Chapter 31: Balance

TS3W 2014-12-30 23-30-49-02

Tationy had left the house early that morning without the permission of the Kari or Saitama. Even though she was on a personal mission, she told the Saitama watching her that she just needed some fresh air. The night before she and Tadayoshi had made love and then she spent hours crying and apologizing. Even though the moment was more than she could have hoped for the overwhelming emotions after forced her mind into a dark place. Sadly, she had dragged Tadayoshi along for the ride. He had been understanding as he held her and told her it was going to be alright; she didn’t see it the same way. That morning she was too embarrassed to face him.

She drove all around Aslann, eventually stopping at the Waichia Financial Institution. Takuya was not in; home she had been told. So, she kept driving until she found herself at the estate of the Waichia. They were welcoming, though slightly surprised by her unannounced arrival. “Tationy, please have a seat.” Takuya had gestured with his hand, he looked far more casual than he normally did. Inwardly she had thought it odd, how little she knew about him. “How are you doing?” He questioned as he joined her.

“Muddling through.”

“Well for a woman that just lost her fiance you look amazingly put together. Though, I suspect Hiko was gone a long time ago. This dog and pony show that the Kari are putting on is for Aslann after all.”

“You know I cannot confirm or deny any of that.”

He chuckled, “I would never ask you to.” Their conversation stalled rather quickly and for a time they sat in silence, “How are you really?”

Tationy had to look away from him, “It is very difficult to keep my face like this. The Kari are so stoic, but when I look in the eyes of Tadayoshi I can tell he is mourning the loss even if it is never displayed on his face. So, I try really hard to be stronger, then they are. Right now though, I just have nothing more to give.”

“I won’t tell you as time passes that things will get better. Some wounds are simply too deep.”

“If you will indulge me Takuya, I would like to talk about one of those wounds.”

“I am always inclined to indulge you, Miss Tylo.”

“Let’s see if you still feel that way after what I say.” She responded as she reached into her purse which was setting near her feet. Pulling a file from it she handed it to Takuya. The questioning look told her he had no idea what it was, “I found this yesterday when I was restlessly trying to distract myself.”

She watched as he took the file from her. He was a businessman and intelligent, certainly he would understand the significance of what his eyes were seeing. He did not look at it long, quickly closing it. “Does the Kari know you have this?”

“No. I need you to make it go away.”

“Tationy…”

Interrupting him, “Please, Takuya. There is stuff about Hiko that could come out any day. Things I already do not know how to protect Kazuma from. Help me make this go away. You have the power to deal with Hiko’s illegal businesses. This effects so many in Aslann. It needs to disappear. The people listed in this file need to understand that if they ever speak on the auctions, Hiko, Shimragata, that there will be consequences. I will do anything if you help me protect Hiko’s legacy.”

“Why didn’t you ask the Kari?”

“Tadayoshi is conflicted even though he disapproves of Hiko’s other business dealings. Kin is busy handling the recovery efforts. Zen is running the company. There is no one to ask.”

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Takuya sighed as he stood walking the length of the room to look out the window, “You are going to owe me a huge favor and someday I will collect.”

“I know.”

His silence troubled her until he turned, a partial smile upon his lips. He chuckled, “What you must have learned under the domain of Hiko Kari.” Even as he took a pause she knew he did not expect her to respond. He was beautiful like all of the Waichia. Hiko had always told her that the awe-inspiring look of the Waichia was a distraction to allow them to read the minds of the people around them. One could not focus or control themselves when dazzled by such a remarkable presence. It always sounded ridiculous to her. There were days though when in his company she thought Takuya was looking straight to the core of her being, “How is that old man of the Kari treating you?”

“I take it you saw the news.”

“Please, do not insult my intelligence. That night at the club, I thought what an odd thing for Tationy Tylo not to be standing next to her king. As I watched Tadayoshi, I noticed how he tried desperately to hide his feelings. The Queen of the Kari was so close to him. He was humbled and excited. I realized much too late that he was the King of the Kari. It is the only reason I agreed to that arrangement, though to be brutally honest I find Tadayoshi Kari, unworthy of leading his family. I am sure his father had his reasons; tradition is important or at least that was what my father always said. When Hiko took control, such a power, such a force was propelling them into the future. What a loss. Are there any left among the Kari capable of having such vision?”

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“Don’t worry about the Kari,” She responded as she stood.

Takuya took a breath, “You are exquisite.”

Tationy laughed, “Do you really think Takuya, that I will fall for your sweet charms? Please, words like those mean nothing to me. Hiko only told me I was beautiful when he was aroused. When men say such things, I know they only want to fuck me.”

“I will not deny that I am quite interested in fucking you, but this is a business arrangement. I rarely mix the two.”

Tationy paused, “Please, we both know that you will not turn me down if I offered.”

Takuya chuckled, “Well I did say rarely.”

“I should go,” Tationy responded lifting her purse from the floor, “Thank you for your time. When you are ready for that favor, do call.” As she moved to depart she stopped suddenly, “Takuya, you wondered what I learned under Hiko’s domain. I learned the answer to the question, ‘Who is more powerful, the person with the power or the person that controls the power’. I control the Kari.”

She did not need to see the expression upon his face to know that her words had struck him. This was her role as the Queen. She had so little time to do the things she needed, but not for the same reason Tadayoshi did. Tationy had to ensure the legacy of the man she loved, Hiko Kari so that her son would be able to move through the world without demons hovering over him.

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She tossed her winter coat into the backseat along with her purse. The sky was dark, it was snowing. The worst possible weather to be out in. She was certain it was hampering the recovery efforts. That was probably a good and bad thing, it increased the dramatic effect of it all. Tationy made the long journey toward the Kari Foundation; through ‘the hills’ where the wealthy lived, across the bridge, maneuvering through the inner city until she arrived at her desired location.

No one stopped her from entering or moving to the executive offices. Everyone knew who she was. Not only did she once work there, but she was important to the Kari and they would make certain she was always welcome. She could hear him talking on the phone, so she waited until he was finished. Tationy was acutely aware he was talking to Tadayoshi by his tone and the way Zen kept saying, ‘if I see her, I will tell her to come home’. Tadayoshi was worried, she was certain.

When he was finished with the call she stepped into his office, “How mad is he?”

Zen pursed his lips, “He is not mad. Tadayoshi simply does not understand why you took off without saying anything.”

“I had something to do.”

“What would that be?”

She reached into her bag, producing a file. It was identical to the one she had given Takuya. Setting her bag on the floor she hesitated, before handing it over. Zen did not even look at it, he knew exactly what it was. “There were two of them, identical. I gave one to Takuya.” His piercing gaze locked upon her. Tationy had worked under Zen, she knew exactly what type of man he was when it came to business. “It is better if the hands of the Kari are not involved in making it go away.”

“I cannot say I disagree, but I have to wonder what price you had to pay to accomplish this.”

“Nothing as of yet, but I am fairly certain I already know what Takuya wants.”

“Are you willing to pay that price?”

“I will not allow Hiko’s memory to be stained by his mistakes and his dirty business dealings. Kazuma deserves more than that and if it means giving Takuya what he wants to make it go away. So be it.”

“Do you intend to tell Tadayoshi?”

“No and I expect you not to say anything either. The names of so many families of influence are within those files. Hiko kept track of their preferences, whether or not they bought anyone, how much they spent, the conversations he had with them. Every meticulous detail about his business transactions regarding that auction. Takuya cannot afford for his family name to be dragged through the mud and that includes the people he does business with. He is the best suited individual in Aslann to make it go away.”

