Chapter 32: Tying Up Loose Ends

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That morning Tationy felt rather dazed. Tatsuya had left just after four in the morning after an exhausting discussion how things came to be. Of course she left out things like soul devouring gods, but for the most part her story was filled with every unpleasant detail of her life from the beginning to the present. Tatsuya had been remarkably composed, listening to every bit of information. He never interrupted her and with each word she could see the questions growing within his eyes. If he thought her words were going to bring him any understanding regarding the situation, he was mistaken. Tationy had been very careful with what she divulged.

Zen had called her early that morning to tell her about Tadayoshi, he was currently under lock and key by the Saitama. Not surprising, he did not want to see her. It annoyed her that he was always so hot and cold and yet she understood it. She was not going to let him take the easy route and sometime that day she was certain the two of them would come face-to-face whether he wanted them to or not. She and Zen spent some time talking about the situation with Tatsuya and Semei and how best to proceed.

Really, most of the call she was distracted with her own thoughts. There were still so many things she needed to do. Her life felt like the end of a story where everything was left hanging for a sequel, one that probably would never come. It was a ridiculous analogy after all this was her life and not some fairytale. She needed closure and was willing to do anything to obtain it. In the end, she thought that was all any human being really wanted, finality.

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Tationy spent the early morning, readying the boys for the day. She had plenty of things that needed to be done, but she wanted to make certain that she took the boys to see her father and one last visit with Tadayoshi. So even though he was the last person she wanted to see so early in the morning, she and the boys headed to Tadayoshi’s home. Moromari agreed to watch the boys while she spoke with Tadayoshi first. She found him in the living room, sitting quietly. There was a fire going and he seemed pensive. The casualness of the moment only annoyed her more.

“I asked Zen…”

She interrupted him, “Do you really think I care what you asked Zen to do? He told me you did not want to see me. As if, keeping a distance between us is going to change how things are. I know why you left. I get it Tadayoshi, but how dare you leave without saying anything to Osa and Kazuma.”

“I thought it would be better this way.”

“That is part of your problem. You always say you are thinking about what is best for the people around you, but what you are really doing is thinking about what is easiest for you. I am going to tell you how this is going to go. You are going to tell Osa and Kazuma that you have to go away for a bit to take care of business. You are going to tell them that you love them and that Zen is going to make certain that they are well cared for. From this point on, whatever Zen tells you to do you will do it without question.”

His head bowed, “I am sorry things turned out this way Tationy, really I am.”

“Don’t,” She said as she tried to fight back the emotion. “This is how the game is played between Tearra and Kazuma. You and I are at a point where there are no longer any illusions. We both know how this will end for us, but you can tell Kazuma I will find a way to stop him. If it takes the last breath in my body, this game will end with me.”

“He knows. Kazuma is almost amused at the prospect that you intend to try. Excited even because this is the first time a vessel of Tearra has not submitted willingly and fallen. He claims he does not understand how it is possible, but I think deep down he knows why you are able to stand and fight, when I am not. I have a feeling you know the answer to that question as well.”

Tationy stared at the flames as the silence overshadow the two of them. It was a darkness that was almost smothering as she took several breaths, closing her eyes as she reflected on their brief time together. She had made a mistake, so many that it was sometimes difficult to keep track of all of them. She should have let him walk away instead of asking him to not give up on her. She should have stood at the side of Hiko and claimed him her king. Certainly the vicious cycle would have continued, but perhaps she would have remained oblivious. In the grand scheme of things, it really did not matter which path she would have taken because all roads would have led to the same place.

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When she looked at him her features briefly softened. It took only a moment for her to close the distance, squeezing herself into the small spot at his side. Her head rested to his shoulder and even though it was subtle she felt his body tense and then relax. “Thank you,” He whispered as her eyes closed.

Tationy understood why he was thanking her. It had nothing at all to do with Kazuma or fighting for him to stay at her side, it was because she gave him a brief moment where he could forget he was nothing more than a means to an end for Kazuma. For a single night, she was his queen. It was all he had ever wanted. Even though she was certain that both of them pretended as they made love to each other, it had been the only joy either of them felt in years. “I should be thanking you.”

Tadayoshi nervously chuckled, “Was it that great?”

Her lips pursed, “Still messing with Kazuma I see?”

“What makes you say that?”

