Author Note: This chapter contains tie-ins for Chapter 15 and Chapter 32 of The Exiled Prince. In chapter 15 and chapter 32 of The Exiled Prince we see the modern Kazuma who is often referred to as the “modern Sesiago” or “her Kazuma”. The latter actually being a more appropriate title for him. This chapter focuses on explaining a lot of the things mentioned in previous chapters and wrapping up what we know about modern Kazuma from The Exiled Prince.

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He noticed her looking around the old district. It was only because of her that he was still alive and this was their first opportunity to speak. Despite the things that needed to be said, he chose a topic that was easiest for him. “The Kari village of ancient times once stood in this spot. In the war of the kingdom, it was destroyed and many of the Kari lost their lives. These structures were built in honor of the fallen Kari during the eighteen hundreds, but very few Kari visit them.”

“A history lesson?”

He ignored her question, “I was surprised to receive your call.”

“When I put this into motion, it was never my intent for people to die.”

“I believe you,” He said after a moment of allowing his gaze to scrutinize her. “Had you not reached out to me that day, I would have gone home where the Saitama were waiting for me.” Tadayoshi made note how her head bowed and he anticipated her thoughts. “Seiji Shima chose to send the Saitama to kill. His fate was his own. Once he set that in motion, regardless of the Saitama’s betrayal he was going to die. Some people are predestined for unwelcome fates.”

“Is that your way of saying that there was nothing I could have done to prevent it?”

“Yes, that is precisely what I am saying.” There was a long pause after his words, though he was not being dramatic. “We should hurry and speak. My son will notice if you have been gone too long and send someone to find you. I would rather my presence not be discovered so soon.”

“Are you sure you are safe here?”

Tadayoshi masked his emotions behind an expressionless face as he spoke in his usual sonorous tone, “Your concern for me is unexpected.” He noticed how she looked away from him. It was clear to him that his response made her uncomfortable. As he spoke, he took a step in the direction of a small building that they could speak in, “For many generations a Kari man is put through a set of trials. He is to master himself. Through the centuries the criteria for these trials has become laxed. There are many among the Kari who have passed the trials, however, had they taken them in the time of Kazuma they most certainly would have failed and have been put to death. My son, my brother, among others do not deserve to be called Kari.”

“Are there any left among the Kari that can stand with you?”

“Your child, Kazuma is the only Kari that matters in this. He is to live, no matter what and bring new life into this family. As his mother, you must have the strength to protect him against any enemy including the man you love.” The way she bowed her head as they walked told him that he had been right in his choice of words. Regardless of what Hiko had done to her, she had conflicting feelings for him, both hate and love. “There will come a time when Hiko’s desires will overpower his feelings. You have seen this in him already when his desire to punish you for lying with Sesiago, overrode his love.”

“Is this Kazuma’s will?”

There was a moment of silence as he considered her question, “Kazuma does not wish harm to his queen, but understands that for her to see him, there must be some pain.”

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As they entered the small building they each took seats upon the floor. He made note that she hardly sat in any proper manner, “He did love her didn’t he?”

“He did. She was the beautiful flower that survived the battle of the gods. Kazuma could never love another.” Pausing a moment he regarded her, “Have you ever thought about leaving Hiko?” The way her face contorted as she considered his question told him that the answer was yes.

“A few months before we arrived to Shimragata, I returned to Mount Celiabai for the funeral of Jee Ishi. I had a conversation with his son Mikio who was a friend to me when I lived there. He was not happy to see me. The last time we spoke, Hiko had told Mikio and Kuro to keep their distance from me so there was plenty of bickering about whether or not Hiko let me attend. I was only partly there for the funeral itself I really wanted Mikio’s advice on what I should do about Hiko. He was acting so strangely. I understand why now, but then it felt more like he did not love me. Mikio was so annoyed that I wanted relationship advice from him and told me he could not tell me what to do.”

“Did he tell you why?”

“Yeah, but it did not make any sense to me. He said, I am not a kid anymore. Back then, seeing you happy made me happy. It is not like that for me anymore. I still don’t know what it means.” Tadayoshi pursed his lips realizing that the girl was oblivious to the fact that Mikio Ishi had been in love with her. “Now I wonder where I would go if I did leave? Would he follow? Would he find me? Would he hurt me? If he didn’t, would another Kari come? It seems safer to stay at his side and suffer in silence than it is to leave, don’t you think?” Despite the pause in her words Tadayoshi remained silent, “I am sorry about Suemeli, Hiko said the two of you have been lovers for many years. The loss…”

He was not capable of hiding the surprised look upon his face, “He said we were lovers?” When she nodded her head he spoke, “Let us start by clearing up any misconceptions shall we?”

“That would be great.”

