TS3W 2014-08-08 16-20-19-10

“Might I join you?” Tadayoshi asked the small child as he found him sitting on a bench in the garden.

“If you want.” With a single nod of his head he took a seat, clasping his hands together as he stared off into the distance. Tadayoshi knew Osa as the son of Seiji Shima and though he was not the blood of his brother Katsu, he was considered his grandson. Seiji had been born of a previous relationship, long before Katsu and his mother Abelie got married. He still regretted sharing a bed with Abelie. She had wanted a son with Katsu so desperately that she was willing to do anything to have it. She understood the damage it would do to the pride of any Kari man if he found out he was unable to get his wife pregnant and it was because of that union that Sesiago was born. Tadayoshi realized much to late that he had failed his father. He did everything wrong. “Am I going to be killed?”

The boys question broke the silence that had overshadowed the two of them. He knew from Zen that Kin was going to explain to the boy what had transpired, “No.”

“Why not?”

“Tationy loves you dearly and she did everything she could to protect you.”

“Did uncle Hiko want me dead?”

“Yes, I believe he did.” Tadayoshi heard the unwelcome choke as the child tried to hold back his tears, “A Kari man must never show weakness in front of another.”

“I am not Kari.”

“From this day forward you are my blood. Your father was a good man and the burden of carrying on his legacy is resting upon your shoulders. I cannot tell you how to be Shima, but I can raise you as my own blood. Impart the legacy of the Kari upon you and hope that someday you and Kazuma will bring honor back into this family.”

“What if I do not want to do that?”

“When you are old enough to make that decision, if staying among the Kari is not your wish, then seek your revenge. There is no Kari that would not understand.”

“I miss my dad.” Tadayoshi could tell the boy was trying to hold back his tears.

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“I miss mine as well.” His words must have surprised the boy because Osa finally ventured to look at Tadayoshi. “He was a man of few words. He never smiled. His own father fell ill when he was twelve and he became the head of the Kari family. He was under a lot of pressure to improve the family. His predecessors left large shoes to fill and there were many that felt someone so young and unprepared was incapable. He married what was considered back in those days, late in life. A foreigner from Progmato named Maori. He was just eighteen and my mother sixteen. Their marriage was arranged and she traveled four hundred miles from Progmato to Aslann. It took thirty-four days walking with her father and younger sister at her side. My father was not happy about getting married, especially to a foreigner. They knew each other for just two minutes before the ceremony.”

“Were you close with your dad?”

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“I respected him a great deal. I was always at his side, unlike my siblings. I never had the luxury of being young. My father understood that to carry on the legacy of Kazuma, that one child must always carry that burden. I was younger than you are now, when the weight of the Kari was placed upon my shoulders. My father, Azu was acutely aware that he had deprived me of something very important, but as the future patriarch of the Kari, I did not have time to be a child. He guided me in every facet of tradition. By the time I was eleven years old, I could fluently speak the near forgotten language of the Kari, knew all of the prayers, chants, and rituals. I was accomplished in hand to hand combat, excelled in academics, and understood the will of Kazuma better than half of the elder Kari. When I was twelve I had already gone through each aspect of the trials and was rewarded, not just with the bracelet signifying I was a man, but the knowledge and skills required to make them. My father held me above all of his other children, as the future of the Kari.”

Tadayoshi paused as he thought back to when he was fourteen years old and his father passed on the will of Kazuma, “When I was a boy, the Kari looked forward to this time of year. We would gather and celebrate Kazuma and Tearra. It seems as though, tradition is no longer an important part of the Kari.” There was a moment of silence that was accompanied by a sigh, “You are the only one of my children who cares about what it means to be Kari, that is why I will pass Kazuma’s legacy onto you. When I am gone, you will lead the Kari and be the voice of Kazuma.” Tadayoshi’s smile faded away rather quickly. His father was not deluded, he understood well that Tadayoshi did not want to lead the Kari, but the position was too important to hand over to anyone who did not hold true to the traditions that the Kari valued.

“Katsu believes he is to be the voice of Kazuma.”