“You smile more, laugh more, you are even joking. It is as though you are a completely different man.”

“I am not different. I am simply no longer confined by the traditions that bound me. Before, I had to answer to the Kari which required me to hide myself. I don’t have to do that any longer. For the first time since I was a young man, I can be myself again. I wish, I would have met you before I became the Elder of the Kari. Not that it was possible, but I would have liked for you to have known my heart as it was before I was burdened with the responsibility of tradition.”

Tationy considered his words, “It was.”

“What was?” He questioned.

“It was great.” Even though she had disassociated herself from the moment and pretended to be his queen she had felt loved. She was mad at him, but wanted him to have something to hold on to in the days, weeks, or even months to come. “I am sorry.”

“Why are you apologizing?”

“Because it is too late to save you from Kazuma.”

“Don’t apologize for that.” His body and breath relaxed as his hand stroked her hair, “Will you and Kin….never mind, it is none of my business.”

Tationy lifted her head allowing her eyes to settle on his, “Tadayoshi, don’t worry about me alright?” His response a subtle nod of his head.

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Tationy forced herself to pull away from him. Nothing was gained by allowing herself to be sucked into a companionable moment. When she stood he followed suit and there was little time to react to the attention he laid upon her. His fingers laced in her hair, his mouth inches from hers, and she knew that if they allowed themselves to be sucked into this moment that she would give herself to him again. “I want to kiss you.”

“I know.”

That tension was back again, she could feel it radiating off of him, “Is there anything you want to ask me or say before I speak with the boys?”

She was distracted by how close they were. Tationy knew it was more about Kazuma then it was about Tadayoshi, but it was still his body, voice, and touch that was sucking her into the moment. “Why did Kazuma call Tatsuya and Semei? Honestly, Tadayoshi was it him or you?”

“At this point, I don’t think there is any difference between his actions and mine, but it was never my intention to turn over the Kari to Tatsuya. He would probably be an exceptional elder, but I always thought I would give it to someone else.”

“Who is it? Who did you want to lead the Kari?”

His mouth sought out hers which allowed the two of them only a brief moment to be lost in fantasy. If they could stay like this, Tationy was certain both of them would. They were acutely aware that this would never be reality for either of them so he pulled himself away from her suddenly, “At this point, who I would have chosen does not matter. As my queen, I leave the decision to you. I have already told as much to Zen and gave you my power of attorney. I know you will make the right decision.”

She had not realized it until he started walking toward the kitchen where the boys were sitting with Moromari that she had started crying.

It took her far too long to collect herself. When she finally managed to make it to the kitchen, Tadayoshi was already done speaking with the boys. There were no goodbyes as she forced herself to walk away without looking back. Osa did not even ask any questions, even though she was certain he had plenty. Kazuma was just too little to understand. In the quiet car ride, she had plenty of time to think about those awful things she really just wanted to forget. She hoped for some sanity as they weaved their way through the city to her father’s apartment.

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Any hope for some normal joyous family moments were quickly crushed when she and the boys entered her father’s place to the sounds of a heated argument. With a sigh, Tationy helped the boys out of their jackets and directed them to her old bedroom. She had a feeling she knew who was arguing and what about as she gathered what little strength she had remaining that day and stepped into the living room. At first she just stared at them, back and forth. The only thing keeping the two women from clawing each other’s eyes out was the fact that Miroku was between them.

Her head began to pound, rubbing her forehead did nothing to relieve the tension as she raised her voice, “That is enough.” It silenced the room, the three directing their attention toward the doorway where she was standing, “Whose stupid idea was this? Let me guess, you just stopped by mom?”

“Why are you blaming this on me? Your father is the one that is letting some child stay in my home.”

“This is not your home. This has not been your home in years. Your home is with whatever rich man is buying you stuff.”

“Well, I see your father has been poisoning your opinion of me.”

Tationy pursed her lips, “I seriously cannot deal with the three of you today.”

“What did I do?” Chii’s soft little voice asked.

“You, didn’t know enough to walk away.” Tationy scolded as she directed her attention toward her mother, “You, think that you can do whatever you want with no regards to the feelings of the people you are stomping on to do it.” Her attention settled on her father, “And you, you just never had the balls to fight. It was just easier lying down and taking it like every other Tylo. I am sick of this crap. I am sick and tired of dealing with the emotional fucking baggage of everyone around me when my entire life is falling apart. Chii, you should have walked out the moment my father let her into the house. Mom, you never should have come here to begin with, and you dearest dad, should have slammed the door in her face the moment you saw her.”