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“I certainly do not disagree.” She noticed how he tilted his head, his eyes taking her in. His gaze was far more scrutinizing than any other Kari she had ever met. He was trying to figure it out. She was certain he wanted to know what she was trying to accomplish. “You have such a polished look about you. A smile upon your lips that never reaches your eyes. Your clothing and make-up are perfect, your visage overall pristine. What do you intend to do about Tadayoshi?”

“Let him enjoy what time he has left. It is inevitable after all isn’t it? I think a more important question is, what will the Kari do to ensure that Kazuma does not do this to his people again. I do not know how, but I certainly can make Tearra disappear forever, but that won’t stop Kazuma.”

“The knowledge that the gods are separate entities within you and Tadayoshi has certainly caused me great concern. The future of the Kari if this knowledge becomes know will devastate its very foundation. It will fracture. Like the Kari of old, they will be divided for the first time in thousands of years. It is mine and Tadayoshi’s duty to take this to our graves. We will never speak on this to other Kari and no one will ever know what Kazuma does to his people. However, I cannot set idle and allow Kazuma to do as he wishes. I am still considering what actions to take.” There was a moment when he sighed, “Tadayoshi as the elder is to be the voice of Kazuma and as the shield of the Kari it is my responsibility to protect our elder and enforce the will of our god. Neither of us are capable of doing this any longer. My last act as the shield will be to bind Kazuma to the will of the Kari as he has bound us to him.”

“How do you intend to do this?”

“I do not know. This is the first time I have been unable to see the answer before me.”

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Tationy hesitated, but eventually spoke. “I am not knowledgeable in these matters either, but what about Tadayoshi’s bracelet. They are made special for each Kari right? If that is the case, isn’t the bracelet as much Kazuma’s as it is Tadayoshi’s? What about the guy that does the mark of Kazuma tattoos? Would he know how to bind him? I am probably not making any sense. Maybe Kuro knows a way.”

It was subtle, but he squinted at her when she mentioned the name of the Ishi, “What makes you think he would have anything to contribute on the matter?”

“Well he is pretty smart and he used to tell me stories about these old rituals of the Ishi that are still practiced today. Maybe you could ask him.”

There it was, he scoffed, “As if I would speak to that Ishi.”

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Tationy laughed as she gestured with her hand toward the little paper bird sitting upon his desk, “Kuro told me once those are part of an ancient Ishi courting ritual.”

He protested, “He left it in my car when I took him home.”

“I am sure he did. Regardless, you kept it.” Zen seemed rather putout that she brought it up, “I am not judging.”

“He was simply a moment of weakness,” He tried to clarify even though she was certain he did not wish too, “It won’t happen again.” She understood. He spent his entire life pretending to be straight. He married, had a child, and lived a life in the ‘closest’. He had lied to himself because he could not be Kari and a homosexual man during that era. She was not at all surprised when he changed the topic, “There are a few things I would like to address.”

She could tell he was not asking for permission to continue speaking, despite that she responded with, “Go head.”

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“I have scheduled a press conference which will take place in another hour. I want you to be there for it. I will make a statement, then allow the press to ask questions. They will most likely want to speak with you. If you are asked about your relationship with Tadayoshi you need to suggest that your relationship is innocent. It is important you consider your answers and know how you will respond. Anything you say or do not say will be scrutinized by the press. They will most likely ask about the two of you dancing, holding hands, arriving back from America together. They might even ask about you and Kin. I suggest you use this hour wisely.”

“Shouldn’t Tadayoshi be here for this?”

“It is a benefit in this situation that he remains out of the public eye. The press and all of Aslann will assume he is a man grieving for the loss of his son and a brother dealing with the untimely death of his sibling. If asked, we will simply say that Tadayoshi has decided that he needs to focus on the well-being of himself and his family during this time of tragedy. You, however, are not afforded such a luxury. As Hiko’s fiance, you will always need to be at the side of the Kari. Aslann will look to you for strength.”

“I don’t know if I am ready for this.”

“You have no choice in the matter. Also, tonight there is a charity benefit that the Kari have participated in since it founding. Hiko, every year would give the welcoming ceremony speech. Even in this time of tragedy we must show composure.”

“Won’t it appear wrong if I attend?”

“The nation is watching you. As I said, you do not get the luxury of hiding yourself away. I have already informed the organizers that you will be speaking for Hiko this evening. I believe this will be your first time attending, correct?”

Tationy pursed her lips. Tadayoshi had always attended these events so Hiko never would bring her. It hurt her heart thinking that now that he was dead she would get to do all of the things she had always wanted to do with him, “I am not prepared to give any sort of speech. I don’t…”

“I already have one of our speech writers working on something for you.”

“Maybe Tadayoshi…”

He interrupted her with a stern voice, “No. Tadayoshi needs to stay away and you need to understand that he cannot be apart of your public life any longer. Kazuma has all the power right now. Any day Tadayoshi might become a different man. He cannot represent the Kari in his current state. ”

Tationy took a breath in, she felt that pressure weighing her down. She had to check her emotions as she responded, “I understand.” Zen’s eyes were on her. He was watching how she reacted, taking in how she carried herself. He was looking for any sign that she might breakdown and lose her composure. She couldn’t. Tationy told herself she had to be stronger then the Kari. “Is there anything else?”

“Yes. Tadayoshi’s laptop is on the desk in the CEO’s office. I need you to take it home with you. There is work to be done and I need you to do it.”

“Why?”

“Kin is dealing with the recovery. Tadayoshi needs to keep his distance from all aspects of the Kari Foundation. Until Erobus and Kyo arrive to Aslann, I need someone to pick up the slack. You know how I work, what would be expected of you. There are documents that need to be proofed. Information that needs to be gathered. Projects that need to be researched. I believe you are more than capable of accomplishing this.”

“You make it seem like I have all the time in the world. I have children to take care of.”

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“I still have a business to run even with all that is going on. I need able hands to assist.”

She stared at him quietly contemplating his words. Zen was not known for compliments or trusting anymore for that matter. Eventually, she brought her hand up and chuckled, “I get it. You miss me.” He scoffed again and refused to dignify her words with a response of his own. She could tell though that he needed her. Zen was very difficult to work with. Her first week most people had not even taken the time to get to know her name, they just called her ‘that girl’ or ‘Hiko’s girl’ because they figured she would get fired or quit. “Alright, I will help.”

Tationy thought she saw him exhibit a bit of relief as he gave a single nod of his head, “You should eat something before the press conference, to help settle your stomach and any nerves you might be experiencing. I will let you know when it is time for the conference to start.”

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She was already for this day to be over as she entered the conference room with Zen. She managed to calm her nerves only slightly and the small lunch she ate did nothing to settle her stomach. She prayed she would not vomit on herself or the press. Long before they even made their way to the center stage of the large conference room, the reporters were already shouting questions and snapping pictures. Zen took the podium, standing silently with his hands behind his back. He scanned the room his voice settling on one particular reporter with the loudest voice. It was as though he was speaking to this man more than any of the others, even though his words were directed toward all of them,” I will make a brief statement and then the floor will be open for questions.”

The crowd settled down and Tationy assumed it was because the longer it took for Zen to actually make his statement the less time they would have to ask their questions. Her stomach was doing all sorts of somersaults. Zen finally spoke, “December 31, 2014, one of our business jets en route from Shimragata to Bridgeport reported complete engine failure at 3:30 p.m. The pilot, Muramasa Saitama managed to communicate a distress call before radio silence. It has been confirmed that the Kari Superjet 300, carrying fifty-two passengers including both Kari and Shima executives, board members, and personnel, as well as two pilots, crashed into the Aslann sea. Flight records indicate that Hiko Kari, Katsu Kari, Iashi Kari, Seiji Shima, and Yayoi Shima were aboard. The torrential rains happening off the coast of Shimragata have hindered rescue and recovery efforts. Question?”

