They had arrived at the Kari estate on Shimragata. It was not far away from the retreat that Zen and Tationy had been living in for the past year, but despite the proximity Zen could not bring himself to visit more often. “Anyone home?” He called out as the two let themselves in.
“In the kitchen.” A voice responded.
“I am going to take this stuff upstairs.” Zen stated to Tationy and quickly made his way up to the second floor of the estate.
Tationy sighed inwardly as she turned on her heels making a beeline toward the kitchen. “Where’s Zen?” Hiko questioned.
“Couldn’t even take a moment to visit. That is just like him.”
“Says the most antisocial of all of the Kari.” Tationy responded.
“I can be social when I want to be.” He stated as he moved toward her, leaning down and kissing her lightly on the cheek.
“How is the bad boy of The Kari Foundation doing?”
“You would know if you had not taken off to be with Zen.” He answered.
She sighed, “He needed me more than you did.”
“Is that what you tell yourself?”
“You are supposed to be arguing with Zen, not me.”
He smirked, “Is that so? Tell me then, Tationy, what am I suppose to be doing with you?”
Hiko was not known for giving a girl a chance to respond. Like all the Kari, if he wanted something he went after it full throttle, so he pulled her into him and laid a kiss on her that might have knocked her on her behind if it were not for the fact that he had her securely pressed into his body. He licked his lips when the kiss came to an end, “We always did this well.” She responded breathlessly.
Zen cleared his throat and the two pulled away from each other. Tationy quickly excused herself, leaving the two Kari cousins alone. The fact that Tationy and Hiko were already kissing was not entirely unexpected. The two of them had been in-love, since the moment he had introduced them. In the intimacy department they suffered no issues. Instead their timing was always off. When she was hot, he was cold. When he was hot, she was cold. The two of them could never seem to get into rhythm with each other. Zen always suspected that if things had gone as they were supposed to, that Tationy and Hiko would have been married by now with a whole litter of children. Maybe they were happy with the way things were. He always wondered.
It was not as though he was complaining. Truth be told when he wrote The Exiled Prince, he made certain that dynamic of their relationship was clearly evident. Of course he had to toss in the complications of the Prince of Aslann, though in essence they were all Tationy. He always saw the Prince, Tearra, Osa, and Tationy as the same character just living their life at different points in time. Tationy was the dynamic character. Through the course of the story she grows and develops. The Prince was a flat character. You only got to see a couple of personalities traits, usually the manipulative sort so you never grow to understand the character. Tearra was a rounded character with varied and often contradictory traits, but still capable of being a dynamic character. Osa was static. A character that never changes throughout the story. They were all a part of the girl that he called his best friend. Different sides of her personality.
He had thought for certain when he had started The Exiled Prince, that Tationy would end up with Hiko. As time passed and he watched their relationship develop before him, he realized that they simply were not even reading the same book. He always wondered if he made a mistake. There was intensity and heat, between Tationy and Hiko, but he figured too often he looked at the world as an observer. He was probably not adept at understanding the nuances of the human heart.
“How’s your book? Did you finish it?” Hiko questioned, breaking Zen’s thoughts.
“It’s finished.” He responded as he took a seat at the bar. “I am not happy with it. My editor has made me change to much and cut a bunch of stuff out. In the end nothing is resolved. She says people these days don’t care about details, all they care about is the romance.”
“So who does she end up with?” He questioned.
“No one, I killed her off.” Hiko seemed surprised by Zen’s answer so he nervously responded, “I never intended for her to end up with Kuro. Honestly, there was supposed to be a big battle and Kuro was supposed to die and Tationy was to be severely injured and saved by Mikio, who has a rematch with Atsuki. Hiko was never meant to die and was to face-off against Chochi. Abe was going to come to his rescue after he was injured. At the end of it all Tationy was to find out she was pregnant with Hiko’s child because at the Kari village they were going to be intimate with one another. She was to rise to the throne of Aslann, which was never meant to be destroyed at the side of the Takuya of the Waichia and she would remain with Takuya until his death. Eventually she would give up the throne and go to Mikio who had left Aslann to live in Thacian.” He sighed noticeably, “It all got messed up.”