There was a combination of expressions as they stared at her silently. Her mother, Chilè was the first to speak. “Tationy, you are right I should not have come. I did not know where you were staying and you conveniently avoided me last night. I wanted to see how you are. Emitoya and I arrived for the charity gala and were suddenly bombarded with the news. I wanted to make certain you were alright. I thought your father might be able to persuade you to speak with me.”

She noticed that her father’s lips curved into an odd crooked purse, “I told your mother that now was not the time. That you were not seeing anyone. She did not believe me and thought I was keeping the two of you apart.”

Tationy let her attention fall upon Chii as though she was expecting some sort of explanation. Chii noticeably sighed, “I might have interjected myself into the middle of your parent’s disagreement, but she kept yelling at your father, calling him a liar, and I did not like it.”

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She stared at the three of them, “Unbelievable. I am really not in the mood to be dealing with any of this right now. The boys are in my room trying to remain distracted. This ….” She was struggling with her words as her father closed the distance, his arms wrapping tightly around her. She lost it, not able to hold back the emotion. “I’m sorry.”

“No, you do not have anything to be sorry about.” Tationy was aware that her father understood that the entire plane crash was all a staging, but that did not take away from the fact her emotions were genuine. She honestly wanted to curl into a ball and just pretend as though the world around her did not exist. It took every ounce of strength she had to keep up appearances and after her visit with Tadayoshi, she simply had nothing more in her.

She heard her mother’s voice, “Chii is it, why don’t we make some tea and allow Miroku and Tationy a moment.”

There was no hesitation from Chii, which surprised Tationy. “Alright.”

When the two of them were out of the room her father spoke, “Just walk away Tationy. Walk away from the Kari before they destroy you.”

“I can’t. I have to stop this. It has to end with me.”

“Please, Tationy I don’t want to lose my daughter.”

“I am already lost.” Tationy took a breath, “Will you do something for me?”

“Anything.”

“If you and Chii are serious about each other, leave Aslann. Please, leave Aslann.”

Tationy had no doubts her father would understand why she was asking him, begging even. If she failed at stopping Kazuma, the cycle would start all over. No Tylo child would be safe. He held on to her tighter, but did not offer any words. It was not such an easy thing to just pick up and move, not to mention it was not as though he and Chii had been seeing each other long. She was asking him to do something that most people couldn’t possibly commit to; walking away from everything.

The soft voice of Chii spoke, “Alright. We will leave.”

Tationy felt the tension as her father pulled away his eyes falling upon Chii. If there was ever a moment for him to kiss her it was probably that one, but he did not rush toward her. Tationy sighed as she pushed on her father’s back, which forced him to move toward Chii. There was patience, even though Tationy was not certain how that was possible when it was obvious that the two of them were serious with each other. Her father almost seemed nervous as he wrapped is arms around her.

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“Just kiss her already,” Tationy heard her mother say. “That was always your issue Miroku, you never knew how to just grab a girl and kiss her.”

“The last thing I am going to do is take relationship advice from you,” Miroku responded.

Chii sighed, “Will you take it from me then?” Tationy watched the scene and felt her stomach knot. How she wanted the normalcy of life and love.

It was far too easy to get distracted in her thoughts lately and she realized that was the case when her mother responded with, “Alright time for me to leave before I get anymore disgusted by the sweetness. Tationy, show me out.” Even the thought of being alone with her mother for a moment made Tationy’s head hurt far worse than it had ever, but she moved with her mother into the hallway.

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Her mother looked her over, “Have you heard the news about your grandmother?”

“No, what news?”

“The old woman is finally dieing. Someone probably poisoned her wine. Would serve her right after all she has done. I wonder why suddenly the witch is falling. Anything, you would like to tell me?”

“Are you accusing me of something?”

“Not at all. I heard what happened to that boy, Sesiago. The two of you visited her just before his death, what was that a couple of years ago give or take? Do you want to know which Kari she called?”

Tationy eyed her mother suspiciously. She wondered how she knew anything about it, but deduced it probably had something to do with Katsu, “Do you know who it was?”

“I do. I also know why she called him.”

