Prologue: The Shima Clan

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The Elder of the Shima had plenty of time to consider the events over the course of the past few days. Whether or not he had deduced properly on what would or would not happen, in the months that followed he could not say. The heaviness that surrounded the nation did not seem to lessen as time passed by. This was both a good and a bad thing from his perspective. It meant that people were thoroughly considering the events, but also meant that the impact had been too great to move past with ease. Such events were difficult to move past even in the mildest of circumstances.

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Haruo purposely made noise to let the Elder of the Shima know he was standing at the door to his office. “Elder Shima, dinner will be done shortly.”

“Thank you Haruo.” Seiji, the Elder of the Shima found that there was silence that lingered much to often these past few days. “Do you have something on your mind?”

“The Maiba involved…”

“Tenzo and Denzo you are referring?”

“Yes Elder.”

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Seiji sat upon the floor his back against the bookcase. He did not need Haruo to explain. While Haruo was born of the Shima he was also of the Maiba. His mother, Eri of the Maiba, died during childbirth, thus he had been raised among the Shima. The Maiba known as Denzo and Tenzo whom were a part of unit twenty-three were his half-brothers. “I understand the loss you feel.” The Elder finally spoke, “While Yayoi and I were of the same clan we were not brothers. That does not mean I did not think of him as one. The loss I feel without him here is greater than I imagined. You are not the only one burdened by these unwanted feelings Haruo. Know that your clan is here for you and that we understand the loss that has settled within your heart.”

“Thank you Elder Shima.”

Seiji’s words must have brought some comfort to Haruo as he turned to depart, but was quickly stopped. “My bookcase seems to be emptier then it was when I left three days ago.”

Watching as Haruo turned he read his expression, “Tationy has been coming into your office and taking books. Forgive me for not stopping her.”

Waving his hand a moment as he rested his head back against the bookcase. “There is no need to stop her. Let her read all she wishes. She loves to learn and should be allowed to do so, don’t you agree?”

The quiet consideration that took a hold of Haruo was noticeable to the Elder of the Shima. “I would not begrudge her the ability to gain knowledge. However, she seems to have no moral compass. I worry that she might take something to far in that pursuit.”

“You believe she is a danger, Haruo?”

“I understand why you took her in Elder Shima. It does not change the fact that her blood is dangerous.”

“It is valuable as much as it is dangerous Haruo. The Emperor, despite handing down a decree to kill the entire clan and anyone closely associated with them, understood the value of being the last of one’s bloodline. Killing her, was what he wished, but going against her blood even if she was not recognized by them was not something he was willing to do. The sacrifice for him was too great. Making enemies out of the Ishi and the Waichia whom absorbed the Saitama was a risk that Emperor Sóme Kensuku simply could not afford to take. I was the only one willing to volunteer to care for her. Her cursed eyes keep everyone at arm’s-length. You are right to be concerned Haruo, but her danger is overshadowed by her value. I have a feeling she is going to make an impact on this world, the likes we have not seen since her grandfather.”

“I have to ask, at what cost?”

Seiji glanced up, searching the face of Haruo. At that moment he could have offered him some words of encouragement that Tationy was not the ‘demon child’ that the nation had deemed her, but the truth was far more complex. “I am going to get some work done, please make sure that Tationy is home for dinner.” Seiji kept his eyes fixed on Haruo, noticing the brief nod of his head, before he departed.

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Seiji was frustrated with himself and he was certain that Haruo, a perceptive man, noticed that there was more to him taking Tationy Tylo in then even he was willing to admit. “Are you okay with ending it on that note?” A voice broke through his reverie.

“How long were you listening?”

“Long enough to know that you are still not being honest with your clan or yourself.”

Seiji sighed running his hand over his face. The man that had so directly questioned him had moved toward a small table which had contained the pieces for Bagola, a game similar in nature to Chess and Shogi. Its pieces include the Emperor that you are to protect, with the prince being the most powerful piece. Guardian pieces protect the Emperor which are made up of many different kinds of warriors including soldiers, assassins, and Generals as well as two pieces on the board that are the advisers. It was said to be a game meant to take hours with two brilliant minds battling each other.

