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Hero of the Takahashi senses were alive. The wind billowed outside, telling him that a storm was coming. There were people bustling about the estate of the Takahashi in preparation. Fall was so close now, the summer nearly over and yet there was no excitement over the changing of the seasons. People no matter how much they looked forward to something, truly did not like change. It was different and as accepting as some people were there were others that were less so. The door opened and the heavy-footed gait was a telling sign that his Elder had returned.

It was not with ease as he plopped himself down. Hero did not even need to see him to know that he was fumbling around with his lighter and the smells about him, told Hero that this was not his first smoke of the day. “What is that crap you are reading?” The voice of his Elder was lazy and yet boomed with fullness and life.

“An adventure novel.” Hero remarked simply as he flipped a page.

“I could use some adventure.”

Pausing only a moment to take in the words of his Elder, Hero questioned. “Have things not transpired as you wished?”

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The heavy movement of his Elder, told Hero that he had laid down. “They did not. I requested that the Elder Council look at someone other than a Kensuku, but those stubborn old fools only care how pure one’s blood is. Elitist, very few of them embrace the old ways and yet they talk only about how pure their blood is. Most of them, should keep they’re filthy mouths shut. Mesho, every last one of them.”

Hero always hated that word. He had heard it his entire life. It never mattered how good he was at something or how ambitious he was, to the majority of the clans of Aslann he was a mesho. Despite his so-called tainted blood, he at least could say he had Saitama blood that meant he unlike his Elder, could garner a small amount of respect. In the end though, what meager amount of Saitama blood he had carried little weight. As a General of the Ruthlbahdo, every action was an uphill battle. “Those ‘elitist’ made a decision, are you going to share?”

There was silence which caught Hero off-guard. There were not many things that could make Cho of the Takahashi speechless, even less that could bring about silence that cascaded over an entire area. The heaviness that lingered around Cho, dissipated and for the first time in Hero’s entire life he could not sense his Elder. When Hero was only six years old, he was schooled by the man that was ten years his senior. Among the Takahashi Cho had been referred to as a god among men. There were all forms of rumors that circled him including that he had once bed the Empress of Thacian. Cho always had a good sense of humor regarding it all, he was never the type to take himself too seriously and because of that Hero had learned humility. This side of Cho was not something he had ever felt before.

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Placing his book upon the ground he changed his position. Hero could feel the chill in the air, through the open door. His eyes focused in on his Elder and he wondered where this shadow had been hiding. It loomed mighty and strong, engulfing him like an aura of darkness. He pondered if this was the part that every man kept hidden. That danger that defines the difference between a warrior waging battle for his Emperor or a killer just wanting to taste blood and be seduced by the fear of his victims. Such an overwhelming ominous intent radiated from the man that taught him everything he knew. “Is this the power contained within you?” A bold question, but Hero felt it necessary to ask. “This darkness….steals the breath from my body. Dims the light of this room. Are you Nakamaru?”

Truthfully, Hero did not expect his elder to even consider answering the question. “My mother was a demon of the Nakamaru named Myia. They say she was dragon that took the form of a human. The notion is almost too ridiculous to even consider. You are wondering why you have not felt my power before?”

“I was.”

“The Nakamaru were blights upon Aslann. The fact that they will no longer exist makes many of the clans, elated. When I was small, my mother gave me one piece of advice before she disappeared from this nation. She told me that a shadow takes many forms and that sometimes, it is best to let the light illuminate one’s design. However, these mesho make it very difficult to keep my calm.”

“You have referred to them as tainted blood twice now. I am concerned. I have never seen you lose yourself like this. Certainly, what transpired within that meeting could not have been that bad.”

“The Kari, Hamara, and Shima stood together unwilling to budge even the slightest. This act alone has caused a great rift among the Elder’s Council. However, their resolve was firm and true. They backed Kiyoshi Kensuku until there was nothing left for them to fight for. They were simply incapable of convincing those that could sway the voice of the council. That voice left no compromise and all responsible for the assassination of Akizuki Kensuku are to be executed for treason. There was no words of persuasion that could reach those ears, even as I pleaded with the council to consider an alternative to a Kensuku, they simply bent and rolled to the wishes of the Waichia. The masters of manipulation have full control of all aspects of Aslann now.”

“Do you believe the Waichia were responsible?”

“There are none more powerful than an individual who can cloud one’s mind and sway many with a simple glance.”

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The words of his elder gave him pause, though he had no time to question the elder further. Cho had ushered Hero to leave him in peace for a bit, so the General of the Ruthlbahdo made his way toward the market. It was as good of a time as any to depart the company of his elder, after all he had his own things to maul over and matters that needed handled. He placed his items on the counter, listening to the workers talk briefly as they stocked the shelves for the night. This small little market belonged to the Maiba. “General, you are out late.”

Hero turned toward the voice of the owner speaking casually, “The rain is at bay, I thought it would be best to get a few things before it starts back up again.”