“What is it going to cost me?”

Her mother had given her an undecipherable look, “Nothing.”

“What makes you think I would believe anything you said?”

“As hard as it might be to believe Tationy, it was never my intent to have the same relationship with you that I had with my own mother. So consider this information a parting gift. Katsu told me once that Kazuma despises those that have been marked. He never said why. When we were kids, Katsu was afraid of having that mark. He said that there were twenty Kari whom the Osoma tagged and it was nothing more than a death sentence. When I asked him why he felt that way he said that Kazuma feared the bearers of his mark. When I asked him how he knew that, he of course went on and on about being Kazuma. I knew he did not believe he was, but he kept saying it as though it would have made it real. That night you visited your grandmother with the bearer of one of the marks of Kazuma she called the one person who had all the power.”

“Hiko.”

Her mother shook her head, “Once you know the meaning behind the marks, you will know who benefited from the death of that boy.”

“Kin said those marks are an alternative form of reincarnation so why don’t you just tell me who she called?”

“I could tell you what Katsu learned through the years, but you would never believe me. Tationy, the Kari trust in what they are told. If you want to know about the marks, look deeper.  If you have time you should stop in and visit the old woman. I did briefly, seeing her like that was delightful after all she put me through.” The elevator door opened and Chilè stepped within, “When I saw you at the gala, I thought how unfortunate because I was certain you would embarrass me.” Her mother paused a brief smile passing over her lips. As the door to the elevator closed she responded, “I was proud, you finally became the woman I taught you to be.”

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This felt like the longest day ever for her as she asked her father if he would watch the boys for a bit. The last thing Osa and Kazuma needed was her foul mood bringing them down further so when her father agreed she headed toward the Kari Foundation. There were a few things on her mind that she wanted to discuss with Zen, of course more fighting was not at all what she was expecting. She could hear it long before she stepped into his office.

Silently she stared at the Kari men. When there was a moment when they stopped talking it was Kyo’s attention that was drawn toward her first, “Tationy.” One by one they each followed suit allowing their eyes to rest upon her. She could hardly keep the emotions at bay and the disheartened expression upon her face most likely told each man that she was in no mood because each of them had remained silent.

“Is this how it is? I thought the Kari were above this pettiness? Sure I can understand walking into my father’s house and having a free-for-all between my father, mother, and his new girlfriend, but the Kari? Can’t you all agree that you want what is best for the family? Fighting about it serves only to divide.”

“What we were discussing woman is none of your business,” Semei spoke up.

“Don’t talk to her like that,” Kyo responded.

“The Elder gives this woman power and you Kari allow her to speak for you. If this is the state of the Kari, I want nothing to do with it.”

Tationy noticeably sighed as the bickering began once again. She rubbed her head the stress becoming more and more painful, “Enough.” Her voice did not sound like her own as the men before her once again became silent. “I have completely had it with the Kari. I am sorry Zen, but they need to know what Kazuma thinks of them.”

“What is she talking about?” Tatsuya questioned.

Zen gave Tationy a hard stare and much to her surprise he began explaining. “It is not an honor to be the vessel. Kazuma chooses a Kari that believes. One that has given himself over to the traditions and ways of the Kari. It is his perfect vessel, but the vessel is not the god. Kazuma is a separate entity and as he becomes stronger, he devours the soul of the vessel. Kazuma has done this for thousands of years with no regard to his people. We are simply a means to an end. Had it not been Tadayoshi, it might have been me, or you Tatsuya, or even you Semei.”

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Tatsuya spoke, “So this is the reason you are not by your king’s side?”

Her posture was uneasy, tense even. “Tadayoshi is always hot and cold. One minute he is with me the next he is not. His own insecurities keep us apart. He is not worthy to be the King of the Kari.” She paused, “The Kari need a strong hand, but it cannot be one tainted by pride, obsession, and hindered by insecurities. Tadayoshi is in no shape to choose his replacement let alone lead the Kari. Kazuma is consuming him, a little at a time.” That unwanted emotion was there again as the tears began to run along her cheeks. She tried to hold it back, “I am sorry. It is too late for him.”