Tadayoshi had noticed how his father tensed, “Only the head of the Kari can be the voice of Kazuma. Katsu will never be granted the position by me or any other Kari. There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence. He believes himself above all others. He sees himself as the vessel of Kazuma. One can speculate on whom the vessel may or may not be, but only Tearra has the power to see Kazuma in his mortal form. Such arrogance will destroy this family and there may come a time when you are forced to remind the Kari of Kazuma’s will. I have seen things recently that concern me. There are so few Tylo’s left and there have been some Kari who have lowered themselves to the most obscene and disrespected of behaviors. My illness has been a hindrance. I fear the state the Kari is in will be a burden to you. Forgive me for passing on a broken and divided clan.”

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Tadayoshi thoughts were distracted as Osa stood and turned to face him. He wrung his hands together nervously. “What would your father think of all of this?”

“He would be disappointed that it took me so long to deal with it. He would be angry at his blood for becoming such deviants.”

“What would he do if it was him instead of you?”

“I cannot imagine it turning out like this if it was him.”

“Then why did you let it? He taught you everything, right? Why could you not carry on the legacy?”

Tadayoshi pursed his lips, “I was too weak. I did not want to force Tearra to see me. I wanted her to accept me on her own. Tearra did not belong to any one Kari and the family fractured as they tried to obtain her. Had I forced her to see me back then perhaps none of this would have happened.”

“It did happen.” Osa paused a moment, “Are you going to do what your father did and pass it off on the next generation?” His words took Tadayoshi by surprise. He had not even considered it like that. He was doing the same thing his father had done. Certainly his father had been ill, but he had placed the weight of a broken and divided family upon his shoulders. Even if Tadayoshi tried to fix it, could he? It was difficult not to wonder whether or not he would make it worse. “Did grandpa Katsu do bad things?”

Tadayoshi noticeably bowed his head, “Yes.”

“I refuse to become my father.” Osa responded, “No matter whether or not he was a good man, he did his own wrongs. I will not carry his burden. I will be my own man and you should be yours.”

Tadayoshi sighed, “The wisdom of a child, is so simple. So tell me Osa, what should I do?”

“Move forward.” Osa’s answer was so simplistic and yet Tadayoshi found moving forward to be the most difficult thing of all. He was a man whose life revolved around the past. As a child learning to speak his father molded him. There was no Kari whose life was more wrapped in tradition and history than that of Tadayoshi Kari.  At almost fifty-two years of age, he was settled in a way of life that suited him. He did not even know how to find the path that moved forward.

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The child had darted off rather quickly. Tadayoshi understood the need to be alone with one’s thoughts after having been bombarded with reality. The estate was quiet and empty, with no other Kari around. He had considered checking on Tationy, but instead found himself a spot on the landing not far away from where he had taken his son’s life. He had not been surprised when Zen joined at his side and spoke, “How is she doing?”

“She cried herself to sleep.”

Zen was silent his hands clasping in front of him. It was a common posture for those Kari raised by Azu and Kazuki Kari. “You made a mess of this.”

“I know.”

“How is the boy?”

Tadayoshi realized that he was asking about Osa and for a moment he remained silent, “Moving forward.”

There was a noticeable sigh from Zen which caused Tadayoshi to frown, “I am going to be dealing with this trouble for many years to come.” Considering the words of Zen he hung his head. Among the Kari there were two individuals of great importance; the first being the elder of the Kari that stood as the leader and voice of Kazuma. The other, the shield of the elder. His duty was to protect the elder and enforce the will of Kazuma a position currently held by Zen, son of Tadayoshi’s uncle, Kazuki Kari. The pause in the conversation did nothing for the overworked mind of Tadayoshi. There was a heaviness around him as he struggled with how to handle this situation and more importantly what he should do about Tationy. “Are you disappointed with my decision to have Kin tell the boy the truth?”

“No, it was a decision in his best interest, I am sure.”

Zen continued speaking, “Iashi has made it clear that he will not support you as the patriarch of our family any longer. I have instructed Moromari to deal with him.”

