Two days of exams had been keeping Sofore Academy students busy. It was strange being back for Semei Kari as he wandered the quad with Kuro Ishi during lunchtime. In a way, it was like they had never left. Certainly there were subtle differences. A heaviness that lingered in the air around everyone that was heading down the path of adulthood, but there was something else far darker looming.
In a way, this was how he saw the modern world; Hazed filled where most of it was blurred or lifeless. It had no spirit, no soul, no heart. Admittedly he was only listening to half of what Kuro had said to him. He understood just as well as Hiko Kari what was at stake if the Ishi were allowed to run rampant. The difference between the two Kari boys was minimal, but to put it as simply as one could, everything that Hiko lacked, Semei had in abundance.
His attention drew away from Kuro, only long enough to spy Hiko still setting in the classroom working on one of his test. Not surprising to Semei was that he was the only one left in the room. There were days he wondered how it was a guy like Hiko Kari was going to head a business like the Kari Foundation, without running it completely into the ground. Even though such thoughts passed his mind every now and again, he couldn’t care less about the Kari that played in the modern world.
Everything around him, simply blocked out and only a question from Kuro drew his attention back to their conversation, “Have you told her yet?”
“There is little point in doing so now.” There was a moment of pause in the conversation as Semei added, “This situation with your brother and you, I would be remiss if I did not address it.”
Kuro smiled briefly as he responded, “Oh, it is unlike you to get involved in such petty affairs. I suppose, with it being her there is no way you would just stand by and allow the Ishi to take her. Say what you need to say.”
“If going to the Ishi is what she wants, I will not stop it. However, if the decision is made under duress of any form, I will make certain that you and your brother understand why I am to be the future Osoma of the Kari.”
With a sigh and a halfhearted smile Kuro responded, “I honestly hope your involvement is not necessary.”
Even though Kuro had spoken those words, Semei was not fooled into thinking that the Ishi would not force the situation. When men “like them” wanted something they went after it with abandon. It was just a sharp reminder for Semei that he was not capable of competing against men of the modern world. His slow and steady pace hindered him in a moment he needed to move quickly and now the woman that he was in love with belonged to another.
The moments he hated most while being back at Sofore were the ones where he would spy Tationy and Hiko kissing. He hated the selfish feeling of jealousy that overtook him at the sight of them. There were days he wanted to scream at Hiko, I was there first. I saw her first. When it came to her he felt uneasy, like a child that wanted something that he simply could not have.
As the two young men walked, Semei allowed himself a moment to be lost in memory as his mind wandered back toward when he was a young boy sitting in a small den of the matriarch of the Yamada. He remembered thinking she was not at all what he expected of the most powerful woman in Aslann. “Please forgive me Kazuki of the Kari, my expression is not one of disappointment. I simply thought I would be meeting with the Elder of the Kari, Tatsuya. Still, I am honored to have the ear of the Shield of the Kari. I must confess a feeling of being ill-prepared for such an honor.”
“I am not interested in pretense or formality, Lady Yamada. The Elder of the Kari is quite busy and he simply does not have the time to meet with you regarding old affairs.”
“Those old affairs as you call them, have left a blemish upon my clan I wish to rectify. Would you deny me the opportunity to address these matters formally?”
Semei remembered his father hung his head, although it was brief and at the time he doubted the matriarch of the Yamada understood the significance. Looking back on it, he realized that each word the Yamada woman spoke was chosen with purpose to get the result she wanted. Despite having accomplished her goal, she seemed unmoved by the gesture as his father responded, “It has been nearly seven years since Ako Yamada and Tadayoshi Kari were married. Even longer since that incident with your daughter. The Kari have told you, we will no longer enter into contracts of the matrimonial sort with the Yamada.”
“What if I were to offer something quite unique? Something, people would kill to acquire.”
“I imagine if you had something of that value, you would have offered it long ago.”