The way they began shouting to get his attention, forced Tationy to choke back the nervousness. They were animals. Zen was so comfortable, he would simply gesture with his hand to the person he wished to allow to ask a question, “Was it pilot error?”

Zen did not pause to consider his answers. It was with confidence he responded, “Shimragata Air Traffic Control informed officials that the onboard monitoring system sent a series of messages via the ACARS, Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System during a three minute period of time. It has been reported that there were at least six failures and nineteen warnings transmitted. At this point however, without the black box we cannot be certain if it was equipment failure or pilot error.” Tationy did her best to pay attention as reporter after reporter asked questions, “Why is Tationy Tylo at your side? Where is Tadayoshi Kari?”

“Tadayoshi has experienced a great loss. His son and his younger brother were both aboard the flight. He has taken a leave of absence from the Kari Foundation, wishing to spend time with his family. As to why Miss Tylo is at my side, I will direct the floor to her.”

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Her voice felt unsteady, quiet, shaky even. She could not help wondering if she appeared as nervous as she was. She tried to keep her hands in front of her, clasped tightly so she would not play with the podium or her hair. “Mr. Kari, Tadayoshi, as Zen said has taken a leave of absence. Kin Kari is overseeing the rescue and recovery efforts on Shimragata. The Kari Foundation has called upon family to come together to assist in this time of need. It requires all hands even those that may not necessarily feel they are useful. I worked at the Kari Foundation under Zen. He knows me, trust me, and he has asked me to assist in matters pertaining to the Kari Foundation.” Tationy wanted to tell them she was rather grateful for the distraction.

The moment she stopped talking the shouting started again. She felt awkward pointing to someone and was thankful when Zen took the initiative, “Miss Tylo, you were recently seen at Club Sublime dancing with Tadayoshi Kari. Just a few days ago you arrived back to Aslann from America and pictures were taken of the two of you holding hands is there something going on between you and Tadayoshi Kari? Why were you in Aslann without Hiko?”

Tationy knew the question was coming, but that did not lessen her surprise. She did what she could to keep it off her face, “Goodness. I will start with your first question. Hiko contacted me to ask if I would attend a business meeting that his father Mr. Kari was attending with Takuya Waichia. I have attended every meeting Hiko has ever had with Mr. Waichia. Hiko thought his father could benefit from having me there. After the meeting was over, Mr. Waichia said to have a good time on him. Mr. Kari and I had a few drinks, a dance, and a lovely conversation. It was a great opportunity for me to get to know the father of my future husband.”

“Mr. Kari and I did arrive to Aslann from America together. With us were his grandson, Kazuma and his nephew Osa Shima. Mr. Kari is a very good man. While in America, I collapsed and spent a week in the hospital from Anemia and exhaustion. Mr. Kari who arrived to America to spend the holidays with his brother Kyo Kari and his sister-in-law Eri Kari, escorted myself and the boy’s home after I was released from the hospital. While we were maneuvering our way through the airport, I lost my balance and thankfully he kept me upright otherwise I would probably have a rather bruised face right now.”

“As to your last question, Hiko and I along with Kazuma were on vacation in Garvator along with Seiji Shima and Osa. Unfortunately, sometimes vacations have to be put aside. Mr. Shima got called to Shimragata, some time later so did Hiko. We arrived to Shimragata only for Hiko to get sucked into some very important business. The boys and I were restless. Shimragata is beautiful, but there is only so much to do. Hiko and I talked it over and we decided that Kazuma and I should come back to Aslann early. Mr. Shima said it was alright for Osa to come with us. So the three of us left together. We visited my dad, who took the boys to see the dinosaur exhibit, we spent time with family and friends, we went on vacation to America. The boys and I had a lovely time. Hiko and I talked often. Kazuma and I have been looking forward to seeing him so much.”

The next question was not surprising at all, “So, you are saying there is nothing going on with you and Tadayoshi Kari. What about with you and Kin?”

Tationy wanted to laugh, but forced herself to refrain, “Kin and I are friends. We have known each other since my time here at the Kari Foundation. We had lunch every day together. He is very good at distracting me and keeping me entertained. I am often with members of the Kari. They are my extended family and I care for them very much. I think of all of them as my uncles, father figures, sisters, aunts, and some of them like Kin, as brothers.” She continued to talk her voice cracked slightly, “I feel very fortunate to have so many wonderful people in my life during a time when my heart is breaking. Hiko Kari is not just the heart and soul of the Kari he is everything to me and Kazuma.”

“Thank you all for attending. If you have any further questions you may direct them to our public relations department,” Zen responded as he escorted Tationy out of the conference room.

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As they walked side by side Tationy spoke, “I am sorry. I probably said more, then I should and showed too much emotion.”

“Not at all, it went as I had expected it would though I must ask, why did you tell them about the hospital stay?”

“I have been considering how to handle the assault if it were to come out. No matter how polished someone might seem eventually they breakdown. Celebrities are always being admitted to the hospital for exhaustion and Anemia. Even though the reasons were exactly that, if the assault information comes out people will infer what they will about the hospital stay.”

“Have you always been this way?”

“I don’t know what you mean?”

“I always believed you to be oblivious to half of what was going on around you which contradicted the way you worked. When given a task you were efficient. You worked harder then most executives, always staying after hours to finish things I assigned you, never complaining, and yet, you seemed unaware of your surroundings.”

“Being oblivious and invisible has its advantages.”

“You are neither.”

“Sometimes I wish I still was.” Silence stilled their conversation, “I should probably get going. I still have a few things I want to do and then I need to head home.”

“I will send you several files and instructions on what to do with them. I need them handled as soon as possible.”

“I understand.”

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Leaving the Kari Foundation she was filled with a heaviness. Thankfully the major reason she was out in this nasty weather had more to do with a phone call she had made that morning then anything else. As she drove through Aslann in Hiko’s favorite car she could not help thinking how odd it was. He never let her drive it when they were together and now she could do whatever she wanted with it. Moments like these just made her think of him more. He was always in her head. Sometimes, she could see him so clearly it almost felt as though he was really there.

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At her destination she waited for ten minutes before a beautiful Saitama born Waichia exited an office and told her she could come in. She hesitantly followed him taking a seat. She had plenty of time to consider that she had seen him around a few times, but she had never spoken with him directly. He was Hiko’s old friend, Oji Waichia. Hiko had told her that he had been seeing Oji regarding his triggers and feelings of inadequacy. He had asked her to attend sessions with him. She thought to herself how unfortunate that she was seeing Oji Waichia like this.

A half hour they sat quietly and she could tell he was studying her. She always heard those stories from Hiko about how the Waichia could read minds, but he was Saitama as well. It was said that the Saitama had the best poker faces and could calculate the odds of things happening. Of course that was old fantasy from long since forgotten fairy-tales or at least that is what she told herself, “I was surprised by your call this morning. When my secretary said that you were on the phone asking to speak with me, I thought how odd it was that after all of this time you finally take the initiative to heal yourself. Of course when I considered it further, I realized that is not why you wanted to see me. Do you really think if you ignore the assault it will go away?”

“I am not pretending it did not happen.”

“Aren’t you?”

