Their night was spent holding each other and watching television. In the morning, they had their complementary breakfast before checking out. Hiko, thought that Tationy seemed awfully pensive. For a time, they just wandered around Sobatole before Tationy picked a direction with what Hiko would have described as apprehensive purpose. If that was even a thing. Even with how compatible they seemed to be he noticed that there was a silence lingering that morning which suggested to Hiko that the heaviness about what to do and where to go was effecting her as much as it was him.
They probably walked for a good hour, before Hiko finally realized where they were heading. He was certain she was leading him to the Yamada estate that once belonged to the matriarch, Miso. With her death, Hiko had no knowledge of the state of the Yamada so leading him there seemed questionable. It took them another twenty minutes before they were standing on the porch. Tationy set their stuff aside as she spoke, “I am sorry in advance.”
Hiko looked at her with question as she opened the door and the two of them stepped inside. There were workers all about; people packing things up and shifting them from one room to another. He was not certain who it was that Tationy was looking for as she glanced about.
“Is anyone even working?”
A woman’s voice could be heard loud and clear as the sound of high-heels on wood floors drew his attention. Before them, a woman suddenly came to a stop. It was obvious by her hair and eyes she was Yamada, but she was certainly not built like any Yamada woman he had ever seen. Her eyes glanced around the entrance hall as she shouted, “The foyer is still filled with items. I want this room empty, what am I even paying you people for?”
He heard a soft sound of annoyance from Tationy as the woman’s eyes settled upon her, “Tationy, looking at you irritates me. If you are going to be here, at least go and change your clothing and do something with that rats-nest you call hair.” Her eyes shifted to Hiko, “And you, seriously what am I paying you people for? Get to work already.”
Hiko was unable to hide the shocked expression, “He is not the help mom, he is with me.”
“With…you,” The woman’s tone was filled with disbelief as her eyes settled on Hiko. “I highly doubt that.”
Tationy sighed, “Mom, this is Hiko Kari.”
“Kari,” She said his surname as she looked him over again and her voice suddenly softened, “Oh, you are Tadayoshi’s boy. Forgive me, I hadn’t realized the two of you knew each other. Tationy why are you still standing here. Go…make yourself at least semi-presentable.” Hiko watched as Tationy bowed her head and moved toward the stairs, “Please forgive my daughter, she thinks annoying me is the best way to get my attention. Allow me to introduce myself, I am Chilè Yamada.”
He was uncertain what to even say. He was irritated, but biting Tationy’s mothers head off was probably not the best way to make a good impression, “It is nice to meet you Ms. Yamada.”
She laughed softly, “Ms. I see your father did not teach you any manners. Calling a woman Ms. Seriously, what is a Yamada woman to do with you Kari men? It is Miss Yamada.”
“Sorry. I will remember next time.”
She tilted her head and mmm’d as she looked him over, “I see it now. You look just like your father. He was always fun to …. play with.” Hiko choked as his eyes widened. He could not help wondering what happened between Tationy’s mother and his father. Was there actually “playing” involved or was she referring to the way Yamada women so blatantly talked about sex and teased. “So, tell me Hiko Kari what is going on between you and my wild-child?”
Hiko made note that she referred to him as Hiko Kari instead of just Hiko. He deduced it must be a habit of Yamada women or at least one shared between Tationy and her mother, “Miss Yamada, your daughter and I are involved.”
“Are you now?”
“Tell me how does your father feel about this union?”
“He likes her, but thinks we are moving too quickly.”
She laughed, “Just like Tadayoshi. He is much too cautious.”
“If you do not mind me asking, how well do you know my father?”
She gave him a look that he could only describe as mischievous delight, “Do you really want to know the answer to that question, Hiko Kari?”
Tationy’s mother laughed, “A word of advice. Never ask a Yamada woman a question you do not want to hear the answer to.”
“I will keep that in mind.”
Chilè had turned and moved toward a small sitting room and at first Hiko did not follow. He looked toward the stairs where Tationy had disappeared and was only brought back to the moment when her mother said his name and told him to follow. The way she talked and even how she sat screamed Yamada, but her body was nothing at all like the Yamada women he was used to seeing. “You are staring, Hiko Kari.”
“Sorry, you just are not what I expected.”
“Did my daughter tell you what a foul and venomous woman I am?”
