The Exiled Prince Rebooted Prequel – Chapter 39.2 – A View From the Top

Anjou had to be on his best behavior while Tationy and Hiko were still around, but the moment they were dropped off he told his driver to take them to his place. It was bold of him to not even ask Mikaela if she wanted to come back to his pad for a nightcap. He was not about to give her a moment to protest as he closed the distance. His mouth was all over hers, but he was quite careful not to take it too far in the company of his driver. By the time they made it back to his place he was already feeling hot and ready.

The driver, he had given the rest of the night off because he intended for her to stay. His intoxicated mind did not have the capacity to take in the fact that this was the only time he had brought a girl back to his place, not to mention the first woman he had kissed in seven years. Honestly, his intention was to get her straight into his bed, but at the top of the stairs they both just awkwardly stared at each other. Silly considering they just made out in front of his driver no more than five minutes earlier.

He reached out and removed the clip that kept her hair off her face. Anjou was never a fan of buns and always considered them as something women liked to do to make themselves less approachable and more businesslike. He wanted it long and flowing, framing her lovely features. Grabbing her hand, he led her toward the sofa. Uncertain why he did not direct them right to his bed, he leaned in and claimed her mouth again. Strawberries, that is what her kiss tasted like; one part lip gloss and another part daiquiris.

It was not until he deepened the kiss and wrapped his arms around her that he got his first good feel of her body pressed against his. She was all curves, from her breast to her hips. He loved that; probably more, then he should. Anjou was not certain if her lips were making him dizzy or all of the alcohol in his system, but he was definitely feeling no pain.

At some point, it all becomes a haze of arms and legs twisted together in what he could only describe as an enthusiastic coupling. Most of which he thought was some sort of erotic dream involving a shapely woman who let him indulge in every possible sexual fetish he had until he collapsed atop her, his arm nestled between her large bosom and the warmth of her body along with her soft breathing swept him up until his mind was cleared of every single thought.

When he woke the pounding at his head and the ache in his body told him that whatever mischief he had gotten up to the night before was going to come back to haunt him. Groaning he swore under his breath, “Fuck, I am never drinking again.”

A soft voice startled him, “I wonder how true a declaration like that is.”

Did he bring someone home with him? Taking a moment to analyze the situation he realized rather quickly he was without his clothing. Licking his dry lips he covered himself with a blanket as he searched the floor for something to put on before seeking out the woman the voice belonged to. That was when he finally noticed her standing on the balcony wearing his shirt.

He took a step toward her rubbing the back of his neck as he tried to find the words to say. Her being here explained the odd ‘dreams’ he had, which apparently were not dreams at all. What was her name? He had a vague memory of being told it. This was the worst. Did they really do all of those things? Still no words came to him as he stared at her backside and tried to remember anything he could about her.

As she turned around, Anjou was reminded sharply who she was. The night before he had spent the evening out with Hiko and Tationy at a new club opening called Sublime owned by the Shinohara. It was not that clans first club they also had Diablo and Club Violate, but Sublime was expected to be their most successful venture to date which made it important for the now famous Hiko Kari to attend.

While he drank and talked with Hiko, he had been people watching. For him, she was the only one that stood out. Perhaps it was her ‘mean face’ that made her seem so unhappy about being there, but Anjou remembered thinking that she had the best resting bitch face he had ever laid his eyes upon. His interest though was hardly limited to just her face. If he was honest, physically she was just his type.

Though as he stood before her sober, with a pounding headache he was wishing he was drunk again. Her gaze seemed almost judgmental and he realized rather quickly that the same uneasiness he gave to other people was being inflicted upon him, by her. Was this what it was like to stare down someone with a stone-cold face? Anjou would be lying if he said he was not taken slightly aback by the softness of her voice and her words, “Please forgive me for borrowing your shirt. My dress suffered a slight mishap last night when you tore it off of me.”

He tried to recover, “It looks better on you.” Nothing, not even a smile.

Rather quickly she continued, “I was hoping to leave before you woke, so we would not have to share in such an uncomfortable moment, but I did not feel right taking your clothing without your permission.

