Otoha moved about outside the small estate of Tatsuya of the Kari Clan. The silent warrior did not doubt for a moment that the Kari Elder knew that he was there. He spied Tationy sleeping on the man’s sofa sighing ever so slightly.
Otoha was disturbed by the fact that she was so comfortable in such a foreign place. Through the years, protecting Tationy had been difficult mostly because she was incapable of understanding the dangers that lurked around every corner. Otoha told himself that he should be used to it, after all, when Sadoo went off to fight in the war he was left in charge of taking care of Tationy.
It felt like a lifetime ago to Otoha. In those days, Sadoo and Otoha wanted nothing more than to be normal. They had never even planned on crossing paths with their prince, but one day, there she was. Neither of them could overlook their duty once they had found her.
They had instantly become friends with her and before too long Sadoo and Tationy were married. Back then, she was born Amarice, but neither of them could bring themselves to call her that. She always laughed when they slipped and called her Tationy. She never seemed to mind that they could not seem to get her name straight.
Years they moved around doing what they could to avoid the Ishi Clan. They always suspected that Tationy knew something was going on, but she never brought it up, simply smiled and went along with whatever adventure they were going to take her on. Eventually though, Sadoo went off to war. To Tationy and Otoha it felt like an eternity without him until one day, she eyed him through the kitchen window. “Sadoo.” She called out as she dropped what she was doing and ran outside.
For Tationy it felt so good to be in his arms and Otoha felt great relief knowing that his old friend had survived the war. She did her best not to cry as Otoha placed his hand on her shoulder to calm her. There were many nights that he comforted her, sometimes in a way that a man should not comfort a married woman. “You missed me?” Sadoo questioned.
“Stupid, of course.” She replied as she clung to him for as long as she could.
“Welcome back.” Otoha spoke.
“Come on Tationy, the man just got back. He is probably hun…”
“I will make something.” She remarked before he could even finish his sentence, darting back into the house quickly after pulling herself away from Sadoo.
Sadoo chuckled, “She is the same as always.”
“You have no idea.”
The two old friends stood staring at each other for a moment, silently contemplating what they wanted to say. “I am glad to see you.”
“I know.” Otoha remarked, “I am glad to see you as well.”
While Tationy prepared something to eat for them, Sadoo and Otoha sat down to talk.
Sadoo watched Tationy for a moment before turning to his oldest friend and speaking, “How far along is she?”
“Few months. Are you mad?”
“I probably should be that would be normal after all, but the three of us don’t exactly have a normal relationship. It was bound to happen eventually…”
“I figured it would be you.”
“No. Just never thought I would ever be a father. Our neighbors sure have had lots of gossip since you left.”
Sadoo laughed, “I imagine so.”
“No sign of any Ishi Clansmen.”
“That is good, but we should probably leave as soon as possible. The two of you have been in the same place for a long time now, it’s asking for trouble to come.”
“Otoha, is there something wrong?”
Tationy had placed food in front of them, hearing the last part of their conversation as she took a seat and began to eat. Otoha looked across the table at her for some time, not answering Sadoo. “Are you going to tell him?” She asked.
Sadoo looked between the two of them waiting for one of them to explain. “Tationy and I were talking.”
“It was nothing really.”
Sadoo made a face, he never knew Otoha to keep secrets from him.
“You promised you would tell him.” Tationy said.
“I will. Let’s just let him get settled in before dropping all of this in his lap.”
“You are just going to put it off again.”
“Tationy, I promise I will tell him.” Otoha remarked with a sigh.
Sadoo listened intently to the back and forth between the two. He was curious to know what they were talking about, but he knew Otoha well enough to know that if he was not ready to talk about it, he would not.
The table fell silent as the two of them stopped talking. For Sadoo, he felt out of place with the disturbing silence that lingered about all of them. To him it felt like there was a tap dancing elephant in the room that no one wanted to talk about.