“How unfortunate.”

“Once he has handled that situation, he will continue to do as Hiko had instructed. All non-Kari will be moved from the island. Luna Hamara will be given her freedom and the incriminating evidence held over the head of her husband destroyed. With Hiko gone, their shared blackmail has no power. I will personally see to this matter and make certain that Jin Ishi understands the outcome if he goes against the Kari.”

“That is not necessary, allow me to handle it.”

“If you are sure.” Zen had paused a moment then continued, “I will deal with our assets then. I feel it would be in the best interest of our family to make the move we have been speaking on for many years now. America holds a lot of opportunities for a company such as ours. I know you have been particularly vocal about not wishing to leave behind Aslann….”

As Zen spoke, Tadayoshi thought on the words of the child Osa before he finally responded, “No, it is probably for the best. While our roots are dug in deeply here, this situation even if we handle every possible fallout has tainted our presence. There will always be questions lingering over us. This suspicion will fester and grow, it is better if we start anew. Make certain the Saitama handle everything. I do not want any bodies found. Ensure that these matters are contained and have them find the body of Seiji Shima. Osa’s memory of his father should not be tainted by accusations and rumors.”

Tadayoshi noticed how Zen scrutinized him. It was evident that there were things Zen wanted to say, but he held his tongue regarding most of them, “I am surprised you are agreeing with the move.”

“It is for the best.” Even though Zen was his closest friend, Tadayoshi did not wish to elaborate so he turned his back to him, “If you will excuse me, I will head out to speak with Jin and Luna.”

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He was less than a mile away from the estate belonging to Jin Ishi when he heard her voice calling out to him. Turning he saw her running up the path, “You move so quickly for your age,” She voiced when she finally came to a stop before him. The last time he saw her she was resting after crying herself to sleep and now here she was before him. “I woke up and you were gone. Zen said you were going to see Luna.”

“There are matters that need attending. You should be resting.”

“You don’t want me with you?”

Her question took him by surprise, “That is not it. This is a business matter….”

She had interrupted him, “Are you trying to protect me from the ugliness?”

“No it is not that either.”

“Then why did you not ask me to go with you?” The truth of the matter was he had not even considered asking her. Even if he had, he was not certain why she would want to go. She confused him. He realized when her body pressed into him, her hand settled in his that he had gotten himself lost in thought, “Aren’t we in this together?”

“Are we?” There was uncertainty in his voice.

“I stood by you, why are you pulling away now?”

“I don’t need you to stand by me if you are only there for security.” He realized after the words left his mouth that he had raised his voice at her. That was not his intention. His body was tense, her proximity did nothing to ease that tension, and his emotions where on a roller coaster that he could not seem to get off of. “I am sorry. I really did not mean…”

Her shaking her head halted his response, “I am the one that should be sorry. I must seem awful to you. I spent hours crying my eyes out and now I am just pretending like it is all fine. It isn’t fine. I am not fine. Nothing about this is fine. Please, can we talk about this later? I want to come with you.”

It was with hesitation that he agreed as he distanced himself from her, though kept her hand in his, “It is getting late, we should get going.”

“I can go with you then?”

His response was a nod of his head as he turned his body and began walking. Even though he told himself he should let her hand go, he held on to it. Kari men were not generally known for such outward displays of affection in public, at least not the ones from his generation. He doubted she would understand the significance of such a bold action. Her generation moved through the world at a different pace. Kissing, holding hands, making out in public were all common occurrences. For his generation though, such things were unheard of. Holding hands or a kiss on the cheek were considered bold moves and not done with just anyone.

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Upon their arrival to the estate belonging to the Ishi, they were greeted by Jin. He allowed them to enter his home, but did not let them leave the entryway. While some might have found it disrespectful, Tadayoshi was acutely aware of the rift between the Ishi and the Kari thanks mainly in part to his son Hiko so Jin’s behavior was expected. “Thank you for allowing me an opportunity to speak with you.”

“Do not misunderstand, Kari. The only reason you were even allowed into my home is because my wife says she knows this girl.”

