Kuro had been waiting for Tationy all morning. As the seconds turned into minutes he frowned. She was late again. He told himself he was not going to wait forever, but he gave her an extra five minutes then ten minutes before his unhappiness boiled over. He moved through the palace heading toward her room, frowning deeply when he opened the door and she was not there. “Why are you here?” He heard Hiko’s voice ask.
He turned and stared at him a moment thinking he should ask the same question of him. “She did not show up for training. Why are you here?” He eyed him suspiciously as he waited for him to respond.
“Just passing by.” He voiced. Kuro hardly believed it for one moment. “Moromari said there is a Kari here from the village, maybe she is with him.”
Kuro considered it a moment, wondering if it was the one that put such a sour expression on her face that day they all met in Seiji’s office. He had been certain that it did not all have to do with Hiko, but never got a chance to get further information on the matter.
“He is near your room.” Hiko voiced as he turned in that direction and Kuro followed closely.
The two men knocked lightly on the door, which was only slightly opened by the Kari man that answered. Kuro recognized him as one of the assassins protecting the Maiba lord during the negotiations between the Prince of Aslann and the Lord of the Shima. He realized quickly that the Kari also recognized him. The Kari let his eyes drift to Hiko a moment, “Ahh, you got a lot of nerve showing your face.” He spoke to Hiko.
“I suppose I should explain.” Hiko voiced.
“Ahh, if I wanted your explanation, but I don’t.” He responded making sure his words and tone conveyed what he thought of the Kari man before him. “What do the two of you want?”
“We are looking for Tationy, have you seen her?” Hiko questioned.
Iashi pushed the door opened completely, his body positioned to make it difficult to see much in the room, but the back of Tationy was clearly in view. “Ahh, I don’t appreciate what you did.” He spoke directing his attention toward Kuro.
Hiko’s eyes went wide as he saw the bruises covering her backside. “Training is not easy and should never be, even for a woman. If I take it easy on her, what does that teach her?” Kuro questioned.
“Kuro we should go.” Hiko voiced and Kuro turned quickly to eye him.
“Not without her.”
“Let her rest for today.”
Kuro could hear it, something unidentifiable in Hiko’s voice, so he turned and began walking toward his room, letting Tationy remain with the Kari man.
He entered his room, removing his sword and placing it in the corner. He spoke to Hiko, “What is gained by allowing her a day off?” Hiko had not responded, “She is a weak woman and will never be as strong as Tse if I am forced to take it easy on her.” He got silence again and turned about quickly to direct his attention on Hiko only to find himself pinned against the wall, with Hiko’s mouth on his. He was not being gentle, not even in the slightest as Hiko drove his tongue into Kuro’s mouth. The kiss was passionate, ferocious even. Kuro had never witnessed Hiko of the Kari so untamed before.
The kiss left him dizzy as he leaned his head against the wall and closed his eyes after Hiko had broken it suddenly. He felt his whole body come alive and wondered how it was that this pup managed to make him lose his composure. It was not as though Hiko was a child, he was a man well into his forties, but Kuro was considerably older than that. He had lived several lifetimes of a normal man. His eyes opened when he felt his pants being tugged down around his ankles. He was not even allowed a moment to register what was happening as he felt the warm breath of Hiko close to his cock, before taking it all into his mouth. He cursed under his breath as he lost his composure again and suppressed a moan.
It had been so long for him. After he had left Tse in Aslann, it took him a year to get to Shimragata where he found Hiko, then the long journey back to Aslann, before once again making the journey to Shimragata. He had only had one intimate moment during that time, when he went down on Hiko and made the pup lose control, but he himself was left wanting. His hand moved to the back of Hiko’s head instinctively as he helped force him forward until he felt the tip of his cock hit the back of Hiko’s throat. Hiko must have not been expecting it because he choked. He himself had never been with a man and had certainly never went down on one.
Kuro was suppressing soft grunts and moans as he began to thrust slightly into Hiko’s mouth. Hiko had some forewarning, the moment that Kuro was going to release because he gripped his head and forced his cock into his mouth as far as he could. Hiko was at his mercy as he pumped wildly, not allowing Hiko for a moment to break away until the last little bit was released to the back of Hiko’s throat.
Kuro’s hand moved from the back of Hiko’s head as he leaned back against the wall, his breathing slightly panted. Hiko used his finger to wipe the corner of his mouth as he stood. Despite having gagged a bit at first he managed to swallow all of it, as he stood and moved quickly toward the door. “Where are you going?” Kuro’s voice stopped him.
“To my room.”
“Were even.” Hiko had responded.
“What do you mean?” Kuro questioned though he was certain he understood Hiko’s words.
“Like I said, we are even. I don’t like owing anyone.” He responded as he left the room.
Kuro frowned deeply awkwardly pulling his trousers up as he moved toward his bed and falling face first on it.
He heard his door open and rolled to his back to see who it was. He should have known it was not Hiko returning as the figure moved toward a nearby chair and took a seat. Kuro propped himself up, “Any word from Mikio?”
“Not as of yet.”
“Then why are you here?”