Wait! She wanted to leave without saying anything? Did she not enjoy herself? As he thought about it he could kind of understood after all he was highly intoxicated. She was probably not expecting what she got and he was pretty certain he did some things he probably should not have. Not to mention, he apparently ripped her dress off of her. He stepped out on the balcony rather quickly, “Did I hurt you?”

Why she paused he could not say, but there was in fact one before she responded, “Not at all.”

“I don’t understand then. I admit I was pretty drunk, so it is all a bit murky. Did you not enjoy yourself?” Why was he even asking? He groaned inwardly as he thought how ridiculous he sounded.

Another pause and she continued to give him that hard face, “It was the worst sex I ever had.”

She crippled him in a single blow. Anjou imagined the look upon his face was utter shock. It had been a while for him, certainly, but it could not have been all bad. Maybe she was too drunk to appreciate it. Then, it dawned on him that perhaps he had some performance issues after all there was a lot of alcohol involved. He rubbed his face as he groaned, “Fuck.” He did not think it was possible for the moment to become anymore awkward than it already was until she laughed softly. Annoyed he asked, “Why is that funny?”

“So, you really do not remember anything huh? Not sure if I should be insulted or toy with you further.”

Anjou realized he was taken in by her poker-face and fell right into the trap she laid out for him. Sighing he shook his head, “Seriously, don’t fuck with a guy like that. Those words made me think my performance was less than superb.”

“That is not something you have to worry about, I think. It takes a lot of work to get me to ….” He took a step closer to her when he realized what she was saying though the simple action of doing so halted her words. All those hazy images, how he wished he could grab a hold and put them in a somewhat cohesive order so he might understand how the night progressed. “If you have a pair of pants I can borrow, I will get out of your hair.”

“Why are you in such a hurry to leave?”

“I could be asking you why you want me to stay so much. If you want me to give you sex again, just ask me. Don’t play coy now, it is not very becoming of a man.”

He stared down at her, “I don’t think you quite understand how sex works. I give it to you….”

She interrupted him, “Trust me tiger. Last night, you were not giving me anything.”

Anjou was willing to bet, she was the type of girl that could make a guy feel three feet tall with words. This told him that any hesitation in a response meant that she automatically won the conversation from here on out. This was a game of tit for tat. “Is that so,” He began as his hands went to her hips, “Why don’t we go to my bed and you can climb atop my cock and show me. Oh wait, you can’t actually give it to me because you don’t have the right equipment.”

“Trying to incite me to react is going to take a lot more than mere words from a novice, tiger. Besides, you were not complaining about me giving it to you last night when my finger was in your ass.”

Was he staring? He had to be and he realized that she had won when he did not respond in an appropriate amount of time. “Did…you didn’t really do that did you?”

“Maybe you should watch the video tape and find out.”

Video tape? At first he was not certain what she was talking about until it dawned on him, “No, it is not like that. Fuck, I can explain. I don’t record me with women.” That sounded so much better in his head and he realized it could be taken the wrong way when she arched a subtle brow, “Look, you are the first woman I have even brought to my house. I just put it there because I did not know where else to place it. I don’t intend to ever record me having sex with anyone, unless of course you are telling me you would not mind then, we can start with you jumping up and down so I can see those tits of yours bounce.”

There it was again that subtle pause; she was choosing her words carefully. He expected this to take a while, but in seconds she had a response for him as her features softened and she teased, “Making such a video only ensures that you will never leave the house. I do not believe I can stand by in good conscience tiger and watch you throw your life away for hours of masturbating to my jiggly body.”

“Now you are just teasing me.”

“I have not even gotten warmed up yet.” Anjou wondered if she had any idea what words like those did to him as he grabbed her quickly and lifted her over his shoulder. Instead of protesting to put her down she said in a somewhat panicked voice, “Do not drop me.”

He swatted her bottom playfully with his freehand while walking them toward the bed, “Don’t wiggle so much and I won’t.”

Once upon the bed he knew exactly where he wanted this to go. He was not ready for her to leave and the murkiness of his memory was teasing his curiosity. Lightly her fingers trailed along the back of his neck and his face, “What do you think you are doing, tiger?”