“I understand.”

“Why are you here?”

Long before they had arrived at the estate, Tadayoshi had let go of Tationy’s hand. She had not questioned it aloud, though he was certain the reasons why had entered into her mind more than once on their trip. So when she reached for his hand and gave it a squeeze, he glanced slightly in her direction. The exchange had not gone unnoticed by the Ishi and the way Tationy subtly smiled caused Tadayoshi to relax, much to his own surprise. At first, he did not respond to Jin, his eyes remained fixed on Tationy as he considered his words, “There have been behaviors displayed by my blood that I disapprove of. Your wife is no longer imprisoned here on the island. Hiko holds no power over the two of you any longer.”

“Do you think I would believe such words coming from a man that has condoned the behavior of his kin.”

“You bought her off that auction, you should consider your own behavior,” Tationy voiced. “There have been plenty of mistakes that can be laid at the feet of many different families that does not change the fact that Tadayoshi is trying to apologize in his own, awkward way.”

“Why would you apologize?”

Tadayoshi noticed how the eyes of the Ishi and his wife fixed on both him and Tationy. He was used to the scrutinizing gaze of his father, Azu, so theirs did not intimidate him. “I was passed on the burden carried upon the shoulders of my father. I was incapable of righting the wrongs that were done by my kin. Instead, I allowed them to escalate further until women and men were sold and abused. I freely admit I did not want this responsibility. Had I been a better leader, perhaps these things would not have occurred.”

The voice of Luna broke the silence that followed Tadayoshi’s words, “Why do you stand at his side? Is this the man you have chosen to protect you? Is this the man more powerful than Hiko?”

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Tadayoshi bowed his head slightly, if he wanted to know what was in her mind the questions asked by Luna might give some insight. Regardless, he made note how Jin had glanced at his wife and considered that whatever Tationy’s response was would ultimately determine how this conversion continued to go. “He is not just some man. When I was young, there were nights I spent sitting on my floor because I did not want to sleep. It was not that I ever remembered any of my dreams, only the feeling that everything was wrong. I moved through the world with near constant moments of déjà vu. I never bothered to unpack because we never stayed in any place for very long. It was like we were running from something, but I was the only one that had no idea what we were running from.”

“What does this have to do with my wife’s questions?”

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Her lips pursed a moment before she continued, “I recall very few times in my life where I felt that everything was just as it was meant to be. The moments never lasted very long and I continually failed to hold on to the things that were important.” She turned her attention completely on Tadayoshi, “That weekend after the moment on the subway, I was anxious. I could not get it out of my head. When Monday came around, I was out of the house right on time, a refreshing change for me seeing I was usually running behind, but I was quickly met with disappointment. I kept making excuses. He was just running late. The closer it got to the buses arrival time the more anxious I got. It was a long ride to school, first a bus trip, and then a subway ride. Five days a week and even though I was used to it I never noticed how lonely it felt without him there. I realized when I was in the subway car and my stop was finally called that he never made it. Was it a fluke? Was he sick? Maybe he did not have to go in to work that day. I agonized over the whys and missed my stop.”

Tadayoshi almost forgot that he and Tationy were standing in the entryway of Jin Ishi’s estate as she continued talking. “I felt like I was losing my mind. My head hurt and I floated through my whole day, oblivious to the world around me. My mind kept flashing to the subway and how I anxiously waited and searched for him. The emotions had taken me so unexpectedly. I could not explain it. A stranger to me, moved me so completely that I felt like I was losing him simply because he was not there on the subway the following week. It was such a ridiculous thing. How do you lose something or someone that you never had to begin with? I asked my father that night when I got home if two souls could be connected to one another.”

“What did he tell you?” Tadayoshi questioned.

“He said, ‘There are people who believe in soulmates. Some people spend their whole lives looking for love, when they should really be looking for a single person. When you find that person you can say, he belongs to me and I belong to him. We belong together. To truly be connected and belong to someone means you have given over yourself completely. You trust them. Love them. Respect them. You feel so complete when you are with them that you cannot imagine the world without being at their side’.”

