The eyes of Kyo Kari shifted away from the young woman before him for only a moment when the door to the library opened and his nephew Hiko stepped inside. The looks exchanged between the two of them told Kyo that this was going to be problematic because Hiko was not going to forget what he saw. With his attention back upon the young woman she said, “I have never seen you this distracted, Kyo.”
“Am I? I had not realized.”
“There are plenty of rumors that you and Eri are fighting. Does your preoccupation have something to do with her?”
There was no way he could answer that without more rumors being spread, “Eri and I are always exchanging words and people love to talk. The only thing occupying my mind is the cold hard stare I am getting from my kin.”
She laughed softly as she looked over her shoulder, “I hear plenty of rumors about him lately as well.”
Kyo joked, “Those are probably all true.”
“Delightful,” She mused as she allowed her eyes to fix on him once more. “Perhaps you have heard my own scandalous rumors?”
“I might have heard a few things, but you would have to be a bit more specific. Sofore loves its gossip and the more tantalizing the talk, the more people seem to like it.”
“Certainly that is true.” She made a whimsical sigh, “At the beginning of the year, Kuro Ishi asked me to the Summer Festival.”
“I did hear something about that.”
“Well then you probably also heard that he has gotten pulled away on some family business and will not be returning until final exams are taken. Which means I have been officially stood-up.”
“How tragic,” He responded as he noticed Hiko take a seat out of the corner of his eye.
“Isn’t it though?” As she paused Kyo thought for certain that he knew what this conversation was about. His eyes kept fixed on her face, “I always find you the most interesting guy I have crossed paths with here at Sofore. Your eyes always remain on my face and never look at my body. Do you find me unattractive?”
“Not at all.”
She hmm’d thoughtfully as she responded, “Good, I am glad to hear that. I thought perhaps I was not your type.”
Kyo shrugged his shoulders, “You are intelligent, beautiful, and soft. I am sure most men would consider you their type.”
“Does that include you?”
He hated questions like these. His type? Honestly, it was a difficult concept to explain so that women would understand. He was Kari, he didn’t exactly have a type. When a Kari man makes a deep connection with that one woman, it sometimes defies all reason. There is no controlling it. It could be someone you loathe entirely, but if those feelings are there no one else will even be a consideration. Kyo realized he was probably silent far too long as he responded, “Are you and Kuro dating?”
“Officially he just asked me to the festival.”
“We might have gone out a couple of times.”
“So, are the two of you serious?”
“No, I think he is interested in someone else and probably has been for a while. What about you and Eri?”
Kyo closed his eyes a moment as he contemplated how to answer that question. The truth was, they hated each other, hooked up once at a party, and now she was pregnant with his child. In a perfect world she would marry him, but this was hardly a perfect world. “What about her?”
She smiled as though he had said the right thing, “I normally am not so bold, but I do rather like you. Maybe you already have a date, but it does not hurt to ask right? Would you like to go to the dance with me, Kyo?” He figured that was what this was all about.
“Did you already buy a dress?”
For a moment she seemed pensive as she considered the question. Kyo was certain she was trying to decide whether or not she wanted to be honest or coy. “A couple of weeks after Kuro asked me. Probably makes me seem foolish buying one so early.”
“No, just means you are prepared.”
“So, do I get an answer?”
He gave a single nod of his head, “Sure, sounds great.”
Saying yes was probably not the wisest decision he made that day, but he had not asked anyone to the dance. He had to be there, but that did not mean he wanted to be. Still, she seemed rather excited, though hiding it as he watched her wander out of the library. He sighed as he moved to take a seat next to Hiko waiting for his words, “Do you think that was a good idea? That shit with Eri, not to mention she is some sort of relation to Sosa, and whatever she had going on with Kuro could be an issue.”
Kyo deflected, “I am surprised Kuro did not mention it. The two of you are friends after all.”
“He mentioned he asked her, just did not tell me who it was.”
“If he had?”
“It is not my business.”
“Somehow I doubt you would have let it slide.”
Kyo could tell that Hiko was biting his tongue, though not very well. “She is Sweela. If you believe that shit in the history books they were created by the Nakamaru clan from the blood of the Sosa and the Shima. As far as I am concerned, she is Sosa. That makes her dangerous.”