Hiko stared, not certain how to answer that question so he simply lied and said, “No, nothing like that.”
Her eyes felt like they were burning through him, straight to his heart, “Do you know why Yamada women are so dangerous, Hiko Kari?”
“We are very good at spotting weakness. We can look right to the heart of any man. Even a beautiful, delicate flower can be deadly. Does that frighten you?” He would be lying if he said it didn’t. Every man in Aslann had heard the stories about Yamada women. They were beautiful temptresses capable of getting what they wanted without much effort. She mmm’d again, “Kari men are so delightful. I am almost tempted to play with your father again.”
Hiko knew he was staring, but he really could not help it. He doubted anyone would ever believe him if he described Tationy’s mother as a sexualized baby-doll. She had this cutsie voice that talked in a semi-provocative manner. Everything about her screamed dangerous and yet he could see why so many men fell for the charms of the Yamada, “Do I entice you?”
He shook the thoughts away, “I am sure most men would find you tempting Miss Yamada, but I am only interested in your daughter.”
“My daughter. I have to wonder why? You are Kari. Certainly you can have any woman you want. She is not exactly…”
“She is beautiful, intelligent, and more important than both of those she makes me happy.”
“Alright,” She said in a way that made it seem as though she was content with hearing him out. “What are your intentions?” Plenty of things came to mind even things he knew were probably things he should not say. When he did not answer right away Chilè said, “Probably a better question would be what are my daughter’s intentions with you? Are you even curious? What makes a Yamada woman pick one man over another. What weakness does she see in you, I wonder?”
Hiko’s heart sank. Was that it? Was that the difference between him and Abe? Was that Sosa scum stronger than he was? He did not like the negative thoughts that flooded his mind at Tationy’s mother’s question.
The sudden sound of crashing and Chilè rushing out of the room was a relief and yet seemed vaguely familiar to him. It was nagging at him as he sat in the lounge listening to Chilè yell at some workers. He told himself it was probably just the house after all it was not the first time he had been there. His father had brought him a couple of times when he was little and really the house had hardly changed at all in that time. It even smelled the same. His eyes closed as he tried to push the familiarity aside as his name was said by his own voice in his mind which forced his eyes open suddenly, “Hiko Kari, that is my name. This is usually where you introduce yourself.”
The little girl just stared at him as she played nervously with her hair. He remembered thinking how embarrassing and annoying it was that he was being ignored, “Your name doesn’t matter. I won’t remember it anyway.”
“Because I am not really here.”
She was odd, that was what he thought, “If you are not really here, then where are you?”
“Everything; the past, the present, the future.”
“You should be here with me instead of dreaming. We can play together.”
“Why would you want to play with me?”
“I think we are the same.”
She shook her head, “There is no one like me. I am alone.”
“See we are the same. I am alone to,” He responded as he reached down and took her hand.
Hiko had quickly stood and followed the memory only stopping when he heard Tationy call his name. He grabbed her hand and continued to move out of the house toward the backyard as she asked him repeatedly what was wrong, but his mind was so focused on capturing that memory, at least as much of it as he could.
They were lying in a thistle-field. Hiko remembered playing with her hair as they talked, “My father does not want me to come here anymore so we probably won’t get to play again. It does not matter does it, you won’t remember anyway.”
“Maybe it is better if you forget as well.”
He remembered thinking how much he did not want that to happen, “If we meet again, can we play together always?”
As he walked through the field with Tationy he held her hand tightly, “You never did answer me.”
“You asked me something?”
“Ahh, right here in this field, but I imagine you don’t remember do you?” He stopped moving suddenly and turned to face her. It was the first opportunity he had taken to look at her, “We met, when we were kids. You told me back then that my name didn’t matter because you would not remember it. You were dreaming that is what you said. The other kids would not talk or play with either of us. So, that day we played together in this field and when we were done playing we laid upon the ground and I asked you if we met again, could we play together always. Can I have an answer Tationy?”
“Always transcends time itself Hiko Kari. Are you sure you would not prefer forever?”
“No, I said always and that is what I meant. Unless, you are telling me that forever is long enough for you.”
“Forever can be a second, a minute, a day, a week, a month, a year; It only exist as long as one is breathing.”
“So, do I get an answer?”