There was a long pause that followed his fathers words. The Yamada woman did not hurry to respond, in fact she had kept her eyes completely on Kazuki of the Kari the entire time. His father had told him that coming to this meeting with him would be beneficial. The Yamada were a dangerous clan and very little was truly known about what they were capable of doing. To witness this meeting firsthand, would give him valuable insight for a time when he might rule over the Kari as the Elder or the Shield. Semei never thought such a day would ever happen, still he stood at the side of his father regarding the woman.
A dangerously slow and meticulous way about her. It was as though she was almost expecting something to happen and was deliberately taking her time. Semei thought for certain that the silence would linger endlessly until the door to the small sitting room opened and his attention swiftly fell upon a somewhat skittish girl. She stood apprehensively as all eyes fixed on her. Well all of the eyes except the ones belonging to Miso Yamada, “Child, I told you not to disturb me today.”
Translation: Isala Kari matoda epa latomatoka soa. The Kari commander is expecting me.
Those eyes, had captured Semei the moment he looked upon them and he realized far to late that he was staring rather blatantly. Never in Semei’s young life had he ever seen anything like them before. He did not have time to take in the moment and realize that his father was not speaking or even the fact that the matriarch of the Yamada was almost delightfully taking in the scene. The tiny girl, who had to be at least a couple of years younger than him, bowed her head. “Please forgive me, I only wished to play the piano. Isala Kari matoda epa latomatoka soa.”
“What is the meaning of this?” His father abrasively spoke. Such was not the way of Kazuki Kari. The fact that he had shown such emotion in front of someone that was not of the Kari was not lost on Semei, but more importantly who was this mysterious girl and why was she speaking the language of the Kari?
“Sir,” Semei interrupted, “Why would the Kari commander be expecting her?”
His father had sharply responded, “Semei, please go outside and wait for me.”
He never really understood what it was about that strange girl that elicited such emotion from his father. Was it fear? Part of Semei had thought it was and he did ask his father some time later what it was about that girl that troubled him so much. His father had never given him an answer and Semei was ordered never to speak of her to anyone.
Still he often found himself thinking of that moment, when his young eyes fell upon hers and he felt a wrenching feeling overtake his heart. For the longest time, Semei thought of her. He devoted all of his time to bettering himself so that he might one day stand before the matriarch of the Yamada and ask for the hand of the girl whose name he did not even know. He wanted to have her eyes on him, always.
As he walked with Kuro around campus, he thought how foolish it was of him to be so preoccupied with a single woman. He was to be the Osoma of the Kari, he did not have time for affairs of the heart. Often enough through the years he told himself that any time his father would bring up a potential union for him. He refused all of them and late at night while he lied in his bed he thought of her. Was she still skittish? Did she grow into her features? His imagination often worked overtime and there did come a point as he got older that his rather innocent thoughts became rather indecent.
He sighed noticeably which drew Kuro’s attention upon him, “Want to discuss it?”
“Not really,” He responded as he thought back on the moment when the man that he became crossed paths with the little girl, now all grown up.
“I wish they would have picked someone else to represent Sofore. I get tired of this competition meet and greet bullshit,” Togore Ishi had responded as they walked through the rather quite courtyard of Aslann High School. It was clear he was talking just to talk, “I never understood why it snows in this part of Aslann. Fifty degrees out, not a chilled wind to be had, and it is fucking snowing. I hate it.”
“Happens because of the higher altitude, the water surrounding it, and the fact that the air aloft is cool. It is why the snow does not stick to the ground here, but often snows.”
Togore made an odd sound, “I forgot, you are from around these parts.”
As they walked further into the courtyard, Semei noticed a girl waiting near one of the buildings. She must have heard their footsteps or voices because she turned, smiled, and waved and Semei stopped rather suddenly. “Togore, you do the talking.”
“Huh,” Togore questioned having been used to being the one to just stand there while Semei took the lead on those scholastic things.