“I am surprised you paid any attention during history,” Kyo joked. He knew he was deflecting more than usual, but the last thing he wanted was to discuss his personal life. “Why exactly are you here? The library is generally a place of study.”
“After we were dismissed, I told Tationy I was going to the library. I have assignments that need finished and she has kissing both duty. Why are you here, don’t you have to get going?”
He could hear a judgmental tone even though Hiko was showing remarkable restraint as he withheld sharing his entire opinion, “In a little bit, I need to be at the festival. As to why I am here, I was studying.”
Hiko snorted, “Studying what exactly?”
“If you got something to say Hiko, just say it.”
There was a moment of silence that followed until Hiko asked, “Why are you not fighting harder?”
Kyo sighed resigning himself to the fact that from an outsider’s perspective he might seem as though he was doing nothing, “I keep telling myself that there is some hope that she will change her mind, but she is not the type of woman that would be happy being at the side of a Kari man let alone having his child. I try to talk to her, but every attempt is met with her telling me I am oppressing her. It is not like that is what I am trying to do. She just cannot seem to understand that. Eri and I are not in love. We were raised differently and do not have anything in common. There is nothing about me she likes. I feel powerless. It is her right to do as she wishes to her body, it does not matter if I helped create that life. What do you want me to do, lock her up until she has the baby?”
“Is that even an option?”
Staring rather blatantly, Kyo stumbled over a laugh as he asked, “When did you start cracking jokes?” Pausing when Hiko did not respond he continued, “I keep trying to talk to her, but in the end what I want does not matter in this. So, I would appreciate it if we just pretend like it is not happening.” Remarkably, Hiko remained silent though Kyo was certain there were plenty of words he wanted to say. Changing the topic had become too easy for Kyo over these past five days since Eri had told him she was pregnant. “Did Tationy get her dress?”
“Dress for what?”
Kyo laughed, “Hiko, you did not ask your girlfriend to the gala?” The stupefied look upon Hiko’s face was almost priceless. He tried to stammer some sort of response, but failed so Kyo asked, “I have to go and get a tux, so why don’t you and Tationy join me? She can get a dress and you can get something. More importantly, you can pretend you did not completely forget to ask your own girlfriend to the Spring Fling dance.” If Hiko was annoyed he could not tell as he began gathering up his stuff and placing it in his book bag, “We can meet up at the dorm after she and I finish our work at the kissing booth.”
“Alright,” Hiko finally responded as Kyo made his departure.
The most entertaining part of the festival was honestly the amount of guys that were brave enough to line up at Tationy’s booth. There was not a soul at Sofore that was not acutely aware that she was with Hiko Kari and that he had gotten into a fistfight with Abe. Kyo laughed thinking it was sort of like standing in front of a haunted house and being dared to go in; in this case Tationy was the house and Hiko was the wraith of the spirits that resided inside. There would be an interesting story to tell if you could actually live to tell the tale. Admittedly, even he braved a kiss at the end of their first shift the day before, but he would not dare mention it to Hiko. He wasn’t that confident that he would not be killed. More or less, the festival was nothing other than a distraction from his thoughts.
The real obstacle for his day was going to be shopping with Tationy and Hiko. Not that he thought that it was going to be a chore, but he was certain there was going to be a lot of time between dress showcasing for the two Kari men to talk. Twenty-seven dress shops later they sat quietly in a secondhand store. “Why is she so indecisive, it is just a dress?”
Kyo chuckled having been certain that the silence was going to linger for most of the day, “It is not just a dress. This is the first time the two of you will be going out as an official couple to some function. Sure it is just the Spring Fling, but everyone is going to see the two of you together. It is not like going to some restaurant where it is just the two of you having dinner were you know no one around you. These are your peers, they discuss the two of you behind your backs, curious about your relationship, and now the two of you are going to be out front together. She is acutely aware that how she looks that night is as much a reflection upon you as it is her.”
“Is that how it is?”
“Unfortunately. Aslann is made up of two societies, the haves and the have nots. We have money, power, influence, and status which means everything we do is watched and scrutinized. It would be nice to just be any other guy, but we are Kari and the person we choose to have on our arm is in the more dangerous position because everyday people and the media are going to pick apart everything she or he says, does, and even how she or he looks.” He noticed how Hiko frowned, “You cannot shelter her. The kind of power needed to do something like that is not within your grasp.”
