned her. He was certain he knew who it was without even asking the question, so he did not bother. He had suspected that Iashi was going to leave. He had exchanged words with him several times regarding Shiano and the weakness of a man like him to be overtaken by a Nakamaru demon.
Knowing that he left caused him guilt of his own because he himself had been considering departing. He unlike Iashi would not lie to himself. He was considering leaving because of her. He had been attracted to her, more so then he had ever imagined possible. She was not thin or perfect. She had a round face with eyes that were wide and sad. Her lips were always in some sort of pout or frown, which might make her seem like she was always unhappy, but that was just how they were shaped. She had an unusual nose that curved and bent, yet was small and wide. It was certainly not the nose of the Ishi, Tylo, Yamada, or even Saitama that she was descended from. She had many of the traits that would scream out that she was Shima, though no one ever suspected she was. The longer he was with her, the more he saw it. The little details that told of her blood.
She always managed to express much with how she dressed. She never confined herself to what people thought she should wear or even what was the most appropriate for place and time. Even when she was in trousers she managed to be feminine. Strapped to her back was Kuro’s sword. After their arrival to Thacian, he had given it to her. That was the point he had stepped back and decided not to pursue anything with her. Even though Kuro had told Shiano that Moromari’s body was the better choice to possess, the truth was, Kuro was in love with her.
Moromari knew the exact moment it happened. During those ten years, Kuro had continued training her, despite massive protest from Sesiago. In fact, Kuro had gone out of his way often to defy the man, but it was the little things he did that were passed off as nothing by everyone else. He always remembered her birthday and would take her someplace when they were supposed to be training. Kuro often set up picnics for the two of them, reading from the works of Kita, and listening to her talk about her life. Then, she would come to him and Moromari would listen to each story as she talked about her time with Kuro. She was so oblivious. She would always say things about being grateful she had Kuro, but she never once considered for a moment that he was in love with her. Moromari never dared bring it up, she was happy not knowing and he was certain that Kuro would simply deny it anyway.
“I have been thinking about leaving, getting my own place.” He finally answered her though the lack of surprise on her face told him, she already knew. “I am in love with you.” He spoke honestly. “I know you know the depths of my feelings. I won’t lie to you, the reason I consider leaving is because of you. You are dear to me and I don’t want to ruin what we have, by saying or doing the wrong thing. I have Shiano within me and I don’t…”
“I get it.” She told him. “I loved a demon of the Nakamaru which has been sealed within you. There is already a wall building between us because of it and you don’t want your feelings to further complicate things. I am not a little girl anymore Moromari, you can talk to me like I am a woman who is going to be thirty in a few months.”
“You are right. I am the man that has taken your love from you. I don’t expect you to forgive me for that and I feel so guilty looking at you knowing that I did it for purely selfish reasons. I am sure Kuro could have reached him, convinced him to go against Atsuki and you would have your Iashi of the Kari, but I did not do that. I sealed him away taking your happiness from you. I don’t deserve you.” He brought his hand to his chest, “My lady, please understand that your servant will forever be there to protect you. I will forever be a soldier giving his life for his queen, but I am still a man. My shame is that I forgot what was most important in this world, protecting the Lady of the Shima. I will leave you in the capable hands of the Ishi, they will not fail you.”
She hid any emotional response she might have wanted to convey. He tried desperately to find it in her eyes, did she even care he was leaving. If she had, she covered it so well he could not see it. “Safe journey, Moromari.” She told him as she left the room.
Moromari found his way to Mikio’s room, where he was in the small section Mikio used as a workspace. He stood near the bookcase, silently watching him. “Did you finally tell her?”
“I told her.”
“So when are you leaving?”
“You and Iashi have terrible timing.”
“I apologize, I know that it leaves a heavy burden upon you and Kuro…”
Mikio interrupted him, “Don’t worry about the Sons of Rin, we do not suffer from weak resolve.”
“I do not wish to turn this into an argument, Mikio. I just feel it is better that she and I are apart. Besides, it will be better if I can stay close to the investigation. The Knights of Thacian were sent to the Forest of the Ancients. One of the higher ups, a man called Declan told me that they were not taking anything, but that was not true. I witnessed members of the chantry packing various items. I suspect that the information I managed to take from Shiano as I sealed him away is accurate. The Nakamaru clan has a foothold here in Thacian and we will most likely be seeing them soon.”
“Make up excuses all you want.” Mikio responded. “You could remain here and still investigate that. You are looking for a way out, a way to appease your guilt-ridden heart.”
“You are right. I will not deny that my reasons for leaving are purely selfish. I will always protect her with the last breath in my body, but I cannot suffer being a fool to these emotions any longer. I have never been the type of man to do something for purely selfish reasons, but all that changed when I sealed him. I am not the man I was. None of us are. Maybe she changed us or maybe the time and situation did, but I do not wish to continue being a fool held hostage by my feelings.”
The silence overtook the room, though not for long. Much as it was everyplace in the house, voices carried.
Listen, I am alone at a crossroads
I’m not at home in my own home
And I’ve tried and tried to say what’s on mind
You should have known
Moromari’s head bowed as Tationy’s voice carried through the house as she sang. It was not an uncommon thing, she was always singing one song or another. Perhaps it was her way to hold on to her old life.
“You should leave.”
Mikio’s voice caught his attention and when he finally lifted his head to look into the man’s eyes he could see it. It was not a suggestion or a request, he was being told to leave. There was pressure in Moromari’s chest as their locked eyes stared each other down. He could only imagine what it would be like facing this man in battle. He wondered briefly if Hero had felt any trepidation at all. Moromari knew one thing for certain, he did not wish to ever face this man on any battlefield. He doubted that there were many that could stand against him and much like Chochi of the Waichia it would take the might of several armies to stop him. It made him understand his own weakness better. If Hero could take out such a formidable fighter, then he would certainly be nothing. He hated facing his own weakness.
Since he had met Tationy, he had often found himself looking into the dark depths of insecurity and uncertainty. He could not help, but to wonder if he was always so weak. He gathered himself quickly, “You are right. I no longer should be here. Please take care of her for me.” He responded as he exited Mikio’s room. He gave himself only a few minutes to gather the few things he had, before leaving the small homestead behind. Even though he nearly stopped himself, he continued forward, not looking back.
It was getting dark as he traveled toward the barracks that housed the Knights of Thacian. He had made many mistakes within the last ten years. He stopped walking and sighed inwardly, closing his eyes as he tilted his head toward the night sky. “I am sorry.” He whispered as he moved to take a step forward, but felt a burning sensation at his backside. His body would not move as the burning increased until a sharp intense pressure built at a spot on his stomach. He looked down, seeing the sword point thrust through him, as blood dripped from the wound. He tried to look over his shoulder to see his attacker, but that laugh told him who it was, it was Hero of the Takahashi.
To Be Continued