Nao stared at him intently, “I am confused, when did you become the sort of man to engage in such….activities?”
“What I do is none of your business.”
“What about Tearra?’
“What about her?”
“If Mikio does not return, then you will be needed as the only blood of Rin that remains in this world.”
“You should not discuss this so casually Nao, people might hear you.”
“I am tired of the way some of you Ishi behave.”
“You’re just a pup, don’t get in over your head Nao, you won’t like what happens.”
“Is that a threat Kuro?”
“I have no reason to make threats Nao. Tearra is in our care and we Ishi will do everything we can to help her remember, but I am not going there. What you want is not an option.”
“When did you grow a conscience?”
“What you and Jin wanted serves no purpose, there is no guarantee that such an action will result in her remembering. If Mikio or I, take her on a shrine of Hisoka, it may or may not jolt her memory. If it doesn’t we only ensure that she will not trust the Ishi. That is a last resort, besides it is far more complicated now.”
“You were not there back then, when Tse was bedding the Lord of the Shima. There were two Kari assassins there, not weak fighters. Those men, were dangerous and could have easily have stood toe to toe with Mikio and I.”
“I told you the two of them were in Shimragata when I found Hiko, that the little girl was left with them. One of them has found his way here.”
“So he is Kazuma?”
“Well that would make sense, but during our journey to Aslann, Hiko told me that the other one is the one that had the Mark of Kazuma.”
“Perhaps they made a mistake.”
Kuro laid himself back on the bed, “Don’t know, but we do anything we will have to deal with Kazuma whether it is him or the other Kari. Making a rash decision like that, might get us killed.”
“I have never seen you like this. Are you afraid of him?”
“Afraid, no. I would love to fight him, though I don’t know if I would survive.”
Nao was surprised by the words of Kuro. He had never known him to be the type of man who did not think or even know that he could win any fight he went into. This was the first one that there was uncertainty voiced, which caused Nao to frown. “I understand, the Ishi will just have to trust in the ability of the gods to make her see them. I want to state for the record though that I am against this. It would be better to try to jolt her memory then to wait and see.”
Kuro sat himself up and looked directly into the one visible eye of Nao. He was still young yet, not that much older than Tationy. He had been trained as a torturer under Shu of the Sosa, the man that would eventually become one of the guardians for Prince Tatsuya. “I understand.” Kuro responded. “I am not a smart man, I cannot say I understand everything you and Jin have theorized about through the years, but I know war and in that sometimes it is important to pace yourself. If you rush into things to rashly you end up sacrificing more than you gain.”
Nao for a moment seemed like a child ignoring everything that Kuro just said and responding with, “Play Bagola with me.”
Kuro smirked, “Oh..” He laughed, “You know I am not good at those sorts of intellectual games.”
“Do you have anything better to do today?”
“I suppose I do not.”
The two Ishi men traveled to a small sitting room to play Bagola. Nao had easily bested him at multiply matches, “I do not know why I agreed to playing you.”
Nao smiled, “You had nothing better to do.” He grew quiet a moment, “Do you believe Jin has fallen?”
“It is difficult to say, the man has always been a snake of the Ishi. His survival will be determined on who is more capable, him or his enemy.”
“I have been thinking that it is likely he never escaped Aslann.”
“Why do you think this?”
“He has made no attempt to contact us in all of this time.”
“You are telling me this for a reason.”
“I only speak for the clan while Jin is unavailable. My power is conditional. We Ishi cannot continue on as we are with no true leader. It might be time that we bring it to a vote amongst our kin and have Jin’s rule as Elder superseded by you.”
“Mikio is the next in line.”
“Yes, but we have been unable to find him and with him being Rin’s reincarnate, he will not be able to rule over the Ishi forever. His reign will only be until Tationy is capable of remembering that she is Tearra. We do not know how long that might take. It could be mere moments or even years.”
Kuro silently pondered the words of Nao. Kuro had always wanted to rule over the Ishi and felt he was best suited to lead. Though as Nao looked across at the man he knew to be one of the most dangerous of all Ishi, he was given pause. Kuro did not readily jump at the chance, a position that he had always felt he had been entitled to was laid before him and yet he did not even react. “I do not understand your silence.” Nao finally voiced.
“It is everything I have ever wanted.” Kuro’s responded in a low and distant tone, “It feels empty somehow. Tse told me that I was not going to be a god that I was meant to lead the charge of battle and slay every enemy that gets in my way. That I was to rebuild the Kingdom of the Gods and they would bestow upon me immortality. He told me that Jin was plotting and I was going to kill him, take the Ishi for myself, and lay siege upon this world until all of Aslann, all of the Kingdom of the Dragon Lords, and the world as a whole is laid at my feet, yet here we are. Jin may well already be dead and not by my hands. The Ishi can be mine, but the kingdom of men, belongs to that little girl. Tell me Nao, do you think I was played by the Prince of Aslann?”
Nao frowned deeply, “If what you say is true, I think we all were, but for what purpose. We are now bound to that girl, the only reason such an action would make sense is if the Prince of Aslann plans on reclaiming his old bo….” Nao did not even get to finish the word body before he stood and began to pace. “That devil…”
“What is it Nao?”