“When I have the power I will.”
Kyo smiled, “You are pretty idealistic for a guy that spends most of his time articulating with grunts and chest beating.”
“Was that suppose to be funny?”
“I thought it was.”
“Have you ever considered that your bad humor might be why Eri runs away from you?”
“I am not going to take advice from a guy that thinks clubbing her over the head and dragging her back to his man cave works wonders for a relationship.”
“Tationy does not seem to be complaining about my style.”
Quietly Kyo considered his nephews words, “Some women like that apparently.”
“Guess that makes this neanderthal a lucky caveman.”
He could not stop himself from laughing. When he finally managed to settle himself down, he responded, “I will bite, what would you do about Eri?”
“It will probably seem simplistic to you, but I would just make her listen. She cannot run away from you and the conversation forever.”
Hiko was probably the simplest guy he knew. Everything with him was either black or white there was no gray or in between. You were either right or wrong. If you were on his good side he was fiercely loyal. Why anyone would cross a guy like this, he would never understand. Those that do not see the world in shades of gray were the most dangerous type.
A cleared throat drew their attention as she turned around once and asked, “Well what do you think?”
Hiko was silent as he stared and Kyo realized that it was probably not a good thing so he elbowed him which forced Hiko to blurt out, “It makes your hips look big.”
Grimacing Kyo tried to correct the situation, but Tationy simply turned and walked away before he could. “Are you stupid?”
“Don’t tell your girlfriend that the dress makes her hips look big.”
“I was just being honest. If the dress thing is that important to her wouldn’t she rather I tell her the truth then lie?”
“Women are very sensitive and emotional about how they look, especially about their weight. Telling her that her hips look big might be honest, but you are drawing attention to an imperfection that will ultimately make her feel bad about herself. Women do not want you to be honest about how they look, they want you to lie.”
“I believe you started out a sentence earlier with, I am not going to take advice,” Hiko paused a moment and added, “From a guy that told Eri that she was looking a little fuller around the waist.”
Hiko noticeably changed the topic as he adjusted his body, “Do you really think I hurt her feelings?”
“It is certainly a possibility.”
Groaning his nephew responded, “It is not that I don’t like her hips. I love them. That white just made them a bit more pronounced and distracted from her breast. My attention was just drawn away from my favorite asset. It was not that it was a bad dress, it just didn’t show off her figure to my liking.”
“Sounds like you intend to dress her.”
“It is not that, I just like how she is shaped.”
Kyo chuckled, “I get it. The clothes should accentuate her entire figure and not just one aspect of it.”
The silence again, why did it seem to happen so much these days? Kyo was almost hopeful that Hiko would ask him about Eri again at least then he would have something to discuss. In all reality, he understood that it was his own heaviness that was making the silence seem oppressive, “Are you really interested in Moochie?”
He was surprised Hiko had asked about the pretty blond girl he had been speaking to earlier that day, “She is intelligent and beautiful. I imagine the two of us could be quite compatible, but if you are asking me if she lights a fire within me the answer is no.”
“Grandpa would probably like her.”
Laughing he responded, “Yeah my dad probably would, but he is not the one that would have to live with her.”
“Live with who?” Tationy’s voice broke up their conversation.
“Kyo has a date for the dance. Sweela girl named Moochie. We were just talking about how my grandfather would probably like her.”
“Azu has good taste in women after all he likes me.”
“Since when are you and my grandfather are on a first name basis?”
She chuckled softly, “Kari men love it when I say their first names. Isn’t that right Kyo?”
Quickly clearing his throat he looked away, “Aren’t you going to ask Hiko what he thinks of your dress?”
“Uncle or not, you better not be flirting with my girl.”
“He doesn’t flirt,” She responded, “He is just being nice.”
“Guys aren’t nice, they flirt. You are too trusting and you,” Hiko said as he drew his attention upon Kyo, “Stop flirting with my girl.”
Kyo frowned, “Are you trying to get me killed?”
“A little life or death experience makes us feel more alive. Perhaps, it is just what you need to realize that life is too short to wait for what you want.”
“Why do I get the impression we are talking about Eri?”
She shrugged her shoulders, “I am simply speaking the truth. It is you who thinks we are talking about Eri. Anyway, what do you think of this dress?”