After the meal that Tationy cooked, Sadoo retreated to shower and change. His mind tried to not focus in on what they may have been discussing, but he could not help it, they had him. He was more curious than he had ever been.
By the time he finished the voices of Tationy and Otoha had gotten a bit louder as he made his way toward the living room and found a seat. “Okay you two, what is going on?” Sadoo’s voice had been raised, something that he never did with either of them. It was evident that he was annoyed that the two of them were arguing and keeping secrets.
Stunned silent, as they sat there and stared at Sadoo. “Will one of you answer me?”
“Otoha is in love with you.” Tationy blurted out and Otoha turned his head quickly to glare at her.
A surprised look traveled over the features of Sadoo. “Otoha?”
“Just forget she said it.”
Sadoo was silent, probably longer than, he should have been because Otoha began to stand up. “I don’t want to forget it.”
Otoha looked at his old friend with question and surprise, “I have never been happier than I am when I have my favorite girl and my favorite guy on either side of me. You should know how I feel about you already, Otoha.”
Otoha nodded his head once in understanding. Sadoo was not the type of man that could ever say that he loved Otoha. When he did use those words it was always with a little something extra added, like saying he was in love with his sword or his skill. That was as close as Sadoo could get to those words.
That evening they did what they always did. The three of them and their unusual dynamic of a relationship gave themselves willingly to each other over and over again. They were happy just the three of them. They knew the outside world would never understand after all the times were much different then. A married woman would never stay in a house with a single man while her husband was at war, but that was exactly what she did.
There was no jealousy. No misunderstandings. The three of them understood their position in this relationship. They all loved each other. Tationy loved Sadoo and Otoha equally, but in different ways, and the same could be said for Otoha and Sadoo.
After their lovemaking they laid nestled in bed together. Sadoo could feel the strain in his arms as the two of them lay on top of them. It had been a long time since they had laid like this with each other. “She asleep?” Otoha asked.
“Someone is outside.”
“Yeah, I noticed about 10 minutes ago.”
“Your getting sloppy. I noticed an hour ago.”
“Well I was not trained since I was a child to kill people so let’s not rub it in.” Sadoo remarked.
“Think I hit a nerve.” Otoha responded. “Judging by the killer intent, he is not a passerby.”
“So we need to leave.”
“I would say so, but we do not want him to think we are leaving. Probably better if we let him think we are going out.”
“Hate to wake her.”
“Have no choice. Just tell her we are going on an adventure and she will do what she always does.”
“Right, smile and say okay. She is way too trusting.” Sadoo responded.
Otoha had a nagging feeling at the base of his neck. This feeling was familiar, something that reminded him of long ago.
The loss of the General had been so great for the Assassin. He had abandoned the Prince and the other Guardians only to find the General’s body. His friend and rival killed and there had been nothing he could do to prevent it. They all knew when they left him there that he would die, but the emotional impact had not hit the Assassin until he laid his eyes on him.
He carried his body a distance away. Laid his swords to the side and dug a grave in the prettiest spot he could find and buried him. He made a makeshift cross to mark his friends grave as he somberly stood silently wishing that he could speak. He wanted to scream from the top of his lungs his feelings for this man. His thoughts and emotions so enveloped him that he lost track of time.
He had not felt his presence until it was too late.
The man had a smug smile. His name was Togore of the Ishi Clan. He was master of an esoteric sword style called the Six Demon Swords. Among his clan he was called Itachi even though that was not his name. He was a treacherous man; sneaky and evasive. The type of man that you could not trust and most certainly should never turn your back on. Even amongst his own clan he was regarded as a weasel.
“I was hoping for your Chalta, but I have to say I am not entirely disappointed with this outcome.” He voiced as he looked Otoha over and licked his lips. “This the grave of your….general?”
The mute assassin unable to utter a response simply stood there staring down this carnivorous predator. “Cat got your tongue?” He asked with amusement. He was well-aware that the Assassin was unable to speak after all they were once bodyguards for the Divine Emperor together.