“What am I suppose to do cry about it? Wallow in self-pity? Am I suppose to be fragile and broken? People are judgmental. I don’t understand why she stayed. Tationy needs to grow a backbone and leave him. She needs to fight for herself. How stupid are people? How blind they must be? How ignorant they are. I have been fighting this entire time and everyone just thinks I am laying there taking it. No one can understand how hard it is to stay with a man that did that to me. No one can possibly understand how hard it is to forgive. If I am pretending anything did not happen, it is what he said to me about his father.”

Even though she experienced a moment of having an emotional outburst she kept herself collected, “Do you feel guilty for his death?”

“Yes. I wonder if I could have stopped it. Could I have said anything to prevent it? After it happened I just, wanted to move forward. When bad things happen, I just keep moving forward. Isn’t that strength? Isn’t that what is expected? I am supposed to just get over it and move on. Even though people say, take your time. Heal yourself. Things get better. What they are really saying is, get over it. He was not worth it after what he did to you. You deserve better. They never consider that I had everything I wanted and I screwed it up. How can I get over it, when it is my fault. I am the one that set this in motion.”

“You miss him.”

“So much. Every day I go through the motions and pretend my life is moving forward. The only time I even remotely feel distracted is around Kin. He just calms me. Tadayoshi, looks at me and sees Tearra. I know he does. I was not deluded when he and I had sex. I knew he was trying to think of me all the while he was seeing her. Look at me, just spilling it all out. Probably does not make any sense. Don’t you want to say things like, tell me about your relationship with your father?”

“My job is about listening and directing. If I feel the need to ask a question I will. The first question, I would ask you is how are you feeling right now?”

She covered her face as the emotion overtook her, “I am falling apart. It takes every bit of strength I have to remain unemotional. People think I am oblivious or that I do not care about myself. It is not the case. I have to remain strong.”

“For who?”

“Everyone; my father, Tadayoshi, the boys, the world. I cannot let anyone see me at my worst. I cannot give them that kind of power over me.”

“Do you ever show your true-self or how you are feeling to anyone?”

“Not by choice.”

“Not even Hiko?”

“During those four years he never judged me. I don’t think either of us shared ourselves completely though. Our relationship was based on a lie and after the lie our time together started to run out. Even after we were together again we were too damaged. I wonder how many years it would have taken us to fix what we did to each other. Five and a half, almost six years together and we hurt each other so badly that no one could possibly understand how much self-loathing we had for ourselves.” She released a breath, closing her eyes as she tried to collect herself. She was emotionally charged.

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It took her a moment to clear the emotion from her face, the entire time his eyes were fixed on her. When she looked at him once again she was as pristine and polished as she was taught to be by her mother. “At the press conference, you said you were in the hospital recently.”

“Exhaustion and Anemia. I don’t really sleep much at all these days and I have not been eating very well.”

“Are you still medicating yourself?”

For a moment she pursed her lips, “I take it Hiko told you that the last time you spoke to him.”

“He mentioned he was concerned.”

“I have been trying not to. Some days are better then others.”

“Do you think it was wise to sleep with Tadayoshi Kari?”

“No, it definitely was not wise.”

“Then why did you?”

“He wanted to be with me and I needed to feel something other than pain. Honestly, it was almost Kin. It really did not matter who the man was. Afterwards, I just kept crying. When he was in me, I looked at his face and saw Hiko. I started tensing and panicking. Not because of the assault, but because I felt like I was betraying him. He is dead and I still feel like I am doing something wrong.”

“So the experience itself was pleasurable?”

She shrugged her shoulders, “Yeah it was fine.”

“Were you even there for it?”

“I am assuming you are asking if I disassociated myself.”

“Yes, I am.”

She closed her eyes as she sighed, “I just pretended to be Tearra; his queen. So, yes, I probably disassociated to a degree.”

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“Is this the life you want; hiding your emotions, pretending to love a man you do not love, moving through the world disassociating yourself from life?”

“The life I wanted I can’t have anymore.”

“Have you thought about your future; what do you think would be best for you and those boys?”

She noticed how he said ‘those boys’. Sure she had mentioned them earlier, but he was Hiko’s therapist, certainly he was aware of their intention to keep Osa. “The Kari are never going to just let me go, no matter how much power I have now.”

“That is true, but you can choose the course of your life. Do you really want to stay at the side of a man you do not love? Even if you think it is for the right reasons, is it really what is in your best interest?”

“It isn’t.

“Then why stay?”

“I put us in this situation when I asked him not to give up on me. When he came to America to get me back, I felt obligated to stay at his side. I was the one that initiated this relationship.”

“Hiko once told me you never initiated anything.”

“I never had to. Hiko always anticipated my needs. He knew me better, then I knew myself in a lot of ways. He was confident even though there were some things he was insecure about. He knew what he wanted and would fight for it, but Tadayoshi is not like that. Maybe if I was really his queen, he would be different, but if I am not the one taking the initiative, things will not get done. I don’t want this life, but I feel like I should see where it takes us.”

They talked for a couple of hours before he told her their time was up. He insisted she come and see him again, even though she was not certain she wanted too. Deep down, she knew she should.

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By the time she made it home, she had already received over twenty messages from Tadayoshi each one more panicked than the one before. Lugging a bunch of items into the house from the garage she found the boys and Tadayoshi in the living room. He had rushed to help her accepting the groceries as she deposited the laptop and her bag on the table and hung her coat in the closet.

“How are my boys?” She asked not directing her attention toward Tadayoshi even though she could see the earnest in his eyes.

“Good, did you bring us anything.”

“Of course, I got us something nice for dinner and dessert.” Allowing her eyes to focus on Tadayoshi, “They behaved themselves didn’t they?”

“Yes, they were fine.”

“Good, I should get dinner started,” She responded as she moved to accept the bag from him, but he had told her he had it. He followed along behind her. She was certain he wanted to talk, “Osa, keep and eye on Kazuma. We will be in the kitchen.”

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Tationy moved around the kitchen as Tadayoshi put the groceries away. She was certain he was choosing his words carefully before speaking. As she started working on dinner he spoke, “Why didn’t you call me back?”

“I just needed a little time to myself.”

“I was worried.”

“I know. Really, I was not trying to concern you. I just..”

“Is it because of what happened last night? Were you disappointed? I know you said you were happy, but after you kept crying and then this morning you left without saying anything.”

“Tadayoshi, really last night was perfect. I was mostly embarrassed and just needed some time to myself. It really was not you at all.”

His voice was uncertain even though he responded, “Alright.”

Tationy thought it best to change the topic, “Is this new modernized look a permanent change?”

“Kazuma does not like it.”

“Oh, I see. Sticking it to the King of the Gods. No one more deserving I imagine.”

“I saw the press conference.”

Tationy felt tension in her body, “I stopped by to see Zen about the recovery efforts and he asked me to do it. I hope you did not take my words too seriously.”

“I understand the reasoning behind it. That is not why I brought it up.”

“Why did you then?”

“It was difficult, but you kept your composure. You did really well.”

“Thank you.” Tationy paused as she focused her attention on prepping dinner, “I went to see someone.”

“Someone? Did you visit a therapist?”

“Yes. I don’t know if it will help, but after last night I realized I still have a lot of things that I need to deal with emotionally.”

Her words seemed to make him happy because his voice became lighter, “I am proud of you for taking that step.”

“Tadayoshi, are you sure that stepping down is the right decision?”

“Kazuma cannot be in control of the Kari.”

“So, you are just going to be content doing nothing?”

“I intend to fill my days enjoying my hobbies and spending time with you and the boys. I would never call that nothing.”

“You are right, I am sorry.”