Anjou answered by devouring her mouth in a passionate kiss. Despite the cloudiness of the night before, he felt as though it was intense and passionate. He wanted to experience it while he was sober; regardless of the pounding in his head and the ache in his body, he had every intention on having her again. There was no hesitation as he used his knees to encourage her to open her legs a bit wider. Anjou broke the kiss only long enough to guide himself within her, under protest, “Wait, you can’t….” Her words cut off as she softly moaned.

This was not exactly making love. There was no slow and gentle pace. It was hard and fast and there was a part of him that was certain he was getting a lot more out of it than she was, but he needed to remember what she felt like. He could not be certain how long it lasted; it felt like such a short amount of time. After he came, he collapsed atop her; his breathing slightly ragged and a selfish desire to keep her as his overtook him. The quiet of the room and the warmth of her body only ensured that eventually he would fall asleep holding her in his arms. Truth was, he expected to wake up and have her still be there; unfortunately that was not the case.

Three days later he was given the day off which he thought was a rather unfortunate development that topped off his week in a negative way. He would much rather be working instead of trying to understand why she just took off like that. It was bothering him, far more than it should. Sure, he was probably not the best looking guy. Not to mention he was cocky and arrogant; pretty much had a limited verbal filter and was not really boyfriend material due to his work responsibilities, but that did not mean she had to take off the moment he fell asleep. It felt like she was slapping him in the face and saying this is everything that is wrong with you that is why I am leaving.

“When you said we could do whatever I wanted, I expected a little more pep in your step brother. One would think getting laid would put you in a better mood.”

“My mood is just fine,” He said though the snarl to his tone said otherwise.

There was a moment where his little brother Rio paused before he began rattling off questions, “Did she stay too long? Use your toothbrush? Start talking about getting hitched? Want you to ‘cum’ in her without a condom?”

“No, she actually took off when I was sleeping. What kind of person does that?”

“I don’t think you understand the concept of a one-night stand.”

It was clear he was annoyed, “It is just common decency to say goodbye or to let someone know you are leaving.”

Rio laughed, “Fuck, that must have been some pussy to get you all jacked up like this over her not saying bye.”

Anjou groaned, “Why am I even bothering to try and explain this to you?”

The silence that followed was not entirely unexpected because Anjou was certain his brother would drop the topic or change it. However, that was not at all what happened. “I have to ask, what exactly is it that you like about her?”

Pursing his lips a moment he eventually responded, “I don’t know if I would use the word like. That is a pretty strong thing to say after just meeting her. Let’s say curiosity.” His brother had remained oddly silent. Anjou at least expected him to say, ‘whatever word you want to use’. The fact that he did not even offer that he found slightly troubling as he considered his brother’s question before adding, “She has this resting bitch face that I love. It seems like she is pissed at you all the time for something, which makes it feel like you are having angry makeup sex when you are fucking her.”

“I love you brother, but I have to tell you that is just weird,” retorted Rio.

“Hey, you are the one that fucking asked.”

“True enough. So, what else? It can’t just be her face.”

“Well there are other things. I like the way she flirts. It is playful and teasing; you can tell she does not take it seriously when the flirting is returned. Just that fun banter back and forth that makes you feel good without the other person wondering where things are going or what the flirting means; no expectations. She has a great fucking body; completely not lacking in curves.”

“What was it grandpa used to say about a girl with no curves?”

Anjou laughed, “Something about not knowing where to put your hands.” With a momentary pause he added, “She has the type of figure that always gets my dick hard.”

“Yet, every girl you ever dated was some skinny bitch who thought she was better than what she was.”

“Fuck, you make it seem like I dated a bunch of women. I had two girlfriends; don’t turn me into some Casanova that fucks a lot of women.”

His brother and grandfather had been fairly obvious with their dislike of both women he had dated. Anything they could find they did not like about them they made sure to point out. “If you were not so pussy blind with the two of them you would have realized they were only after your money. Do you know what your problem is?”

Groaning he responded, “I am sure you are going to tell me.”

“Brother, you are one of those guys that wants love, but goes out of your way to keep from falling head over heels; purposely picking the wrong types of women, doing something to screw up any chance you might have with a good one, not to mention the whole work thing. What guy says, call me any time day or night when he has a woman waiting at home for him? The answer is, you.” Was arguing over it even worth the continuation of this conversation? He did not think so; that is why he allowed the conversation to drop.