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“You and Hiko were together for four years before you and I first met on Shimragata. Would it surprise you to find out that I met you long before that day?”

“Wait, what?”

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Tadayoshi was not surprised she had forgotten as his mind mauled over one particular day in every detail from how she looked to the smell of the flowers, “Are you playing here all by yourself?

“I am not supposed to talk to strangers.”

“I am not a stranger we have met before.”

The little girl squinted at him, “I think I would remember someone that looks like you.”

“Looks like me?”

“You dress funny and boys are not supposed to have long hair.”

Tadayoshi chuckled, “Is that so?” His question gave her pause as he crossed his arms over his chest and stared at her. The fact that his eyes were fixed on her seemed to trouble her slightly as she apprehensively looked about before drawing her attention toward him again.

“You are not from around here are you?”

It was a change of topic on her part, “I am from Shimragata.”

“Is that a place in Progmato?”

“No, it is in Aslann.”

“Are you from Aslann? Is that why you dress funny?”

He laughed, “Do you find my clothing so unusual?”

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“It is weird.” She responded as she cautiously took a step in his direction and sat herself on the bench next to him. After she was comfortable with her legs swinging, she glanced at him briefly, “I like your bracelet. What is it made of?”

Tadayoshi glanced at her only a moment before staring off into the distance, “Osmium and ….” He paused as he considered his words, “Magic.”

He smiled when she turned her attention onto him fully, “There is no such thing as magic.”

“I have to disagree. There are many remarkable and unexplained things in the world.” She wrinkled her nose, “Is your life so difficult that you are incapable of seeing amazing things with those unusual eyes of yours?”

“My grandmother says these eyes are cursed. That nothing good will ever happen to anyone that has them.”

His lips pursed as he considered her words. “Without bad and good there is no balance.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means for there to be moments of great joy there must also be moments of great sadness. One would not be able to discern what is good in life, if they have not experienced anything bad. Thus, a balance is formed. You are at a point where only negative things will find you. Perhaps it will be that way for a time, but eventually something amazing will happen and you will understand that those eyes are not cursed, simply blinded.”

“You talk funny.”

With a laugh he asked, “Do I?”

“Yeah.” Her voice was soft, her legs stopped moving, “You remind me of someone.”

Tadayoshi recalled that a tension filled his body at her words, “Who might that be?”

“I don’t know. Just someone.”

“Perhaps we met in another life.” He told her simply.

She laughed, “Maybe I was a princess and you were….”

“Perhaps a knight.”

“No, you are too smart to be a knight. Maybe a mage with your magic bracelet.” She paused, “Why is it magic?”

“It is made of one of the densest elements in nature. It is very hard, but can be very brittle. However, this form of osmium was only available in one part of Aslann and used to make these bracelets. They cannot be broken or shattered that is why they are made of magic because they defy what we know of the metal osmium.”

She blinked at him, “Do you talk to your kids like that too?”

“What makes you think I have children?”

“I don’t know. It is what people do when they grow up. Do you?”

“I have a son who is just a little bit older than you are.”

“What is he like?”

“Nontraditional.”

“Is that a bad thing?”

“It is.”

“Why?”

“Traditions provide identity to a family, strengthen the bond between blood, offer comfort and security, teach values, add to the rhythm and seasonality of life, pass on cultural and religious heritage, connects generations, and creates lasting memories that stand the test of time. He spits on those things. My son shows contempt for family, cares nothing of history, disregards our values, and cares only for himself.”

“Do you hate him?”

“I…” He paused as he considered her question, “I am disappointed in him.”

“Does he make you sad?”

“He does. I want so much for him to lead when I am gone, but I fear he will do more harm than good.”

“Maybe he will surprise you.”

“Perhaps.” He whispered and made note that she stood and began walking away.

She turned briefly and waved at him, “I have to go home now. Goodbye….what is your name?”

“You may call me anything you wish.”

Laughing softly she nodded her head, “Alright, goodbye wizard Kazuma.”

As she walked away he whispered to himself, “Goodbye, my queen.”

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He had not even gotten a chance to tell her about it when she responded with, “Wait come to think of it, you do sort of remind me of someone.” With his thoughts broken, he waited expectantly for her to tell him about the encounter she remembered. There had been a few. “There was this guy, a businessman when my family first moved to Bridgeport. He always rode the bus with me and the subway. Not that I was looking too closely, but without the goatee and your hair a bit different, you…” There it was suddenly a pink hue traveled along her cheeks as she looked away from him. He knew why.

Tadayoshi had kept close track of her and her families movements. He needed to be prepared for a time when she may come in contact with other Kari. So when he realized she and her family had finally moved to Bridgeport, he would get up early in the morning, travel across town to where she lived, just to ride the bus with her and then take the subway to work. It was about the only time he did not dress traditionally as he tried to blend as much as Tadayoshi Kari could. She seemed oblivious to the fact that he was relatively famous in Bridgeport and even though they spent day after day together, she never looked at him or even spoke.