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Silence followed as she moved toward the stove. When he did speak his question made her stomach knot, “What is wrong?”

Tationy could not help wondering if she was transparent, “Just tired. It was a long day and it is not even over yet. Zen wants me to do some work for the Kari Foundation and then there is this charity thing tonight he wants me to go to with him. I just, don’t know if I have the energy to pretend like everything is perfect.”

“You do not have to pretend. Everyone will understand if you are not talkative or smiling.”

“It does not bother you that we will not be able to go together?”

“I want to be at your side, but I understand why Zen feels it is better if we downplay our relationship. The moment you spoke at the press conference, I understood. I wish this is not how it has to be, but Kazuma has all the power and the Kari cannot risk him making a scene.”

Her head bowed, “I am sorry it turned out like this.”

“No, I am sorry. I should not have killed Hiko. Had I died instead of him, then things would very different.”

She did not want to talk about Hiko, especially with him. “Is Osa alright? Did he see the conference?”

“I have kept the boys away from the television for the most part. He did ask a lot of questions and I tried to answer them. Your dad even stopped by.”

“He did, why?”

“I imagine it was to make certain his daughter was alright, but she was not home.”

“I am sorry about that.”

“You do not have to apologize. I only ask that you do not make me worry like that again.”

“I will try not to.”

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Tationy had felt like he had wanted to say something as she finished cooking. Even as they sat down to dinner there seemed to be something looming. Tadayoshi was the type to be concerned about anything and everything; he was a thinker. She had a feeling that he both wanted to stay and wanted to leave. He wanted to remain true to his word and not give up on them, but he understood at the same time that there was never going to be a them. He seemed distracted when she would glance at him so the majority of dinner was spent with just Tationy and Osa talking with the occasional moment of Kazuma trying to participate.

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After dinner she spent time with the boys, did the dishes, and picked up the house before heading to the office of Hiko to do some work. This room more than any other smelled like him, so it was both a comfort and a distraction as she tried to work on the stuff Zen had sent her. Oblivious was probably an appropriate word because even when Tadayoshi entered she did not realize he was there until she heard the sound of him setting a cup on the desk, “This look suits you.”

“Which look would that be?”

“Businesswoman.”

She laughed softly, “You do realize I am doing this only because no one else could survive Zen, right?”

Tadayoshi smiled, “He appreciates diligence, efficiency, and hard-work.”

“He is demanding with unrealistic expectations of the people around him.”

“Yet, you manage to fulfill those expectations as though they are nothing.”

“Well, he is not the first demanding person I have had to deal with. You have met my mother.”

Tadayoshi stifled a laugh, “I am sure Zen would not appreciate being compared to Chilè.” A moment he paused, “Have you considered going to school?”

Tationy wrinkled her nose, “No. They don’t give scholarships to just anyone and my grades were never good enough to even take the entrance examines. My mom always told me I should go after all I would never get a man looking like I do. I guess I showed her, huh?”

His eyes were fixed on her as she plugged away on the computer, “Maybe you should think about it.”

“Why?”

“You look like you enjoy working.”

“I do not need to go to a university to work.”

“That is true, but….”

She interrupted him, “Tadayoshi, if this is your way of telling me I should think about myself instead of about you, then just say it. I already know you are thinking about leaving. I can see it on your face.”

“I don’t want you to be dragged down by me. Had I known what Kazuma intended to do, I never would have come.”

“Then leave.”

Her words must have shocked him because he did not say anything right away, “What?”

“Tadayoshi, if you are not going to be happy here and always thinking about leaving, then you should leave. I understand that all of this did not turn out how you thought it would. Kazuma is an asshole. No matter what, he will never have Tearra. So, I understand if you want to go. I want you happy and knowing that at any moment Kazuma might devour your soul, isn’t making you happy. Maybe you should go and find your peace away from the Kari, away from Aslann, and away from me.”

His only response was a whisper, “Maybe.” Tationy was certain that Tadayoshi understood she was not telling him to go. He was always going to be hot and cold. It was how he was. One minute he would be fine and the next minute he would be thinking about how he should do this or that to protect his family or her the pain. There was a reason she called him Tadayoshi with the gentle hand and it had nothing to do with his touch. It was because he was always thinking about everyone, but himself with Hiko being the only notable exception to that. He had often called himself selfish, but he wasn’t at all. That was his problem. When he changed the topic she knew how the night was going to end, “Have you picked out your dress?”

“Not yet.”

As he departed the room he responded, “I look forward to seeing you in it.”

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The emotions overwhelmed her as she closed the laptop. Standing, she shook the emotions away as she moved to look out the window. “Does it make you happy Hiko, seeing your father in pain?”

When she heard his voice in her head she turned, “I am not concerned about him, only you.”

She managed a fake smile, “Your concern is a little late isn’t it?”

“Let him go Tationy. I warned you against him. Any Kari man that serves a forgotten lord deserves anything he has coming to him.”

“You are heartless.”

“I did not need a heart because yours was big enough for both of us.”

Turning away she could feel the tears forming, “I will find a way to stop Kazuma.”

“I am sure you will, but it is too late for my father.” She knew that, she did not need some ghost in her imagination telling her it. When she turned to tell him as much he was gone.

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Seeing Hiko again made her anxious and she did not realize how much until she was getting ready. “Alright, how about this one?”

Tadayoshi chuckled, “I liked the last ten I saw on you and this one as well.”

She groaned, “You are no help at all.”

“Do you miss it?”

“Miss what?”

“Hiko picking out your clothing and jewelry for you?”

“It was a lot easier.” She paused, “Maybe I should wear my hair up.”

“You do not have a lot of time left, you should probably make a decision.”

“It has to be perfect.”

“Is that because you are representing Aslann or Hiko?” Her head bowed which she was certain answered his question, “I like this one, but I have a feeling Hiko would have preferred that black one. However, maybe you should consider picking something for yourself this evening.”

“I do not want to embarrass myself or the Kari.”

“You won’t,” He responded as he stood and kissed her forehead. His words brought her more comfort than he could possibly know.

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Zen had arrived far to early for her liking. She had not decided on a dress or how she was going to wear her hair. He had no patience when it came to a woman and the demands of the perfect dress, but it did give him time to talk to Tadayoshi and visit with the boys. In the end, she wore the dress that Hiko would have liked. She had noticed how it disappointed Tadayoshi, but he never once said as much. Arriving at the grand ballroom, she did not even get a chance to settle her nerves when she got pulled aside. They were not late, but they had cut the time awfully close for the Master of Ceremonies liking.

As she waited for her turn to speak she felt the nerves jumping all over the place. Certainly, Zen had someone write her a speech, but it did not even sound like her. She had read through it several times, but in the end when she was asked to stand at the top of the steps to speak she forgot she even had the cards. Nervously she stood there, with her hands in front of her staring at the large group of people that had come there to enjoy a night of gambling for a good cause. She barely even noticed that they were getting restless and she had not even begun to speak, simply gazing upon them.

They probably thought her frightened, “I am quite humbled.” Her words hushed the few that were speaking, “That so many of you would come out in this foul weather for such a worthy charity. For those of you who do not know, Hiko Kari and Takuya Waichia founded the Helping Hands, Loving Hearts charity seven years ago. It was their dream to see a better Aslann, where all of its people no matter their wealth or prestige have opportunities to better themselves. This is my first time attending and I am quite in awe that so many have gathered to support not two men of value to Aslann, but Aslann itself.”

