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Over the coming weeks Tationy and the children settled into some semblance of a routine. Whether it was real or all pretense she was not certain. She knew that she would have to decide fairly soon what she intended to do, after all winter break would be over and Osa would need to go back to school. Her father had told her that she did not need to rush or worry about those things that the world moved at its own pace that did not mean we needed to keep up with it. He had convinced her after some coaxing and a whole lot of prodding to go out with him. He thought she could benefit by getting out of the house and even though she did not want to leave the children with a babysitter, she very reluctantly agreed. Of course it took them an hour just to leave the apartment because she had to give them kisses, say goodbye, and then do it all over again.

Her father, Miroku had picked on her incessantly about looking like a soccer mom. When he informed her that they would be going to a pub she tried to find something casual to wear. Admittedly over the past six years Hiko had been dictating every facet of her appearance, right down to what jewelry she wore or even how her nails were done. It was not a task she had been comfortable with, so she tried to find something modest, but not prudish. Something that said she could have a wild night. She had failed at it though.

When they arrived at the pub he left her in the care of a young man named Sadamitsu and her long time friend Tsubaki, who she had not spoken to in many years. Up until the moment the live rock performance started she had not realized the true reason that her father, Miroku had taken her to this particular pub. Watching him on the stage, playing the bass guitar she realized that there were a lot of things about her father that she did not know. When she was little he had always instilled within her a love of music. He was always singing or playing piano and he taught her both, though she never considered herself talented at either. Tationy though had never realized the true passion he had for music until she saw him on that stage rocking out with the other members of his band, Tequila Monsters.

She did not recognize the singer or the drummer, but the guitarist she knew from her time in Mount Celiabai. His name was Kuro Ishi and he and his younger brother Mikio had been her two best friends during her time there. In fact, up until she got involved with Hiko she still remained close with both of them. Even though she was trying to focus on the music, she realized that her mind was often wandering to the fact that nothing good had happened to her since she met Hiko Kari. For an hour and forty-five minutes as her father rocked out on the stage she had plenty of time to think about how her life might have been different had the Kari not come into it. She wanted a do over even though she knew it was not a realistic thing to wish for.

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After the set was over, the band mingled with the crowd of people that came to listen to them. They had quite a following and she noticed how her father weaved through the people making his way quickly toward her, “Did you enjoy yourself?”

“I did. How long have you been doing this?”

“Long before you were born.”

“Why didn’t you ever tell me?”

“I gave it up just after your mother told me she was pregnant. Hero,” He gestured toward the singer, “Came to see me a year ago and asked if I wanted to reform the band with him. He is a pretty persistent fellow. He had Toshiro, the drummer already lined up, we just needed someone that could play guitar. Our old guitarist from back in the day, died a year after we split up.”

Tationy allowed her eyes to move over the crowed until she found Kuro who was talking on his phone, “So how did Kuro end up with you?”

“He and his brother along with Tsubaki would come and check on me. I think they were mostly looking for information on you, but during one of our conversations in passing I mentioned Tequila Monsters and Kuro told me he could play.”

“You are all amazing. Is it weird to fan-girl over my father?”

Miroku laughed, “I almost forgot you always had a thing for bass players.”

Tationy chuckled softly as she looked toward her father, “You top all of them. I,” Her voice softened as she grew slightly serious, “I was impressed. Disappointed you never told me, but I guess there is a lot I do not know about you.”

“Are you going to make this night all emotional?”

She shook her head, “Of course not. So what is next?”

“Relaxing. Spend time with your friends.”

“I would not know what to say to them.”

“Why don’t you start with, hello.” It sounded so simple. Her father rested his hand to her shoulder letting her know in his own way that the first step was the hardest before leaving her alone standing there.

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She watched as the crowd of people went about enjoying their evening and Tequila Monsters settled in for the night. Her father had moved to the bar, ordered a soda, before moving toward the piano near the back of the room with the other members of his band. It did not surprise Tationy that her father took comfort in the keys, he had always been like that. If there was a piano in the room, one could bank on the fact that Miroku Tylo was probably playing it. What she found surprising was the fact that he was not drinking alcohol like the remainder of the band. It was just a strong reminder that she knew very little about her father. She had not even realized he had stopped drinking.

Even though he was sober there was still a heaviness about him. Tationy could not help wondering if this was the suffering of being Tylo. Would she look like that when she was his age? She considered that she probably looked like that now. There were moments she felt like everyone in the room knew what had happened to her. Perhaps it was something only another Tylo could understand and recognize.