There were days though that he could tell she was upset and more than a few where she seemed completely lost in her own thoughts. He always wondered what she was thinking about or what had happened. He never intended for it to be anything more than what it was, him keeping track of her. It was easy for him, as he moved through the subway, people practically moved out of his way, but her there were too many days she almost did not make it. One such day, he had become her rescuer. It was never his intention to ever be close to her or touch her, but he felt it the moment he grabbed a hold of her hand and pulled her into the car. Their bodies inches from each other. She could not even look at him in the eyes and as tense as he was in that moment, her body seemed far more rigid.

He shielded her that ride. Kept his body close to hers. His eyes fixed on her face, memorizing every detail as he told himself that this was the last time he would ride with her. She had to see him on her own, he could not force the issue. “Let’s talk about something else.” She whispered her breathing was slightly labored as she kept her eyes averted.

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“Ask me the questions that are burning holes through you.”

As she tried to compose herself she managed to nod. With a deep breath she spoke, “Why is it the Kari saw Sesiago as Kazuma? Why do the Saitama think it is Hiko? Why did people believe it was even Katsu at one point? Do any of them embody Kazuma? Why are the Kari so obsessed with his reincarnation?”

“In ancient Aslann Kazuma was reincarnated in a Kari named Sesiago, from the small village outside Shimragata. Sesiago was unique among his clan because he was both Shima and Kari. Same as the Sesiago you knew. Fate took its time bringing Tearra’s reincarnate, the “prince” of Aslann and Sesiago together. When they were finally united, things were complicated and even though she stayed with him, she did not choose him. Many believe Sesiago was the King of the Gods because of Katsu pushing the issue. While his namesake represented everything it meant to be Kari, Sesiago was unmoved and uncaring about the traditions of the Kari and more importantly cared nothing about Kazuma’s legacy. Sesiago was powerful and respected, things that many believe Kazuma embodied. The Saitama believe it is Hiko because of his strength and power. He dominates and controls all aspects of the Kari businesses and he bows to no man. His presence is so powerful that even Tearra might be deceived. Katsu much like Hiko, holds a similar aura. They all share the same blood, the blood of Kazuma so it is easy for people to see our god within them.” As he paused he considered her final question, “The gods are cursed, suffering as they are reincarnated over and over again. Until Tearra and Kazuma truly see each other this will be their fate, and the world will never have any peace. Originally the Kari wanted to guide the two together, unite the King and Queen so that the gods could rise to the heavens and repair the damage done to the world, however, now all the Kari want is power. They believe that if the two are united, he who is king, will know riches and power with his queen at his side.”

He noticed a small smirk travel over her lips. Adjusting his posture he rested his hands on either knee as he stared her down, “You speak so passionately about this topic. Has no one considered you as Kazuma?”

“I do not care if other Kari see me as the King of the Gods. Their opinions do not matter. Only the queen is capable of seeing Kazuma and only she has the power to name him the king.”

“Hiko feels you were playing a game with him. That you sent him to the restaurant I was working at so that he could find me. That you were manipulating everything. That you sent Suemeli to bring me to that party so I might be united with Sesiago, who many feel was Kazuma. That Iashi manipulated the situation thanks to Katsu, so that the two of us would end up in bed together. A test for Hiko or perhaps to break him, which was it?”

“I retired from the Kari Foundation a year before Hiko found you in that restaurant. It was time to pass it onto the next generation. I was not lying when I told him that Moromari frequents there. I did wish for the two to encounter each other. It was important if we were to gain control of the Shima Corporation for the Kari to have the Saitama in their proverbial pocket. It was business; however, I knew you would be there. Hiko by that point was very powerful. It was why I made him the head of the Kari Foundation. While there were others who were probably more suited, he has a strength about him. He can make and break people at will and in business you need to be ruthless. I sent him there because I knew he would see you and know who you were. I had hoped he would protect you from the others, but his hatred for me runs too deep and he saw you as a conquest. Something to break the Kari.”

“You and I never met during the four years I was with Hiko.”

Tadayoshi deduced that her statement was more a question even though it was not articulated that way, “I felt it was in the best interest of both of us to keep my distance and allow things to play out as they were meant to.”

“Why?”

“Tearra needs to know pain so that she might be able to see Kazuma. Only that can free her eyes from blindness.”

“What about Kazuma?”

“Kazuma is prideful. His queen does not remember him, thus he sees her as unworthy. So he suffers, with those things that he hates the most, the weakness and emotions of a mortal.”

“Their story is a tragedy?”