“As couples we often have conversations about what is important to us. I once asked Hiko, what it was he valued more than anything. Of course, like any young woman you hope the man you love says you. His words took me quite by surprise. The thing he valued most was not an object or even a single person, it was patriotism. This nation that he loves and his loyalty to it. When I asked him why he felt such love for Aslann he said something to me I will never forget.”

She paused a moment before quoting Hiko, “When I succeeded my father there were many who thought I would bring about its downfall. There were none among the Kari that supported me. It was not about whom could do a better job, it was about whom was most loyal to the traditions of the Kari; I simply was not. As I moved through Aslann, I found that people who were strangers to me often stopped to tell me congratulations or that I would do good things for Aslann. For the first time in my life, I understood my father’s words. He had always told me that one needed to hold true to what they believed in. I had never believed in anything until the people of Aslann raised their voices and showed me what it meant to put your faith in something or someone. I believe in Aslann, all of its people and until I have nothing left in me to give; I will give to Aslann.”

“I am not as articulate as Hiko or as smart as Takuya, but I love Aslann. I will give all of myself to this wonderful charity. I would like to ask the same of all of you. As you enjoy the festivities of the night, think of opening your hearts and giving back to this wonderful nation we call home and its people. Thank you and enjoy your evening.”

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She took a deep breath when she walked down the stairs, consciously aware of her dress so she would not make a scene by tripping over it. The guest had moved about to the tables, slots, and up to the other floors to engage in various activities that were afforded them that evening. “You went off script,” Zen lectured.

“I am sorry, was it bad?”

“No. Try and enjoy the evening. Speak with anyone that approaches you. It will be good for you to get to know the various people of influence and celebrities in Aslann’s hierarchy. Try not to make a scene, I noticed your mother is here,” Zen remarked as he wandered off leaving Tationy standing alone.

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She had tried her hand at gambling and lost. Honestly, she did not want to know how much money and the only thing that made her feel better was knowing it was going to a worthy cause.

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From the balcony she watched people and drank. More drinking then actual watching, but the night was turning out to be far longer, then she anticipated. There were no people clamoring to speak with her, despite Zen thinking that there might be. She was just Hiko’s girl after all. Why would anyone want to approach her?

Sighing she began to wander around the balcony, deciding that standing idle was probably the worst thing she could do. She examined the art and pretended to be above the pettiness that kept people at arms-length. She was almost thankful when he said, “Would you like to dance, Miss Tylo?”

“I would be delighted, Mr. Waichia.”

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The way he held her close was more like lovers then acquaintances, “Trying to give everyone something to talk about?”

“My family is not above a bit of scandal. In fact, we rather like it when the attention is on us.” Takuya paused, “I like how natural you look this evening.”

Tationy laughed, “Tadayoshi tried a similar line.”

“Oh, how did the old man do?”

“Failed miserably.”

“I might need to teach him a few things.”

“There is not really a point.”

Takuya’s eyes fixed on hers, “I take it he is leaving.”

“Am I transparent or are my thoughts streaming across my forehead?”

“Maybe a little of both or perhaps neither. I might just be very good at reading your body.”

Her breath caught in her throat, “You should not say things like that.”

“I was starting to think you were immune entirely to my charms. Not that I am complaining, I do rather like a challenge.”

“It would never work. Once you had me, you would not want me any longer. For a man like you, it is about the hunt.”

He smiled, “I do like playing this cat and mouse game with you, but I have to admit it is a lot more fun when you belong to someone.” She nipped her lip. His words honestly did not come as a surprise to her. Takuya had his perversions. “Looks like Zen is waiting for you. As much as I would like to have your attention the entire evening, I am sure there are others who wish to speak with you.”

“You are the only person to approach me other than Zen.”

“They are just intimidated.” He responded as he kissed her hand and wandered off.

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Zen at first was quiet as she approached. His scrutinizing gaze always washing over her which forced a purse to her lips, “Come with me.”

Sighing she quickly followed along behind him. She did not know where they were going or what they were going to do, but she was certain it had to be better then standing around doing nothing. In a small private alcove, she noticed two Kari men standing. The bracelets they wore were a telling sign. It wasn’t just that though. As she looked upon them she noticed subtle things about them that reminded her of Hiko, Iashi, Tadayoshi, Zen, Kin, and even Katsu.

Coming to a stop she was able to look upon them more clearly. The younger of the two, caught her attention and she found herself staring almost blatantly. He must have noticed because his eyes shifted away from Zen, toward her. Nervously she looked away. She tried to figure out what it was that drew her attention when Zen spoke, “Are you enjoying yourselves?”

“I find these events rather tedious,” The one with the tattoos responded. “Is this the state of the Kari of Aslann; all pomp and pretense?”

Tationy’s lips pursed as she glanced toward the one that spoke. He had a stern, hard face. His eyes were not like most Kari. He had high cheekbones, which brought out his strong features. She drew her attention away from him when she realized the eyes of the other Kari were still upon her. It caused her to shift from one foot to the other as Zen spoke, “What you want is a step-backwards. One can still be Kari, embrace tradition, without giving up what we have.”

It was an argument. Not that most people would see it that way, but Kari men generally did not yell. They talked with sour expressions and heated words, with no lasting emotion in tone or features. “Osoma,” The younger one spoke, “This is not the time nor the place for this discussion.”

“Don’t call me that in front of this woman.”

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Zen had been about to speak when Tationy laughed softly. Her head tilted, her eyes fixed on the two Kari men, “How I have missed being addressed as woman.” Anyone that did not know her might take her words as being sarcastic, “So, you are the one that does the marks of Kazuma. How fortunate I am to be standing before such an important Kari.” She blinked her eyes that same smile gracing her lips, “I am sure Zen’s reasoning for this private little meeting had nothing at all to do with talking about the Kari, especially in such a public forum. After the evenings festivities, we can return to my home and you men can speak privately for now perhaps you would give me your names.”

The one Tationy had dubbed in her head as the ‘grouchy’ one looked away. He thought of her as beneath him she was certain. Her eyes settled on the younger of the two, “I am Tatsuya of the Kari and he is Semei.”

“It is nice to meet you both,” She responded politely.

The one calling himself Tatsuya asked, “Your name?”

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Tationy crossed her arms, making certain that the Kari bracelet was in clear view for both men, “Tationy, though some like to call me the Queen of the Gods. I will answer to both.” She of course was making light of all the craziness surrounding her, which neither Kari man seemed to appreciate.

Ignoring her words, Tatsuya spoke, “You are wearing the pride of the Elder. Is he the King of the Kari?”

“The King is whomever I wish it to be.”

“You support…”

She interrupted him, “Tatsuya, was it. We can speak later about the Kari if you wish, this evening is about the people of Aslann. Certainly, a man such as yourself can appreciate the love one has for his people.” Kin had told her once that there were some Kari she would never meet and even though she had wanted to ask why, she never did. Perhaps the Kari were not as united as they might have initially appeared, which made her increasingly curious about the men before her.

“I can appreciate many things, but these are not my people. Just as you should not be wearing the Heroska of the Kari elder.”

“You are more, then welcome to try and pry it from my wrist, Tatsuya. I assure you, the consequences will be grave.”

“Is this why you asked us here, Sotuska.”

She assumed Sotuska meant ‘shield of the Kari’ seeing their attention had switched to Zen, “It is.”

Tatsuya bowed his head, “We shall speak on this later then. When you are ready to leave this event let us know and we shall accompany you.”

Zen had given a curt nod, offering Tationy his arm as the two began to walk away.

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“Are you going to explain that to me?”

“Tadayoshi did something rash.”

Tationy laughed, “Well that is not at all surprising lately. What rash thing did he do now?”

