Hiko had considered showering and changing, but he was too curious. The moment he saw the new girl walking along with Abe Sosa he had decided that he was going to speak with her. If nothing else he needed to say his peace and warn her against the guy. Having Kyo arrive at his room and specifically ask him to speak with her got his interest perked. What could it be that had Kyo so on edge? Kyo was one of those guys that never got worked up over anything. In fact, Hiko had never seen the brother of his father lose his cool even once. Even as Hiko refused to call him Uncle Kyo, the young man took it all in stride. If he had the ability to get worked up, Hiko had never seen it. That alone made his request worth the attention of Hiko Kari.
When he arrived at her room he knocked several times on the door only for there to be no reply. He could hear her moving around and realized when he peeked in the window that she was purposely ignoring him. Grumbling he moved to bang on the door a bit harder. When she finally answered it was clear she was annoyed, “Don’t you answer the door when people knock?”
“I was unaware that it was a requirement.”
“It isn’t. Just common courtesy.”
Her lips pursed as she turned away moving quickly toward the easel. The fact that she left the door opened told Hiko that it was alright for him to step inside. Her room was well put together for a girl that had just moved in which said plenty about the type of person she was, “You are a lot stockier up close.”
Hiko choked as he closed the door a bit more forcefully than he intended, “That is rude. I am not fat.”
“I never said you were.” She did not entirely seem to Hiko to be invested in the conversation as she painted and worse yet he was already on the defensive. He hated being called stocky.
“Sure as hell what it sounded like.”
“Is your build a sensitive subject?” Frowning was the only response he could manage. His father called his build sturdy, but it always seemed more like an insult than a compliment. She had stopped painting long enough to glance over her shoulder at him, “I am sure you have plenty of girls beating down your door so this will probably not mean anything to you, but I like your build. It is very masculine. Rugged and strong; It is a good form.”
Certain that she was playing some sort of head game with him he stared at her quietly for a time.
“Are you just going to stand there or introduce yourself?”
His mind played over her words from the start of their conversation as he tried to figure out how it was she had put him on edge and changed the direction of the conversation he had intended to have, “Hiko Kari.”
“So, you are named after the Commander of the Ruthlbahdo.”
“I was hoping these paintings were a project for a class and not you being into some traditional, historical, bullshit. I see I was wrong.”
“What is wrong with tradition and history?”
She laughed softly as she stopped painting turning to face him, “Someone that has tradition within their life usually resents it to varying degrees while those that do not are envious. Hiko is a good name and what it represents to Aslann is the strength of the mighty Commander of the Ruthlbahdo that stood steadfast for his nation when all others were abandoning it. If history is any indication he cared little for tradition as well, but he used his skills to raise Aslann above all other nations. Isn’t that a worthy name? Mine is Tationy, meaning exiled. Never wanted and always a stain to hide away where others will never see it. Our names, don’t you think they define us?”
Hiko made note that she was articulate and knowledgeable. The sad fact, she was smarter than he was. He was not even certain where to begin in responding. Someone like Semei or Kyo would have had an answer for her right away, but instead he just stood there like some big dumb jock. When he finally had an answer he met her gaze only to realize she did not really expect one from him. Her steely eyes made his entire body tense. It was the same look his father gave him. Inwardly he thought, “How dare this bitch look down on me.” He was bound and determined not to allow her an opportunity to win. He came here to find out about Sosa. Looking away he stared at the paintings behind her. “Is that what you like? Warriors bred for battle. Some sort of knight in shining armor, live by some sort of code, bullshit?”
“In historical Aslann there were no knights in shining armor. Men did what they wanted. Women, except for clans that were led by a matriarch were generally without any rights. Many of those men did not live by any code of honor at least none that would be recognized as such. Killing is killing regardless of your reasons and it was not uncommon for men of that era to have slaves and to mistreat women. There is nothing to romanticize about that period of time. However, seeing you are asking what my type is I shall give you an answer. I like men not afraid to go after what they want. I like men that do not make promises they cannot keep or that they do not intend on keeping. I like men that look at only me and see no others. Everything else is taken one day at a time.”
What was it about her eyes? As she spoke he realized he was staring rather blatantly, “Like Sosa?”
The fact that she had looked away and began moving toward the other side of the room, seemed a victory in Hiko’s book after all he got her to tense even though it was subtle and brief. He was not certain when he turned their conversation into some sort of contest of getting under each other’s skin, but he was back in the lead as far as he was concerned. “Is this what you are after?” He did not understand her question as he turned to face her, “You and the resident adviser fishing for information about me and Abe. Did Kyo Kari send you here? Are you his dog of war? If you have something you want to ask, simply ask it. If I do not wish to respond I will tell you where you can stick it Hiko Kari and send you on your way. I have little time for games. If you are only here because your master commanded you…”
Each word she spoke angered him. Talking down to him as though he were someone’s pet. Had he thought about it before he spoke he might have bit his tongue, “Shut your mouth. You know nothing about me.” That stare. Those eyes. Why did that look of hers get under his skin so much? His lips pursed as he bowed his head. “I didn’t come here to grill you about Sosa, just to warn you against him. The guy is shit. He treats people like toilet paper. Kyo is just worried, but I intended to speak with you regardless of him asking me.”