If these Kari men were able to feel anything at all, then the emotion upon her face certainly damaged them. Kyo was oddly the voice of reason within this room, “Protecting the Kari is the most important thing we men can do. We cannot allow a single woman to fight for something that we hold dear. As strong as she is, we have to be stronger. Regardless of the reasons, keeping the Kari united is all that matters. Kazuma is our God. It does not matter how he has failed us, we will always look to him, but we cannot allow him to destroy what we hold sacred. Power struggles serve to benefit a single Kari. This is about protecting what is.”

There was truth in the words of Kyo, but the heaviness was far more apparent than it had been before. Tationy considered her mother’s words a moment, “Semei, why would Kazuma be afraid of the bearers of his marks?”

Tatsuya had pursed his lips as he glanced toward Semei. The surprise exhibited was telling. Semei was not exactly rash. From what Tationy could tell he simply spoke his mind and asked his questions outright rather than dwell on them. It was the difference between him and Tatsuya. This question though had left even him speechless. Tatsuya directed his attention upon Tationy, “Why do you ask?”

The men all seemed curious as they anxiously waited for her response, “My mother said something to me. She said that Katsu had told her that the marks were a death sentence. That Kazuma feared the bearers. I wonder if it is the same reason Tearra fears the Sato. Tadayoshi cannot be at my side. His eyes are clouded, blinded. He does not recognize me as his queen even though he tries desperately and it is causing the Elder of the Kari to behave unlike himself. Kazuma’s worst behaviors are becoming more apparent and even as Tadayoshi defies him he knows he has little time left. As long as Kazuma is allowed to do as he wishes things will only get worse. He needs to be bound so that the Kari can be protected and a new king chosen. Sacrifice is necessary in this situation. Tadayoshi understands that we must do what is required to keep the Kari from fracturing and destroying itself. Kazuma as he is now cannot rise to power without bringing about the downfall of his people. Tearra fears the Sato and Kazuma fears the bearers of his marks.”

“Why does Tearra fear the Sato?” Erobus questioned.

“Kazuma is not the only one that eats souls. Tearra does as well.” She could tell they were all controlling their surprise as she continued talking, “When Tearra and Kazuma choose bodies it is for purely selfish reasons. Kazuma chooses one that best represents what it means to be Kari. When the previous host died, he chose the newborn Tadayoshi because he was the only Kari available that fit what he needed. He believed and because of that it made him easily overtaken; he was groomed to be the vessel as all potential Elders and Shields are.”

She could tell the Kari men were listening, “Tearra does the same thing. She chooses a Tylo for their weakness. She chooses ones that will always be broken and killed by the Kari. Tearra thought I was a weak Tylo. She does not want to be reunited with Kazuma. She devours the soul of the host and allows them to be broken and killed. She could see Kazuma a hundred times over if she wanted to, but she doesn’t. They avoid certain prospective bodies. Tearra does not want a body capable of suppressing her so she purposely avoids vessels with particular bloodlines. Unfortunately, she didn’t realize what was hidden in my blood.”

Tationy noticed how Tatsuya bowed his head as he contemplated the conversation, but it was Semei who drew her attention. He was being rather reserved and even Tatsuya seemed to notice as he spoke, “Semei, what is it?”

There was a moment of pause as Semei glanced toward Tatsuya. “I succeeded my father as Osoma. He told me that the art of inking was handed down generation to generation. It came about from a union between a Kari and a Kensuku. The woman, taught her Kari husband how to infuse the esoteric incantations of a chalta within the ink allowing us to make a vessel acceptable to house our god. While he was training me he said there are some Kari that are not capable of handling the power of Kazuma. That out of a hundred Kari born, maybe two might have the strength to embrace and command the power, though that does not mean they will be marked. Suppressing Kazuma, leashing him, is the only way to command his power and the only way the vessel can survive the experience. As he spoke he was noticeably shaken. He told me that most of the Kari born are broken. That I would understand his words when I experienced the sensation for myself. I never imagined he was speaking about the man that would become our Elder and the vessel of Kazuma. When I mark someone, I oversee them through their trials. I know who I am going to mark long before they even complete their journey into manhood. I have never had a Kari before me that I intended to mark, but changed my mind. So, I never experienced what my father was talking about.”

“If that is true, then only those that bear the one of his marks can suppress Kazuma and command his power,” Zen responded.

“Let us not jump to conclusions,” Tatsuya spoke as he directed a question toward Semei. “Can you confirm this if you examine the Elder of the Kari?”