The girl spoke softly as she walked toward them, “I hope you were able to find the place alright.”
“Uhh, yeah. We have been here before, though I don’t recall seeing you the last time. Are you a freshmen?”
She smiled, “That is right. I have been tasked with getting you acquainted with the grounds and rules for when your school’s team visits next week.”
Togore had nodded his head once to acknowledge that he understood what she was saying. While they talked, Semei took in every detail. He just wanted to hold on to this moment for as long as he could. It was only when he felt himself elbowed in the ribs and heard Togore laugh that he realized that he had been spoken to, “She wants your name.” Semei had opened his mouth, but he was unable to produce any sound so he closed it which elicited another chuckle from Togore, “His name is Semei. He is not usually this quite. Maybe you make him nervous.”
“I tend to have that effect on people,” She remarked with a smile. Semei felt all the breath leave his body. She was far more beautiful, then he had recalled. “Semei,” She said his name and he stared rather blankly at her, “Often translated to mean famous while others believe it means hearing or obeying. From the genealogy of Jesus Christ referenced in the book of Luke. He was the father of Mattathias. The name is sometimes spelled Shimei, Semeias, and Semein depending on the version of the bible you are reading. And thus said Semei when he cursed the king: Come out, come out, thou man of blood, and thou man of Belial.” She paused a moment, “What an unusual name for a man of the Kari.”
He cleared his throat as he tried to respond. Feeling a stinging slap on his back Togore spoke, “Never met anyone that knows so much about names before. What does mine mean?
She laughed softly, “The way you say it is with the ‘toe’ sound which means you use a variant of the name Tagore which utilizes the ‘tah’ sound. This is actually a common surname in many countries, but it is a Hindu name meaning strong warmth of sun.” That soft smile was infectious as she introduced herself, “I am Tationy. A Shima word meaning exiled. I often find myself wondering what my mother was thinking when she bestowed such a name upon me.”
Semei remembered wanting to tell her that it was beautiful like she was, but it was clear the more they spoke that she had no idea who he was. It was foolish for him to think she would remember a single moment in time. She was not Kari, she could not be expected to have feelings for someone that she saw only once before. This was a Kari trait, only they fell in love in such a way.
Still, when he returned to Sofore Academy he escaped quickly to his room with barely a word to Togore. There was no way he could explain. Kari men did not talk about these matters with anyone, but that one woman that was made for just them. How could be express all of those wanton needs arousing his body? It wasn’t as though he could go to his father for advice. What would he say? Certainly he would understand to some degree, but they were Kari. Desires of the flesh were not something discussed in an open and public forum. Such delicate matters were kept behind closed doors, shared only with the one they loved. Semei wanted to share it all with her; every part of himself from his heart to his mind, his soul and even his body.
As much as he told himself not to, he allowed himself moments of being lost in fantasy and did things that went against the ways of the Kari. Semei had felt shame afterwards knowing that a woman he barely knew a thing about could elicit such carnal desires from him so much so that he got lost in sin and engaged in self-pleasuring while using his imagination to bring her into his arms.
When she had finally made it to Sofore, Semei was so excited. It was his opportunity, especially seeing she was no longer wearing that ring upon a chain around her neck. He never expected that his competition would come in the form of Hiko Kari. Truth was, he never even considered that another guy might try to do anything more than get in her pants. It was not as though any of the male student body at Sofore was even slightly subtle with their intentions. Most of them, were pretty direct about what they wanted and those that had not already moved onto a university were sticking around Sofore for a reason, most of them, not for the right reasons.
Each time he saw her, he thought of what it was he could offer an intelligent girl like her. Semei was acutely aware of his slow moving approach. His father always told him there was never any need to rush or be reckless, both of which he suffered from greatly. Grabbing her and kissing her was what he wanted to do, but Kari men were not bold like that. Emotions of those sorts were dangerous and bordered on possession. He did not want to own her and yet, he wanted her to belong only to him. Some might have argued it was the same thing, but not if she gave herself freely. Any other man might have just taken what he wanted, but Semei genuinely wanted her to choose him.
