Sesiago’s back ached, but he was not about to complain about it. He got to hold Tationy in his arms again, the entire night, kiss her lips, and feel her warmth. The only thing that could have made the night more perfect then it was, would have been to be intimate with her, but that was something he was not about to force. Sitting in the kitchen he stared at her for some time, trying to decide how they should approach the things they needed to discuss. Finally he settled on, “You said you were scared of what Hiko would do and that is why you got in the car, is that the only reason?”
The silence that followed his question concerned him as she looked out the window. He could tell she was trying to decide how to answer the question and when she finally did, her voice was practically a whisper, “I think it was a month after he dropped me off in that desert that I realized why it was I really got in that car. It was the same reason I stood out on that balcony the day your father arrived or even the reason I submerged myself under the water when I was in the bath. I thought how simple it would be to just end this suffering and at the same time, I thought I would probably screw it up and be worse off then I am now. I mean can you even imagine drowning in a tub of water, only to survive? I pictured it, many times. So when I got into that car, somewhere inside of me I thought, Hiko will not screw up a second time. This time he will make certain he finishes the job.”
“So you wanted to die?” He asked, doing his best to keep his voice as emotionless as possible.
“Before I met Hiko, I had pretty low self-esteem, which became increasingly worse during our relationship. Always wondering why an important good-looking guy like him would want to be with a girl like me. Beautiful women always made a fuss over him and it was like I was not even there. What he did when he raped me, just validated all of those feelings I had. I felt like I deserved the pain and the suffering and after it was over, all of that just remained and those feelings of unhappiness with my life and my person, just grew bigger and bigger. So yes, there were times I wanted to die.”
“You were calm afterwards…” He paused a moment as he considered his words, “I only seen you break down emotionally once. Were you in shock?”
“Some might call it that. For me it felt deserved, so I thought to myself why should I be emotional over something that I had coming?”
Sesiago frowned his hand reached across the table toward her as he spoke, “Do you still feel that way?”
“No one deserves to have that happen to them.”
“What about killing yourself, do you still think about that?”
“Truth is thoughts like those do not go away simply because we want them to. Now and again those feelings come up, but I have something to live for.” He made note how she rested her hand to her stomach as she spoke her words. It brought him great comfort knowing that she was not thinking about hurting herself, but it also worried him that it had gotten to such a point and he did not notice. “Now, what about you? Is Kazuma going to just sit on his hands and allow people to do whatever they want to his kingdom?”
Sesiago noticed how her body adjusted and she rested her face to her hand. Her other did not meet his and there was slight disappointment, but it was not entirely unexpected. She was not exactly looking at him, but still invested in the conversation. He also made note how she brought up Kazuma. Just as she was still dealing with the aftermath of the rape, he was dealing with the history of Kazuma and how it lingered over his family. He had tried ignoring it, but it was perfectly clear now that the situation was out of control. “There is not much I can do at this point. Hiko has controlling interest in the Shima Corporation not to mention he is in full control of the Kari Foundation. My family is not speaking to me. The majority of my assets belonged to the corporation…”
“So you are poor.”
“Does that bother you?”
“No, I never cared about money. However, it will make it rather difficult for you to use the influence that money has to regain control of your company.”
“I was not really planning to get it back.”
“Unacceptable.” He pursed his lips together staring at her as he waited for her to continue. “Your family has been out of control for a long time and with Hiko having the kind of power he does, they are just going to get worse. How many Tylo woman are going to go through what I did, before the king stands up and takes control?”
“I am no king.” He responded his voice losing control and sounding more putout, then he had intended.
“They think you are.” Sesiago did not respond to her words, simply looked out the window. He did not hide the fact he was unhappy where this conversation was going. It was not that he did not feel anything for the Tylo women who had been subjected to any number of atrocities, he simply did not wish to be involved in the history of Kazuma that had both gripped and destroyed his family. “Sesiago, this baby could be a girl.” Her words struck him as he drew his attention toward her. “Sure she will have Kari blood, but do you really think that is going to matter? They believe in this and have dedicated their lives to bring the king and queen together. It is not going to stop, unless the king makes it stop. So tell me now, are you going to step up as the king and deal with this situation, or should I go find Hiko and beg him to keep me and my child safe?”
