Tadayoshi had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach as he hurriedly moved toward the homestead on Shimragata where it all began. He was kicking himself for allowing her to leave. When he entered the home he could hear voices, heated and loud. “Where did you get that bracelet?”
“I gave it to her.” Tadayoshi interrupted and the room fell silent. It was not just Tationy and Hiko, there were others there including Moromari, Zen, Kin, Iashi, and Katsu. This was not how he intended this meeting to go. He had wanted the children and Tationy to be off the island before he confronted his family, but in the pit of his stomach he knew that he could not let her go back to the estate alone.
The questioning look she gave him as she wrenched her wrist away from Hiko told him she was just as surprised by his arrival, “Why?”
“I cannot allow my queen to face the wraith of my kin on her own.”
His words surprised every man there, but none more than Hiko. “You’re Kazuma?”
With his queen nursing her hand at his side he spoke, “How disappointing that my blood is so blinded by power that they could not see what was before their very eyes.”
“That is not possible.” Moromari interjected.
“I am sure your spy, Suemeli told you that I was not Kazuma. In a fit of jealousy and obsession she was willing to say or do anything to keep me and my queen apart. Though, she was not the only one.” Tadayoshi made a point to look directly at his brother Katsu. “There has been plenty of manipulation and dirty deeds done to gain what one desires.” Noticing how his son bowed his head Tadayoshi spoke, “You have plenty to be ashamed of, Hiko. However, with all of that shame you still managed to do one thing that no other man could do.”
“What was that?”
“Earned the love of the queen of the gods. Even now, after all you did, she still loves you and it is that love that will keep her eyes blinded from seeing me.” Tadayoshi gave a sideways glance toward Tationy who had her eyes fixed on Hiko. Even though she loved his son, she stayed close to his side and for that he was grateful. It made this moment easier for him; however brief it was.
“What are you doing Saitama, kill him,” Katsu yelled.
Moromari glanced only briefly at Katsu before returning his eyes to Tadayoshi, “Are you the man that came to see her when she was small?”
“Why, what was the point of seeing her like that?”
“Her eyes were free of blindness then, not clouded by the world and experience. Even though she did not understand, she knew me. That is why I went. I needed to be in her presence just once, where she knew me as her king. I understand your concern, Saitama, but it was not my intention ever to hurt her. She is my precious flower, blossoming in the middle of war. The only bright spot in the darkness.”
Moromari gave a curt nod of his head as he spoke once more, “Command me to kill them and I will, my king.”
Katsu scoffed, “He says something romantic and you just believe it.”
“It is not the words, it is his presence,” Moromari explained. Tadayoshi understood the change of heart of the Saitama. This was their first opportunity to speak, the first where they were in each other’s presence. Getting the information from someone with an agenda like Suemeli was different from actually being able to see the ‘king’ with one’s own eyes or hearing the ‘kings’ voice with one’s own ears.
“Shall we sit and discuss things like civilized Kari?” Zen questioned.
Though there seemed to be some that disagreed, most everyone took seats at a nearby table. For a time there was nothing but silence.
“Do you think we are going to recognize you as the king?” Katsu slammed his hands against the table.
“I don’t care if you do or you don’t. All that matters is that she recognizes me.”
“She can’t even see you.”
“I hate to agree with Katsu,” Zen began as he looked toward Tadayoshi, “If the queen does not see you and recognizes Hiko as her King, then this discussion seems rather mote. What the Saitama believe now does not matter. They are tools. The people that will recognize you as the true king of the gods are sitting at this table.”
Tadayoshi glanced toward Moromari when the head of the Satiama began to speak, “Just tools that clean up the messes you make, Kari. Without people like us, you all would be sitting behind bars.”
“Know your place Saitama. You are expendable,” Katsu responded.
“He is the uncle of your queen, regardless of what you think of his blood he should be shown respect.” Tadayoshi spoke up as the cold hard stare of Moromari settled on him a moment. Tadayoshi understood the position that Moromari was placed in. As the head of the Saitama he had put faith in the work of Suemeli to bring him the name of the king of the gods. Instead of doing what she was ordered to do, she gave him the name of Hiko and the Saitama fell inline behind the false king. Had he had all of the facts, he most certainly would have killed Hiko for what he had done to Tationy. Now all he could do was sit and wait for a decision to be decided. With this knowledge, Tadayoshi had no doubts that Moromari’s gut was knotted and heart conflicted.
As a former assassin clan, the Kari in ancient times once worked alongside the Saitama and the Sweela in service for their lords and masters the Shima. While the Saitama stayed in a role that was comfortable, the Kari, wanted more. They wanted to be their own men, served by others not slaves to the will and wishes of those more powerful. The Satiama always served the Shima and to a lesser extent the king of the gods, their creator. His backing meant a great deal to Tadayoshi, but in the end, what the Kari decided would ultimately determine whether or not Moromari killed him or not.
“He is nothing but a slave to the will of the Kari. That is all he and his blood will ever be.” Katsu was more heated then Tadayoshi had ever seen him.