There was a pause in her words before she quickly continued, “I wonder how many things I have ignored or pushed out of my mind because they were inconvenient or uncomfortable. Eventually even he was pushed aside and I never thought of him again, until I was sitting with you. Like all of the other times that I experienced some weird déjà vu, I passed it off as nothing, refused to talk about it because I found it to be unpleasant. Then, I woke from resting and I felt that feeling of loss again and I rushed from the room searching frantically for you. You removed the veil from my eyes Tadayoshi, don’t give up on me now.”

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Tadayoshi was dumbstruck as he watched her attention pull away from him and settle on Luna, whose expression was slightly stunned, “I stand at his side because I choose to. There may be moments where he protects me, but I will do the same for him when given the opportunity. In this world he perhaps is not as powerful as Hiko, but that is not at all what is important. The two of you should understand that more than anyone, Rin and Hisoka.”

Tadayoshi glanced quickly away from Tationy his eyes settling on the two before him, “So it is true, he has removed the veil,” Jin responded as he glanced at Luna briefly.

“Even so that does not mean she will ever see him,” Luna stated as she looked toward Tadayoshi and Tationy, “Do not think the road before the two of you is an easy one. Removing the veil is only the first step to a very long process. The body you have chosen Kazuma may not survive long enough for Tearra to truly awaken and we will suffer through a mortal life once again.”

Luna’s words were heavy. Tadayoshi as a boy often thought about how the other gods might speak and it surprised him that Hisoka, the God of Love, spoke in such a serious fashion. He doubted that even if the woman before him was speaking kindly or with humor that the tone of her words would vary from the steady and deliberate way she articulated them. Rin on the other hand was rather reserved and his tone carried a harsh quality to it. It probably made him seem more menacing than he actually was. There were so many things going through his mind, but the words of Jin quickly broke his thoughts. “We will be leaving your island. For us, there is nothing we can do, but wait until Tearra sees Kazuma. Luna has been bugging me for years to take her to Venice. So I think, we will do that.”

Tadayoshi wondered briefly why neither of them referred to each other as Rin or Hisoka, “Wait, I…”

He had been about to say he had questions, but Luna brought her hand up. “There is nothing we can say to either of you. This is a road you must walk together. We could spend days, weeks, months, even years telling you everything we know, but it will not help you. You are your own people and even though you are Kazuma and she Tearra, you are first and foremost, Tadayoshi and Tationy. If you wish for her to see you, you must reach the heart of Tationy. That may not be possible. Many lifetimes have passed and even when Tearra and Kazuma came together, she was unable to open her heart to him because it always belonged to another. That did not mean Kazuma did not try. We will hope for the best, but the two of you are on your own.”

Inwardly Tadayoshi frowned. It was the worst possible scenario. He doubted there was any way he could touch her heart, when he knew that it belonged to his son. “Please Tadayoshi, don’t give up on me.”

Tadayoshi slowly drew his attention toward her. Oblivious to what was going on around him at that point, he gave Tationy’s hand a squeeze, “I might stumble.”

“If you do I will catch you.”

A brief nod as he turned his attention away from her so he could continue the conversation with Jin and Luna. He glanced around realizing that the two of them had departed when he and Tationy were not paying attention. “It seems it is truly in our hands.”

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Together they left the estate at first walking side by side, but eventually Tadayoshi boldly reached down and took her hand. Her soft whisper caught him off guard, “Is this alright?”

“Yes.” Tadayoshi thought on the words she had spoken before Luna and Jin allowing them to roll around his mind over and over again, “I am sorry I scared you.”

She made a rather odd sound kind of like an ‘mmm’ but it came out more like an ‘mmf’, “You do not have to apologize, I was the one that got all worked up.”

“I am at a loss on how we proceed from here.”

“You were married before.”

Tadayoshi bowed his head, “My relationship with Ako was not like the one you had with Hiko. We did not meet, date, live together before we were married. Our relationship was arranged by my father and I only married her because he felt it was important for the head of the Kari to carry on.”