Anjou let his thoughts be distracted by the voices around them as he and his brother walked through the water park. There were plenty of people about enjoying the warmth of the summer. Soon, parts of Aslann would feel the stinging chill of the autumn months and this was the last real opportunity for most to enjoy the sunshine. Everywhere he looked there appeared to be couples.

“Can we go on the water-slide?”
*Mouth full of food and no intelligible response*
“Sada-kun that was mine. You already ate yours.”
“It looked tasty, just like you. Are you going to begrudge me a little nibble?”
*Clearly embarrassed* “Sada-kun, stop teasing me and you ate the whole thing.”
“I am efficient with my mouth, tongue, and teeth.”

Rio had snorted as he wildly laughed, “Best conversation I heard all day.”

“Seriously, those two need to get a room.”

“Fuck, as if you would not be doing some back and forth with little miss angry face if she was here right now.”

“I would not.”

Anjou felt his brother hit him in the shoulder before pointing which drew his attention toward the shapely figure of the girl he had the one night stand with. The pit of his stomach knotted when he realized that all of those men within the water park could be looking at her body as she stood there in nothing more than that little red swimsuit. Was he jealous? “I am going to go ride the water-slide and then head out to meet Sin for band practice. Try not to fuck her in the pool.”

Turning toward his brother, “Wait, how did you….”

Rio stopped only for a moment, “That night at the club, I saw you leave with her and lucky for you, I know who she is.” He found himself slightly annoyed that his brother was acquainted with her as he tried to understand the hows and the whys. Did they have a relationship? He told himself not to think on it too deeply as he looked toward her again only to realize she had started walking away from the pool. He ran to catch up, but would not reach her until they got to the geysers.

The moment she saw him she turned to walk in the other direction, but he grabbed her hand quickly to stop her. It annoyed him that she was going out of her way almost to avoid him. He stared at her face, not for a second letting her hand go. What to say in this situation? Was he just good enough to have sex with for the night, but not worth her time? Maybe all she wanted was one night and being wanted meant nothing to her. He was not the type of guy to kick her to the curb after sex. Though if he was honest with himself, he had never brought a single woman back to his place until her. Why? What made her different from the two women he dated at least seven years ago?

Her voice pulled his attention from his thoughts, “Can I expect Facebook stalking next on your long list of inappropriate things to do after a one-night stand?”

Why was his initial thought to ask if she really had Facebook? He knew the first thing he wanted to do was change the focus of this conversation, “Are you going on a break?”

The way she stared at him made him uneasy so when she finally responded he was slightly relieved, “My shift is over.”

“Can I give you a ride home?”

Anjou was uncertain if she would actually say yes especially considering how long she was taking to give him an answer. Eventually she slowly nodded her head, “Let me change and I will meet you at the entrance.” There was plenty of relief that she was giving him the opportunity to spend a little time with her so he quickly moved to his rented locker, dressed, and waited for her.

Location: Dawlaz District – During the days of historical Aslann the Dawlaz District was known for its seedy environment and was generally the main district for criminals to hide or for men to find all variety of prostitution and slaves. During the modern era, it is the poorest district of Thacian City with the highest crime rate.

The entire ride was met with silence, but he was at least grateful she had not pushed him away. He had a hundred questions swirling around his mind and as they made their way into Thacian City, he had finally settled on the ones he wanted to ask. Well, that was until she told him where she lived. The Dawlaz District, there was no question it was the worst neighborhood in all of Aslann. The first thing he did when he stepped from his vehicle was glance around, lock his doors, set his alarm, and walk Mikaela to her apartment door. His eyes were cautiously surveying and keeping a watchful eye to those around.

Stepping inside her place when she left the door open for him, his tension did not lesson. As she spoke he glanced around the small, practically empty apartment. “Are you worried about your car? It is flashy for a neighborhood like this. The local kids probably already have it stripped by now, they are pretty good.”

“It is insured,” He responded as he allowed his attention to fall swiftly upon her, “Do you live here by yourself?”