“How did it end up so far-off?”
“My editor did not like Hiko. She felt he was too dedicated to duty to get involved with her and then all of the stuff that was going on with the two of you…”
“So about the time in the book that they should have hooked up, you noticed that Tationy and I were having issues and pulled back.”
“Yeah. Then Tationy fell in love with Sesiago, so I decided to put the two of them together, even though Tearra and Kazuma were never meant to come together in that lifetime.”
Hiko smiled, “Sounds like you let real life influence the book too much.”
“Yeah, it is a big pile of sh…”
Hiko interrupted him, “I am sure it is exactly what the readers these days want, all romance and no substance, look at those Twilight books.”
“Yeah, but it is not what I wanted.”
Both men grew silent as Iashi breezed into the room, humming to himself. Zen made note that he paid little attention to the atmosphere. “I thought you and Baito were playing video games.” Hiko questioned.
“Ahh, we were, but then we saw Tationy sunbathing nude and decided to watch her instead. I am just getting us sodas.”
Hiko had just been about to take a long drag off the cigarette he lit up, and Zen chuckled painfully under his breath as Hiko choked. Finally, managing to speak, Hiko directed his words toward Zen,”That girl is going to corrupt them.”
“Ahh, she hasn’t corrupted us yet, but if she starts playing with herself that certainly would lead us down a path of moral turpitude.” Iashi responded as he looked into the fridge for any sign of the grape soda he was certain he had put in there earlier.
“Punk, you are asking to get hit.” Hiko voiced his temperament not as light as it once was. For him there was a fine line. Looking was one thing, no Kari man was a saint, but Iashi was crossing over into dangerous territory.
Zen stood and moved around the counter, hopping up to sit on it. He considered what he might say as he worked to try to mediate, “I remember another teenage boy who wanted her to corrupt him.”
“Are you trying to make me think about the past?” Hiko questioned.
“I have been thinking about it a lot lately.” Zen responded.
This acknowledgement seemed to bother Hiko as he squinted his eyes before taking a long drag off of his smoke without responding. Iashi had disappeared from the kitchen with grape sodas in hand. Zen was certain that Hiko considered stopping whatever tomfoolery that Iashi and Baito were getting up to, but instead he stood his ground and waited. At first Zen was not certain what he was waiting for, but eventually Hiko responded. “Even though we do not always see eye to eye, I think of you as a brother. You and Tationy…” There was a long pause, “Has your relationship progressed beyond friendship?”
Zen blinked then nervously laughed, “No.”
“Then why are the two of you still together? Don’t you have any intention of finding yourself a woman?”
Zen considered the question and then inwardly frowned. It was not as though he did not expect this question to eventually come up, he was just not at all certain how he would answer it if it did. Truth was there was a part of himself that he did not acknowledge. It was not that he was ashamed or hiding, it was a bit more complicated. His family, would never understand. The image of the two of them flashed through his mind so vividly as though it had happened yesterday. He had not seen Kuro since that day. He always thought the scion of the Ishi was a strange one. The slightly older Kuro, was the star of the basketball team when they attended Thacian. He was popular and well-liked by everyone. Zen had always secretly admired him.
Through their high school years, the starter for the basketball team, never had any serious relationships. He never seemed to date though there were many rumors about him being with a variety of girls, none of them were substantiated. Kuro described himself as demisexual once to a girl that pledged her love to him. When the girl asked why he was not interested in her, asked if he thought she was ugly, Kuro had simply responded that he was unable to feel sexual attraction toward anyone unless he made a deep emotional connection with them. Certainly he could have sex if he wanted to, but he was not the type to fall in love at first sight or become attracted to someone sexually by a simple encounter or two. No with him, such things took time, thus he never seemed to ever have any deep or meaningful relationships with anyone.