“I don’t like it,” Hiko said rather bluntly.
Tationy wrinkled her nose, “What is wrong with this one?”
“It looks poofy.”
Kyo laughed, “Are you going to have an issue with everything she tries on?”
Hiko snapped, “It makes her look wide, besides it is so short if she bent over every guy is going to be able to see her….” It was obvious Hiko was stumbling over the words until he finally whispered, “Her vagina.”
This only made Kyo laugh harder. Thankfully they heard the curtain close as Tationy disappeared, “Are you really that uncomfortable about sex?”
“I just don’t feel comfortable talking about her intimate parts with you or anyone else,” Hiko responded as he stood and paced.
“I don’t know, I get the impression you probably are not that comfortable talking about sex with even her. Did you give her vagina a nickname?”
Choking Hiko protested, “That is none of your business.”
“You didn’t,” Kyo responded knowingly. “Have you even talked dirty to her?”
Kyo stood and stretched as he waited for Hiko to respond, but it would be Tationy stepping out of the dressing room that would offer some insight. “He occasionally tells me he wants to be in me, but that is as dirty as he gets. Most of the time he avoids the word vagina and just says he wants to be in my…then cuts his words off. He would shock me if he ever become embolden enough to give it a name.”
“What about you?” Hiko had asked, “I have not heard you call my…”
She boldly interrupted him as she said, “Cock.” Kyo watched as her eyes washed over Hiko from his feet all the way to his eyes. Her hand resting on her hip as she smiled, “I have plenty of things I would say during dirty talk if I thought you could handle them, but the truth is that path is one you need to lead us down. I don’t say such things because you don’t want me to. You like to be in control and want me to know what you desire to do to me. Now if you could just get out of that habit of asking for permission, I might actually get to see that beast I have been dying to have between my legs.”
Kyo realized that Hiko seemed slightly annoyed by her words. He suspected it was not that he did not like them, only that she said them in front of another Kari man. Such brazen talk from a woman of a Kari was meant to be kept behind closed doors. Truthfully, Kyo thought she had been very calculating with her words. In fact, he was fairly certain they were meant to elicit a rise out of Hiko. She wanted his nephew to take her and was challenging him to do so.
Hiko’s voice was rather stern as he responded, “I don’t like that dress. Take it off.”
The fact that she nipped her lip and smiled appreciatively told Kyo that she was not disappointed with Hiko’s response. When she wandered back toward the dressing room he took the opportunity to speak, “A good Kari woman trains her man. Seems she is quite aware of what she likes about you and is encouraging and neutering it even if she has to be a little underhanded. Out of the two of you, she is probably far more dangerous.”
“That is an understatement.”
“If you do not mind me asking, what was wrong with that dress?”
“It slimmed her figure too much.”
Chuckling Kyo responded, “No wonder you never had a girlfriend. You are a really picky guy.”
“I just know what I like. More importantly she tolerates me as I am.”
Kyo hmm’d thoughtfully, “Possessive, short-tempered, aggressive, reckless, it is probably a long list of cringe worthy personality traits that would make you intolerable to most people. It seems to me, it is those bad qualities that she likes. I don’t think she is tolerating you at all. She just accepts both the good and the bad.” He added, “I imagine she is not without her own questionable qualities.”
If Hiko found his words insulting he was certain he would hear about it, but instead Hiko took a seat and stared toward the dressing rooms waiting for her to join them again.
“Alright,” She said as she joined them.
Kyo was not certain how many dresses they had seen, but Hiko hated all of them. There were several he liked, but in this his opinion did not matter. “How many dresses has she tried on?”
“Twenty-seven,” Hiko responded.
“Please, tell me this is the one.”
“It is nice, but missing something,” He said as Tationy noticeably sighed and wandered back to the dressing room.
Patience was not generally Hiko’s thing so it went without saying that Kyo was surprised to see that his nephew was not getting agitated by the long drawn out process of finding a simple dress. Kyo asked as he took a seat directing his attention upon Hiko, “So, you really took the entrance exam?”
“Have the two of you talked about schools?”
“We intend to go someplace here in Aslann, but have not begun to apply. We are waiting for the results.” Kyo thought there was something unspoken, but did not get the opportunity to ask because Hiko posed his own question. “What about you?”