“Just me and the rats, but technically they were here before I was.” It dawned on him that she probably allowed him to bring her home to chase him away. He assumed she thought a rich guy like him would be taken aback by it all and make the assumption she was after his money. If she had insisted on staying at his place the night of their sexual escapade, he might have thought that, but the fact that she was so determined to get away from him said a lot more about the type of woman she was. “Would you like something to drink? I don’t recommend the water.”

What was it about her that got him going? His brother had to be right, it was not simply her face. Certainly that and her body did a lot for him, but the curiosity that settled within him kept his mind coming back to her. Foolishly he thought it was almost as though she was Yamada the way she had taken a hold of him. He knew she wasn’t, the telling lines of her lineage never made their way into the lands of Aslann.

He reached out and grabbed her arm pulling her body into his. The simple action surprised her, so at first she tensed quite a bit. Eventually, she relaxed. Anjou found he was getting lost in her presence as he held the back of her head and teased her mouth lightly. Restraint, he told himself to show some even as he spoke the words, “Where is your bedroom?”

“Around the corner,” She whispered against his mouth.

There was no hesitation, getting her to the bedroom and out of most of their clothing. He allowed his hands to feel every curve and her eyes never left his, not for a single moment. Mikaela spoke in a soft voice which contradicted the stern features of her face, “This is sort of becoming a pattern with us, tiger.”

“Is that such a bad thing?”

“Certainly not, but perhaps we should decide on some ground rules for …. whatever this is.”

“Alright, can we start with you not disappearing without saying anything or avoiding me?”

Her lips pursed, “I just did not want there to be awkwardness.”

“I don’t believe that is the only reason, but for now I won’t press you to tell me,” He responded. Anjou’s fingers trailed along her hip, “Do you agree?” Those lovely gray eyes stayed focused on him the entire time as she licked her lower lip in the most teasing manner he had ever seen. He groaned as he leaned down and devoured her mouth in an unbridled kiss, “Stop teasing me.”

“Don’t you like it?” That was not it at all and Anjou was uncertain how to put into words the way her tempting nature got him going. Pressing against her thigh he thought he would allow his need to answer her question. “Now who is teasing?”

Anjou loved the way she moaned against his mouth as he kissed her. He was ready for them to have sex, but they had not finished working out their ground rules for this budding new relationship. There was a moment he remembered thinking that he had to be spending too much time with Tationy and Hiko, because moving this quickly was unlike him so he reminded himself that this was just about sex and some minor companionship. The scion of the Yamada was not looking for a girlfriend. Despite the constant mental notes, they never got back to the ground rules.

Anjou was startled awake by yelling from the other side of the wall. He sighed and rolled to snuggle into Mikaela only to realize she was no longer there. Disappointment overtook him and for a while he laid there staring at the ceiling with the thought that she might have gone to the bathroom until he heard classical music coming from the living room.

He pulled his underwear on as he stifled a yawn and moved through her tiny little apartment. The yelling was hardly drowned out by the music and when he heard sirens off in the distance he frowned. Living in a place like this, just made him concerned for her safety. Stepping into the living room he stopped rather suddenly as he eyed this beautiful shapely woman he had become rather enthralled with over a short period of time.

Perhaps it was the little things that others might not even consider, but despite her being built like a Yamada woman she was in fantastic shape. Curves in all the right places, but very little of it was fat. She took care of herself, but he doubted it was in any freakishly health conscious way. Her form was beautiful and he realized he was suddenly moving toward her.

Anjou was not just Yamada, he was also Anami and his special talent was dancing, so as she moved through her routine he joined her. He had not danced since he was a boy of fifteen and rarely with a partner. As his hand reached out, hers settled in his and she must have realized that she was no longer alone because her eyes opened rather suddenly. Despite her obvious surprise she kept her composure, held her position, and allowed him to lead her.

Selfishly as they moved, he thought of her as his ballerina. Even now after such a short amount of time he was thinking about how he might keep her as his. Why? He really did not understand it.

Having sex with her exhausted him. It took a lot of work to get her warmed up and keep her there throughout the experience, but it seemed that she could tire him out in other ways. So many questions as his body relaxed against her sofa and she rested against him. He laced his fingers with hers while resting his face against her head, a contented sigh leaving his lips. The silence was different from the ride to her apartment. Teasing her arm with his fingers he spoke, “Where did you learn to dance?”