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Her eyes shifted away from her father to the lead singer and the drummer, Hero and Toshiro. The thing that stood out about these two men was the fact that they had the same hair coloring as her father and even her uncle Moromari. Even if they used another surname, Saitama blood ran through their veins. Hero strummed the guitar once, “Miroku.”

“Hmm?”

“Mind if I take your daughter home for the night? You know I like those soccer mom types.”

Toshiro chuckled almost nervously as Miroku spoke, “Don’t even look at her.”

“Come on, I promise to be gentle the first time.”

Tationy’s lips pursed as she stood by the jukebox and listened to the banter back and forth. It was clearly evident that this was not the first time this sort of conversation happened, though she was pretty certain it was the first one that involved her. Despite the question posed by Hero, she could tell that he was not serious as he began to strum the guitar again. He played a familiar tune, one she heard when she was a kid growing up. It was a particular favorite of her fathers so she was not surprised when he began accompanying him on the piano. Hero sang the song in English and his deep bass-baritone voice was reminiscent of the American country singer, Johnny Cash.

I hear the train a comin’
It’s rolling round the bend
And I ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when,
I’m stuck in Folsom prison, and time keeps draggin’ on
But that train keeps a rollin’ on down to San Antone..
When I was just a baby my mama told me. Son,
Always be a good boy, don’t ever play with guns.
But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die
When I hear that whistle blowing, I hang my head and cry.

Even though she was trying to focus on the singing she found her mind wandering again as she scanned the room before proceeding in the direction of Sadamitsu and Tsubaki.

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Tationy was rather hesitant about approaching simply because she had not spoken to Tsubaki in nearly four years. At first she just stood toward the side as she listened to Sadamitsu and Tsubaki talking, “So if I hit the bullseye you are going to let me take you home tonight?”

“Mitsi baby, if you hit the bullseye I will let you do a lot more than take me home.”

“I hate making these wagers with you. Every time I try and fail you lord it over my head until the next bet.”

“One would think you would stop making them.”

“What can I say, I am not the type of guy that gives up when he wants something and I definitely am left wanting around you.”

“Well let’s have a little fun then. I will give you three chances to hit dead center. If you manage to make one bullseye, you can take me home. If you make two bullseye I will let you see me naked.”

“If I get all three?”

“You can have me.”

“Can I now?”

“Mmhmm, any way you want.”

“Damn it Tsubaki, you did that on purpose. Now I got images and stuff in my head. How am I suppose to hit a bullseye when your tits are bouncing in my face?”

Tsubaki laughed and Tationy sighed deciding it was probably for the best that she kept her distance. It was clearly evident that her friends and family continued on. She did not know what she expected. Was it selfish to wish that the world stopped moving? In a way though she was happy for Tsubaki. When Tsubaki had cheated on her boyfriend Sadoo with Tationy’s boyfriend Abe, it had turned into a big mess and Tsubaki had even sworn off men and relationships. Not that it did much good because she was back in one not long after Sadoo. Tationy had always suspected that it was how Tsubaki dealt with things. Getting bent out of shape over spilled milk was never her style. She naturally picked up the pieces and moved on, though the damage she caused was usually unfixable.

Last they had talked Sadoo had never forgiven her and Abe, well the two just pretended as though nothing happened. Tationy forgave both of them, which both Tsubaki and Abe thought made her the bigger person in it all, but looking back on it Tationy did not think that was the case. Everyone makes mistakes and if she could forgive Abe she could forgive Tsubaki, but truth of the matter was she did not have it in her to be angry with either of them even though she probably should have been. Thinking back on it, just made her wonder if she was truly like Tearra in every way. Where was her hatred? Who was it sealed away in?

What did it say about her that she was incapable of getting angry? Certainly she had experienced being sad or even frustrated, but anger to the point of hating someone, wanting to kill them, never wishing to speak with them again, not even in the slightest. Tsubaki had asked her directly once how could she be so forgiving and Tationy did not have an answer for her. Looking back on it, she probably should have told her that it was not that she was forgiving it was simply an inability to become angry. No matter how badly she had been treated she never held grudges. Perhaps it was not an inability at all. Perhaps she was simply repressing that particular emotion. Whatever it was, she was certain it did more harm than good.