The anger was clear on his face as he stood up and paced. “Would you really go to him?”
“If you refuse to deal with this situation, pretend as though it is not happening around you, and continue to deny that it is an issue, then I am sorry. I need to know you have the strength to carry this burden and from where I am sitting, I don’t believe you do. You spend all of your time running away or ignoring issues because it is easier. The rape destroyed you as much as it did me. You have become so weak. I want that guy that defied the ways of Shimragata, went after Hiko’s girl with abandon, and stood by her even when it was difficult. I am tired of the one that is always blaming himself. Now, do you intend to pick yourself up and brush yourself off or are you going to continue to let them do whatever they want to your kingdom and queen?”
That strength of hers was part of what he admired. It reminded him of the girl he met on the island, who so aggressively pushed against his chest, stuck her finger in his face, called him a pig, and asked him who the hell he thought he was. He moved toward her and stopped. His hand reached out, offered gently to her and she accepted it without hesitation as she stood and his arm went around her. “All I care about is having you at my side, are you going to be there?”
“I cannot be at the side of a man that is unwilling to fight for what he cares about. So I suppose my answer depends on which man you are.”
“I am not Kazuma, the king of the gods. I am just Sesiago Kari. I refuse to believe in this nonsense that has gripped my family for centuries, however, you are my queen and my world does not move when you are not there. I will fight to protect you and our baby and fix the damage done to my home and family. I refuse to call myself Kazuma and I refuse to see it as a kingdom, but I cannot and will not allow this tradition to continue.”
“That means you have to rise up and reclaim what is yours. Are you prepared? It may not go so easily.”
“I have no idea where to even begin.” He spoke honestly as he leaned into her brushing a soft kiss against her temple.
“Maybe you should start by learning everything there is to know about Kazuma and this tradition. Is there someone outside the Kari you can speak to?”
Sesiago considered it for a time, “Well there is someone. It is a long journey though and I do not feel comfortable leaving you here alone.”
“Then I guess we are taking a trip.” Her words brought him comfort as his arms tightened around her. “We should probably shower, change, and eat first.”
Sesiago laughed softly acknowledging her words with a nod of his head. There was so much relief surrounding him knowing that she would be at his side.
Sesiago made note that Tationy had been quiet the majority of the trip. Even after they arrived a week later to their destination they were told that the woman Sesiago had come to speak with was not available. That she was at her cabin for the holidays. Unwilling to turn around and go back, he headed to that cabin. He climbed out of the truck and Tationy followed suit. His arm wrapped around her shoulder as his eyes drifted toward her. She had a fake smile,”Are you going to tell me why this bothers you so much?”
“You will see.”
They did not even get the opportunity to take more than a few steps, when Sesiago noticed the woman he had come all that way to see was standing on her porch, gazing at the two. “That is far enough little Sesiago.”
“Ms. Yamada, we are sorry to intrude upon your holiday, but I had nowhere else to turn to.”
“I heard what has transpired. You gave up your mother’s shares to your cousin. I wonder if it was worth it.” Sesiago noted that the woman he knew as Miso Yamada was not even looking at him. Her eyes were directly on Tationy. “How are you doing Tationy?” Sesiago’s face betrayed him, when he realized that Tationy and Miso knew each other. “You did not tell him?”
“I thought it would be a wonderful surprise, grandmother.”
Sesiago realized it much to late that Miso Yamada was the woman that disowned her own daughter for sleeping with a poor Tylo man. “Well at least you have better sense then that mother of yours. A Kari man is certainly not a disappointment.”
He felt Tationy squeeze his side. It was clear to him that this was an uncomfortable situation for her. “Forgive our intrusion, we should go.” Sesiago remarked deciding it was not worth it to remain if Tationy was upset.