“I believe I should be asking you that question.”

Anjou teased, “I asked you first.”

“Some girls are born and bred to be mommy’s little princess. Perhaps to live the life they always wanted, but were never able to obtain. Whatever the reason, my mother thought it was very important for me to be perfect; not the best me I could be, but the epitome of what every woman should aspire to. Lessons upon lessons to ensure I became that perfect girl. Then, puberty hit and I did not have that perfect size zero like her and all of those hopes and dreams that she wanted for me, were quickly dashed. Still, I love to dance. I might not have that ballerina figure, but I am the best me I can be.”

“Perhaps I am biased seeing you are letting me fuck you, but I think your body is amazing.”

“With talk like that, I can only assume you are looking to have sex again.”

He laughed under his breath, “I would not turn it down if you were offering, but I am rather enjoying just holding you like this.”

She offered no response regarding her feelings on the matter, but she also did not pull away. Practically a whisper she asked, “Are you going to tell me where you learned to dance?”

“I am Anami, it is sort of my thing.”

“The savant clan; I am not certain why that surprises me. So, are you limited to just ballet?”

“Not really. Any form of dance I have a natural aptitude, though this is the first time I have enjoyed it so much.”

“Is that your subtle way of hinting you would like to tango with me sometime?” Mikaela’s words were hardly suggestive and yet they conjured up all sorts of sexualized imagery in his mind. He was moments away from responding when an embarrassing sound echoed through the room which had elicited a soft laugh from her, “Seems someone is hungry. A terrible host I am not offering you anything to eat. I could make something, but I will have to be fairly honest with you…I am only really good at baking. I have no patience for cooking.”

“Something we have in common. I mostly order out or make microwavable dinners.”

“So, do you want to brave my cooking or should we just say screw it and get a pizza?”

“I am tempting fate enough being in this neighborhood, so we should probably just order out.”

At first she did not laugh at his bad joke and he thought she might be annoyed. Eventually he heard lightness in her tone when she responded, “That was a pretty good one. I was starting to think you were not going to be able to keep up with me, but glad to see your tongue has some uses.”

Anjou snorted as he tried not to laugh. “Fuck me that was a low blow. I guess I need to pick up my game and use my tongue more.”

“Mmmm, sounds delightful,” She responded, but pulled away from him before he could even attempt to make good on their shared words. “I am going to get dressed, you should order that pizza.”

He took a moment to put his clothes on, but as he dialed his phone it hit him that he had gone a whole day without working. It was an uneasiness; not a feeling he liked and worse yet knowing that Tationy was the one that ordered him to take a day off made him feel useless to the matriarch. Anjou told himself that he should be enjoying it. There was great sex and the company of a woman that got him going in ways he only read about in books. However, he could not help wondering if he should call the matriarch and see if she needed anything.

Anjou could not honestly remember the last time he had a day off and he did not like it. He could feel her eyes on him and only turned to face her when he finished his call. “Pizza is ordered,” He paused as he considered how he wanted to tell her that he did not know what she liked, so he took some liberties with the toppings.

“I don’t recall giving you permission to put your clothes on,” She teased.

As he stepped toward her he spoke, “Want me to take them back off?”

She did not answer his question; instead she responded with, “They are wasted on you.”

“Is that so? Are you telling me you would not mind it if I ran around in the buff all the time?”

“I do not think there is a woman in Aslann that would complain about that.” His hands rested to her hips as he considered what to say to her words. Yamada men and women were not exactly known for their good looks. There was insecurity that hindered all Yamada even though many of them did not appear to be afflicted by a lack of confidence. It settled in every bone, muscle, and filled each of them with tension when someone told them how attractive they were. Was it truth or was it simply because of his blood? Anjou took far too long to answer, “Did my words offend you?”

“No, nothing like that. This is going to sound arrogant as fuck, but I hear it a lot because I am Yamada. So, when people say things like that, I overthink it.”

“Are you trying to decide if it is your presence that is forcing me to say such a thing?”

“Yeah, sorry.”

