The sounds that filled the headquarters of the Ruthlbahdo were a far-cry from the mindless military strategic talk that had been taking place weeks prior. Now there was an eeriness and the hollowed halls were stained. The silence was almost too much for one man to bear.
Just a week prior he was Commander Hiko Kari of the Ruthlbahdo. Despite holding the rank of Commander he was third in command after Ritsu of the Waichia and Oro of the Ishi. He did not mind. With his attitude, no one expected him to make anything of himself. He was the bad boy of the Kari clan. Always breaking the rules and doing as he pleased. Then, events that shattered the very foundation of his beloved nation and military left everyone paralyzed and himself, thrust into a position he never expected to have.
Silently he sat, his hand settled on a letter that he had written to the Elder Council whom were currently discussing the matters at hand regarding the leadership position of Emperor. Before they sequestered themselves, they had told him he would be serving as acting Commander of the Ruthlbahdo. He was aware that they had only chosen him because he was the highest ranking officer not currently involved in the treasonous acts that resulted in the assassination of the Emperor. It had nothing to do with him being the best person for the job or them trusting him.
Lifting the letter, he glanced over it only briefly. He knew what it said, having read it at least hundred times after he finished writing it. Hiko was no fool, he understood that his words would fall on deaf ears. The orders were already given to interrogate and execute that included Commander Ritsu Waichia of the Ruthlbahdo and Commander Oro Ishi of the Shisosha. Every part of him, was tense at the thought of them executing the two commanders that led the military. It was not that he did not understand the reasoning behind it all, he did, but that did not mean it was going to sit well with him. The military of Aslann and co-vert operations meant everything to him. His dedication to the two was only rivaled by his love for his Emperor and his nation.
His entire body tensed when he realized he was being watched.
Allowing his eyes to slowly glance toward the figure standing near the table he noticed instantly the scrutinizing gaze of his Elder. Hurriedly he stood, grabbing up the letter to the Elder Council, gripping it tightly in his hand as he focused in on the blue eyes of the man who was believed to have all of the qualities prized in a Kari man. In comparison they were night and day. Hiko had never been very good at toeing the line. When he was young he was constantly picking fights and ticking off anyone in any position of power. The Elder of the Kari on the other hand never once went against the ways of the Kari.
Hiko almost could not bear the eyes of his Elder upon him. He had no doubts that the Elder of the Kari, called Sesiago by only a small few was gauging him. Knowing that much told Hiko that anything Sesiago said would be deliberate and direct. “This must be weighing rather heavily on you. Only a short time ago you lose your brother Iashi in a Raid on Mogotoshi, then your cousin Tatsuya at the Battle of Shimragata, and now your father Seimi is to be executed for treason. Your Yamada blood is cursed, Hiko.”
“Ah.” He responded in the affirmative.
“Have the executions begun?”
“Those of the Kari, have they been sent to Shotai?”
Shotai, the afterlife for the Kari clan. Hiko never believed in such a ridiculous notion. He could never bring himself to buy into a place all accepting of men like him and his clan. They were warriors, which was just a polite way of saying murderers at least that was what his Yamada mother always said. “Erobus, Baito, and Shiku have yet to be executed. Tsuna and my father have already been handled.”
“Zen is beside himself at the loss of his son. His weak blood may not be able to cope with his death.”
Hiko frowned knowing what weak blood the Elder of the Kari was referring to. Zen was from the line of Kari and the Takahashi. The Takahashi clan while one of the largest clans in all of Aslann was made up of mongrels. While they were called a clan and preferred to be seen as such, they were not of breeding and their blood a mixture of hundreds of different lines. They were usually referred to as Mesho or tainted blood. “Tsuna showed great strength and dignity during his final moments, Zen will hold on to that.”
“You have more faith in him, then I do.”
Hiko was thankful when a knock on the solid wood door broke up their conversation, though before he could tell the person to enter the door had already been opened and in strolled the only living member of the Tylo clan. He pursed his lips out of a combination of annoyance and fear as he quickly tucked the letter into his overcoat while keeping his attention focused on the girl. She was dangerous. There was much speculation around her though generally most within the nation felt that she was one of the top ten warriors. She was powerful, Hiko was fully aware of this, but as his eyes drifted away from her briefly he noticed much to his surprise that he was not the only one. The Elder of the Kari, Sesiago had his scrutinizing gaze fixed on the young girl as she brushed by him with a scroll in hand.
“Ritsu said to return this when I was done with it.” Her voice was distant and emotionless. Hiko tried desperately to tell if she was naturally this way or if she was guarding herself. His instincts told him it was all pretense, but he doubted anyone ever got close enough to her to find out for certain.