He noticeably sighed, getting lost in memories was far more common the past two days for him. He remembered the day, like it was yesterday. “Is Hiko going to be an issue this year? He got himself thrown out of ten games last season for unsportsmanlike behavior.”
Shrugging his shoulders Semei responded, “It is difficult to say. He gets overzealous. When he gets a personal foul he does not just take it, he has to argue with the referees. Most of his fouls last season were technical fouls. We need him though. Other than Agito and I, he is the only one with the skill to shut down all five positions. We will dominate the season if we can keep him on the court.
“The coach keeps asking me what I want to do with him. Are you going to be able to manage him this season? If not, then we should probably let him go.”
“I have been managing Hiko since we were kids, why would it change now?”
Kuro laughed, “Oh, if I recall right you were in just as many fights as he was. Probably more.”
Annoyance as he breathed through his teeth and responded, “Each of those fights was justified. They had it coming.”
He was still laughing, “I find it slightly amusing how the roles reverse when the two of you are together. Semei Kari, sensible and calm versus Hiko Kari reckless and rash. Get you away from him and you are just as dangerous, actually, I take that back. Probably more dangerous than he is. Hiko acts on pure instinct while you use a combination of instinct, reason, and experience.”
Just as he was about to respond he heard the soft humming from a female voice. Normally he would not have even looked, but he realized that Kuro’s attention was no longer on him. Slowly he allowed his gaze to fix upon the girl standing near one of the bulletin boards with flyers upon it. An inaudible gasp escaped his lips when he realized it was her, the girl that had captured his heart repeatedly every moment he had ever seen her.
“Tationy,” He whispered her name which drew the attention of Kuro upon him.
“Do you know her?”
He really did not know how to answer that so he simply responded, “We met a few times.”
“Why don’t you say hello?”
Did he appear as nervous as he was? “I don’t want to overwhelm her. She went to Aslann High School for her freshmen year. Sofore is a lot different, she is probably still getting her bearings.” Even though he said those words he continued to watch her. Semei had considered how he should go about approaching her and saying hello. It was not as though he intended to stand on the sidelines, not with her so close. It was as though Kazuma was smiling down upon him and saying, here she is. I give her to you as a gift.
Rather suddenly his hopes were dashed as she turned away from the bulletin board and he caught his first true glimpse of those eyes in over a year. His heart broke as he looked upon her. She was not the same girl. The vibrant light was no longer shining brightly in those eyes and Semei could not help wondering what happened to the girl he was in love with.
Perhaps Kuro was saying it to gauge his reaction as he spoke the words, “I wonder if she has a boyfriend.”
Semei felt the anger bubble inside of him. He was not going to allow anyone to have her, but at the same time he could not rush things. She went through something. It was clear in her eyes that whatever it was dramatically changed her, “She had a boyfriend last time I saw her, but that promise ring is no longer around her neck. I wanted to ask her out then and this might be my only opportunity. If you don’t mind, just give me some time before you do anything.”
“Oh, assuming I am going to ask her.”
“Just as you know me, I know you Kuro. Just….don’t.”
He felt Kuro’s hand rest on his shoulder, “Alright, but if I am stepping aside you definitely better make something happen.”
As the days and weeks passed he did not get any closer to talking with her. Something felt strangely off to him when it came to Tationy. Semei never once saw her interacting with other people when he saw her around campus. While they were at Aslann High School for the competition meet and greet he got to see how popular she was. Everyone knew her. Friendly and outgoing, but this girl had an aura about her that was lonely and dark.
“It has been a week since her arrival. Not to push you or anything, but it is a little difficult to ask a girl out if you do not talk to her,” Kuro spoke as the two walked along the back part of the quad. Since her arrival, during lunch she could always be found there reading. Never in the places that other people went, it was as though she was purposely going out of her away to avoid everyone.