Rather awkwardly Seiji watched the Elder of the Kari position himself at the table. It always ended up like this when something terrible happened in the nation. It was not as though the two of them were friends, their connection was one deeper and more meaningful, at least to some. Though they never addressed each other as such, the two were bound by blood as brothers. Seiji found his spot opposite of Sesiago, his hands clasped together in his lap as the two delve into an intense match. Perhaps it was the heaviness of the question that Sesiago had posed, but Seiji’s concentration was broken. “Nothing is gained by telling anyone she is my daughter.”

“Do you think this is what Chilè would want?”

“She is dead.” Even after he said the words he wished he could take them back. Chilè was the daughter of Miroku Tylo and a Yamada woman named Miso. Miroku the son of Soti and a Saitama witch named Suemeli. Soti the son of Tearra and an Ishi, though which Ishi was anyone’s guess. His relationship with Chilè had been a mistake, one that he was grateful for and regretted. They had kept their union a secret from everyone. Her clan would never have accepted him as her mate; having been sworn enemies for as far back as history dictated. The fact that they had even looked at each other in a longing fashion was reason enough for them both to be banished from their clans.

Seiji looked at his brother, the defeated expression not contained. “I offered you a solution to this matter, I think you should agree to it.”

The emotionless expression upon his brothers face did nothing for Seiji’s mood as his voice raised slightly. “You want me to just hand her over to your clan like she is a piece of property.”

“You see her only as your child and not as a woman of Aslann. Would you rather the Waichia or the Ishi have her?” His mouth opened, though no words came out and he sat silently as Sesiago continued to speak. “You cannot protect her from her obligations for much longer. She is a woman of twenty. You have refused every matrimonial offer that has been placed before you. Eventually a clan will come that you can no longer refuse, one with the backing of the Emperor. The situation the nation is in, is dire and it gives way for parties to obtain what they want. While she is not the most powerful person in Aslann, her offspring from a coupling with Mikio Ishi, Takuya Waichia, Hero Takahashi, Chee Hamara, or any number of other powers of the highest caliber has the potential to surpass even the greatest of our nation.”

“I…” Seiji’s fumbled over his words as he sighed noticeably.

“She is botahmo, the cursed one. Within her is the power of five great clans. The Yamada with their unique abilities to see the lineage of one’s blood. If she has not unlocked it already she will soon and there will be no hiding the fact that she is Shima. The Tylo with their cursed eyes allows her to see all possible outcomes to any given situation. The Saitama with their ability to analyze information and gauge the probability of a particular outcome. They also tend to be highly adept at manipulating esoteric essence. The Ishi with their high-speed regeneration, longevity, and chalta-like abilities. Then, there is the Shima with their abilities to master and manipulate time itself. She is dangerous. If we are lucky her blood will remain locked to her, but the chances of that seems unlikely. I feel it would be in her best interest…”

Seiji interrupted his brother, “She does not want this. How exactly is something that she is adamantly against in her best interest?”

“Have you even asked her?” Pursing his lips he looked away from his brother. Seiji could not bear to look at Sesiago at that moment, knowing that his brother was well aware, even before the question was asked that Seiji had never once said anything to Tationy.

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“Is this about a marriage contract?” Her voice caused Seiji to tense noticeably as his eyes shifted slowly toward where she was standing. He wondered to himself how long she had been standing there. Obviously long enough to hear part of their conversation, but how much of it exactly and why had he not noticed her? When Seiji’s eyes looked away from her briefly he noticed the pursed lips of his brother. It was enough to tell Seiji that Sesiago had not sensed her approach either and that alone was a feat not many could accomplish.

“It is nothing for you to worry about.” Seiji recovered though not as quickly as he would have liked.

“Elder Kari is that true?”

Seiji frowned knowing that Sesiago would speak directly to her. “This is where your guardian and I disagree. I believe it is something for you to be concerned about.” Seiji gave his brother a stern gaze in hopes that he would end his words there, but Sesiago had continued speaking. “I offered Lord Shima a marriage contract several months ago, he told me that you were not interested.”

“Did he now?” Her tone indicated she was not surprised by this information. Her pause concerned Seiji as it lingered far longer, then he would have liked. When she finally did speak again her question, left both men with many of their own. “This contract is it with a specific Kari in mind?”

“You are not troubled by this?” Seiji questioned as he stood and moved toward her. “You have been so adamant about not wishing to be tied to a man. I thought….I am confused. Why does it matter if the contract is for a specific Kari?”

Seiji glanced toward Sesiago when a soft all-be-it brief chuckle escaped his mouth. The Kari in general were not known for such displays of emotion. To say it was rare was an understatement. Seiji watched his brother stand and move toward them as he spoke, “Let’s say I have someone specific in mind, what would keep you from saying yes to my proposal?”