“In theory, mind you…Tationy carries within her a portion of the Prince of Aslann. Under the right conditions, her body could be prepared as a vassal. She has Shima blood and a portion of the Prince of Aslann, when Prince Tatsuya dies, if he has prepared her body in some way, he should be able to reemerge within her, a soul transference technique. Chalta’s use it, by locking a portion of their soul, usually in an inanimate object and then taking possession of a body upon their death.”
Kuro ran his hand through his hair and sighed, “Never understood the business of chalta’s so simplify it for me.”
“Eternal slaves to the Prince of Aslann. We blood-bound ourselves to Tationy, Prince Tatsuya would have known that our blood-bond with him was going to be severed and he was going to be deemed a criminal. So he plans a perfect way to remain within this world and gain power, through the blood of the Lord of the Shima. Once he dies, he takes her body as his own and destroys her mind. Leaving the world at the mercy of the Prince of Aslann and Tearra forever in a position to never be resurrected. He has all the power over us and all of the gain, we Ishi are slaves. I should have seen it, we should have seen it.”
“So everything Tse said was most likely a lie to gain favor. Do you have any suggestions?”
“I would need to examine Tationy, but I suspect that her memory blocks are part of the soul transference technique. I am not a chalta though, we would need an expert in the forbidden arts to give us more insight and information into whatever technique was used and how we might be able to reverse it.”
“We should speak with the Lord of the Shima.” Kuro voiced and surprised Nao by his words.
“Are you certain?”
“Considering the position our clan has been put in, I am certain. After we have discussed things with him, I want you to gather all the Ishi, we will put it to a vote.”
They had met with the Lord of the Shima and discussed the situation with him, what they believed might be transpiring. Kuro could see it written upon the man’s face, the unhappiness of what the Prince of Aslann was intending. “Well I believe there is no risk of my men killing the Prince of Aslann, however, if what you believe is true, we cannot rule it out. I will send word to the Kari and ask for their assistance in tracking down the Prince of Aslann.”
“It will be difficult for them without knowing what body he is in.” Nao voiced.
“Oro of the Ishi has worked closely with Zen of the Kari for some time as I understand it, I shall send him.”
“General Kari is alive?” Nao questioned.
“Yes, he and his people made it here long ago.”
“General Kari is a capable soldier, he will understand the situation if it is explained to him. The Kari might not though, it will be important for him to be able to reach them.”
“Yes, I believe you are correct. As for your request Nao to examine Tationy, I am hesitant. I have seen the way she looks at you and knowing what you did on behalf of the Prince of Aslann, well you can understand my concern.”
“With all due respect.” Kuro began, speaking much more proper than anyone might have thought him possible of, “Nao is many things, but there is no Ishi more capable of understanding what might be transpiring than him. Until we have a true chalta capable of seeing beyond the layers, we can only speculate without any evidence, she will need to be examined by someone and he is the best suited for it. With your permission, such an examination can be done with those you trust present, if he gets out of line you can kill him.”
The Lord of the Shima considered it a moment and then sighed giving a single nod of his head. He knew that Tationy was not going to be happy about this, but he could not risk it, if what they speculated was true. “Just tell me what you need and I will have the preparations made.”
“Lord Shima.” Kuro voiced, “If what we fear to be true is correct, it will become important for us to train Tationy harder to learn to control her eyes and her body. If there is any weakness in her, Tse will easily be able to overpower her mind. Tse had always been the most controlled and most powerful person I have known. There is a reason that his father and the Dragon Lords of the Shima feared him so much. Imagine someone that has so mastered themselves that they can look beyond the emotional attachments of those around them. Someone with the skills to kill with his hands and yet be more than capable of manipulating others to do his dirty work. Someone able to seduce both men and women into doing as he wishes, even the most hardened of warriors, falling prey. Tationy is not in the right state to stand against the Prince of Aslann, if he wishes to take her body. There will be no stopping him as she is currently.”
“I believe this battle will most likely take place in the land of souls. When Tse dies, Tationy will most likely slip into unconsciousness. It will be there that the Prince of Aslann will try to assimilate her.”
“So it is not a battle we can help her with.”
“No, it is one that we can only prepare her for.”
The Lord of the Shima stood, “I will make the preparations, I must ask though why you are so willing to help Tationy battle the Prince you have been so devoted to.”
“I don’t like being manipulated.” Kuro voiced simply, “The Ishi are slaves to no one and the Prince of Aslann, has overstepped himself. He was warned not to cross the Ishi.”
Seiji bowed his head, “I imagined you would say something like that.” He responded as he departed the lounge.
Kuro left Nao to deal with the clan, he was going to rally all of them together and vote. Kuro planned on staying as far away from it all as he could so he traveled to the kitchen area of the palace and was surprised to see Tationy standing near a table, rolling dough. He watched her a moment taking it all in. “You can cook?”
He could hear it, an exasperated sigh. “Despite what you may think Kuro, I am not some mere woman who cannot do anything for herself.” She had snapped at him as he took a step forward and crossed his arms. His attention was on her completely and it infuriated her as she turned about slightly, holding herself as her mouth opened to say something, “Why are you here?”