“I’m pacing myself.”
Kuro laughed, “Oh, is that what you Kari call it?”
It was unlike him to talk about his feelings, but that day he opened up to Kuro just a bit. “Something does not feel right. I have thought about approaching her many times, but she feels different. Does not even look at me when I am in the same place with her. I do not know if she is in a good place in her life. I can tell you she is definitely not the girl I met and I am honestly a little worried about her. I think something might have happened.”
“Something, like what exactly?”
“I don’t know and that is part of what worries me. It is obvious just looking at her that she has scars and whatever it was emotionally drained her. As much as I want to talk to her and ask her out, I don’t want to rush her before she is ready. It is alright like this. Let her see me. Know me. When I am certain she is comfortable with my presence I will talk with her.”
How many times were those words uttered from his lips as he made excuse after excuse? He wasn’t certain. There had been so many opportunities. Sometimes, he even thought she knew where he was going to be before he did. Was she allowing him to see her? Did she want him to approach her? He was a fool not wanting to rush in. For once in his life he was going to be cautious and not reckless and in the end it didn’t work in his favor.
His girl, wrapped up in the arms of another man. The pain in Semei’s heart was unbearable. The morning after it happened he walked to class, not far from the two, his mind focused on what he lost. Semei didn’t understand why his god hated him or why he was being tested.
Startled from his distracted thoughts when he heard a door open and suddenly he found himself pulled into a room. “What the….” His voice trailed off as he realized the hard stare of Kuro was on him.
“I could be asking you the same thing. Lunch is almost over and you have barely said anything. Not to mention, you are obviously lost in thought. Is this about Tationy?”
“Just drop it.”
“No, I want an answer.” An answer, he had said. Semei looked away from Kuro, “Were friends Semei, tell me what is going on.”
“Were not friends. I am Kari and you are Ishi. The moment we leave these halls, we go back to our lives and never associate with each other again. This is the future of everyone here. We stick to our own that is what the clans of Aslann do. It is acceptable to associate outside your blood only when you are young, but you and I are not kids anymore Kuro. So, stop trying to be my friend because we both know the first opportunity you get to stab me in the back and take what you want, you’re going to do it. Just like the rest of your family.” He turned and started walking away, “I got class.”
There were probably a hundred things he could have said at that moment when Kuro was reaching out to him, but Semei did not want to talk about his feelings for Tationy any longer. It hurt him. The pain in him was real and the last thing he wanted to do was share that pain with anyone. No, he was Kari. He was going to lock it away. Steal his emotions and never think about how much he loved her ever again.
By just after three on their second day of exams, the school grounds were buzzing. Not nearly with the excitement that one might think would come with the ending of an era. Adulthood for many was just around the corner. They would wake up tomorrow and their entire world was going to be different. There was no more, Ishi and Kari friendships. No more dating who you wanted. He realized far to late in the day that he spent the past two days brooding over things that he failed to control.
When the sound of Hiko calling out his name broke his reverie, he groaned. The last thing he wanted was to deal with him. Repeatedly his name was called and eventually Semei had to stop pretending as though he did not hear him. Halting suddenly he looked upon the flowers as Hiko caught up and said, “I have been calling after you for about ten minutes. Can’t tell me you did not hear me. Is….” There was a noticeable pause, “Something wrong?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Everything is fine.”
Whether or not he believed him, Semei could not say because there was a long drawn out silence that followed, “Tationy and I were talking.”
“Well, we should have our exam results this week. There is only a few months before we will head off to a university, so we should probably start looking into where we want to reside. I hate the idea of planning without having everything set in stone, but she seems certain it is not going to be an issue.”
“I imagine if her eyes are telling her as much, then there is no concern.”