“Yes.”

Tatsuya looked upon Zen as he responded, “I do not like that you are keeping us away from the Elder, but I do believe you when you tell us something is wrong with him. I will remain here, but please allow Semei to see the Elder, Tadayoshi. If he can confirm that he is a broken vessel, then he will do what he can to assist.”

“Kazuma seeking out broken vessels is troubling and damaging. The Kari have spent so long trying to bring their king and queen together that they never saw the game they were playing. Kazuma might actually want to see his queen, but it is more about her submission than about love these days and Tearra simply does not wish to see him. They stopped feeling anything positive for each other long ago,” Tationy whispered.

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Erobus asked, “How do you know this?”

Tationy tilted her head and sighed, “Suppressing Tearra is the same as devouring her soul. The stronger I become, the more of her I destroy. Each piece gives me just a bit of information. It’s making my head hurt. Kazuma needs to be forced out Tadayoshi and bound to a body that can suppress him. That is how we stop Kazuma, but it is too late for Tadayoshi.”

Kyo became pensive a moment, “In ancient Aslann, before the gods descended to the Earth the Sato were a demon clan created by Rin. It was said that they had a presence about them that was ‘warm’ and overpowering. Their very essence could calm and sooth anyone they encountered, but there were some that believed the Sato were more than what they appeared. Clans were afraid of them. Hunted them down even and wiped them out. There were stories about survivors, ‘hiding’ their blood and pretending to be Kensuku and Takahashi. Which were clans that were difficult to identify by sheer presence.”

Thoughtfully Tationy spoke, “That makes sense why she would fear them. Rin created them for a purpose, perhaps it was to stop a particular god.”

“Rin’s intention could have certainly been to use them against Kazuma, but he never had the chance. Knowing that Tearra is afraid of them tells us that our gods have weaknesses. Throughout history Kazuma has only been bound once to a vessel that belonged to a bearer of the Mark of Kazuma. It did not end well for that vessel, he was killed. Even though the marks have expanded and now twenty Kari bear them,  he has never used them even when his queen still existed within an era. Katsu was probably right, he is afraid of them.”

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Even as the conversation continued Tationy stepped outside the office of Zen. She was feeling the ill-effects of all of the stress coming together at once and her mind was on Sesiago, “I find your strength remarkable.”

“Kyo, you obviously missed the moment when I started crying and could not stop. Perhaps an eye-exam is in order.”

He smiled briefly, “It is alright to feel Tationy.”

“Why, because I am a woman? Women are allowed to feel, but men need to be all macho and keep it all locked away.”

“It takes great strength to express one’s emotions. For the Kari it is an ugliness, a weakness that they keep locked away because when they allow themselves moments to express those feelings anything can happen. They do not have the abilities necessary to control such overwhelming forces. It is with great respect that Kari men look to the women in their lives to express everything they cannot.”

Tationy looked away, “Tadayoshi could have used your advice on how to woo a woman with words.”

Kyo laughed, “Find me charming do you?”

“Probably more than I should with you being a married man and all.”

“I do have three sons. They are not quite as charming as I am, but they know how to treat a woman.”

“Is this your way of saying I should find my way to Kin?”

“No. As much as Kin loves you, a relationship between the two of you would never work if you do not feel the same. He will always be there for you, but you need to take the time to heal. When you are ready to love again, it will find you.”

“It is not an option for me.”

“Just because you are the queen, does not mean you deserve to be loved any less.”

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Tationy shook her head rolling her eyes at Kyo. She did not get the opportunity to say anything when a cleared throat drew their attention away from one another. “Forgive the intrusion.” Tatsuya’s words were polite, though the gazes from both Kari men told Tationy that they did not approve of the conversation she was having with Kyo, regardless of how innocent it was.

“The shield said you could take me to see your brother,” Semei spoke. Tationy noticed he never looked at Kyo while he was speaking. His gaze was fixed on her and even though she had grown accustom to men looking at her with scrutinizing eyes, his seemed far more disapproving.

“Of course,” Kyo responded. His attention fell upon Tationy, “I will come to visit you and the boys later tonight if that is acceptable. Eri wants to Skype with Osa and Kazuma.”