“It is.” He closed his eyes and sighed, “I had not wished for Hiko to fail the way he did. I had hopes that the alignment of the stars would bring good fortune to all. His fate, was predestined long ago and much like his ancient predecessor, he is not meant to live a long life.”

“Do you intend to kill him?”

“I do not wish for you to worry about anything. I will take care of my family. You and the children will be protected. He will not be able to hurt you any longer.”

She gave an uneasy nod of her head, “Me being Tearra, is that why the Kari act inappropriately.”

“It is. Though that is no excuse for bad behavior. Lesser Kari have no control around the queen. Her aura is too powerful. Even the strongest of the Kari would find that their resolve is weakened in her presence.”

“Did you send Suemeli to take me to that party?”

“No, she did that with the help of Iashi.”

“Why?”

“Jealousy. Katsu wanted Sesiago to have the queen, so he could break him and take her for himself. To do so the situation had to be manipulated. Suemeli, was a companion to me and I cared for her deeply, but I was not in love with her and our relationship was never physical. She felt that like all Kari, my attention was upon you so she assisted Iashi in getting Sesiago and yourself together.”

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She was quiet, which was the worst thing for him at that point as his posture changed. He could feel the tension in his shoulders as he averted his eyes, “I was angry when I found out what had transpired between you and both Sesiago and Hiko. They never should have. Treating you like you were nothing more than property. When I saw that Hiko had put you on the auction block I was so furious, but I thought with Sesiago’s attention and announcing you as his girlfriend that things would work out and you would be taken off either by him or by me. Then, I was informed by Katsu what Hiko had done to you. I will not lie, Kari men can be aggressive. We have always been dominate in all aspects of our lives, but we never treat women the way he treated you.”

“My grandmother said that there have been other incidences with Kari men treating Tylo women badly. She named Katsu as one of them.”

“I noticed this trend start when I was a boy, my uncles, cousins, even my grandfather. Somewhere the Kari mentality changed regarding the Queen of the Gods. She was seen only as a means to get what they wanted and not as the gift she was meant to be. She was that flower that rose up in the center of the battlefield and calmed the heart of the King of the Gods. She is…so special.” When he looked up at her he realized she was staring at him rather intently which forced him to quickly look away, “Forgive me, this topic … I will teach you everything you need to know to raise Kazuma as a fine Kari man. I will teach you the traditions, walk you through what I can of the language in the time we have allotted, and instill within you the values we Kari have cast aside. Allow him to bring new life into the Kari. We do not have a lot of time, but in that time, I will do what I can.”

“I do not like how you are talking Mr. Kari. You act like you are not going to be around…”

“I won’t be. Hiko and I will go together, so you can move forward.” He reached to his wrist taking off his bracelet before gently grabbing her hand. With ease he placed it on her wrist, “I want you to give this to Kazuma, when you feel he has become a man. Normally his father would take him to make it after he has completed his trials, speaking with him on the significance of each bead, but Kazuma will be the last of the Kari to have one. This tradition will die with me. There are none left among the Kari capable of teaching the art of molding and refining metal into these bracelets when I take my last breath.” He sighed, “I did try to warn Hiko about the dangers of becoming a monster. Warning him to be careful around you was not enough. He is my responsibility. I should have dealt with him long ago.”

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Her movement was surprising as he found her close on her knees before him. She had reached out, coaxing his head, until his forehead rested between her breast. One hand to the back of his head the other on his shoulder. He closed his eyes and sighed as she spoke, “Let’s not talk about Hiko.”

“What should we talk about?”

“Anything as long as it is not him.”

“I am sorry.”

She laughed softly, “I really do break Kari men it seems.”

At first he did not understand her words, but consider that she was speaking on the fact that he had apologized. Kari men were not known for remorse, “Normally I would not dare, but you are…”

“I am?”

“I did not want it to be this way. The cycle will just repeat over and over again. I wanted you to see me with your own eyes, not force myself upon you. Are your eyes so blinded Tearra, that they can no longer see their king? How many lifetimes will we repeat this vicious cycle before you have had enough of the pain? Do you not love me anymore? Is it this old body? What is it that brings you to the bed of other men, but you never find your way to mine? Do you enjoy making me suffer?” Her silence did not help as the tension built further in his body and he wrapped his arms tightly around her. He never intended it to be this way or end up like this, but for Tearra to see her king there had to be pain and suffering on both of their parts. Through many lifetimes, there had been many failures. Certainly a few times they had come close, but Tearra’s eyes could not see her king, no matter the form he took. Tadayoshi was certain in his heart that this time would be no different and all he could do was deal with Hiko and the remainder of his family once and for all, giving his queen her freedom and allowing the child Kazuma to bring new life into the Kari.

To Be Continued

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