She was smiling when she spoke, “Playing together is always more enjoyable than playing alone, but don’t think I am going to let you get out of playing always and forever with me.”
Hiko laughed, “You Yamada women sure do make everything sound suggestive.”
“Actually, it sounded exactly how I meant it too.”
“Is that so?”
He lifted her quickly in the air and she squealed excitedly, “Don’t you drop me Hiko Kari.”
“I would never drop you.” He quietly stared at her face as her fingers teased along his cheek, “I don’t know what love is. I have never seen it. Never felt it, but when I am with you I feel like I am going mad. You are in my thoughts every second. It is like you were made just for me and even though I am not religious there is a part of me that is thankful to Kazuma. I never thought there would be anyone that fit me. All I can think of to say is, can we play together always Tationy?”
She nodded her head, “Yes.”
“Yeah?” He asked seeking out additional confirmation.
“Yes, Hiko Kari we can play together always.”
There was no way he could explain how he was feeling even if he tried. Hiko was not articulate. In the grand scheme of things he pretty much just blurted out whatever came to mind without thinking about the consequences and that had worked for him his entire life. As he placed Tationy on the ground and took her hand he found himself wishing again that he was a man capable of putting into words all of those delicately linked emotions that were always running recklessly around within him.
Even though they had a moment, there was still that silence that crept up and lingered. He hated it, but there was a part of him that understood that a portion of it had to do with the two of them not really knowing each other and yet feeling so connected. When they entered the house he looked around for Tationy’s mother and when he realized she was nowhere in sight he tugged her hand, leading her up the stairs to one of the bedrooms. He just wanted to have time with her even if they said nothing at all, “Your mother is something else.”
“She said something to me.”
“What was that?”
“Well, when she asked me what my intentions were she switched gears and said that it would probably be better to ask what your intentions were. What weakness do you see in me Tationy?”
Her expression was one of sadness as she spoke, “The Yamada are very good at exploiting weaknesses. The men they choose are susceptible to their charms. If you dangle the desired treat in front of them there isn’t anything they wouldn’t do. The truth is playing a game like that is easy. Manipulation takes no work if you understand the weaknesses of your desired prey. You want respect which means giving your thoughts and feelings merit. A man like you needs admiration and appreciation, but they have to be genuine. No one has ever supported or encouraged you before. It is important for you to have someone that tells you every day you can do it and that you are believed in. Probably the most important thing though is recognition for the man you are and the man you will become.” His lips pursed. Those were all things she was doing. Was she working him? “None of those things are your weakness, Hiko Kari though some might believe they are.”
“Well then, what is my weakness?”
“It’s me. I am what people will exploit to get you to do what they want. They will try to use me in any way they can to sway or break you. You must promise to never give in, no matter what they say or do. Knowing your weakness is leverage against those that might use it against you.”
“Knowing where my enemies will attack allows me the opportunity to defend.”
“So, who exactly are my enemies.”
“Everyone. There is no one that can be trusted. Not friend or family.”
He smiled, “Everyone huh? Even you?”
“I suppose that will depend on if you make me one or not.”
Hiko’s hand rested possessively to the small of her back, “You are my girl. My job is to protect you and protect us. I am Kari that means there are some things that just are and there is no changing them. We are stubborn to a fault, fiercely loyal, passionate about that one woman in our life, and the most dangerous men in Aslann if we are crossed. If anyone tries to come between us or hurt you there will be no stopping me.”
He could not decipher her expression as he inched closer to her. His mouth was seeking out hers and he was grateful when she leaned in and kissed him. It was probably the most passionate kiss they had shared as his tongue teased her lower lip coaxing her to open her mouth. Hiko wanted to deepen it as his hand gripped the fabric of her dress. “I love the taste of your mouth,” He spoke between kisses. “Tationy, can we have sex?”
“Aren’t we suppose to be waiting?”
Groaning he pressed himself into her side, “I don’t think I can.” She had given him the go ahead with a rather quick nod. He was almost beside himself as he excitedly kissed her while his hand moved to explore beneath her dress.
He had just slid his fingers inside her panties when the sound of the door being thrown open, heels on wood floors, and Tationy’s mother speaking drew his attention, “Mmmm, well isn’t this a nice sight.”
“Miss Yamada, we were just…”
She waved her hand, “There is no need to explain. However, this house is being packed up and I cannot allow the two of you to be giving my workers a show. They are barely functional as it is. Now, downstairs with the two of you. I believe we have a conversation to finish.”