“They would like that.” His smile was comforting as she watched him walk away and Semei followed. There was a moment that Semei glanced back at her which forced a sigh to leave her lips, “He does not like me.” Tatsuya who stood at her side could have offered something at that moment, but he refrained from saying anything which told Tationy she was right to think that Semei thought her a sore needing to be removed from the Kari.

“I thought we might have a moment to speak in private.”

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Hesitantly she agreed as she led them toward Kin’s office. Stepping inside, she took a seat because she was certain she was going to need to be off her feet for this conversation. When he joined her lips pursed, “If this is about the position of Elder….”

He quickly interrupted her, “There are many among the Kari that will feel what Tadayoshi did as a slap to the face regarding our traditions. I have only met him a few times, so I do not understand his reasoning. However, I believe you might know why he gave you such power.”

Tationy could not hide the surprise, “Honestly, if I had to wager a guess it would be because Tadayoshi wants to protect the Kari and he is uncertain about whether or not you favor tradition over the betterment of your people. If it is your intent to force your people to fallback to a time when tradition was all that mattered, you will break the Kari. Fracture it into groups that will be eternally divided.” That emotion was building again, “He made mistakes, but he has always thought of the betterment of his people even at the expense of his own happiness. This is what it means to be an Elder of the Kari. He believes you might be a fine Elder, but whether or not you are capable of looking past your own pride, is an answer that has yet to reveal itself.”

Tatsuya was pensive before directing his attention fully upon her, “I value the ways of the Kari. They are important. There are too many Kari that have sacrificed their beliefs for power. Greed is one of many weaknesses that is disguised as ambition. As the Kari have moved into an age of modernization they have forgotten what it means to value the Kari way of life. Power and ambition are qualities that are appreciated, but like any others they can be taken to an extreme. When we spoke the other night you were not mistaken about the Kari needing balance.”

“I am surprised you feel this way, but have to wonder if you are just appeasing me to get what you want.”

Tatsuya bowed his head, “I understand why you might think that. Until the situation is resolved with the Elder and Kazuma, you should consider this decision thoughtfully. Come to Meratoia and spend time among the Kari that still value tradition. The queen of the Kari will always be welcome.” Tationy watched Tatsuya as he stood and began to leave the room. He turned to face her, his eyes washing over her. “I will not tell you I am the most suited to be the next Elder of the Kari, but I assure you that I value the Kari and want to ensure that they do not fall.”

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Tationy had not gotten a chance to speak with Zen. There was just too much going on with the Kari. She stopped and visited with her dad, left some money, it was the least she could do after all she was asking him to just walkaway. With her and the boy’s home there were plenty of things to distract them, but they did little for her own troubled thoughts. She still felt like she was moving aimlessly through the world in a daze. There came a point when she realized she was just standing in the kitchen staring off into the distance much as she had been at the start of her day. When Kazuma’s voice broke up the silence she turned to see what her little boy was getting himself up to and the face of Kyo was staring back at her.

Quickly she composed herself, “Kyo, when did you get here?”

“A half hour ago. Kazuma and I have been standing here for about ten minutes. Are you going to explain to me why you are so distracted?”

“There is just a lot on my mind.”

“Do not think because you are the queen that you are in this alone. All of the Kari are here for you.”

She sighed, “There are moments I need more than just support.”

“Why don’t you go and take a bath, relax for a little bit. The boys and I will make dinner.” Tationy eyed him suspiciously, “Are you wondering if I can cook?”

“The thought had crossed my mind.”

“All Kari are taught to cook including the men. It contributes to their improvement and allows them an opportunity to grow. It gives them moments to form bonds with both parents. My siblings and I were taught by our father. Those moments were some of the most rewarding of my life. I learned a great deal about my father and about the Kari during those times in the kitchen. Some of the most valuable experiences shared by the Kari happen while doing the most mundane of task and at dinnertime all Kari within a family come together to share in the experience, even someone as little as Kazuma.”

“So, shouldn’t I be helping?”

Kyo smiled, “No. A Kari man understands when the woman in his life needs time to herself. You might not be mine, but I am certainly not a Kari man oblivious to a woman who needs to forget and relax. You carry a heavy burden with no one to share it with you. I would not be a very good Kari man, if I allowed you to suffer.”

Tationy thought his words seemed vaguely familiar, like those spoken at one point by Kin. It was not surprising, they were father and son after all, “You don’t have to do this. I am fine really.”