“You came all this way to speak to me, the least I could do is offer you something to drink. Come along.”
The matriarch of the Yamada directed a servant to get them some drinks. She drank wine in the middle of the day and Sesiago asked only for a soda and Tationy was brought an ice tea. “There is a lot of talk about your actions Sesiago. Your family is both disappointed and elated by this development.”
“That is actually partly why we are here. You were the only person I could think of outside the Kari that knows and understands the history and traditions associated with Kazuma.”
“So the king has decided to rise and claim his queen and his throne.” Sesiago made note she laughed briefly. “When I was a girl there was a Tylo woman who disappeared. It was marvelous gossip for the well-to-do about what happened to her. My parents and grandparents like all of the other families speculated, but they were not deluded into thinking that the Kari were not at fault. There were stories about Tylo women being bought and even kidnapped. Some Tylo families went as far as aborting if they were told they were going to have a girl, others would disguise the child as a boy. I warned my daughter to avoid that Tylo boy, but she refused to listen. I thought perhaps if I disowned her, she would open her eyes, but there was a part of her that loved defying me because I am certain it had nothing to do with loving him. The sin, the cursed one, now sits in my retreat carrying the bastard child of a Kari. Certainly a step up from her mother.”
Sesiago stood, “I will not let you disrespect her.”
“Forgive me, there was no disrespect intended.” Sesiago felt a tug on his pant leg and forced himself to sit back down. Tationy was remarkably calm considering she was being insulted by her own grandmother and Sesiago realized that this was probably not the first time she had to deal with such comments. “When your grandfather and I were courting, he talked often about the traditions of the Kari. I was expected to know them if I was to stand at his side as his wife. According to the Tale of Kazuma he was beside himself. His queen had been taken at the Shrine of Hisoka by Rin and became mortal. When he was pulled from the heavens by Rin, he was so stubborn that he refused to seek out his queen unwilling to allow his eyes to see her as a mortal. So Rin, took the pregnant Tearra as his bride and she willingly allowed him to. The story never tells why she gave up her freedom to Rin, the beastly god that assaulted her, it only talks about Kazuma and how he lost his heart as a mortal. They say he became so beside himself with grief over what had become of his kingdom and his queen that he killed himself. The Yamada believe that his fate was not by his own hand. There are tales among the Yamada that Tearra had wavered in her decision to stand with Rin and had been about to make the journey to Kazuma.”
“The Yamada believe Rin killed Kazuma?” Sesiago questioned.
“Ahh, if this plays out the way it is meant to. You will never regain your kingdom, you will be slayed by the hand of Rin, and he will take your queen.”
“I won’t allow that to happen.” Sesiago stated as his eyes lingered on Miso a moment, before he turned his attention toward Tationy. Her hand was stilled, as though she had been about to grab her tea and take a sip, but stopped before reaching it. There was a somber expression upon her face which concerned him.
“Do not mind me. This is all just old Kari rhetoric. They believe so firmly that Kazuma can rise to reclaim his kingdom, but they have also seen many failures. When your grandfather and I were courting, a Tylo woman was found and kidnapped. Among the Kari, the Tylo are property. You do with them as you wish and this particular Tylo girl was just a child. I remember wandering the estate of the Kari and hearing a godawful scream. I was told by your grandfather it was not my concern and I was ushered to the other-side of the estate. I would see that girl only once, battered and bruised, lying in a bedroom on a floor with a Kari man standing over her, zipping up his pants. I never knew her name, never seen her again, but it was more, then enough reason for me to keep my distance from your family. Rich, powerful, and dangerous that is the Kari.”
“What can you tell me about the traditions?”