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Tationy found her way back to the jukebox. She felt out of place. At least with the Kari she was comfortable, but here she felt like she didn’t know anyone. She grew up with Kuro and went to high school with Tsubaki and they felt like strangers to her. She longed for something familiar and told herself that she would be so happy if Hiko walked through that door. The problem was, he was never going to walk through any door again. There was a sadness building within her and she thought it best if she told her father she was leaving and said her goodbyes.

She had turned toward her father. He was so enthralled in the keys of the piano she doubted he or anyone else would even notice her departure so she decided it was for the best if she said nothing at all.

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Turning on her heels, she did not even manage to make it a step when she realized her path was blocked and Mikio Ishi was standing there staring at her. She didn’t know why his look made her feel sad and ashamed. Tationy always thought his green eyes were scrutinizing and judging her. Her mind tried to understand why he was in a place like this, the genius was always too busy with his books and calculations than music so she quickly deduced that Kuro had called him. It was probably the most awkward and uncomfortable moment of her life. The last time they spoke was at his fathers funeral. The conversation had not been pleasant, in fact he made it clearly evident he was not happy with her and the decisions she was making especially where Hiko Kari was concerned.

Hiko had treated both Mikio and Kuro like they were lower then dogs. Told them both that they were not allowed to see Tationy anymore. She never understood why Hiko did that and even after when she asked him he offered no explanation. The silence was almost too much and she found herself wondering what he was seeing when he looked at her. Did he see the queen of the gods like Tadayoshi? She glanced away from him and noticed that the eyes of Tsubaki and Kuro both were on them. She felt like she had been set up, for what reason though?

Mikio finally removed the smoke from between his lips and spoke, “You look different, maturer. I guess being a mother suits you.”

She braved looking up at him. His scars had barely faded and she could not help wondering if he was still self-conscious about them. Mikio had always changed the topic when she asked him how he got the scars, eventually she just stopped asking. It was clearly a topic he did not want discussed. Not that it mattered, he always kept her at arms-length anyway. When she lived in Mount Celiabai, she always considered herself a burden placed upon them by her father and theirs. Most of the time he and his brother Kuro spoke in the language of the Ishi just so she could not understand them. She hated that. She felt alone enough as it was without the two of them making it worse. Tationy had never been brave enough though to tell them how it made her feel. “You look different as well; thinner and taller.”

There was a long pause, “You were going to make your escape, don’t let me stop you.”

“I just want to get home to the boys.”

“You have never been a very good liar.”

Her lips pursed as she went to protest, “I’m not…”

The look he gave her as he placed his smoke between his lips again halted her from speaking further. “I will take you home,” He said between drags off of his cigarette.

“You don’t have to.”

There was a noticeable pause from him before he finally responded, “Yeah I do.”

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Even though Tationy thought allowing Mikio to take her home was not a good idea, she relented and agreed. She had a bad feeling that this was going to turn into some sort of argument about Hiko and the Kari. How she always makes the worst decisions, but Mikio did not say a single word the entire ride to her father’s apartment. He had smoked at least ten cigarettes along the way and she made note that he was smoking even more than Hiko, which was saying a lot because Hiko had certainly been the most prolific chain smoker she had ever met. Though in Hiko’s defense, he had cut back and then quit entirely after the birth of Kazuma.

She unlocked the door stepping inside as she placed her coat in the closest she spoke, “The boys are just down the hall with a neighbor, I will be right back.”

“I will come with you.”

“Really that is not necessary.”

Despite her protest he walked with her to get the boys. Thankfully he had because the boys were already asleep and with his help she did not have to wake them. While she tucked the boys in Mikio had disappeared from her old bedroom. She had expected him to leave and felt a bit of disappointment that he had not been very talkative. Though it had been a long time since the two of them spent time together and Tationy was certain it might not be time they could get back.

Yawning as she left the bedroom, closing the door behind her she spied Mikio lying on the sofa. In a way he hadn’t changed even in the slightest. Certainly he was taller, thinner, and looked more mature, then she remembered, but he was still the same Mikio that made himself at home and fell asleep on her father’s sofa that he had always been. For a moment she just stared at him, leaning down and reaching out her hand to wake him. Instead, she hesitated. It was fine like this even though the connection between them felt different there was security and normalcy with him being here. She told herself it was probably exactly what she needed considering it felt like her friends and family had moved forward while she was stuck standing still.