“I know all about Abe and the type of person he is. I do not need you or Kyo Kari to protect me. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. I would like to think it is just misfortune that he and I are in the same place, unfortunately that is not the case. This situation is because of our parents. Tell the resident adviser not to worry about it. As long as people do not interfere, Abe will behave himself.”
“Sosa doesn’t know how to behave himself.”
“He will for a time if it will secure what he wants.”
Hiko considered her words, “So, you are his girl?”
“He thinks so.”
Wrapping his mind around her words proved to be difficult. She didn’t exactly look like she would be the type of girl that Abe Sosa would invest time and energy. Tationy looked like a cute boy. She wore baggy clothes, those big black glasses which at this moment she did not have on, and her hair was messy and short, “I find it hard to believe that Abe Sosa is interested in…” His words trailed off as she squinted at him. “I mean…”
“Please, stick your foot right in your mouth Hiko Kari.”
He wasn’t trying to start a fight, but it would seem that he was not entirely capable of talking with girls like Tationy. The ones that lacked intelligence he could simply spin a basketball on one finger and they would ‘ooh and ahh’ as though he did something amazing. Admittedly, he always thought of girls as simple creatures that lacked any benefits or potential for him to invest his time. This one put him on edge, but it was not only that. Anything he said, she countered and the fact that she had not bothered to dumb down the conversation for him did not go unnoticed which was all the more reason he was frustrated because he felt like he was incapable of keeping her pace. “I am trying to say you are not slutty. The girls I usually see him with are cheerleaders or popular girls. The ones flaunting themselves about. You don’t really come off like that.”
“How exactly do I come off?”
“I don’t know. You sort of dress like you do not give a shit. You talk like you are superior.” What he had wanted to say was that the chip on her shoulder seemed bigger than the one he had. Kyo was right, it was exhausting dealing with someone just like him. “Look, I just wanted to tell you to stay away from Abe. He is trouble, but seeing you already know that I suppose me being here is unnecessary.” Hiko was not about to give her an opportunity to respond as he disappeared from her room and spent the remainder of the night tossing and turning as he thought about the encounter. It was not as though anything significant happened, but any time he closed his eyes hers would appear.
He slept his way through class and at lunch he blew off both Kuro and Sadamitsu as he found his way to the sophomore floor. He asked around and most people had no idea who she was, but eventually he found a girl that directed him toward one of the classrooms. There she was sleeping. Grabbing a chair, he took a seat facing her. Every now and again she would open her eyes and then close them again which told him she was not entirely sleeping, but she had not acknowledged he was there until the fifth time of opening her sleepy eyes, “What are you doing here?”
He ignored the question, “Don’t you eat lunch?”
“It’s lunch time?”
“What is left of it.” He paused a moment as he took in her presence. Her eyes closed again as she stifled a yawn, “Do you always sleep during lunch?”
“I hope it is not your intention to lecture me.”
“No, I hadn’t planned on it. Just curious is all.” His first encounter with her he was certain she was as smart as Semei and Kyo, maybe even smarter, but here she was sleeping during lunch and it was fairly obvious she was probably doing it in class as well with how tired she seemed. He told himself not to jump to conclusions though. She did not offer any explanation which annoyed him, but it was not entirely unexpected. “Come on, let’s get some lunch.”
Her eyes finally opened again as she peered up at him, “Why would I eat lunch with you?”
“Why, because I told you to. That is what you like right? You like it when someone goes after what they want.”
She wrinkled her nose, “You don’t want me though. If it is your intention to use yourself as a means to keep a distance between myself and Abe, why bother?”
He frowned as he reached out and grabbed her hand, “Come on already. Neither of us has all day.”
She sighed as she stood, “What is the point of all of this, really? Do you have a hard-on for Abe or something? If you want to piss him off you really do not have to use me to do it.”
Yanking lightly on her hand, “I said come on.” She had practically lost her balance and the soft little protest she made almost seemed girlish as he dragged her through the halls. There were many lookie loo’s watching as she protested along the way. He had no doubts that single action would find its way back to Abe though it was hardly his intention.
There came a point as they moved through the halls that she had stopped protesting and simply walked with him. He could tell that her body had relaxed because he was no longer forced to drag her along though she offered nothing in the way of conversation. They had stopped briefly at the lunch room, but only got a couple of sodas and a bag of chips before making their way to the only spot he felt comfortable eating.