“Show some respect.” Hiko voiced coldly, “He is Commander Waichia of the Ruthlbahdo. You should not speak his name so informally.” He cursed himself under his breath when he realized he had done to her what so many through the years had done to him. Hiko noticed that it was not lost on Sesiago who turned on his heels and walked out leaving the two of them alone. Frustrated that he did not get to ask the questions burning holes through him, his hand rested on his chest at the spot the letter was safety hidden. For a moment, he was lost in thought again until he noticed her hand move slightly as she offered him the scroll.
“Are you the guy deciding my fate now?”
Her question threw him as he halted taking the scroll and allowed his eyes to focus in on her face. He wished he could see her eyes. Those damned cursed eyes of the Tylo clan which everyone in the nation feared and hated. His lips pursed as he considered her question, one callous and devoid of any sympathy for those being executed. There was a part of him that disliked her and yet the worst part of him understood her and seen her as a kindred spirit. “That decision will not be made until things are settled with the naming of a new Emperor.”
“I have been waiting three years for the Emperor and Ritsu to decide, this is getting old quickly. You old guys think that just because I am a girl that I should be making babies and cooking my man a meal. As if I do not have anything better to do, then wait on someone. You are going to be just like the rest of them, aren’t you?”
He did not understand her words and yet at the same time they stung. “I don’t have the time to deal with a little girl throwing a tantrum.” Hiko responded grabbing the scroll from her hand. “You obviously need to learn patience.”
“I will leave the patience to you old guys that set around in rooms playing gods for hours and accomplish nothing at all.” He watched her as she let the scroll go and turned around without further word. There had been things he had wanted to say, but truth was he did not know how to deal with her. He never had to. There were rumors among the Ruthlbahdo that Ritsu spent the majority of his time managing the girl whom for the past three years had been trying to be accepted into the military. Most of the individuals within the nation laughed at the very idea of a woman in combat and yet she was persistent. The conversations regarding her though were privileged between Ritsu, Oro, and the late Emperor Akizuki. There had only been one conversation he knew of and he was quickly asked to leave before hearing to much of it, though from what he got from the conversation the Emperor had been pressured to continue to tell the girl no, despite the three of them all being in favor of the decision.
Hiko only passively looked at the scroll as he set it on the table and exited the headquarters of the Ruthlbahdo. He felt as though he was in some sort of eternal daze as he walked his normal path toward the estate of his clan. “Is that you Hiko?” A voice called out from the elder’s office, though it was not the voice of Sesiago. He recognized it long before he stepped into the room catching sight of Zen setting behind the elder’s desk with a book laid out in front of him.
“Don’t feel much like a General of the Ruthlbahdo these days.”
Zen’s words carried a heaviness which brought little reassurance to Hiko that this situation would be resolved in a timely and efficient manner. This was not going to be something that eventually people forget about and move on from. “Tsuna…” The name of Zen’s son lingered far to long as Hiko tried to find the words. Certainly Hiko had lost people before, but he was not married, never had any children he could not comprehend the loss that Zen was feeling at that very moment. “His final moments he was a proud and strong Kari man. He never begged for his life. You should be…”
“If you are going to tell me to be proud of him, I always have been. There is no need to say such things to me Hiko. This book…” Hiko watched as he flipped through the pages. “Was filled from the front to the end with esoteric time techniques. Ancient ones belonging to the Tylo clan, now only half of it is filled.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, someone has manipulated time very recently. No more, then a month or so, but it has affected our history at least a hundred years. I would be willing to wager that this assassination was a result of the time manipulation.”
Hiko had to wonder if Zen was grasping for any hope. No one wanted to believe that their blood had committed a sin against their nation. Everyone was trying to make sense of it. Even Takuya of the Waichia had been specifically brought in for the interrogations, to make certain that there had been no body manipulation, mental control, or esoteric techniques used. Certainly the Waichia would be able to tell if someone had used esoteric time techniques. Hiko pursed his lips, “I will look into it.”
Zen had closed the book and Hiko noticed the piercing gaze that locked on him, “We both know you think I am a foolish father inventing reasons. Don’t manage me Hiko.” Frowning, Hiko bowed his head as Zen moved away from the desk and left Hiko standing there. His entire day was one thing after another. He had yet to have a conversation with anyone that did not leave him tense and in need of a smoke. Even though Zen’s words stung he was right to think that of Hiko. It was not as though Hiko was the type of man to try to understand things, he never thought to deeply. He left that to his friend’s Hero of the Takahasi and Chee of the Hamara. He just did his duty, remained loyal to his nation and his emperor, and worked all the time every waking moment he had. There was a part of him, like everyone else that did want to know ‘why’. For him though, even if he got the answer, he was certain it would just bring up more questions and that lingering tension would eat away at him. He was happy not knowing the particulars and just being that dedicated loyal servant of the great nation of Aslann.
To Be Continued