Otoha instinctively took a step back. “Oh, you think that will help you? I will give you a hint, you would be better off fighting me up close, but either way you’re going to die.” Togore remarked as his hands dropped to his sides. The Assassin was well-aware of the fact that Togore could have already summoned his swords using esoteric incantations and the ones still in their sheath were illusions, after all this man stood out among his clan for a number of reasons.
He was Chalta or a spell-weaver much like Atsuki. In an ideal word, this fight would go differently if it was Atsuki facing him, but Otoha knew that this was a losing battle the moment the Adviser Jin sent the army and the Ishi Clan after them. Very few people could stand against the Ishi Clan, especially the Elite Guardians of the Divine Emperor.
“Stab.” Togore said. His words were so quick and Otoha only managed to grab the sword by the hilt before it went through his chest. “Oh, that is pretty good Assassin. You saw it, but you were not fast enough.”
“Slice.” He spoke as another sword appeared from thin air and sliced him across the back.
“Cut.” Again a sword appeared from thin air this time cutting along Otoha’s arm. Otoha staggered slightly as he regained his composure pulling the sword from his chest and tossing it to the ground. He pulled his swords and charged Togore. The Ishi Clansmen evaded each swing and those he was unable to were blocked by his invisible swords with a simple word, “Block.”
“Defend.” He said as his swords defended him as he held his position. “You’re pretty good, not many can put me on the defensive.”
In a futile attempt to survive Otoha fought even though he told himself a hundred times if Atsuki was right they would be reborn and reunited. He hated “magic”. It was not something you could trust and people that used it were the worst sort. “Oh, you’re awake.” Togore said as he brought his hand up to Otoha’s face. He was strung up on the makeshift cross he had placed on the grave of his fallen comrade, the General.
Otoha turned his head away from the hands of Togore. He was disrespecting the memory of his friend by standing on his grave. “Oh, you still have fire in you. I like that.”
“Are you angry with me?” He asked as he moved in closer to Otoha. Otoha could feel the ropes digging into his skin as he bent his wrist slightly trying to relieve some of the pressure. “I thought, to myself, how could, I make this moment perfect for us.” Togore spoke. “I figured you would want your….general, to be a part of this.”
Otoha hated how he said general. It sounded dirty. He felt his legs being spread apart by Togore’s knee and then pressure to his crotch. His cheeks flushed pink, “Oh, you like this.” Togore responded when he noticed that Otoha had an erection.
Otoha felt ashamed, he did not understand why his body was reacting this way. He was disgusted with himself as Togore pressed his body in close and leaned in kissing along his neck. His feet pressed against the ground and he felt his toes dig into the dirt of the General’s grave. He knew what was going to happen and he was helpless to stop it.
Otoha pushed the old memories out of his mind as he got himself dressed. Sadoo had woken up Tationy as he moved to the window to look out while the two of them readied themselves to leave. He knew it was not him, most likely one of his descendants, but it was the same feeling. “You alright?” Sadoo asked.
“You have that look….”
“Sorry just thinking.”
“Are you ever going to tell me what brings that look on?” No response came. Otoha was not the type of man to lie and simply chose to not talk about it. Sadoo knew that something happened to Otoha, but he was unwilling to ever talk about it. He was worried about him, “When you are ready to tell me, you know where to find me.” Sadoo added before turning on his heels to check on Tationy.
Dressed and ready, they left everything. They moved outside, smiling and laughing as though they suspected nothing was up. They climbed into the old Ford Pickup and headed wherever the road would take them and they prayed it was someplace far away from the Ishi Clan.
Otoha’s attention was brought back to reality as he heard movement and noticed Tationy was awake. He adjusted his position and frowned when he realized that Tatsuya was not in view. “Tatsuya?” She called out, but no response came. As she moved Otoha fallowed from the outside of the house making sure she was always in his view.
She found him upstairs. He was kneeling in front of a short table looking over a piece of parchment. “How was your rest?”