“I had already chosen my replacement. It was my intention to relinquish my position as Shield of the Kari to Baito.”

“Kin’s little brother?”

“Yes. Tadayoshi had said he had already decided who would replace him as Head of the Kari. We were going to inform them and make the announcement tomorrow. Unfortunately, this morning I got word that Tatsuya and Semei had arrived to Aslann. Tadayoshi had called them.”

“Why would he do that?”

“I don’t think he did.”

“You think this was Kazuma’s doing?”

“Yes. Tatsuya would make a fine Elder and Semei could easily replace me as Shield, unfortunately they have fairly extreme views regarding the Kari.”

“I don’t understand. Does that mean in regard to tradition? I thought Tadayoshi knew more about the traditions and ways of the Kari then any.”

“He does. That does not mean he is the only one though. Tatsuya is a true Kari traditionalist as is Semei. Modernization of any kind is frowned upon. With them being placed in power it will set us back hundreds of years, but I fear there is little choice in the matter. Tadayoshi called them. Even though he and I are equal power he is still the Elder. That said, he can overrule me.”

“So there is nothing that can be done?”

“There is something.”

“What is that?” She realized he was staring at her without saying anything. She did not even know if time was moving at that point, “You want me to convince the one called Tatsuya to embrace something he does not believe in?”

“You are the Queen of the Kari. They will see that. You have that power. We cannot let Kazuma do as he pleases to the Kari.”

“What about Tadayoshi?”

Zen’s tone softened as he talked in a hushed voice, “After what he said to me this evening, I am certain he intends to take off. Hide away until Kazuma takes over. I do not plan to allow him. Moromari and Zixin are keeping a close eye on him, if he moves to leave they will strike.”

She did not ask him how. Tationy was certain it was not Zen’s intention to kill Tadayoshi. If he were killed, Kazuma would simply be reincarnated and that was exactly what they were trying to prevent.

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Miraculously she managed to avoid her mother throughout the evening, though she was certain at some point they would come face-to-face. For now, she just wanted to get home to her boys. Tationy almost forgot she invited the Kari men along when the four of them took a limo back to her house. Not surprising, Tadayoshi was gone and the part of her that wanted to breakdown had to force herself to keep the emotion from her face, “Mommy.”

“Kazuma, what are you doing up?” She questioned as she picked him up giving him soft kisses on his cheeks and forehead. She directed her attention toward the men, “Make yourselves at home, I need to get him into bed.” She talked with Kazuma as she moved through the house arriving at his bedroom.

Rather late, she realized it was not just the two of them. “He has fine Kari features.” Her lips pursed as she stared Tatsuya down, “His father is one of the Kari that died?”

She was uncertain what his motivation was for following her, “Yes.”

“That is a shame. Boys need their fathers.”

“Is this where you say something about a mother’s responsibility is to prepare them for the journey and their father’s is to guide them?”

“I see someone has versed you in the ways of the Kari. Was it your husband?” It was not her intention to give anything away, but unfortunately she had, “You and his father were never married?”

“I do not believe that is any of your concern.”

His eyes closed, “You are correct. I am not the Elder of the Kari. A fatherless child, a woman without a husband, I find these things to be troubling, but I have no say until I am made Elder. That is why I am here isn’t it?” He had paused opening his eyes to gauge her, “When Elder Tadayoshi contacted myself and Semei we were quite surprised. There were many assumptions made about why. The most logical given that he wishes for me to take his place as Elder of the Kari. I wonder what your role is in all of this.” She listened to him as he continued to talk, “You who chooses the king; there have been whispers that you have already made that choice. Tadayoshi, the Elder of the Kari, has claimed the title of Kazuma. Enlighten me, Queen of the Gods, where is the Elder of the Kari?”

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Tationy thought about how to answer his question as she set Kazuma in his bed. Kazuma placed his tiny little hand on hers as he reached up much as he always did. Softly she spoke, “You are my precious little prince. Your father and I are so lucky to have been blessed with you. I love you, my darling Kazuma. No King, No God, No Elder is above you.”

She noticed that Tatsuya had remained silent as she spoke to her son, forcing her attention away from Kazuma her eyes fixed on the man before her. Even though she could have answered him she did not instead asking, “Shall we join Zen and Semei?”

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Tatsuya did not display any emotion regarding whether or not he was annoyed she did not answer. When they reached the living room, Zen and Semei were arguing. Though neither of them would admit it. Without raised voices the two would go back and forth, neither giving any ground. Tationy sighed, “Enough, this is not accomplishing anything. Just agree to disagree already.”

Tatsuya took a seat next to Semei as the room quieted. For a time it remained that way, “What is this really about?”

Tationy noticed that Zen did not appear to want to answer the question so Tationy responded, “It is about the future of the Kari.”

“How so?”

“I shall be very clear with you Tatsuya. It is not my intention to ever see the supposed King of the Gods. He is far too prideful. This path was set in place long ago to ensure that Kazuma learned and he hasn’t. Each new generation he makes the same mistake with a new vessel. I will not allow this to continue. The Elder of the Kari is the vessel of Kazuma and he realizes the mistake the King of the Gods has made time and time again, but it is too late for him to correct it. Unfortunately, if allowed to do as he wishes, Kazuma will simply be reincarnated and this vicious cycle will continue. I cannot allow that to happen and if you are the Kari I think you are, then you will not stand for it either.”

Zen spoke in almost a whisper, “Kazuma is prideful and obsessive. Things we Kari have fought to purge. We were raised to be humbled in the face of adversity, learn from our mistakes so that we might better ourselves, show restraint when faced with our desires, and remain true to the ways of the Kari. Those ways, Kazuma has tainted. We have longed to reunite the King and Queen, but at what cost? A prideful God whose cares only for his obsession, his queen. He will bestow upon us no wisdom or betterment.”

“You are talking about giving up on our God.”

Zen spoke, “No. The Kari need Kazuma. It is the Queen of the Gods that has all the power. She names the King. It is she who will choose our God.”

“The Kari cannot afford to be fractured during this time,” Tationy spoke. “Tatsuya, certainly a man of your intelligence can see what might become of the Kari if they are divided.”

“I can. The Elder of the Kari called us here, are you going to tell us why?”

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“Tadayoshi and I have decided it is time for us both to step down from our positions as Elder and Shield of the Kari. Admittedly, it was not my intention to hand over that position to Semei.”

“Do you think me incapable?”

Tationy noticed that Tatsuya had a rather somber expression as the back and forth between Zen and Semei started again. Sighing she spoke, “Seriously you two, enough already. Zen had simply considered someone else for the position. His reasons for doing so are his and rather mote at this point seeing Tadayoshi contacted the two of you on behalf of the Elder and the Shield.”

“I do not need some woman…” Semei stopped talking suddenly.

“Go ahead and finish your words Kari.”

Perhaps it was some silent communication between the two men, but Semei’s body had relaxed, his eyes closed, just as Tatsuya began to speak. “You are quite spirited. A woman among the Kari with a voice of power and reason. Calming and yet abandoned by the men that claim to love you.”

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Tationy noticed how Zen frowned. She did not need to be a mind reader to understand why he was troubled. It was the same feeling she got when around Takuya. It was as though he was seeing right through to her very core. For a time she allowed the silence to linger, “What of you, Tatsuya? Just as clearly as you can see my abandoned heart, I can see yours. You feel pain for me because I have no husband and my son has no father. Which tells me you are without a wife and your children have no mother. Even when you try to mask your feelings, your eye’s show a great deal of emotion. You are sympathetic to the situation you are being brought into, yet cautious. Those you consider ‘your people’ you will fiercely protect. We are no different, you and I. We are trying to protect the same thing. My little Kazuma has a legacy that will be greatly tainted if this situation is not clearly resolved, won’t you hear what we have to say?”