Hiko waited until Tationy’s mother disappeared from the room before he pressed his forehead against Tationy’s as he groaned, “Sorry.”
Tationy’s voice a whisper, “It is alright.”
“Is it? I feel like I got us both worked up for nothing.”
Tationy shook her head, “It was not for nothing. Every moment is important for the journey. Even the ones that do not go how we plan them.”
He forced himself to pull away as he spoke, “You are right. This interruption was probably for the best. We don’t want to rush it.”
By the time they collected themselves and made their way downstairs the lounge was almost completely empty. The curtains and most of the furniture were removed and both sofas were no longer in their previous locations, “Is it alright if I smoke, Miss Yamada?”
“Of course,” She responded and Hiko was acutely aware that her eyes were following both himself and Tationy.
He lit up, took a seat next to Tationy on the sofa, draping his arm along the back of it. He could feel her warmth as she sat closely next to him, despite having the entire couch to themselves, “Are you moving, Miss Yamada?”
“Just remodeling. This place has been the same since I was a child. It is time for a change.”
“Are you the new matriarch of the Yamada?”
“The Yamada no longer have a voice.” Her words came as a bit of a surprise to Hiko and he wanted to ask why, but figured the answer was probably better left unaddressed at that point. He told himself he would ask Tationy later about it, “So, why are the two of you here, I wonder.”
Hiko could feel tension radiating off of Tationy as she spoke, “I do not know if you have heard the news about Sofore.”
“Emitoya did mention something about it. Is that why you are here? Do you want money?”
His lips pursed as he spoke up, “It is nothing like that. Tationy and I are …. ” He paused as he tried to think of what to say, “There is plenty of uncertainty for everyone that attends Sofore. As of right now, we are waiting to see what happens. From what we have been told, they have condemned ten buildings already including our dorm. A large number of students have already begun to leave Sofore and yesterday, the seniors were taken to Aslann University for the entrance exam.”
“This is important to me how exactly?”
How could she be so indifferent? This woman was Tationy’s mother and she was treating a source of conflict for her daughter as though it were nothing at all. Maybe Kuro was right, people like his father and her mother could not be talked to as though they were people. Blackmail that was something they would understand. Was playing dirty the only way for them to secure a future together? “I intend to marry your daughter.” Her attention now was fully on him, “Tationy has told me that she wishes to attend a university. To be honest, I have been waiting to find out if the gymnasium will be shut down. I play basketball at Sofore and had hoped to continue to play for my junior and senior years. However, whether or not that will happen is unknown at this point. My father is being rather insistent that I take the entrance exam. He wants me to get through school so I can take my place at the Kari Foundation. Meeting your daughter has made things very clear for me. I have no future without her in it. As much as my father wants me to get a business degree, I don’t feel comfortable leaving Tationy behind.”
He paused, “She tells me that you are hesitant about paying for her continued schooling. I cannot say I understand considering how intelligent she is, but I can only assume you have your reasons. It worries me that if I attend a university and she is left here that we might drift apart. She will most likely get a job, probably meet a man that is beneath her, maybe even get pregnant with his child. I cannot allow that. I won’t allow that. With or without the approval of our parents, I intend to marry her and we are going to have children someday. I would hope that you and my father would be supportive and do what you could to encourage our future, but truthfully I don’t expect either of you to help. This is why we came so we could tell you what was going on with the school and so I could inform you of my intentions.”
The last part was far from truth after all he did not even know they were going there at first let alone why.
Chilè made a sound which was almost whimsical in nature, “Now I understand why my mother had that look upon her face the day I brought him home. What an odd sensation to be on the other side of this conversation.” Hiko realized that he was not the only one confused by the statement as he noticed the curious expression upon Tationy’s face. “Kari men always go after what they want and only relinquish it upon death. That is what he said.”
“I don’t intend to relinquish her even then,” Hiko responded.
Even though he was curious he did not ask Chilè which Kari she was referring to. He assumed that it was his father due to how she had talked about him earlier. He wanted to ask, but he doubted he would get a straight answer from Tationy’s mother or his father. She chuckled, “Somehow I have no doubt. The two of you are cut from the same cloth.” Hiko stared at her and thought that there was no way she was talking about his father. They shared no similarities, not even in the slightest.