“Sorry about that, I have not been sleeping well.”
“You mentioned. Are you prepared to tell me about it?”
“Nothing can be that complicated.” He voiced as he lifted a brush pen and made several stokes on the parchment before placing it back.
“It would be nice if that were the case.”
He looked over his shoulder at her before looking back to the parchment. “I will not force you to tell me if you do not wish too. However I will listen if you chose to discuss it.”
Otoha lost sight of Tationy, but managed to find where Tatsuya was. He could hear the two of them talking.
“We should probably move our conversation to the sitting room. Your retainer cannot see you from this position and it will most likely make him worry.”
“Why do you think that?”
“He has shifted position to see you and is currently looking at me.”
“I am sorry if he is making you nervous.”
“He is not. I simply do not wish for him to misunderstand.” He voiced as he stood himself up and turned to face her. His senses were sharp. He could feel the piercing stare of the Sweela assassin upon him. They moved down to the sitting room and each took a seat, she sat across from him and they sat silently for some time.
“You are staring, Tatsuya.”
“Why is a young woman such as you not married?”
“You have asked me similar questions to that one many times, is there a reason why you ask?”
“A woman of your age is generally married, but you mentioned before your rest that you did not have anyone. I find this curious.”
“Is it so uncommon?”
He watched her as she considered an answer.
“Difficult question to answer.” She said. She could tell him she was not old enough, but in this time age was not a factor for a union from what she was able to ascertain from the little bit of information she had. “Boys are not interested.”
He contained the surprise at her words. “The Waichia Lord was.” He responded. He had felt like he was interrupting them when the young Waichia arrived to where they were chatting during their first meeting. Chochi she had called him. She was so informal with everyone. When he spoke with his friends Oji and Takuya neither of them recognized the name as one belonging to any member of the Waichia. It had only added to the mystery.
“Chochi, would not like it if I talked about him.” She spoke, “I don’t really know him.”
It was a curious statement. “He looks after you, correct?”
“Do you not speak?”
“It is complicated. Can we talk about something else?” She questioned.
“Of course. Please forgive me.”
“There is no need for that. I just don’t know how to answer your questions regarding him or them.”
Otoha heard movement from behind him as he quickly slipped behind a corner. He watched from his vantage point as a man dressed in black arrived. He was smoking oomba a cigarette from ancient times made of a tobacco plant called shimdamalticus and honey, rolled in a small piece of thin parchment called alo.
He could not see him clearly, so when the man slipped into the home of the Elder of the Kari Clan he retook his spot so he could see Tationy again.
“Yo, Suya.” He said in a deep cold voice as he stood in the entry way to the sitting room.
Tatsuya contained the frown as he turned his attention to the man that had arrived. “Hiko, I was not expecting you.”
The man identified as Hiko looked to the young woman sitting across from Tatsuya and responded simply, “I see that.”
Tationy gasped ever so slightly, but it was not lost on either man. “Lady Tationy this is my cousin Commander Hiko Kari of the Ruthlbahdo.”
Hiko turned his attention to her only briefly, but never said a word to her. Tationy however, stuttered and stumbled over her words as she blushed and looked away, “It is nice to meet you.”
Tatsuya inwardly smiled. Such a reaction was not something he had expected, at least not in regard to Hiko. He would have figured such a reaction for men like Oji and Takuya who were considered the most beautiful of the Waichia. Hiko was not known for his soft features or kindness. Tationy was so flustered at that moment she did not even ask what the Ruthlbahdo was.
Otoha frowned inwardly, the Ruthlbahdo where the military of Aslann. Now that he got a better look at the man he recognized him as Hiko Kari, one of the two commanders of the military. Hiko led one half of the Emperor’s army while Oro Ishi led the other half.
Tationy’s eyes followed Hiko as he moved to take a seat next to his cousin. In comparison they were very different. Tatsuya had long silky black hair while Hiko’s was shorter and looked like a razor had been taken to it. While they both had gray eyes, Hiko’s gun-metal blue eyes popped out more vividly. Even how they sat showed how very different they were. Tatsuya was so proper and formal from his head to his toes and Hiko was very relaxed.