“We are not having this discussion, I already told you no Elder Kari.” Seiji interjected.

He felt his words fall on deaf ears as Tationy responded to Sesiago, “I do not have the time or the energy to waste on weakness. If he is not capable and as strong as I am, then I will never see him.”

“A good answer. There are many among the Kari whom…”

Seiji had been about to interrupt the conversation when Tationy’s words halted not only his words, but those of Sesiago as well. “Your clan has many talented people, but there are only two capable of standing against the strongest in this nation. If it is not one of them, then I have no interest in what you are offering. If you will excuse me, it is almost time for dinner.”

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Both men kept their eyes fixed on Tationy as she departed. When she was finally out of sight, Seiji bowed his head. “What just happened?”

“I believe your daughter just tossed down the gauntlet.”

Seiji pursed his lips as he considered the conversation. He would have preferred to have discussed the Emperor’s assassination. He knew that he could not avoid a matrimonial contract forever, but there was a part of him no matter how unreasonable that did not want to lose her. His mind mauled it over, “She is referring to you.”

“It is a good sign.”

“How exactly is a marriage contract between my daughter and my brother a good sign?”

“I was actually referring to the fact that she does not have access to the Yamada ability to read the lineage of one’s blood.” There was a pause as Seiji foolishly kicked himself for not having noticed. “Do not beat yourself up. You just want what is best for her and to keep her close for as long as you can. I am not an unreasonable man, I considered this as well when purposing the contract to you. Regardless of our clans, she is the blood of my blood. I would protect her as though she is my own. However I must also think about what is best for my clan. There are few clans that can be trusted with the power she holds within her. We learned that the hard way as we chose a new Emperor and the Kari, Shima, and Hamara stood alone.”

“You are the most powerful of your clan, she will question why it is not you.”

“I am the Elder of the Kari and my responsibility is to my clan. Taking a mate is not an option for me. It probably will not be a satisfactory answer for someone like her. However, there is one among my clan who is difficult. Perhaps when he learns humility and discipline he will surpass me, but as of right now he is the second strongest within the Kari.”

“Are you are referring to Hiko?”

“He has refused to marry. I have been presented with over thirty marriage contracts over the past eight years and each one he has refused. This one though, I believe is not one that even he will be able to look past.”

“Why is that?”

There was a long pause and Seiji wondered if Sesiago was going to respond. When he finally did, his answer caught him off guard. “They are uniquely different and yet the similarities between them are striking. He has already noticed. Right now he finds her annoying and is even fearful of her. This is because he lacks the ability at this point to respect the power she possesses. Others want her because of what her blood can offer them, but her true power is her ability to reach the man that has the potential to become the strongest and most dangerous man of this nation. He has the ability to surpass me, but it is locked away inside him in a place not easily accessible. Seiji…” There was another pause as he looked toward his brother, “You need to move quickly. As she is now, you are placing her in a dangerous position which allows other clans access to her.”

“Don’t you think I know this already?” He grumbled as he ran his hand over his face, brushing his hair away. “I would have preferred to have any other conversation.”

Seiji noticed how Sesiago canted his head, “You should speak with your daughter. That conversation seems as though it is the more important one to have, at least at this point. You cannot continue keeping her a ‘little girl’. You know she is capable and strong, the decision you need to decide is whether or not you intend to allow her to grow or smother her until she hates you. Will you idly sit by and allow her to be put into a union with those that would use her as a means to an end? I cannot make that decision for you, the most I can do is what I have already done. Offer you a means to protect her.” Sesiago had never been the type of man to allow someone to have the last word, this time was no different as Seiji watched the Elder of the Kari depart.

As much as he hated admitting it to himself, Sesiago had been right. There was a war brewing and in no time at all, one of the major players in this war would make a strike against his own blood. It would not be a blow to maim, but one no less fatal. The Emperor Sóme Kensuku had allowed the newborn Tylo child to live. He could not ignite the wraith of clans like the Ishi and Waichia, not at such an unstable point in the history of Aslann especially after he made such a bold power play by ordering the execution of the Tylo clan and those closely associated. Now after the death of Emperor Akizuki Kensuku, there was instability in Aslann. No one could say what would become of the nation, but the lines were already drawn even if they could not be clearly seen.

To Be Continued

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