Zen and Iashi opened their mouths and began to speak at the same time, “Go ahead,” Iashi encouraged Zen.
With a subtle sigh and a nod Zen spoke, “Katsu, getting upset and slinging mud is not going to resolve this situation. This is about the king of the gods, Kazuma and his queen. Tadayoshi has announced himself as the king, but we have already stood behind Hiko. What we need to decide is whether or not that decision will stand or if we will be looking in another direction for leadership. Tadayoshi has led our family for thirty years. It is a role he was placed in by his predecessor, your father. During those years he was never given the title of Kazuma, never looked upon in such a favorable fashion. As one that was, you of all people should understand the importance of remaining calm.”
“I believe Katsu is tainted by his past experiences. His queen spit on him and it is because of that slight that he was removed from positions of power within the Kari.” Iashi interjected. “There were many that felt it was a bad decision on the part of Tadayoshi, now perhaps we understand why. If he desired the position of king, he would do anything to keep others from having it.”
“How disrespectful,” Kin spoke. “We all know you have been ‘sucking the cock’ of Katsu your whole life Iashi. There is no doubt among the people at this table that you will side with him. He tells you to bend over and you do so without hesitation.”
“You piece of shit,” Iashi snapped as he jumped up from the table prepared to fight. “You are scum like that Maiba whore of a mother of yours.”
Tadayoshi had been about to speak, when his son finally broke the tension that was forming from the bickering between Iashi and Kin, “That is enough. None of this has ever mattered. It was always just some stupid tradition that we Kari got sucked in by. Follow him or follow me, I don’t really care.”
Again he felt that tension as he bowed his head a moment and sighed. He was disappointed and angry at his son and his family. Tationy though, managed to surprise him yet again as he felt her touch and when he lifted his head he could feel the warmth of her chest against him. It was her strength that gave him strength as he stared down his family and the eyes of his kin finally settled upon him. Her actions alone spoke volumes.
The varying degrees of surprise settled on their faces as Tadayoshi spoke, “My blood truly does not understand the gift it was given. These are not traditions to suck us in they were meant to unite us. All of you are acting like the Kari of Aslann and not those of the village that held true to the ways of the Kari, and persevered even during the war of the kingdom. Kazuma’s role was to suffer. Hold his blood to a higher regard than other mortals. Teach them about tradition, guide them to enlightenment, and unite them beyond words or blood. He was to be beaten down by emotion and weakness, watch his queen suffer, watch his blood falter, and doubt would be born within him. Doubt that he could lead or that his queen would ever see him, even that he could remaster himself after succumbing to emotion and weakness. None of you have any comprehension the burden that is carried by Kazuma.”
“She stands behind you, her hands upon you, but she was so willing to stand at the side of Hiko even Sesiago. Seems that any Kari man would do,” Katsu stated.
Her voice quieted the room, “Not any Kari. I assure you, Katsu, I would never let you bed me.”
Kin laughed aloud, “Well there you have it. The queen has spoken. Katsu will never be her king.”
Tadayoshi could see clearly the anger on his brother’s face and understood the lengths he would go to just to get what he wanted. Out of everyone sitting at that table, he was by far the most dangerous, even more than Hiko, “Aren’t you charming,” Katsu spoke, “By the time I am done with you…”
“I would not finish those words if I were you, brother.”
“Your queen spread her legs for Sesiago when she was with Hiko. Your queen was defiled by your son. I would just be giving her what she wants, another Kari man between her legs.”
It was so quick as Moromari pushed away from the wall and drew his weapon cocking the trigger, “I won’t ever see you as the king,” Katsu responded.
“So be it, close your eyes Tationy and to the rest of you, let this be an example of what happens when you go against the king.”
It didn’t make him feel powerful having his brother executed. Katsu’s final words were an insult to him and everything he held dear. The group of Kari dispersed rather quickly to talk amongst themselves and Tationy disappeared upstairs to make certain the children were alright. She did not want them to see what was going on downstairs as the Saitama came in and cleaned up.
All eyes fixed upon her when she finally returned and instead of moving toward him, she stepped outside where Hiko was. Intently the men listened and watched wondering if the queen was going to choose the man she loved or her king. “Are you alright?”
“What do you want me to say Tationy?”
“You do not have to say anything.” Tadayoshi watched as she reached out her hand and Hiko slapped it away.
“Your king is watching.” There was a long pause, “Why like this? Do you enjoy making me look like a fool?”
“I wasn’t trying to.”
“Then explain it to me because you promised you would remain at my side. Are you with him? Do you love him? How is it that he is even alive?”
“When I found out what Seiji intended to do I called him. I cannot explain why. I just dialed the number for the Kari Foundation and asked to speak with him. I didn’t want this. We were just going to bring them all down, but you knew that Seiji would turn this into a killing field. Why were you so willing to allow your family to be wiped out?”
“None of them matter. They have never mattered.”
“When did you become this man?”
“Why don’t you ask your king that question, seeing he is the reason I became this monster.