Righting herself she began to move toward the kitchen thinking that tea sounded like a good idea, but realized quickly that she had been halted.

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His hold on her wrist tightened though the remainder of his body was in the same posture it had been in when she had checked on him. She felt a tension not just in the air, but in his grip as well. Mikio had always been rather awkward when they were growing up. He loved Science, took comfort in books, hardly spoke to anyone except his brother Kuro and even then he usually spoke in the language of the Ishi. Mikio was a genius who skipped two grades in school and there was talk that he was smart enough at the age of six to skip even more, but his father Jee wanted him to have a normal life not that of a prodigy. She always thought it must have been difficult for him being smarter than everyone around him.

Kuro had once told her that Mikio saw the world and everything in it as some sort of experiment. That he was a man of Science and that everything within the world were simply components. It made people afraid of him because socially he was a near impossible person to get to know. If Mikio was not with Kuro, he was always alone and seemed to have no pride or love for anything other than Science. She never saw any deep emotion from him and if the Kari where the hardest people in the world to read, Mikio Ishi was the hardest person in the universe. She always thought he cared little about people because even with her he always seemed uninterested. Certainly she was not as smart as he was, but it was not as though she could not contribute to a conversation or ask questions. Though during that time, other than staring, he barely had a string of words to say to her.

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With the massive amount of thoughts running through her mind, it was not difficult with his strength to pull her down on him, especially seeing she was already ill-prepared due impart to her surprise. When his eyes opened her lips parted and she stared. Those green eyes hidden behind heavy lids, shrouded by tinted glasses, and messy silver hair, “Do you like it when men are forceful with you?”

His question caused her to stutter and stumble over her words. Finally, she took a moment to collect herself, “It is not what you think.”

“Explain it to me.” There was a pause, “Explain to me why you stayed with him after what he did.”

“How….” She realized much to late that he knew what happened between her and Hiko.

Cursing under her breath she assumed that he heard it from her father. She could not help the questions in her head about why her father would share that information. Mikio settled those thoughts quickly when he finally responded, “I was here when the police came looking for you.” It brought her some comfort knowing that her father did not speak on it, but it bothered her that Mikio knew. Had she felt any shame over it before it felt ten times worse staring at his face while he waited for her to explain. Unfortunately the words she wanted to say did not leave her mouth and she could tell by the hint of a tone when Mikio spoke that he was troubled by that fact, “So that is the type of thing that does it for you, being taken by a man and treated like property.” His hold tightened around her, “How does it feel right now Tationy, are you getting turned on?”

She pushed against his chest, “Don’t make assumptions about me, when you know nothing.”

“You are right, I know nothing so perhaps you can explain to me why your skin has goose bumps. The medical term is cutis anserina and many believe they are a vestigial reflex. They involuntarily appear when someone experiences fear, nostalgia, pleasure, euphoria, awe, admiration, or sexual arousal. Which one are you experiencing?”

“Let me go.”

“If I don’t are you going to give in to me?”

She felt emotions bubbling within her as she lashed out verbally, “Is that what you think? Do you think I just laid there and took it? I fought him with everything I had and he liked it. The more anguish I felt the more turned on he got. I did not even get to pretend I was someplace else during it because if I even for a moment stopped fighting he would get angry and hurt me until I screamed out. You have no idea how hard it was for me to stand at his side. None of you could ever understand what it is like to love someone that hurt you. How disgusted you feel. How much you hate yourself. How every night you go to bed and wish you would die in your sleep and every day you wake up …. ”

Her body froze as his fingers gently touched her cheek and when he finally spoke she understood that he was testing her, “Kazuma does not deserve you and neither do the Kari. If I were Rin I would be doing everything in my power to have you at my side again. I don’t understand him.”

She had almost forgotten that Rin was Ishi. That meant the body of Jin Ishi that he was housed in was probably familiar to Mikio. She wanted to ask how they were related, but there was something about his words that struck her as strange, “You say again like Tearra had a choice.”

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Mikio coaxed her to rest her head against his chest and at first she was hesitant about doing so. When she finally relented his hand moved from her back and rested on her wrist as he began to speak, “Each god was born of Kazuma, with the exception of Tearra. Rin, Hisoka, Ryozo were all aspects of Kazuma. As gods they were always an extension of him. They were the parts of himself that he hated. So when Rin raped Tearra on the shrine of Hisoka, it was not because Rin desired to, it was because Kazuma’s obsession housed within Rin, desired too. Kazuma hated emotion. Kazuma cast aside every part of him that made him feel anything, until there was nothing left, but an unemotional disciplined god that had no compassion or remorse. Rin was cursed with the darkest of all of Kazuma’s desires.”