“You are talking about having children right?”

“Yes.”

“Did you love her?”

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He paused releasing her hand. It was not that he did not want to hold on to it, but doing so while talking about another woman somehow seemed wrong to him, “I knew at an early age that I belonged to another. I did not feel it was right to give myself over to someone I would never love. My father insisted before his death that I take a wife, so I allowed him to arrange a union for me. Ako was very outspoken. She didn’t like me. According to her, I was too stuck in my ways and unreasonable. We had Hiko, because it is what was expected of us. Perhaps that was why I could never give him the gentle hand he needed. Regardless, we were together for seventeen years and I did care for her deeply, but I would not say I loved her. Eventually, she decided she wanted more than me. She left. Took off to Europe and filed for divorce. It was a shameful thing. Kari do not get divorced and yet here I am the Elder of the Kari … there were many that disapproved.”

“Why did she leave Hiko behind?”

“I believe she loved him, but he was a constant reminder of the things she was trying to escape. She felt repressed and smothered by tradition.”

For a moment there was apprehension from her. It was as though she wished to say something, but was holding back. “Was she beautiful?”

“There are men that would find her attractive, but she never moved my heart.”

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“I wonder what moves the heart of a Kari man.” Even though he was certain she was thinking about Hiko he felt a shiver travel along his spine as he kept his eyes forward, “You seem very set in your ways. I imagine a woman who loves excitement and adventure would not be your style. It is not that you are not spontaneous. You seem like you have moments where you could be, but you are an immovable force so a restless spirit would not tempt you.”

A brief smile passed over his lips, “We have had very few encounters that you remember and yet you think you have me figured out?”

“Even if I do that does not mean I understand what moves your heart.”

For a moment his lips pursed as he glanced at the side of her face. She was staring off into the distance, allowing him to lead her where he wished as they walked side by side. “I am listening, tell me what you think you know of me.”

There was a pause and Tadayoshi could tell she was considering her words, “You have a very settled nature, speak few words because you find it unnecessary. You have a slow rhythm about you and you are willfully stubborn about changing your mind or your routine. That does not mean you are incapable of bending, if the circumstance’s warrant you to. You are probably the type of guy that will not even bother if you consider it unworthy of your attention. You would never tolerate drama. If a woman tried to make you jealous or play you, she would probably meet the bull within you. You are calm and steady, do not seem like the type that puts yourself into situations where you could potentially lose yourself. Though, I still cannot figure out what moves your heart, what gets you going, what you notice. I bet Ako was beautiful, yet she didn’t do it for you?”

“Ako loved adventure and excitement. She was not content with a quiet life and she didn’t appreciate tradition. I found her personality incompatible with my own. As to what gets me going, I find it rather curious that you are so interested. Ako was very beautiful by societal standards. I find natural beauties pleasing,” he glanced at her briefly as they walked, “What moves my heart though is a woman that appreciates me for the man I am. She understands that I will not change and she is accepting of me with all of my faults.” He paused giving her a moment to take in his words. “Would you like to know what I have considered about you?”

“Should I be worried?”

“Perhaps,” He responded before pausing, “I think the reason you preferred Hiko, even after what he did over Sesiago was because Hiko was a confident man.” He could feel the tension in the air so he reached down and took her hand giving it a light squeeze before continuing, “Only a strong man can win you heart and respect. He has to have strength, it cannot be the illusion of power. Sesiago was well respected, but he was miles away from Hiko in that regard. Confidence in himself was something he lacked and Hiko had it in abundance. Sesiago would never have made you happy because he would always be the weaker of the two of you, no matter what power he held. You have a very sober perspective about who you are and the men in your life. You understood Hiko was a monster. More importantly you understood your part in unleashing that beast. Some would blame it only on him, but you are acutely aware of your own shortcomings and accepted your own responsibility in the events that took place here on Shimragata. That does not excuse what Hiko did.” Tadayoshi noticed how she walked with her head bowed and even though there was more that he could have said he changed the topic, “We should hurry back, it is getting late.”

To Be Continued

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