He could feel Hiko staring at him, “Semei, you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to…..” Semei turned to look at Hiko. He had tried to keep whatever emotion he was feeling off of his face, but it was clear by the look Hiko had given him that he had failed at doing so as he finished his sentence, “Whatever it is, I am certain it will be alright.”
If he had it in him at that moment to laugh he might have. Comforted by the man sharing a bed with the woman he loved. How pitiful his life was. Looking away he changed the topic, “So, you want to look at apartments or something?”
“Yeah we probably should decide what we are in need of. Tationy wants something with a decent kitchen so she can cook us dinner. Other than that, she said it was up to us.” With a pause Hiko asked, “Have you have already applied to Aslann University?”
“She seems to think that would be the best choice. Well she says for us, but what she really means is for me.” He sighed, “Between my dad, my mom, fighting with her…”
He jumped the gun and did not mean to, “The two of you are fighting?”
“Over stupid shit. Tationy wants me to fix things with my dad. As if it is that simple. We have not really had the chance to talk about it all much. Getting the apartment situated, dealing with family, for the most part I think we are just pretending that the tap dancing elephant is not in the room. I get why she wants me to, I just don’t know how to explain to her the relationship between fathers and sons within the Kari. Maybe you can explain it to her.”
“Me?” Semei said as he started walking and Hiko joined him.
“Ahh. I figured maybe you would not mind explaining how the Kari works. It has never really been my strong suit and I need to make her understand that things with my dad are complicated.”
All the sounds of the courtyard were distracting, but he was thankful at the same time. It allowed Semei to focus on something other than the conversation that Hiko had dragged him into. He wanted to tell him no. He did not want to be around him or Tationy. Certain his heart could not handle anymore pain he refused to respond at first, but eventually said, “Why don’t you just bring her to Meratoia and have your grandfather teach her?”
“I don’t want her to go to Meratoia.”
Semei shook his head, “Will you deny a part of your home to her?”
“That is not my home.”
Definition: Oissorti – A Kari that has betrayed the ways of the Kari.
“This is your problem Hiko. Picking and choosing which parts of being Kari you want and which you don’t is not how it works. Are you Kari or are you some oissorti?”
“Don’t fucking call me that. I am as much Kari as you are.”
“Then bring her to Meratoia.”
“I don’t want to,” He said far more sternly and Semei turned his attention upon Hiko once again.
Sometimes, Semei hated that he understood Hiko so well. “A Kari that cannot embrace tradition is worried that his woman might be able to. Is that it? Are you afraid that she will like it there?”
“Ahh. Will you please just talk to her?”
Semei had just been about to tell him that he thought Tationy understood the Kari far better than Hiko could ever comprehend, but loud voices in the quad pulled his attention.
It happened so quickly as his eyes settled on Abe who had Tationy pinned against a wall and moving swiftly toward them was, Kuro. In a split second that is how long it takes for things like these to happen at Sofore. So quick that you barely have a moment to react. If it were not for the fact that Kuro was already pulling Abe off of Tationy he probably would have lost his cool, but the growl that left the mouth of Hiko helped to keep him focused on what was important.
Stopping him from going after Abe, “Your concern should be Tationy. Get her out of here.” Those words seemed to settle Hiko as he moved toward the scene which had quickly escalated. Blows were exchanged and both Kyo and Semei did what they could to break up the altercation. Semei could hardly even hear the heated words exchanged between Abe and Kuro, focusing instead on Hiko and Tationy.
“Did he hurt you?”
“No, it wasn’t like that. Let me go, Hiko.”
It wasn’t like that? Even Semei found himself wondering exactly what that meant. He doubted Hiko was going to take those words well, but he could only deal with one crisis at a time. “Calm down Kuro,” He said as he used his strength to restrain the Ishi.
There were whispers from onlookers, voices that were familiar to him.
“Tsubaki, you should not be seeing this.”
“This is how it is always going to be, isn’t it Eri?”
“With Abe, probably.”