“I take it the Lord of the Shima has spoken with you?”
“He has.” She responded.
Kuro was amazed at how quickly the Lord of the Shima had worked. He considered it for a moment and realized that the Kari man was nowhere around which meant she was alone, “Why are you not with him?”
“He is speaking with Seiji.”
That explained a lot. The Kari man was not happy about what they wished to do. “You understand why this is necessary.”
“I do not.”
He frowned, she was purposely being difficult. “Leave that and come with me.” He told her.
She looked back to the dough then to him. “I would rather not.”
“You are so difficult, I do not understand what Hiko saw in you.” He could see it, the put out expression, she was annoyed with him.
“Fine.” She voiced leaving the dough and moving with him through the palace.
Kuro had stopped at his room, grabbing his weapon and moved with Tationy out of the palace. They walked silently side-by-side through the city. “Are you and that Kari serious?”
“Don’t read into things.” She voiced.
He smirked, “Sometimes you sound exactly like Tse. Is he serious about you?”
“How would I know?”
“Don’t you think it is a mistake to be involved with that Kari, especially with Hiko about?”
She stopped walking suddenly, “Do you have something you want to ask me?”
“Are you in love with Hiko, do you want him?” He was direct.
He waited at her side for any hint of what she might be thinking or feeling. “If you can’t be with the one you want, love the one you’re with.” She responded as she began to walk again.
He tried to place the quote, “Kita?” He questioned.
“Stephen Stills.” She responded.
“Never heard of him.”
“I imagine not, he will not be born for several thousands of years,” She said before taking a moment to collect herself, “You do not seem the type of man to read the work of Kita.”
“Oh, you know Kita?”
“There is nothing to do in this world other than read. Honestly, I hate it. We are talking about you though, not me. Poetry, especially ones regarding love seems outside your character.”
“You think me an uncultured brute?’
“The thought had crossed my mind.”
“My mother was an interesting Hamara woman. She claimed to be descended from Kita himself and that his tales of love were stories about his chase after the woman that chained his heart.”
“Did he catch her?”
“Her heart was enslaved by another man. They say that Kita was driven insane by his love for her and killed them both. Kita’s tales of love are always so dole. You understand that eventually you will have to face Tatsuya.”
Her head bowed as she walked, her eyes downcast and her breathing increased slightly. She was feeling anxious, her body gave everything away. “Seiji said that I will be alone when I battle the Prince.”
“The living cannot travel where you will be go.”
“I am alive though..”
“You and the Prince of Aslann are bound together, both of you will enter that world upon his death, but only one of you will be able to find your way back. It is all speculation at this point, we need to know for certain and the only way to do that is for you to allow Nao to examine you.”
Her body shook and he inwardly frowned as he noticed the tension that caused her body to go rigid. “I never had bad dreams until I came here. Not one that I can remember and when I got here they started almost instantly. I had hoped they were just really bad dreams. Atsuki told me they were most likely real, memories from that life. Why those memories? I remember almost nothing about all of those lives and yet Nao, I can see as clear as day. I cannot shake it.”
“Nao was not always that way. When he was small he was always in Jin’s office reading. Did not matter the book, the boy dabbled in complex theories that most adults could never even comprehend. Tse’s guardian, Shu of the Sosa turned him into that monster. Once he was just a boy, wanting to learn everything he could about the world around him. His mind was too sharp though and the Ishi are tools for the Tylo clan. Someday he would take his place as a guardian for the Emperor, but first he needed training. We Ishi train all of our young, but the Emperor wanted a torturer. Someone who could replace Shu whose first duty was to protect the Prince of Aslann. Nao was molded into that monster, now he knows nothing else.”
“Is this to make me sympathize with him?”
“I could turn you into a monster.” He voiced, his tone haunting as the two continued walking down the path together. “Any child in the world, can be corrupted. Every night he would fall asleep reading books in Jins office. The kid had no limits intellectually. Never saw a mind so open and welcoming to everything the world had to offer him, it was hard to believe at times he was even Ishi. We failed him, I probably more than anyone. I suppose a man like myself who enjoys fighting and killing people, has no place to speak, after all he and I are the same. All men in this world have the potential of being monsters, even that Kari you are sleeping with.”
She had grown silent, as the two continued walking. Children were playing along the ‘boardwalk’ of Shimragata, laughing and enjoying being young. They were so small and happy as she allowed her eyes to follow them as they rushed by her. They had kites that they were talking about flying down by the beach and her head turned as she took in the joy of the moment. Kuro had watched her, his eyes closing as he inwardly sighed, he understood it a bit more now. That simple look she had given those children spoke volumes to him. She never had a childhood of her own, forced to grow up, never knowing the things a woman of her age in her time would have experienced. Her life was controlled by everyone around her. “Are you happy?” He asked her.
“When I am with Iashi, he makes me forget everything and I feel happy. The only other person to be able to do that was Taku. I still wonder what happened to him. It is this contented feeling that just washes over me when I am with them. Even if we are exchanging words, I feel no hatred or anger from them, even if they are. I hardly knew Taku and if I am honest with myself I know nothing about Iashi, but their joy just embraces you and makes you feel safe and comfortable.”