Kyo shook his head, “I don’t believe that for a moment. Go and relax, we Kari men can handle the duties of the house.”

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Even though she was hesitant she found herself in the bath relaxing. Kyo had been encouraging, though she did not understand why he was being so supportive. Tationy took everything that was happening with Tadayoshi and the Kari to heart. Even though some might argue it was not her fault, she could not help thinking that it was. She found herself wondering if she would always feel like this. There was plenty of time to think without relaxing in a bath, but Kyo had been right. A moment of relaxing was just what she needed, but like any other moment it just gave her more time to think.

Tationy found herself wondering about Zen and considering whether or not he was angry about having to tell Tatsuya and Semei about Kazuma and his soul devouring. She wanted to know how Kyo really felt about what was happening with Tadayoshi. Did he blame her? Was he sad? She did not even know if she made the right decision when she asked her father to leave. Certainly and much to her surprise Chii had agreed, but she was asking them to give up everything. In the months, maybe even years to follow, things would change. How they would change she could not say.

There were far too many moments when she asked herself what would Hiko do. She thought about how it all began. The truth of the matter was even though some might think her story started with the assault that was really just an unfortunate byproduct of the true tale of her life. The story started long before she was even born even before the very earth was created. Her story was never her own, it belonged to Tearra.

As she tried to relax in the tub she thought that Hiko had to have known how the story would end. Like Kin said to her, they could not be together if Hiko did not challenge his father. Had she not been so foolish and called Tadayoshi, told him what was coming, Hiko would still be alive, and Tadayoshi along with Kazuma would have died. Every action she took led to this path.

That was not the first bad action, there were plenty of others. Thinking back on it, she could see how much Hiko loved her. There were moments in those four years together that she doubted him. Certainly their relationship was based on a lie, but she never gave him the opportunity to explain. Had she wanted her voice heard by Hiko Kari, all she had to do was speak. Tationy had foolishly accepted that things were how they were and instead of fighting for what she wanted, she slept with Sesiago.

It did not matter that Suemeli and Iashi helped to manipulate the situation. It did not even matter that Katsu played a part in it all. It was Tationy’s actions that led to that night. Hiko had to take responsibility for his own actions, but even after all the time that passed she still could not let him take all of the blame. She could have told Sesiago no and walked away. She didn’t and when Hiko asked her what happened she lied.

The storm was approaching so wildly and even after what had transpired, Hiko tried to protect her. He had not wanted her near Katsu or Tadayoshi, he took her far away from the Kari; far away from himself. Whatever his reasons he thought she wanted Sesiago, so he made certain he found her. The cost for Sesiago was everything including his life and it had been her fault. She was the one that suggested they go to her grandmother. She held him in her arms as he was bleeding to death and the one that came to her rescue when called was the man she discarded, Hiko Kari.

She thought of it as a deal with the devil as she made arrangements with Hiko to punish those responsible for the death of Sesiago. It was her fault that so many Kari died. It was her fault that Osa was left without a father. Even though she only wanted them punished, she had to take responsibility for the part she played in their deaths. Tationy felt so annoyed with herself because saving Tadayoshi from that fate was ultimately what sealed Hiko’s. Even Katsu and Iashi lost their lives. Maybe the Kari would have been better off if Tadayoshi had fallen.

There were plenty of moments where she could say, what if I did this or what if I did that. Tationy really had always been that girl to just do whatever she wanted. Certainly, there were moments it might seem as though others were directing her or even pulling her one way or the other, but Tationy never did anything she didn’t want to do which was all the more reason she had to take responsibility for the trouble she laid upon the doorsteps of many.

She took a breath in, wondering if others struggled with so many unwanted emotions and questions. She couldn’t change things no matter how much she wanted to. Her father wanted her to run away and hide. Tationy couldn’t do that. She did not want another Tylo to experience pain like she was feeling. Even if she failed she had to at least try. Maybe it would take months or years. Perhaps, things would never change and the same ugly cycle started thousands upon thousands of years ago would start all over again. In the end, none of that mattered because this was not her story.

To Be Continued

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2 comments

    • It is possible things would have been different with Hiko; though he was not a mark bearer. The only marker bearers we have seen in the story are Sesiago, Katsu, Kin, Semei, and Bingwen. Though it is possible someone could have been a bearer without being marked. Hiko was certainly strong enough.

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