A fight between a guy with high-speed regeneration and one with exceptional reflexes, it was about as bad as it could get. Much to Semei’s surprise he could hear the irritation in Kyo’s voice. Stern and loud, far different from the friendly tone he usually had, “That is enough you two, I am not going to tell you again.” Throughout his entire body there was tension. The last day of their childhood freedom was spent with heavy hearts and angry words. It should not have been this way.
Semei was so lost in thought that he had not realized that Kuro had relaxed and the situation with Abe was quickly coming to an end. Even as the crowd dispersed he held on to him until he heard the rather boisterous laugh of Kuro Ishi, “He hits pretty hard for a punk.”
Groaning Semei let Kuro go, “I would expect this sort of behavior from Hiko. Honestly, what were you thinking?”
Leaning against the wall he hung his head. Rather seriously as he always was he waited for Kuro to explain himself. He could see him rubbing his cheek with a rather pensive look. He did eventually respond, “If I didn’t do it, he would have been killed.”
Semei could hardly argue with that, Hiko had a short-fuse after all. “Kuro, you cannot keep bailing him out of situations. Hiko has to make his own mistakes.”
Kuro barked a laugh, “Oh, I was actually talking about you.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I would not have…”
He was interrupted which slightly annoyed him, but not as much as Kuro’s words. “I have known you a lot longer than Hiko. He reacts to everything in the same way, charging in like a bull. You on the other hand, keep it bottled all up until you are so tightly wound that you break. I have no doubt you would have noticed Abe and Tationy, long before Hiko would have. That being said, you would not have hesitated to kill him. Those are not just words to be dramatic either. Are you going to talk to me about this or keep pretending nothing is wrong?”
“Nothing really to say.”
Kuro sighed, “Fine then I will speak. I do not know why you kept coming up with reasons not to talk to her. I have never known you to be afraid of anything and yet with her you are far more cautious than I have ever seen you. Honestly, there are few differences between you and Hiko. Both of you are short-tempered, reckless, brooding, self-involved…”
“Are you trying to piss me off?”
Laughing he responded, “Oh, first time I heave heard you swear in a long time. Am I getting under your skin Semei?” Refusing to dignify that question with a response, Kuro had continued, “That day he beat up Abe, Sadamitsu and I were poking fun at Hiko about his new girlfriend. Neither of us expected what would happen next, had I even thought for a moment that this is how it would end up I would have pushed you to talk to her. I feel a bit responsible because if I had not goaded him repeatedly that day he probably would not have left practice early.”
Semei barely managed to say the words, “I love her.”
“I know. Are you going to fight for her?”
“She chose Hiko. To pursue her would damage my place among my kin. As much as I want her, I won’t cast aside my clan, my family, or my identity. I am Kari.”
Semei felt Kuro’s hand rest upon his shoulder, “I think that is a mistake, but as your soon to be not best-friend I will support you.”
“Since when were we best-friends?”
Kuro chuckled, “Oh, we always have been, you just never noticed.”
“I will bite. As my best-friend, tell me why you really told Hiko you are going after Tationy.”
“Oh, that. I asked my mother to tell me what would happen if I stayed friends with Hiko and Sadamitsu.”
“What did she say?”
Kuro turned on his heels and began to walk away responding with, “She told me the same thing you did. They have to make their own mistakes and I can’t keep bailing them out.” He brought his hand up in a single brief wave as he moved off into the distance.
Semei was left with a rather heavy feeling. Staring at the sky he sighed a moment thinking that Kuro seemed to understand the reality of their situation, perhaps better than anyone else. They were not children anymore. Days, weeks, months, even years will pass as they move toward a future where they become the leaders of their clans. Tomorrow would be a different world for all of them and some were taking that frightening step into the unknown by making a splash while others like Semei quietly walked there holding on to their pride.