“Taku is one of the guardians of the Prince of Aslann, correct?”
“The Sato clan were Chalta users, but the reason they were so dangerous was because of their presence. They were said to be ‘warm’. That their very essence could calm and sooth those around them. They are most likely descended from the last of the Sato line.”
“What happened to the Sato?”
“Narie was kidnapped, which caused her brother Soti to bring war upon the Dragon Lords. It was all manipulation by Rin and Bak to divide the nation. Rin felt he could control the eyes of the Tylo Clan, by manipulating his son Soti in reacting to his half-sisters abduction. He was right. Soti did exactly what Rin thought he would, went after the Dragon Lords, along with the other assassins, his twin brother Mikio, Bak of the Ishi, Ryou and Sakura of the Waichia, Koshi of the Hamara, and Somè of the Kari. They amassed forces, gathering the clans to join them against the Dragon Lords and in so doing wiped out a portion of the nation of Torgahdah. Rin and Bak wanted to ensure that Soti remained on this path, so they killed Narie and wiped out those that labeled themselves as Sato. Bak and Mikio remained with Soti after it was all said and done. Rin ruling over the Ishi along with his son Bak, manipulated Soti through his entire reign. Ryou disagreed with the decision to attack the Dragon Lords, but he went along with it until it was finished. He left the newly formed Aslann, no one knows what happened to him. Sakura who loved Soti remained in Aslann along with her clan of the Waichia until the day she died. Koshi of the Hamara would serve as elder for his clan until his son, Rikumaru and daughter, Luna were born. Somè of the Kari and his brother Tuhiko disagreed on the direction of the Kari, so Somè took half of the Kari and settled in a small village while Tuhiko traveled to Aslann with the remainder of the clan. Though in all honesty, the bickering amongst the Kari did not settle during their travel and the Kari divided even further, with another group residing in Bicorla while the remainder traveled to Aslann.”
She laughed. “What is so funny?” He questioned.
“Just never thought I would get a history lesson again from someone old enough to have been there to witness it.” He made a face at her which caused her to laugh even harder. When she finally managed to control her laughter she looked about. “Where are we? I do not recognize this part of Shimragata?”
He was quiet a moment before responding, “You will see.”
From that point on they had walked in relative silence until they reached a small beach area, far enough away from Shimragata. She had stopped a moment to look at the water, but Kuro had continued walking. She rushed to catch up to him. She was impatient and had felt like they had been walking forever. He moved off of the beach and into a woodland section, walking through trees and heavy brush, until arriving to another section of beach. Tationy knew that the Lands of the Dragon Lords were laid upon an island, but actually getting to see a bit of it, was nice. Certainly she had seen the beach a few times in modern Aslann, but it seemed different here. It was not crowded with people vacationing or the smell of food stands. It seemed peaceful.
She stopped moving suddenly when she almost crashed into Kuro who had finally stopped walking. She glanced about at a small alcove, nestled behind rock and palm tress. The water was beautiful and clear, the sun bright even though there was a slight chill in the air. It was fall after all, and they had already gotten their first glimpse of winter with the small amount of snow that came and went. She was so lost in her own thoughts that when she turned to look at Kuro and thank him for bringing her there her body went stiff.
She told herself to look away as she watched him nervously. He had himself stripped out of his clothing and began walking toward the water before she could even utter a single word. When he finally made it into the water he turned about and looked at her, smirking, “Join me.”
“Afraid your Kari will be angry?”
“I don’t have anything to wear.”
“Someone might see.”
“You ashamed of how you look?” She looked to her feet which caused him to frown, this part of her was definitely not like Tse. “I thought you might like it, playing in the water.” He spoke, “Guess I was mistaken.”
She turned her attention on him and stared, realizing he had been trying to do something nice for her. She awkwardly shifted and responded, “Turn around, I don’t want you to see me.”
“Oh, you got nothing I have not seen before.”
“That maybe true, but I just don’t want you to see me alright?”
He turned his back to her as she pulled her clothing off.
As she was removing her clothing he turned back and openly watched her. He could see every bruise he left upon her body more clearly. If she had been his woman, he felt he could understand why the Kari was so angry. “Don’t know why you are so ashamed of your body.” He voiced. She squealed as she turned her head to see his eyes on her completely. “Any Ishi man would be more than willing to take you.”
She regained her composure as she stepped into the water, “Even you?”
“Oh, interested?” He asked which caused her to blush. He knew she was not interested in him and he certainly had no designs on her, though he felt secure in the fact that if he wanted her, he could have her without issue. “You and Hiko…”
“Please don’t,” She said as she swam around, “There is a reason guys like him never look at girls like me.”
“Guys like him?”
“Yeah you know good looking bad asses.”
He barked a laugh before becoming rather serious, “He is a good man though.”
“Good men don’t just leave a woman they promise to protect.”
“That is true they don’t. If you want, you can blame me for coming to get him.”
“Hiko has to take responsibility for his own actions. He left because he is chasing a ghost.”