“Well the most obvious one is the claiming of a Tylo woman. The majority of Kari men do not believe in the old tales of Kazuma. So many of them, simply take a Tylo woman as their trophy or toy. They do as they wish with her and then she is discarded. It is my understanding that many of them are killed. Those that are not, sit at their master’s boots until the day they die. The main branch of the Kari, however, are very strict about following the traditions set forth by Kazuma himself. Each boy when he is small is put through a test of skills to determine whether or not he will be called a Kari man. When he has passed the trial, he has a voice among the Kari and a place within their businesses. They have gained the right to be called Kari and display strength and influence within the territories overseen by your family. They are also allowed to take a bride from any of the most influential families within the world, but for them there is only one queen worthy of their attention and even though many of them take a wife, they always seek out the true prize for any Kari man.”
“Tylo women seem to be rare.” Sesiago responded.
“They are. The Tylo has always been relatively small. As decades pass only one line has survived and it is rare these days for a girl to be born because the Tylo simply refuse to allow it. The fact that Miroku and my daughter gave birth to Tationy, shows what little sense the two of them had. No offense intended. Your fate was sealed the moment you were born.”
“So the Kari will come after her, despite them thinking I am Kazuma?”
“Of course they will, even your father, uncles, cousins, will do anything to obtain her. The best thing you could do for her, is allow Hiko to have her. He has the power to protect her, you have nothing. To keep your queen safe, you need the backing of your people, and you my boy, simply do not have the sway to command them.”
Sesiago boldly spoke to Miso, “You have the power and influence to protect her.”
“That is enough, Sesiago,” Tationy spoke up. Sesiago drew his attention toward her. “Thank you for your time grandmother, but we will not be staying any longer. You have stalled our departure long enough. I suspect the Kari will be arriving soon, how very heartless of you.”
“Tationy, what are you saying?” Sesiago questioned as he stood when she did.
“She keeps looking at the clock, invited us in for drinks, keeps dragging out the conversation. She said it herself that there was more than enough reason for her to keep her distance from your family. Do you think for a minute she is going to truly help us? She cannot be trusted.” Sesiago had been about to argue when he heard a car come to a halt outside the house and looked toward the window recognizing the newly arrived guest as Kari. He wanted to shake the woman, but there was no time and he grabbed onto Tationy’s hand and began to run through the house toward the back to make their escape.
He never once let go of her hand as he kept them moving. There was a chill in the air. Summer was coming to an end in these parts and the adrenalin that was pumping was the only thing keeping them from noticing the pain and the cold. His mind was working a mile a minute as he went over everything. He made note to himself that Tationy had sharp instincts and he kicked himself for bringing her along. He put her in danger. The questions about what Miso said where many. Was she being honest during any of their conversation? He considered she probably was, it was the easiest way to keep them there if she spoke the truth.
“Sesiago, I cannot keep running.” He heard Tationy say.
“I know, I am sorry we need to keep moving until we are away from here. Just bear with it a little longer.”
Sesiago lost track of time as they ran, when they finally stopped, he picked the most public place he could find them. From a vending machine he got them a little snack. Tationy was in pain and he was more than a little concerned about her and the baby. “Are you alright?” He asked as he crouched down near her.
“I think the baby did not like all that running. Is this going to become a habit on our dates?”
He realized after a moment she was joking and was referencing the fact that on their night together she had run around Shimragata and he had chased after her. “Well I do not know about the running, but maybe some form of physical activity.”
She laughed softly and despite, the circumstances of their current situation he was glad to see she had not lost her sense of joy in it all. “Who did you call?” He looked down at the ground, his back leaning against the wall. He took much to long to respond, which gave the rather perceptive woman he loved the answer. He noticed how she closed her eyes and leaned herself against the building, “So Hiko is coming then?”
“You heard what my grandmother said, are you not afraid he will kill you?” He knew he was failing her when he did not respond. “I see.”
“I love you.” He told her honestly. “I want to protect you, but how am I to do that?”
“So you are just handing me over to Hiko?”
“No.” He responded, “I only asked him to come and get us. He owes both of us that much.”
“What happens after he gets us?”
Sesiago never got the chance to respond to her words growing silent because of nearby voices.
To Be Continued