The silence was almost too much as Hiko reached for Tationy’s hand, giving it a squeeze as they waited for her mother to say something. Even as she stood, his eyes remained fixed on her until she was out of sight. “Did I mess things up?”
“I don’t know. I have never seen her like that.”
“You don’t think she was talking about my father do you?”
“I have no idea,” Tationy responded and they both grew quiet as she reentered with cellphone in hand.
Hiko almost panicked when he realized she was making a call thinking for certain she was probably calling his father. “Yuudai, this is Chilè,” She had paused for a short time before laughing, “You are such a charmer. We can discuss pleasure later this is a business call.” Tationy and Hiko exchanged disturbed looks, “Yes, Yes. I will be there. Well I am sure you could convince me to wear nothing at all, but I really do not think that is what they mean when they say giving back to charity.”
His mouth hung open as he looked at Tationy who was noticeably pink in the cheeks, “That sounds delightful, but you are really getting off track. What part of this is a business call didn’t you understand?” That laugh again, it was almost playful which told Hiko that her protest was all for show, “Three of us? Yuudai, you are so naughty. Now…no I can’t. I can’t. Yuudai, my daughter and her fiance are with me right now.” The laugh was louder and more playful this time, “I promise after they are gone. Well they would be gone by now if you would listen to me instead of teasing my ears with that saucy voice of yours. Yes…yes…nothing. Can’t you read my mind over the phone?”
Hiko tried to focus his attention on Tationy instead of the conversation her mother was having on the phone, “Yes. You should have gotten a text from me about it with my confirmation code. That is right. Thank you, Yuudai. Let me send these two on their way and we can continue this conversation when I call you back. Of course. My house is filled with workers so video chat is out of the question, unless of course you would like to stop by after work. Seven would be perfect. See you then.”
She hung up the phone and directed her attention swiftly upon them, “I will be straight with you, Hiko Kari. What I expect of Tationy is probably not something she is capable of doing without assistance. She will never be anyone of any consequence. You, however, have a future before you that has such great potential and if I were a few years younger, I would have broken you already. Men are nothing more than a means to an end. The right one can secure a woman money, power, and even influence. I would have preferred a Sosa for her, but apparently I aimed too high. Kari boys have their uses and you are not without your own power and influence. Securing someone like you seemed outside what she was capable of doing and yet she did it. I am both curious and ambivalent regarding where this will lead.”
He was forcing himself to bite his tongue as Tationy squeezed his hand, “I deposited a million dollars into Tationy’s account. If you are married and have your first child within two years, you do not have to pay me back. If you fail to do either of those, I expect you to pay me back with interest. I will be generous and only make it twenty percent. I am considering this an investment, I hope within two years I see the value of it. If I see nothing in five years, I will take you for everything you own.”
“That is…” Hiko stopped Tationy from speaking when he abruptly cut her off.
“I want it in writing.”
“Of course. Yuudai will have one of his people deliver the contract the moment it is drawn up. Now leave.”
Silently the two of them wandered outside and stood on the porch. She had something she wanted to say, he could see it clearly. When she finally reached her hand up to touch his face she said, “Are you out of your mind? You don’t make deals with Yamada women that is like asking a snake to bite you.”
“You are Yamada,” He paused a moment as he memorized her features. “It was probably a mistake, but I am willing to risk it. No one understands and I am not going to try to explain it to any of them. If making a deal with the devil is the only way to secure our future then it is done. You were right, you are are my weakness. In two years or five years it does not matter, I am going to turn my weakness into my strength. You understand me? Someday, your mother is not going to be able to talk to you like that without feeling the wraith of the Kari.”
Her voice was a subtle whisper, “Hiko.”
“If I was my father, she would never have said those things about you. I don’t have his money or power, but I will. I am going to do what my father wants and your going to be at my side.”
“No, Hiko…Don’t rush. Please.” Why was her voice so pained?
“I have to. I don’t want to ever sit in a room like that again and have to take it. Not being able to speak because of fear of what will happen. I don’t want to feel like that and I don’t want the woman I care about to be treated like she is nothing when she is everything.” Hiko wished he could decipher the myriad of emotions he was seeing within her eyes. Why was she so hard to read? He wish he understood what she was afraid of.
To Be Continued