“Tse is alive though.”
“Whatever he is, he is not the Tse the two of you knew. How can men be so blind?”
She had wrinkled her nose as she thought about how men could be so enraptured by someone, then noticed the solemn look upon Kuro’s face. “I am sorry.” She voiced as she averted her eyes. “I did not mean…”
“You can tell you are young. Young people have such a sharp tongue that their words can cut so deep.”
“I didn’t mean…Prince Tatsuya is not one of my favorite topics, I was out of line. You know him better than I do….” She paused a moment before braving a question, “You are in love with him to?”
“Before that day, Tse was nothing more than the spoiled fake Prince of Aslann. Being in the position I was in, I was well aware of her secret. We Ishi did not feel a girl was capable of posing as the Prince of Aslann and showed her no respect. If we walked past her within the city or even on the palace grounds, we would not bow or acknowledge her. She was nothing more than a fake. Just a little girl pretending to be her brother, the true Prince of Aslann. Then, she braved the lair of the snake, and stood before me. What a confident and brazen child she was. How could I not fall prey to her?”
“She was just a little girl though….I mean it is a little weird for a man your age to fall in love with a child.”
“Tse was in the body of a child yes, but it was not physical attraction. I am speaking on a spiritual level. It was a connection deeper than the physical. You are still young yet, you have not experienced a connection with someone that transcends age, gender, or even class. I knew the moment her eyes fell upon me that she had been taken by me and I suppose now that I look back on it, she most likely knew that I felt the same. No surprise it made me easier to manipulate and now here I am blood-bound to you, another little child. One with her head on backwards and blinders on to the world around her. One so weak that she will most likely fall prey to the Prince when they face in the Land of Souls.”
“Wow, thanks for the vote of confidence, Kuro.”
“Would you rather I lie to you?”
“I would just rather not be here.” She voiced.
“You need to get over wanting that, it will not happen. This is your home now, your world, your life and you need to deal with it. Make the best of it. When you’re as old as I am, then you can complain about wanting to not be here.”
His eyes focused in on her face. She had been silent after he laid into her, though he had been pretty controlled with his words. “I have feelings for Hiko, but they are not mine.” She voiced, finally answering his question. She was not looking at him, not exactly. More like looking through him as she spoke, “Tse’s feelings are strong for him, she loved him and when I look at him I feel all strange and think I love him to, but they are not my feelings. He is attractive. I mean handsome, but really guys like him don’t look at girls like me. They never have. I am surprised really that Sesiago and even Iashi pay me any attention, though I am sure with Sesiago it was because of Tearra and has nothing to do with how he actually feels, and Iashi…he seems the type to be with anyone, does not matter how a girl looks as long as he is enjoying himself. Good for me I guess, seeing I have never been pretty and guys really never gave me a second look. Tse must have been something in those days, I don’t have that kind of confidence or a body that stops traffic when I walk into a room. I am not someone that gets noticed for anything other than being strange looking or unusual. I am probably good-for-nothing like my parents always told me.” She responded.
He could see it the depth of her emotions as they waded in the water and she opened her heart to him and spoke thoughtfully and honestly. There was not hint of emotion though upon her face, it was the same sort of control that Tse had. An unreadable face, devoid of any emotion except for a pair of sad eyes. He held his breath a moment as he allowed his eyes to remain on her. “I do not know where to begin to fix anything and there is much that I want to mend. Things though that I had nothing to do with and yet they all center around me. Things that irritate me when I think about them. I have words I want to say to people, things I want to explain, and yet have no way of doing either without making a fool out of myself when they ask me all of those ‘why’ questions and I have no answers for them.
“I think I have the right to complain and want to leave this place.” She voiced, “After all, no one even asked me if I wanted to come here. The guardians of the Prince of Aslann, just brought me and when I was here all they did was keep secrets and lie to me. Even now, people are still keeping secrets and lying like I am some delicate little girl who is unable to take care of herself. I will have you know Kuro, I took care of myself my whole life. It was not as though my parents were ever around and when they were, they were making me feel miserable about myself. I have lifetimes I don’t remember and everyone wants me to be this person and that person and I just want to be seen as me. I know you all compare me to Tse and Tearra, but whatever part of them is within me, it is just a fraction of who I am. This is me, just Tationy.”
Kuro’s response to her words did not come right away, “You’re shivering, we should get out of the water.” He led the way and the two dressed quickly, before he escorted her silently back to the palace. He had a lot playing around in his mind. She had given a look into her mind. However, brief it was he could see that she was not just being stubborn. This girl was completely torn. She had the emotions of others tacked onto her own and she had to struggle each day with what she was feeling and thinking. It explained why she often seemed irrational or like her decisions made no sense. Knowing her personality and understanding her was difficult for those that knew her, but those that did not know her at all would most likely never understand the little girl. He was not certain if he was the best person to guide her.
They had parted company once they arrived to the palace. Tationy had to see Sadamitsu and Kuro retreated to the dining hall. It had the best view of the grounds. He stood with his arm up leaning forward slightly as he gazed out the window. “It is far different from Aslann.” Nao’s voice broke his silent reverie.