Semei had been allowing his thoughts the entire day to wander to the past, but Kuro’s words had him looking toward the future more than they had been since Sofore’s announcement. As he wandered around campus he thought about how things might change in the years that followed. Sometimes, Semei found himself wondering if young men and women in other parts of the world had similar struggles, but then he was reminded that Aslann was unwilling to embrace the ways of the west and clans still ruled. With time, perhaps the iron-will of families like the Yamada, Shima, Waichia, Kari, and the Ishi would lessen. If by some chance it did, he doubted he would see it in his lifetime.
Spying Kyo he spoke as he approached, “Ready to get out of here?” Even though Kyo had responded in the affirmative, he still continued to sit on the bench reading his book. That silence was there, as it cascaded over everything for weeks on end. Taking a seat he spoke, “Did you turn in Abe and Kuro?”
“Not worth the paperwork.”
Semei almost laughed, but his heart was too heavy so he said, “They have already started demolishing buildings.”
“End of an era. Our fathers, our grandfathers, even our great grandfathers walked these halls and now its future is looking rather bleak.”
“Do you think they will rebuild it?”
“Seems unlikely at this point. Perhaps our children’s children will walk these halls again.”
A tension and more silence, “What will you do about Eri?”
“I wish I would not have told you,” Kyo responded.
“Making it seem as though you told me because you wanted to does not suit you. Let’s be honest Kyo, you only told me because I am to be the Osoma of the Kari. If Eri decides to keep the baby, it will be my responsibility to oversee his trials as a man of the Kari. I still believe you should tell your father or even your brother.”
“Tell them what exactly? That I tried to do the right thing and protect someone that was in a vulnerable state in so doing I got myself highly intoxicated and slept with her, ultimately getting her pregnant with my child and by the way, she is Maiba. Yes, that will go over fantastically well.”
“If she keeps the baby….”
“If….is a pretty big assumption at this point. I am not deluded into thinking that she will change her mind simply because I wish it. She is only humoring me, nothing more.” There was a drawn out pause, “Have you told your father you got accepted to Princeton?”
Semei sighed, “What is expected of me and what I want are two different things. The fact that I am even being allowed to attend a university is only because the Kari wish to protect Tationy from the Ishi. It has nothing to do with what I want and never will. If it was not for her, I would be completing my training as the Osoma.”
“Have they made a decision on where they will go?”
“Hiko mentioned today Aslann University.”
“As prestigious as Princeton and Harvard, but I have to wonder if Hiko will even be able to get into a university of that caliber.”
“Even if he does, how long will it be before he does something to get himself kicked out? He is going to ruin her opportunity to better herself with his bad behavior and…” He tried to bite his tongue, “She will foolishly follow him out the door.” He sighed as he stood, ready to get out of this place and move onto whatever was to come next. “Let’s get going. I told my dad I would be home early.”
With the closing of the book by Kyo, the two began walking. Perhaps it was all of those heavy things looming over all of the outgoing students of Sofore Academy, but when Kyo spoke it was with some somberness, “The future is bright and full of possibilities, but as I walk toward it I am struck with the fear of the unknown and it is that which brings hesitation to my heart.”
“A quote from Iashi Kari as we move into a new era.”
“Seems a fitting end to quote the man that boldly stepped into the unknown and gave life to the Kari Foundation.” Kyo chuckled as he looked around, “The last few months have been a roller-coaster of adventure for all of us. There is no knowing what will happen next, but think of this as a step into the unknown and regardless of whether it is positive or negative from here on out we control our own futures.”
With his head hung slightly Semei contemplated the words of Kyo. Controlling one’s own future, seemed such a foreign concept to him after all he had his life planned out for him from the time he was small. Being the Osoma was all he knew and as his father pushed him to enjoy the modern lifestyle while he could, he had always longed for the quiet and tradition of Meratoia. He was not like Kyo or Hiko. Not built to live a life of modernization and that step that he was being forced to take, only solidified his desire to live a life of tradition.
To Be Continued