“You and I will speak on this matter,” Tatsuya responded. Semei was troubled by this having gone to protest, but was quickly shutdown. Zen seemed to understand that this was going to be a private discussion between Tatsuya and Tationy, so he said his goodbyes and Semei reluctantly did the same. With the two of them alone, Tatsuya’s eyes washed over her.

TS3W 2015-01-04 02-28-06-97

“I am your type.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Your eyes never leave me.”

“Perhaps my attention is on you simply because you are the Queen of the Gods.”

She shook her head, “I know Kari men. When they look at me as the Queen it is about conquering me. You do not look at me like that.”

“What about you?”

“What about me?”

“Do I resemble the man you love? Is that why your eye’s gaze upon my face as though you are memorizing every detail?”

“Perhaps that is what I see.”

“Was he the man you wanted as your king?”

“He was my king,” She responded simply.

“Has there been no man capable of filling that void within your heart?”

“There have been men that have wanted too and some that have even tried. There was none like him though.” Tationy paused only a moment, “Why have you not taken another wife?”

“There is only room for one in a Kari man’s heart.”

She offered a kind smile even though his words made her think of Tadayoshi and how painful it must have been for him trying to open his heart to her, “Shall we find a more comfortable place to speak?” His response only a single nod of his head.

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She noticed as they moved through the house, his attention was always on her, even as they walked. “Does your gaze tell you everything about me?”

“Not everything.”

“What answers are you seeking?”

There was hesitation even though it was brief. She could not decide if it was him being cautious or something else entirely, “Would seeing Kazuma be such a terrible thing?”

“You would not ask me that if you had spoken to him. There are no words of wisdom for the Kari. Nothing he wishes to impart upon his people. He was never a benevolent god. You were created in his imagine and yet he still finds you flawed. Kazuma cares nothing for those that live and breath.” There was a long pause so Tationy asked, “Do you doubt my words?”

“No, I can tell you are speaking the truth, though you are also holding something back.”

“Some things are better left unsaid.”

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The two of them remained quiet even after they situated themselves within Hiko’s office. His eyes always remained on her. He had a stone-cold expression devoid of any emotion. If she had to rank the Kari on whom had the best poker-face, Tatsuya would be second only to Zen. “You are staring at me again. Wouldn’t it be easier to just ask me those questions burning wildly within you?”

“Is this the life you want for that child; modernization, stagnation, indulgence, debauchery?”

“I want Kazuma to be loved and respected. This life of modernization might well be filled with stagnation, indulgence, and debauchery, but to speak on an environment you know nothing about shows ignorance. While there are some Kari who have been seduced into deviance, there are many that keep a balance between tradition and modernization.”

“It is not possible to balance the two.”

“I disagree. If you watch someone like Zen move about this world there is harmony. He had to embrace modernization to further the Kari. Something that he never wanted to do, but because it was required he swallowed his Kari pride and he moved forward. There is no Kari that is more disciplined then he. His sacrifice for the Kari is proof that there can be balance between tradition and modernization.”

“He is one Kari among many. The boy’s father, did he embrace harmony between the two?”

Her head bowed, “Hiko spit on tradition. A willful and wild Kari. The people of Aslann, the Kari Foundation, these were things that were important to him. He never found harmony, not even at the end. One does not have to be without tradition to be without balance. Tadayoshi, the Elder of the Kari, has stayed true to the traditions of the Kari and yet he as well was without the balance needed to sustain himself. In this world of modernization to be completely one way or the other is unhealthy. A Kari man needs balance. Modernization gives him the freedom to explore and become his own man and tradition is the harmony that keeps him grounded.”

“Modernization and tradition will never be compatible; always in direct conflict with one another. A Kari man must choose to follow the path of discipline or allow himself to fall to weakness. He cannot grow if he gives to each equally.”

“The struggles of life require that one learn to balance all aspects. Ignoring modernization is essentially the same as running away. If a Kari man truly wants to discipline mind and body, he cannot be frightened of conflict even one as violently incompatible as modernization versus tradition. There are merits in both tradition and modernization, why are you so quick to dismiss one for the other?”

“Modernization is about the destruction of our way of life.”

“It doesn’t have to be.”

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She placed her hands in her lap. His eyes fallowed every little thing she did. Those questions were still lingering there, burning deeply. “You are quite a cautious man. How many times have you considered the same question over and over again as you decide if it is worth asking?”

“Nothing is gained by rushing.”

“Slow and methodical; I should warn you I have little patience.”

“What happens when your patience runs out?”

“It depends on the situation.”

It was subtle, but he had hesitated again. It was different then when Tadayoshi did it so she was certain it was more about him considering what to say and how to say it. Eventually he spoke, “When I am elder this situation you are in will be resolved.”

She laughed softly, her expression slightly amused as her eyes focused on his face. “Do you intend to find me a husband?”

“You are a woman of the Kari, regardless of your title. You have a small child that needs to be guided by a strong Kari hand. I intend to ensure that the two of you have tradition in your lives as I would with any other Kari.”

“Convincing you that the betterment of the Kari starts and ends with the balance of modernization and tradition is more important than finding someone to share my bed,” She responded as she looked away. Even though she attempted to keep the heaviness at bay, it was evident in the tension that overtook her body.

He was far to perceptive for her liking, “Something terrible happened to you.”

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Her voice a whisper as she responded, “Some Kari men cannot find the balance necessary to ensure the safety of the woman they love. Other Kari men, hide behind tradition so that they can discard things they disapprove of in hopes of obtaining the object of their obsession. This is the reality of the Kari. I don’t want this future for my little Kazuma. If unreasonable Kari men are too stubborn to hear the voice of Tearra, then perhaps one Kari man will listen to the tale of Tationy.”

To Be Continued

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2 comments

  1. Funny when Tationy point that out, the bird origami thingy. hihihi. So, Kuro actually brought this thing with him when he went to the party that night? xD

    So wait. Will Zen accept Semei as his replacement? Semei doesn’t look like, hmm, friendly? Or nice? wait what am I kidding. These men are Kari, there’s no nice. hihihi. My bad. But how about Baito?? Hm. So Suya-chan will be the replacement for Tadayoshi? But Zen said that Kazuma was the one that called them, so, who was the one that Tadayoshi planning to give his position to? @.@

    Tatsuya and Tationy? \O/ hehehe. You know, this is the longest chapter ever!! OMG.

    • OMG, I know that chapter was so long. I almost broke it up in parts, but there are only so many chapters left so I am trying to cover everything so I do not have to add additional chapters.

      Haha, no he did not bring it with him, he actually made it in the car out of a piece of paper that Zen had tucked away between the seats. It was a scene I ended up not doing, because there are just not enough car poses and I ended up not writing the chapter from Kuro or Zen’s point of views.

      Whether or not Zen excepts Semei, we will find out before the story ends. ^_^ Going to make you wait for the answer. Yes, Semei is not nice…the grouchy one. Hard to believe he was my original Tadayoshi huh? They are so different.

      Just have to wait and see if Baito becomes the Shield of the Kari or Not. Tatsuya is Tadayoshi’s replacement, and we will learn if that is who Tadayoshi had wanted soon enough or if it was indeed the choice of Kazuma.

      I rather like Tatsuya and Tationy together. Even in TEP they had a back and forth, but then Hiko shows up and Tatsuya is just becomes a good friend.

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