“I saw you with Tationy, did you enjoy yourself?”
“It was interesting.” He voiced.
“You learned something about her?”
“Am I transparent today?”
“Perhaps a little. You are less guarded than you normally are. I have not seen you like this since I was small and you told me about your life as a child of the Ishi.”
“Oh,” It was evident by the start of his sentence that he was smirking, “Keep that to yourself, will you?”
“Of course.” Nao responded and paused only a moment, “What did you learn about her if I may inquire?”
“I don’t think it is weakness.” Kuro answered.
“You think she is stronger than she appears?”
“In a way.”
“I don’t know if I can.” Kuro voiced finally turning around and noticing that Nao’s eyes were looking about the dining hall. “The Shima are always so lavish. Aslann was many things, but the people of it were humble.” Kuro voiced and Nao silently agreed. “There is a part of me that wishes we were never here, honestly if I thought we could I would suggest we all leave this place, but we need more than us to stand against the Military of Torgahdah.”
“A truly interesting thought. The Kari, I imagine feel much the same way.”
“Are you telling me that we should try to align with those assassins?”
“If we gained enough support, it would not be unreasonable that we could leave this place behind.”
“Where would we go?”
“There are places, but I suppose it is just one of those thoughts it is nice to consider.” Nao paused a moment, “Kuro, I have spoken with the other Ishi regarding Jin and we reached a decision.”
“Our clan is feeling unrest because of this blood-bond, being amongst the Shima, the absence of Jin amongst others. While many of them were hesitant to give you such power, they all agree that it is not in our best interest to continue without an elder. The majority felt that Mikio is better suited for the position. However, because he is also absent, they agreed that you should rule as elder until he returns to the Ishi.”
Kuro shook his head a moment, “Not surprised. My baby brother always got everything, even the stuff he never wanted. So I get to hold the position until he resurfaces from wherever he is hiding. Lucky me. I wish I could say it surprises me, but it doesn’t.” Kuro shrugged his shoulders a wistful expression upon his face, “I am going to get some rest.” He could see it briefly the frown upon Nao’s face as he left him standing there.
He had bathed and made the long walk down the hallway toward his bedchamber. He just wanted to sleep, but he was certain his mind was going to maul over the day. Opening his door he was ill-prepared for what he would find. Tationy lying on his bed sleeping. Blankly he stared at her, as he made his way toward the bed to wake her, but was halted by a book at her side. He grabbed it up quickly, it was a journal detailing a government structure. He walked around to the other side of the bed, laying himself down upon it as he began to flip through pages reading over the detailed notes.
Kuro could feel the warmth of her body next to him and glanced at her briefly. He could see bruises along her arms and her shoulders, hear her soft breathing, it had been a long time since he had a woman in his bed. He told himself to not enjoy it too much that Kari would certainly not like the fact that she was here and he had to wonder why she was. His mind drifted to those thoughts as he considered that she may have mistaken their evening for something more than it was, as his eyes continued to read over the journal in his hands. “How is it?” She asked as she stifled a yawn.
He had tensed noticeably, not realizing she had awoken. “What is this for?” He manged to ask after composing himself.
“Sadamitsu went over government structures of Aslann, Torgahdah, and even Shimragata this evening and wanted me to design a structure. Something about progress and change that governments have to improve with time, I don’t know. I honestly wasn’t really listening.”
“Boring?” He questioned.
“No it is not that, he is just….I don’t know, something about him. Cannot really place what it is. I don’t trust him, maybe that is it.”
He turned his attention away from the book, his one visible eye falling upon her. “Why not?”
“I don’t know really. Anyway, is it alright?”
He did not answer her instead responded with, “Why did you bring this here?”
“Is it not alright, I mean you’re my … well I am kind of your apprentice right?” He stared at her silently having not expected those words to come out of her mouth. “I am sorry, I guess I misunderstood. I thought I could come to you with these sorts of things. I just, don’t really know who else to talk to about it. I could go to Oro and ask, I guess.” She voiced as she moved to pull herself from his bed.
“No it is fine.” She had settled back on his bed as he looked back to the journal, “It is an interesting design, but explain it to me. What purpose does it serve to have this council?”
“Well I considered the nation of Aslann and how the Emperor ruled with an adviser to give him guidance. As well as how each clan had an elder to lead them, but how many of the clans felt that they were abandoned by the palace. Then, I considered Torgahdah, they had one ruling body, a Lord that was killed by his three generals who essentially led his military and served as advisers. From what I understand, afterwards the three of them ruled together, with one of them speaking for all of them. Shimragata is ruled only by Seiji and is controlled by the military. So I took into account the structures of each of these and came up with this. You have a figurehead who speaks for the council and ultimately has final say as the deciding vote amongst the five on the elder council. Those five are made up of very important or powerful clans. Each elder, including the overall leader represent other clans. So the smaller clans are represented by one of the five elders, which allows them to speak with a member of the Elder Council about any issues they might be facing and in turn that elder is able to bring it before the Elder Council.”
“So the elder council makes all decisions, each casting a vote for or against while giving their advice to the main leader of the council.”