With her sitting on the floor he would shoot hoops as he tried to figure out how it went from him going to see her to talk about Abe again to him dragging her through the hallways. He considered that she might be right that he was simply using her as a means to get under Abe’s skin, but it was not as though he went out of his way to get into scuffles with the guy. He didn’t even think about him unless he was directly in his field of view. He was frustrated again and more than a little annoyed with himself.
“So, is this where you take your girlfriends?”
Her question forced him to turn and as he stood staring at her he tossed the ball repeatedly in the air, “Don’t have one and if I did I would hope she would be happy just being with me. Location should not matter. Now your turn, what is the story between you and Abe?”
“The story huh. Why are you so interested?” After he thought about it last night, he was really not sure. He had said his peace, told her she should stay away from Abe, but by the time lunchtime came around he was more determined to keep the two apart. “Do you come to the rescue of all of the girls in Abe’s life?”
“No, you are the first.”
“Do I look like the type of girl that needs a guy to take care of me?”
“Are you this way with every guy trying to help you.”
She noticeably sighed, “Help huh? That is all guys ever want to do. Play the knight in shining armor. If I wanted that type of guy in my life I could throw a stone and hit a hundred of them. I really do not need you protecting me and I never asked for your help.”
The ball dropped as he took several quick steps in her direction, finding a spot facing her. For a time he simply stared as he considered his words, “How about a king?”
“You said you do not need a knight in shining armor, which suggest you think yourself better than a lowly knight. So, if you act like you talk you probably think of yourself as a queen. Would you be willing to let a king help you?”
“Pretty cocky to think yourself a king, Hiko Kari.”
“Someday I intend to be the iron-fist of the Kari. Destroy tradition and bring them into a modern era. Right now, I have little control over anything because of my father. He won’t always be in power though. Maybe what you need is a strong hand and a man capable of standing at your side. Why don’t you tell me what happened with Abe?”
“Asking such a question and receiving an answer means you cannot pretend you did not hear it. You and I, we just met. Hardly an appropriate conversation to be held between strangers.”
“So, let’s change that.”
“Change that? What are you trying to do become my new BFF?”
Was that what he was trying to do? It was a good question, though certainly not one he could answer. He kicked himself, he had no idea what he was doing and felt foolish because truthfully he was just winging it. He told himself his intent was to find out what happened with Abe and once again warn her away from him, but even after he repeated that to himself a hundred times he knew it was not true. Those eyes had taken hold of him so violently that he was not able to simply walk away. It annoyed him and the fact that he could not articulate his feelings and motivations was frustrating for him.
Unfortunately, their conversation was abruptly interrupted as the first bell sounded letting them know that there was only ten minutes left for lunch.
Hiko had tried to catch up with her again after class, but she managed to avoid him. He was not surprised. It was clear Abe was a topic she did not want to discuss, but more importantly she seemed as though she wanted to keep her distance from anyone and everyone. By the time his day was over his mind was still focused on her.
“Another practice and no Agito,” Sadamitsu responded as he laid upon the floor. “Seems our fifth man has better things to do.”
Kuro spoke up, “Coach intends to talk with him. With our weak bench even if the four of us carry his replacement, there is no guarantee we will see our way to finals.”
“A waste of a year if that is the case,” Semei added as he did the extra shooting practice he always ‘assigned’ himself after regular practice was finished.
He was not really listening as the three of them talked back and forth about the state of the team.
“Frustrating,” Sadamistu said with a groan. “Let’s discuss something less annoying.”
Hiko suddenly felt the eyes of Kuro shift upon him, “How about we talk about Hiko’s girlfriend.”
“I like that idea. Let’s discuss that,” Sadamistu responded.
“You two are suddenly pissing me off.”
Kuro spoke, “Getting mad at us when you were the one that blew off lunch today. The two of us came here to check on you. Imagine our surprise when we saw you sitting cozily with that little redheaded girl.”
“It wasn’t like that.”
“Ohh? So, you are not interested then? In that case, I wonder if she likes Ishi boys.”
“Don’t even joke.”
“I am being quite serious or are you trying to say that this Ishi is too lowly for someone like her?”
Hiko grumbled under his breath, “Fine you win, she is my girlfriend.” Tationy wasn’t really his girlfriend, but he knew Kuro well enough that he would not let it go until he admitted she was.
Sighing Sadamitsu spoke up, “I am so jealous. I hear those nerdy girls are wild in bed.”
Choking Hiko tried to protest, “Don’t talk about her like that.”
Smiling Kuro responded, “Ohh, seems she is more than just a girlfriend if you are defensive.”
Resigning himself to the fate of being raged on by his friends Hiko stood and began to walk away, “Some days I really hate you two.”
To Be Continued