“As I mentioned I took the exam long ago. This was meant to be my last year of school with or without the crisis of management that Sofore is going through, so I have already applied to several and heard back from six.”
“Have you made a decision?”
“I got accepted by six out of the ten I applied. I still have not heard from my first choice, but attending my second and third choices; Keio University in Japan and the Hong Kong Polytehnic University would not be disappointing alternatives if I am not accepted to Harvard. Honestly, at first I only applied to Harvard because my father went there and his father before him. That legacy stuff our family holds so dear, but Tadayoshi attended and while it was not where he wanted to go he does speak highly regarding his experience. I was impressed with what they had to offer and I think it might be exciting to live someplace other than Aslann for a bit. Do you have any idea where you might apply…” Hiko cut him off rather suddenly.
“I am not as smart as you alright. I am not in the mood to be told where I should go and how I am holding someone like Tationy back.”
Did he just step into something? “That was not at all what I was saying. I was just asking if you had any ideas on where you might apply. What happened?”
It was obvious there was something, but at first it seemed he did not want to discuss it. He did eventually respond, “My grades have never been very good and most of the time I slacked off. Tationy scores in the 99 percentile on every test she has ever taken. My student adviser told me not to hold her back. I don’t know what to do. I would definitely not be going if it wasn’t for her, but at the same time I feel like I am keeping her from an important future.”
“How does she feel about it?”
“Tationy is supportive and amazing. She wants to give the adviser a piece of her mind and she tells me that I should use her to get into a really good school. That when they come she could easily make it so they would take both of us, but that feels pretty shitty to me even though I know she is trying to help.”
“That Kari ego, so much pride. I would not recommend it, but it is not a terrible idea. Of course, I only say that because if you are not capable of keeping up with the course load you are just hurting yourself and not her. Ultimately, risking the chance of attending anywhere else if you fail out of an elite university. You will just be that guy that could not cut it. Playing devil’s advocate, it is not a bad idea either. If you think of it in a business sense, sometimes it is not what you know, but who you know that can make something happen.”
“So, would you do it?”
“I do not know. A lot of factors come into play in a situation like that. Are you going to resent it all later on if you do it? Resent her? Would you believe that your degree had no value because you got in on her merit and not yours? These are really questions you have to ask yourself and decide if you could live with the decision once it is made and set into motion.”
Kyo noticed when Hiko’s eyes instantly shifted at the sound of the dressing room curtain. Tationy stepped out, her body posed modestly, despite the cut of the dress bodice. There was a rather expectant and uneasy expression upon her face. Was she worried Hiko would not like it? As he looked her over, he realized that was not at all why she was uneasy. The dress was a balance of discreet and daring; with long elegant lines of fabric, tied together just below her breast with a brightly colored band. It certainly drew ones attention to all the right places. The black was slimming, but did not hide her curves and the way she wore it took his own breath away.
He did not know why, but his mind instantly jumped to the old movies his father used to watch with Sophia Loren. She was voluptuous, elegant, and sexy and he realized far to late that he was staring when he felt Hiko’s elbow nail him in the ribs. “That is the dress,” Hiko responded.
Tationy’s voice was soft as she asked, “Really?”
“It is not too much is it?”
Kyo realized he was shaking his own head as she asked the question. It was a strange feeling, but this was what he wanted. Not Tationy, but the dynamic that Hiko and Tationy had together. They were probably the perfect couple. They accepted each other unconditionally with all of their flaws and imperfections. Both of them were giving. It was not just a relationship where one took and the other gave. Equally they were always thinking of the other. He imagined that this was what it was like to live for someone else.
“It is perfect,” Kyo found himself saying before Hiko could respond which elicited a growl from his nephew. Kyo chuckled nervously as he stated, “She is beautiful, Hiko. You are really a lucky caveman.” If any words from Hiko were going to be said, he really did not want to hear them so he stood rather quickly, “I will wait for the two of you outside. I need some fresh air.”
The hardest part about being around Tationy and Hiko was that they were so happy. Kyo was always the type of guy that kept in good spirits even when things were not going as he would like them. It was difficult to remain positive knowing that Eri might make the decision to abort their baby. He could not tell her what to do. In this entire situation he was the most powerless and that was frustrating for him. Even so, he would always keeping smiling and joking in a futile attempt to make the moment seem less heavy.
To Be Continued