“Yes. That way the leader gets more than one opinion on the matter and he can make an informed decision.”
“What if the leader is out of control?”
“He can be usurped by a unanimous vote by the other four elders, but only if they all agree that he has gone against the nation and have evidence against him. If he is replaced under normal circumstances, such as death, he cannot be replaced with someone from the same clan and he cannot be replaced by someone of a clan already with a seat on the elder council. It keeps one clan from unconditionally having all the power.”
“What about the military?”
“Well I do think that Jin was probably right to a degree, but dividing the military itself was a bad idea. There should be two divisions, the main military, which are your soldiers and then a covert division which would be your assassins. I do not think it should be limited to one clan though. I think that everyone should be trained from the time they are small, and prepared for military service to protect their nation. Of course there is also a place for scholars and chalta’s because this world is a lot different from the one I come from, so being able to understand and defend against that sort of craziness would be important to. I mean at least I think so. I know it is rough, but what do you think?”
“It is an unusual design for a government.”
“You don’t like it,” She said softly.
“No it is not that, I just wonder where a blood-bound clan might fit into it.”
“That would be outlawed.” She voiced. “That is servitude and slavery of any kind has no place in this world.”
He laid the book down, quickly pulling himself from the bed. She moved over to his side, letting her legs dangle over the side as she stretched into an exhausted yawn. “You are naive.”
“So I have been told, but I will bite, why am I naive this time?”
“You think that slavery and eternal servitude is just going to end because you want it to?”
“If the five clans can come to an agreement, I am sure it can be done.”
“Let us pretend this structure of yours was real.”
“What five clans would hold the elder positions of the council and which one would be the current leader?”
She thought about it for a moment, “Well first the Waichia…” He scoffed under his breath and she gave him a disapproving look. “A clan like that is powerful and influential, but more importantly dangerous. It is better to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. For that reason, also the Hamara clan. They are a small clan though, which would show that even the smallest amongst the nation is important. The slaves clans would need to be represented, so I think the Kensuku should also be a part of the council. They are a strong clan that has been oppressed for a long time. The assassin clans should also have a voice, though which is better to do that I am uncertain; the Kari or the Sweela. The last clan should be yours. While I think many clans may distrust the Ishi due to Rin and Jin, I think there might be no better way for your clan to be redeemed than to take your place amongst the elder council. Then, of course each elder would oversee all of the other clans within the nation. Not a single clan would not be represented, and it would be important for those elders to understand the importance of watching over the clans under them. I know it is not something that will happen overnight, but I think it could work, if we could bring together the other clans.”
She had avoided who she felt should lead, but he let it go as he stared at her a moment and smirked, “You are considering this as more than just a ‘fake structure’ to appease Sadamitsu.”
“Seiji is not going to live forever. His way is not my way.” She voiced softly. “I am not saying that I will rule over this nation, I don’t want that. That is what he wants, but I think that we could build this nation into something great and different from what it is now. Somewhere that everyone will be equal and protected.”
“Why?” Her eyes looked to the floor and he frowned deeply, “You have been dreaming?”
“The same one over and over again up until Iashi arrived. The Dragon Lords are going to fall soon, I feel it in my bones, but this time they will not be resurrected. The territory around Shimragata is going to fracture. The Maiba, Anami, and Zenaku are going to make pushes into other territories and in a year’s time, the map will be considerably different than it is now. War will wage, I feel it. I can’t really explain it, but the pressure from it is almost unbearable. I think that is why Sadamitsu is here, he knows it is coming.”
“You think he is going to kill Lord Shima?”
“I don’t know, but things are going to change quickly. I am probably just reading to much into a dream, but I probably should tell you something else….” She voiced.
“What is that?”
“I am going to see the Prince of Aslann soon.” She stood her bare feet upon the cold stone turned quickly and move toward his door.
Her words surprised him and yet he considered the fact that she was probably overreacting because of Nao’s impending examination of her. “Where are you going?”
“I don’t dream when I am lying next to him.” She responded as she looked over her shoulder at Kuro. “So I am going to his room. I will leave that with you.” She said about the journal as she exited his room, leaving him with his thoughts.
He sat in the chair, looking toward the bed where the journal was laid. She must have spent the entire night writing up the structure in that journal and she brought it to him. He wondered why. She could have taken it to her Kari, Lord Shima, or any number of other people, but she had brought it to him. He could not wrap his mind around it and her words about what was to come concerned him. Her dreams were obviously bothering her, but there was certainly no guarantee that a bad dream was going to result in truth, especially seeing she had yet to master the cursed eyes of the Tylo. Those dreams were most likely just bad dreams of one possible outcome out of millions.
Then the fact that she mentioned she was going to see Tse soon. She had never once mentioned it the entire day they were together, so why now. He wondered if she was trying to prevent the examination by Nao, by causing him concern over what might transpire. He shook the thoughts from his mind as he stood and moved toward the bed, picking the journal up. He nearly tossed it to the side, but instead laid himself down in his bed and began reading it. He had only made it halfway through, and part of him wanted to know about the world that the naive little girl wanted to make.
To Be Continued