The man moved quickly around the counter, ringing up the items and bagging them. “Did you see our new stock?” The man questioned as he moved out from behind the counter again toward a display. “It is made by the Shinohara. Best price in the nation. Very reasonable.”

Hero turned toward the man and the display of tobacco he was trying to push. “I prefer shimdamalticus over ormata. Sell that weak stuff to the Waichia, if any of them even smoke.” Hero had mirth in his voice as he turned back toward the counter dropping some money before grabbing up his bag and the bottle of water. “Have a good evening.” The politeness of his words caused the owner to thank him happily as Hero wandered out of the market. He paused for only a moment, glancing up at the sky. It had been raining off and on, but the sky to him looked more like snow was coming. The chill in the air told him that they would most likely have an early winter.

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Instead of heading to his elder’s estate, Hero moved toward the small ‘downtown’ area of the nation where all the shops were. Climbing a staircase to the third floor apartment over a small restaurant he let himself in. The place belonged to his clansman Izumo, though due to the unfortunate events as of late, Hero knew that Izumo would not be using it any longer. Truth was, he was hardly ever around anyway so Hero had been using it to meet in secret. He realized she was there, long before he opened the door and entered.

She sat atop the counter as he moved in with bag and bottle in hand, depositing both on the counter he turned and leaned against it. She did not offer a single word to him. There was a small distance between them, but he could feel the movement of her body as she lifted her hand. “Your headaches are getting worse?”

“If by worse you mean pounding so hard that it is becoming difficult to think straight, then yes.” There was a pause in her words and he was certain she was gathering her courage to speak further so he let the silence linger until she added, “You are late.”

He smirked, she was always like this. Despite the amount of protest she made about not needing anyway, the moment he was late, she let him hear about it.

“Forgive me, it will not happen again.” His politeness always caused her to blush, which is why he always kept his back to her when they spoke. It was not that he found the girl attractive. In that regard, as far as Hero was concerned she was still a child, no matter her age, but more importantly he had been training her in secret since she was small. She was almost like his own kin. Perhaps it was because they both had Saitama blood that he felt such a connection to the rather brazen and unruly child. Probably though, she reminded him of his good friend Hiko at that age that he could not help, but to be pulled in by her.

“Did Elder Takahashi speak with you about what transpired in the Elder Council meeting?”

“He is being tight lipped. I imagine he is not the only one.”

“Seiji would not tell me anything. He just kept saying that when everyone else was informed, I would be informed.”

“The only thing for certain in this matter is that many are not happy about it. Even those that voted for it.” He turned to look at her. “I have to ask a very difficult thing of you.”

“You wish for me to stay close to the person they make Emperor?”

He gave a brief nod, “I have a feeling that you are going to make his life a living hell.” The small smirk that graced her lips told Hero, that this girl was trouble. There was a reason that she was so feared and hated. A lot of people passed it off as her being Tylo, but the truth was, she would be dangerous no matter her blood. “I get the feeling from what little I could get out of Cho, that the next Emperor will be Kensuku and I can tell you for certain it is not Kiyoshi.”

“Well you did mention that you thought they would pick someone young, someone inexperienced. Despite his skill, whomever he is would most likely be picked because he could be manipulated or at the very least they think he can.”

“Which is why you will stay close. Even though you are among the Shima, the other clans see you as bloodless which puts you into a good position. You are also a woman, many of them will still see you as delicate and incapable. It gives you a lot of power in this situation. Do you understand why I am asking this of you?”

“You are concerned that Akizuki was just the first, but I am confused about one thing.”

“What is that?”

“Why don’t you ask that rather grouchy Kari Commander to help?”

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Hero turned his attention away from her and began to move about the room, finally pausing as a loud crack of thunder interrupted his movement. Hero looked off toward a window. The rain began to pound against the building and ground. His silence caused her to sigh and he inwardly chuckled at what little patience she had.

“To answer your question, Hiko is very loyal and duty oriented. While in his personal life he has been well-known for breaking the rules and picking fights when it comes to the nation, he is a completely different guy. If you mess with his nation he becomes like a rabid dog. This situation, I imagine is weighing him down. There are very few circumstances that can get under his skin, but the loyalty to his comrades in arms and his duty as a Commander of the Ruthlbahdo are in direct conflict with one another at the moment. What you and I are doing, this path we are undertaking is treasonous. If we are caught, we will be executed. I know him well enough to know that this is a path he could not walk. He will have to have someone do it for him, do not be surprised if he approaches you.”

“Why do you not want me to be surprised?”

“It is alright Tationy to let the nation think that your cursed eyes have developed.”

“They hate me enough as it is without adding to it.”

“That is alright. We want them to keep hating you. I know the burden I lay upon you is great, but you are the only one capable of doing this for me.”

He could hear it in her voice. “I understand, General.” She just wanted to be a normal girl. Tationy wanted to be seen as Tationy, not some Tylo girl. The worst part of it all, was that deep down Hero knew she was well aware that most would always see her as botahmo, the cursed one.

To Be Continued

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