Tationy closed her eyes as she listened to his words. His fingers were lightly teasing the skin on her wrist as he paused for a moment, “When the queen rose from that single flower, she was Kazuma’s. Hisoka loved her, Ryozo wanted to conquer her as though she was a nation, and Rin wanted to covet her. These emotions belonged to the King of the Gods. Kazuma told Rin to punish Tearra after she followed Hisoka from the heavens. He wanted her to understand that she could not walk away from him. They were connected. The ugliest part of Kazuma, his obsession stalked her down and raped her. Tearra though, did not do what Kazuma had thought she would. She did not beg him to rescue her. She did not ask him to bring her back to the heavens. She did not even beg him to forgive her. Tearra asked him to allow her to bring life into the world as a mortal. It is because of her that women are able to bear children. Kazuma took it as a slap against him that she would choose to be mortal and have a mortal child.”

Her fingers lightly gripped the fabric of his shirt as he continued, “Rin returned to the heavens after he did the bidding of Kazuma, but Kazuma turned against him. Faced with his own obsession he was disgusted so he cast Rin from the heavens. Rin though was not about to go alone and he grabbed onto the King of the Gods, pulling him to the Earth. Now mortal, Rin had thoughts and desires of his own for the very first time in his existence. He sought out Tearra and begged for her forgiveness. The gentle and loving queen she was forgave him. She did not stay with him because he forced her. She stayed with him because he loved who she was. To him she was not the Queen of the Gods, she was the mortal Tearra who had his child within her womb. Kazuma was never able to look upon her without contempt that she chose a mortal life over him and Rin saw her for whom she was.”

“Mikio do you think Kazuma can change?”

“No. He will always see his queen and you, the mortal form of Tearra will mean nothing to him.”

She was afraid that was going to be his response, “Why does Rin keep his distance?”

“I don’t know. In his other lifetimes he has always sought out Tearra, but in this one he has avoided you altogether. Perhaps his love has dwindled through his many lifetimes.”

“Maybe he thinks that Tearra and Kazuma need to find each other. He seemed, like there was a heaviness around him when I met with him and Luna…I mean Hisoka.”

“I don’t think so. My father was never happy with my uncle Jin, when he found out that he was not going to fight the Kari. He allowed Luna to be kept on the island of Shimragata as a prisoner and he stepped away from the holdings of the Ishi leaving the family in the hands of my father. He always thought there was something wrong that the part of my uncle Jin that was Rin was keeping something hidden. Protecting something even, though what I cannot say. Rin never believed that reuniting Tearra and Kazuma was a good thing.” Tationy felt like there was something unsaid as she opened her eyes and looked toward the window. The snow was falling so heavy and in just a few weeks she and Hiko would have been married. How quickly things change, “I am in love with you.”

His words broke up the silence that followed the conversation that they were having about Kazuma, Tearra, and Rin. Her body tensed and it was with great apprehension that she ventured to lift her head to look at him, “What did you just say?”

“Had I been stronger perhaps those cursed eyes would have looked at me instead of through me. I didn’t have the power to protect you from the Kari and by the time I did, it was already too late. You do not have to say anything. I told myself that no matter what, if I got the opportunity to tell you I would. So when Kuro realized you were back he called me. I have been in love with you since we were kids, but I never thought myself strong enough for the queen of the gods. I was just some Ishi, not Rin, the god of death. Just Mikio the son of Jee. I don’t expect anything, I just needed to tell you. I am in love with you.”

For a time she just stared at his face. She didn’t know how to respond to his words so eventually she rested her head to his chest. Her mind tried to process everything. The silence was awkward again and she felt herself worried that she should have said something in response to his words. Tationy felt like anything she might have said would give him false hope. She was in a vulnerable place right now. Her mind was burdened with unwanted thoughts and questions and his words just added more weight to the load she was carrying. She found herself wondering if the fact that he was in love with her was holding him back from moving forward in his life.

The pounding had started in her head as she tried to make sense of everything in her life. Had it not been for his arms wrapping around her tightly she might have gotten completely lost in those thoughts, but she found his arms brought her warmth and comfort whether that was his intent or not.

To Be Continued

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