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The Kari were mourning the loss of their elder, Tadayoshi. Still, before he was even put in the ground his replacement had been chosen. It was simply the way of things. The Kari Clan was ruled over by a patriarch and that person guided his kin by will and experience. When the elder fell he would always be swiftly replaced. Though if she was honest, Semei Kari would not have been the man she would have chosen.

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On the island of Shimragata there was not a moment to be alone. Each time she had tried to escape the gathering of individuals who had come to support and show their respects she was cornered by someone. So, it came as no surprise to her when a subtle sigh drew her attention, “Those Kari men sure do love to brood. I could not take it anymore and had to get out of there,” Tsubaki stated.

“They just lost their elder, it is understandable.”

“I am not saying it isn’t, but this does not feel like simple mourning.”

Tationy noticeably sighed, “That is because it is not. Today the balance of power has shifted back into the hands of those that support the dismantling of the Kari Foundation. The heaviness is from mourning and the brooding from uncertainty.” With a quick change of the topic Tationy asked, “How long will you be staying in Aslann?”

Tsubaki laughed and then made an annoyed expression, “If the new president has his way, probably forever. Thankfully, I do not have to return to America for a while. Nala Kari is putting together her newest collection in Milan and she has asked me to join her.”

“Are you safe Tsubaki?”

“Of course, I am fine. Currently, Aslann is not one of the nations on his detaining list. If that changes…well, let’s hope it does not change in my lifetime.”

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“Mr. President,” Tationy said breathlessly, “Certainly has charged in like a bull.”

Tsubaki laughed, “Why do I get the impression he reminds you of someone?”

With a shake of her head she finally turned to face Tsubaki. There was a moment where she simply stared at the young woman she had gone to high school with before tilting her head and finally responding, “In a way, but Hiko did not talk as much and it took nothing for him to piss people off. The new president of the United States, tries too hard.”

“There is always something about men like those, isn’t there?” Tsubaki questioned and the somberness was clear in her tone. It came as no surprise when she asked, “Have you heard from him?”

Pursing her lips and crossing her arms she briefly sighed, “No. I am sure whatever Abe is up to he will be back before we know it.”

“I keep telling myself that same thing, but it is unlike him not to call. Have you heard from him at all?”

“I am sorry Tsubaki. Really, I wish I had some news for you. Unfortunately, where he has gone my eyes cannot follow.”

The young woman before her changed gears quickly, “No, do not apologize. Look at me asking you about Abe. I told myself I was not going to. After all of these years, one would think that I would have gotten over this foolish crush I have on him.”

“A woman’s heart will always remember the soul that touched it and never forget the one that tied it down. It is simply the way of things.”

“Does this mean you will go to him, Kuro of the Ishi?”

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“The thought of doing so makes my heart beat wildly,” Tationy responded as she rested her hand to her chest. It would be a moment before she would quickly add, “My son and I will be staying among the Kari in Meratoia. Kazuma is very much like his father and the loss of his grandfather is proving to be very difficult for him. Only a strong Kari hand will be able to guide him.”

“I do not know if I could be as stoic. How do you do it? What the hell keeps you standing Tationy?”

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“It is nothing overly complicated,” She responded somberly. “The truth is as long as he is alive, then I can continue on.”

“What if something happens to him?”

There was a heaviness that lingered around the two of them. Certainly it was a question Tationy had asked herself millions of times. The answer was an ugly one; a truth she could not hide or take back. It was reflected in her eyes at the mere thought of losing him.

“Then those responsible will suffer a fate worse than death,” She responded simply.

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“Abe was right, you are far scarier than Hiko Kari.”

Tationy managed a meek smile, “Coming from him that was probably a compliment.”

Tsubaki chuckled and responded, “Yeah, it probably was.” There was a moment of silence before the young Zenaku woman added, “We should head back before those Kari men send out a search party for you.” Tationy had inadvertently responded in a way that amused Tsubaki, “You just rolled your eyes.”

“I cannot even tell you how much I hate this Queen of the Kari shit.”

“Well, let’s survive the rest of the day and then tomorrow you can tell me all about it over coffee and breakfast.”

“Deal,” Tationy responded as they quickly returned to the wake.

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