Tationy felt she was standing in front of Aslann High School naked giving a speech about particle physics with a monkey humping her leg as the two of them sat across from her. They were silent at first, both just staring in her direction. She felt like the two were communicating in some non-verbal fashion as she shifted slightly in her seat.
“Tationy, please indulge me a little. I have laid out a dress on the bed in the bedroom, straight down the hallway and to your left. Please join me for dinner.”
She wanted to protest, but the way he looked at her told her that simply nodding her head and going to change was the best course of action. “If you will excuse me.” She said as she stood and moved from the room. Otoha frowned as he lost sight of her, but kept his attention on the two men that remained in the room.
Hiko watched her out of the corner of his eyes as she departed the room. Casually he stood himself up and moved to the other couch silently peering at his cousin. His arms crossed over his chest and he relaxed his body considerably. That certainly did not mean he was not ready for a fight. “Yo, Suya. How long are you going to let that Sweela scum move around outside your home?”
“Ahh.” Was his response for yes.
“He is with her.”
“And who exactly is she?”
“Don’t know yet.”
“You have not checked into her?”
“I have tried, but none of the usual contacts know anything.” He responded and then noticed something in Hiko’s eyes. It was fleeting, but it had not been lost on Tatsuya. “You recognize her?”
“Never saw her before.”
“But you know her?”
“You don’t know or you’re not saying?”
“Something in how she acts is nagging at me.”
“Her reaction to your arrival was not what I expected.” Tatsuya stated. “It is the first time I have witnessed any real emotion from her other than worry and confusion. It was unexpected especially considering it was you she reacted that way toward.”
“Are you trying to get yourself killed?”
“As if you could.”
“Don’t talk big.”
Tatsuya’s lips curled slightly before going back to their normal position. “Join us for dinner.”
“I want to see how she reacts around you when she becomes more comfortable.”
“What do you think you are doing, Suya?”
He groaned inwardly, he hated being called Suya. When he was younger he would often tell Hiko not to call him that, but as the years progressed it became a bad idea to say anything because Hiko would just do it more because he knew it bothered him. “Nothing.”
“You think you are going to use that girl to overthrow the Emperor and the Adviser?”
“What would give you that idea?”
“Her eyes concern me.” Hiko responded not answering Tatsuya’s question because he was well-aware that he was not actually looking for an answer. “You should not be taking her around the city, if people see her word will get back to Jin.”
“Concerned for her life?”
“Our clan has suffered enough Suya, we have lost many and are dieing out. Soon we will go the same route as the Sosa Clan. There are only a handful of us left and it is only because of our alliances with clans like the Hamara, Waichia, and the Takahashi that we have survived as long as we have. Don’t shorten our clan’s life with your agenda.”
“If anyone asks I will simply tell them that the two of you are in a union.”
Hiko’s eyes were cold and his voice unwavering in his tone, “Are you trying to get me killed, Suya.”
“I think a demon like yourself can handle it.”
She stared at herself in the mirror in Tatsuya’s room. She could hardly recognize herself. She had never been in anything so beautiful before. With disbelief she stood there trying to decide if it was really her in the mirror.
Otoha could clearly see her when she made her return. She was dressed in an elegant dress though her hair was still a mess. He contained his reaction she always did whatever she wanted to with her hair regardless of what people thought. He watched as both men turned their attention toward her as she stood there and looked between them. Tationy was trying to decide where she should sit. For some reason, her mind told her it was not appropriate sitting next to Tatsuya even though she had been at one point and yet she trembled at the thought of sitting next to Hiko.
Tationy sat herself down next to Hiko and stared across at Tatsuya. “You look lovely.” He remarked.
“Thank you. It’s a beautiful dress.”
“It belonged to Hiko’s mother.”