Zen jumped noticeably at the sound of his last name being called. The voice dominate, commanding…powerful. He took a breath in and bravely looked passed his gym locker toward the voice that had boomed so loudly that it had startled the sometimes skittish sophomore. His mouth slightly agape, “Kuro.” He managed to say then quickly realized that he was the only one in the locker room which up until that point had been filled with other members of the tennis team. He bit his lip wondering if he was going to be harassed. Had he done something to Kuro? He racked his brain.
“Oh…” Kuro voiced as he came to stand next to the young Kari. Peering down at him, “You’re pretty short.”
“I am still growing.” Zen responded defiantly. He was more than a little offended that he was being harped on by an Ishi about his height. The Ishi were always tall. Even the pre-teens tended to stand well over six foot. By Ishi standards Kuro was actually pretty short, just breaking six feet one inches. Zen slammed his locker door shut, “Just get it over with. Whatever you plan on doing.”
Zen flinched and closed his eyes as Kuro reached out his hand. Zen was certain that the senior was going to torment the lowly sophomore. Zen opened one of his eyes when he felt the slight flick against his forehead. “You are pretty hyper.” Kuro responded.
“You are not here to…never mind, what do you want?”
“I asked around. Everyone says your pretty smart. I am failing math, if my marks don’t improve by next quarter I cannot start. I can’t fail.”
Zen realized that this was about basketball. Kuro was a basketball junkie. He lived for the sport. Everyone suspected that he would go on to play college ball and there was talk of him already being recruited by a university in the United States. “You want me to tutor you?”
“Yep.” Kuro responded leaning casually against the lockers. “It will have to be after practice and probably best if we do it at my house. So around seven should be good.”
“Who do you think you are? You cannot just make plans….”
“Not up for the challenge, Kari?”
“It is not that, I have my own things to do. I do not have time to tutor some idiot ….” He covered his mouth with both hands when Kuro tilted his head and gave him a hard stare.
“This is not a negotiation, I was not really asking.” Kuro responded.
That is right, he was Kuro Ishi, most popular guy at Thacian High School. Sighing, he relented, “Fine.” Zen could feel his temples throbbing as his brows knitted. He was grumbling to himself and had almost forgotten that Kuro was still standing there.
“Huh?” Zen questioned as he looked up at Hiko.
“Where were you?”
“Sorry, like I said. I have been getting lost in thought lately.” Zen responded as he hopped down from the counter.
Hiko ran his fingers through his hair, “Are you seeing someone?”
Zen looked to the floor, contemplating how he wanted to answer. “Dr. Ritsu Waichia, thinks it is anxiety.”
Hiko’s dark eyes clouded, “Are you on something?”
“Yeah, but it doesn’t seem to help. If you don’t mind Hiko, I would rather you keep this to yourself.”
The Kari were known for appearances. Weakness was not allowed in public. Even amongst their own kin, it was something that they felt should only be showed to their significant other. Hiko’s eyes flashed as though he had realized the circumstances of Zen and Tationy’s relationship. “I got it.” He responded.
“Thank you.” Zen felt that the best course of action was to make a hasty departure. Truthfully he did not wish to discuss his own issues. He never wanted the attention on him. Even in his book he made himself a side character, and repeatedly his feelings came out. That was how Tationy ended up with Kuro. He wanted to be that Kari, like he had written him in the beginning of the book. Dedicated to being Kari, a father to Tationy, and a loyal most dedicated soldier. Those were the traits he wanted for himself. Not the bumbling mess of nerves that superimposes his own feelings onto others. It was a mistake, Hiko and Kuro in the story of The Exiled Prince. It would never have happened. Hiko was not the type of man, but his own festering feelings and desires came to light when working with Kuro and before he knew it, he was a main part of the story.
To Be Continued