Her eyes were guarded and even as Hiko snarled at her, she kept her composure. “I do not know him at least not in any way that matters to me. He knows me as his queen. I know him as your father. I am neither with him, nor against him. However, there is something odd. I cannot really explain it.”
“You say that and yet you are wearing his bracelet.” Tadayoshi pursed his lips. Unless Hiko explained it to her, there was no way Tationy could know the significance of having his bracelet upon his wrist. His son though understood. A Kari man was furiously protective of the beaded charm because of what it symbolized. It indicated that he was a man among the Kari, that he was accepted. Each bead represented a different trial he had passed. It was proof that he was from the blood of Kazuma. From the moment he passed his trails and the beads were weaved into existence to the time that Kari passed on, the bracelet was around his wrist. There were very few times in history that a Kari man relinquished what was considered both his pride and honor.
“I love you, Hiko.” Her words took him by surprise as the snarl faded from his face and was replaced with a pursed pout. “More than words, more than anything, and yet I hate you. I cannot resolve this conflict within me. When I look at you I see the monster you’ve become and it eats away at me. It torments me so much that to make it through a day with you I need ‘assistance’. I wanted to marry you, have children with you, grow old with you, and I wanted so much to be your queen. Destroying your family was more important than I was and by the time you realized that I was important to you, the damage was already unfixable. As much as I want to recover from this and move forward I realize I can’t do that at your side. I want to, so much more than any words can say. It never mattered to me that you were Hiko Kari. The only thing I ever cared about was whether or not your love for me was genuine. I believe it was. You and I are broken people. Perhaps we were doomed from the start, regardless of the reasons, we will never be healthy. People will never understand. Someday, I will do something you do not like and our vicious cycle will start all over again. Maybe there is a version of me and you that are meant to be together, but the two of us standing here and now …. I love you and I hate you, equally and that is what torments me.”
Her words left a heaviness as she walked away and Hiko watched her. Though his eyes were not the only ones on her as the other Kari men took in the scene, her words, and her departure.
For a time they left Hiko alone standing out on the landing looking out over the water, but eventually Tadayoshi joined his son. He stood with his back to him. There was not a single doubt in Tadayoshi’s mind that his son had been hit with a crippling blow, by the woman he loved. No man wanted to be judged by another in a moment like that. “I am sorry, Hiko. I did not wish to place such a burden on your shoulders when I sent you to that restaurant.”
“What was the point of all of this? If you are the king, why send your son, why not go yourself?”
“Tearra needed to know pain. There were times I wanted to go to her, but even if I told her the truth she would not have believed it. Only with time and pain, could she come to believe. I had hoped that you might see her and understand that she needed someone to protect her. My heart hoped for the best and my mind told me that nothing good would come of it. Now I find myself in a rather uncomfortable position. My queen loves my son. He who has done more damage to her than any other.”
“Do you intend to kill me?”
“If I kill you I wonder if she will hate me. If I allow you to live, I have to accept the fact that she will probably never truly belong to me. If the roles were reversed, what would you do?”
“I would not hesitate to kill you.”
“I thought you might say that. How unfortunate that you and I will never know the depths of each other’s hearts.”
“Will you take my life with your own hands?”
“I will.” Tadayoshi paused, “I will give you a moment with your son.”
“That is not necessary. Let me fade from his memory as though I never existed.”
“I understand. Do you have anything you want me to say to Tationy?”
“There is no need to say anything to her. She knows what is in my heart.”
Tadayoshi was not without emotion as he moved through the homestead and found her in the last place he thought she would be. He should not have been surprised to find her in the room where it all began and when she turned to look at him, all that composure she had when she was talking to Hiko and standing up for herself against Katsu melted away. She collapsed to her knees and Tadayoshi quickly moved toward her. It was not how he expected the day to end. The emotional turmoil that had been building could no longer be kept at bay and she had broken down sobbing violently. He did not have to tell her the fate of Hiko, it was clearly evident that she was well aware.
It was selfish of him to wonder if she hated him. Was she using him for support simply because he was there? He hated the self-doubt he had, but understood that each god had to suffer in their own way. Kazuma despised everything about mortals, but more than anything it was their weakness and emotions. As a mortal it would be those things that would be his suffering. Hisoka loved being in love. It was all he ever wanted and yet as a mortal the one thing he was never capable of obtaining. Ryozo was powerful and strong, causing war and creating chaos. In the land of mortals he always lived a short life, never seeing combat, never creating chaos. His name was never written in history as being a monster on the battlefield or being the key person to turn the tied of a war. He was nothing, no one, and never existed long enough to even matter. Rin knew only obsession to the point of where it became a sickness. As a mortal, he doomed himself and his blood to an eternity of mental illness and uncontrollable compulsion. Tearra knew only hatred for the man she loved and suffered great pain in the heavens and as a mortal. If there was ever joy for her, it was brief.
Knowing that his queen cried for another, made his heart ache. This was the vicious cycle that doomed them.
To Be Continued