Tationy turned her attention toward Hiko who had his eyes closed. He was still smoking the cigarette. “Is it okay for me to be wearing it then?”
He talked with the cigarette in his mouth, much like he had done the entire time he had been there. “It is fine, it is just a dress.”
“Just a dress?” She said with question, “I cannot imagine this being called just a dress. I have never been in anything so beautiful before.” She bowed her head as she gripped the material in her hands. She had never felt so poor in her entire life until he had called it just a dress.
He opened his eyes and looked at her out of the corner of his. He was not certain why, but he did not like that look on her face.
“You have to forgive myself and Hiko, our clan does not pride ourselves on material possessions.”
“What do you pride yourselves on?”
“Our clan. What about you Lady Tationy?”
“Never really thought about it.”
“I have asked Hiko to have dinner with us.”
She was unable to hide her reaction as she once again began to stumble over her words. “That sounds nice.” Tationy was not expecting to have dinner with him and she felt uncomfortable just thinking about it.
“Yo, woman…” Tationy turned her attention toward Hiko. She wanted to tell him he could call her Tationy, but he did not even look at her as he spoke. She watched the cigarette move slightly between his lips as he talked, “Tell that Sweela scum to get lost.”
She turned her attention away from him and sighed, “I wish it were that simple.” She seemed lost in thought as she considered the large change in her life recently. Her expression caught the attention of both Tatsuya and Hiko as they watched her. Her mind seemed as though it had traveled to a faraway location as she stared off into the corner.
“Tationy, are….you being held against your will?” Tatsuya asked.
“I don’t really know how to answer that.”
“Answer it honestly.”
She was not being held against her will at least not like in any movie she had ever seen where there was some mad man torturing people and holding them hostage. At the same time, she had lost all the freedom she had to do what she wanted too when she had the time to do it. She was being fallowed, she could not walk around on her own, to even go anyplace she had to ask permission and then there was always the chance they would tell her no. From her perspective yes she was being held against her will, but if she considered it from their prospective they were protecting her.
“It depends on perspective I guess.” She answered. Tatsuya nodded his head, he did not need the particulars to understand what she was trying to say. She most likely seen it one way and her retainers seen it another way.
“May I inquire why you need retainers to begin with?” He was not certain she would answer. If she told him her clan he might have some idea alone, but she had never mentioned which one she was from. Though he himself believed that she was definitely from the Tylo Clan.
Hiko listened to their conversation. Tatsuya had said retainers which told him there was more than just the Sweela Clan Assassin.
“I can’t answer that.”
“You can’t or you won’t?” Hiko asked.
“I can’t. They would not like it if I did.”
“Your retainers?” She gave a brief nod of her head in response to Tatsuya’s question. A silence traveled through the room as Tatsuya stood up, “Let us have dinner, shall we?”
Tationy smiled and stood, Hiko followed suit as the three of them left the house together. Otoha shadowed them, fallowing as close as he could without being seen. He ducked between two buildings when Hiko had stopped moving and turned around. That man was not like Tatsuya. He was not about to let Otoha follow them without making it difficult.
Eventually, Otoha lost them.
Otoha had arrived back to the Nakamaru Clan Elder’s house that they were residing in. He quickly found Chochi and Abe, bowing slightly. Abe paid no attention to Otoha. “You lost her?” Chochi asked.
Otoha unable to speak simply nodded his head.
“Thought you were supposed to be some expert at spying.” Abe commented.
Otoha made a gesture with his hand near his throat, “Ohh.” Chochi said and then smirked making a hmf sound three times under his breath as he enjoyed the gesture.
“What is so funny?” Abe asked.
“He just told you to go fuck yourself.”
“I would like to hear him say it.” Abe said as he stared at Otoha with a smirk taking enjoyment in the fact that Otoha could not defend himself with words.
“We will find her.” Chochi said as he stood from where he had been enjoying his tea.
Otoha simply nodded his head and left the rest to Chochi and Abe.
To Be Continued