“No, it is alright; being Yamada must be very difficult. I imagine it is like being a celebrity. Everyone wants to be around you, but there is no way of knowing if it is because of the fame or the money. Trusting people must be really hard for your clan. Honestly, I don’t expect anything. A guy like you is pretty much out of my league. So, you do not have to worry. I understand my position in this … whatever this is, which brings me to a ground rule.” He wanted to protest her words, but did not get the opportunity as she said, “You really need to start wearing a condom when we have sex.”

Staring at her face, a confused expression adorned his features. Had he not worn one? He considered each time they were together and admittedly the first time was still a haze of arms and legs with no cohesiveness. The couplings that came after, he had been so intent on taking her that he had not even thought about it, “Fuck, I am so sorry. I just got carried away in the moment I did not even think….are….are you on something?”

“I am, but mine requires forethought and that is a bit difficult when…” He understood as her words trailed off. She was telling him that moments like today where he just took her, would result in her getting pregnant because she did not have the opportunity to take care of what she needed to. “Condoms are just an added layer of protection for both of us. I hope you understand.”

With a single nod of his head he spoke, “I really am sorry.” Anjou wanted to explain that since he met her he had been getting swept up in the moment. Which was completely unlike him. Normally, he would not have forgotten, but the mental fog when he was around her made him think of only that moment of bliss that would come from taking her. Why was it like that? It had never been that way for him before. She was different somehow, from every woman he had ever met.

Mikaela shook her head and offered a meek smile, “It is alright, I was actually starting to think it was a thing with Yamada men.” What did she mean by that? He had gone to ask, but a knock on the door and the words ‘pizza delivery’ pulled his attention away from her.

For a time there was quiet as they drank beer and ate pizza. It was that odd silence again, perhaps because he had quite a few questions and plenty of confusion he was lackluster in his charismatic charm. Finally, though he broke down and spoke wanting to at least make some attempt at getting to know her better, “How long have you lived here?”

Anjou made note that she did not respond until she finished chewing and swallowing her food, “I moved in just after I finished up at Sofore.”

“I heard about that craziness. Hard to believe a staple of the educational system fell the way it did.” He took a drink from his beer as he glanced around, “The place is pretty empty….”

She interrupted his words with a soft laugh, “I was robbed just after I moved in. Unfortunately the renter’s insurance did not cover it because it was not active until a week later and there was no retroactive clause. The police have not been able to locate my stuff and it seems rather pointless to try and replace any of it seeing I will be leaving in less than two months.”

He had little time to reflect on the unhappiness that came to him from hearing she was robbed because he tensed upon her words of leaving. “Where will you be going?”

“I start at Harvard in the fall, so at the end of August I will be off to America.”

Was there a look of disappointment adoring his face? He felt like there was as he managed to respond, “Congratulations.”

A shrug of her shoulders as she lifted her beer and regarded him, quickly told him that she was not entirely happy about leaving and her words would only confirm that, “Thank you, but congratulations are not necessary. It feels more like a missed opportunity or a forced imprisonment than a future of possibilities. My mom wanted this for me and I am just being the perfect daughter and making her happy. It is not what I want, but being built like I am, dance is not really a future that I can capture.”

“I like your form and you can dance with me any time you want, but you should be going because you want to and not because of your mother. I should not even be interjecting myself into this. How are you going to be happy living the dream of another person?”

“Happy is not really a word that has ever existed for me.”

The room fell silent as the two ate their pizza and drank their beers. What she was saying was that it was easier to do what other people wanted to make them happy then it was to fight to make herself happy. It was something he understood, but not from personal experience. He had watched his brother go through the same thing and it would be years before Rio actually stood up for himself and fought hard and kept fighting for his own happiness. This was not something you could force upon someone, they had to reach their breaking point. There would come a time in her life that something she wanted desperately would become so important that nothing else would matter and she would have to make the decision to fight for it or let it be; it would be the most difficult moment of her life.

After they ate, they cleaned up and there were things he noticed. There was barely any food in her refrigerator. There were less than a hundred items visible in her apartment. He would not exactly call her neat and orderly, but everything appeared to have its place. There was a quiet around her. She seemed to speak if spoken to, which told him she was not a big fan of unnecessary talking. More importantly, she was guarded. Sitting a couple of beers down on the coffee table, it was clear she wanted to say something as she turned to face him. Anjou hardly gave her the opportunity because he positioned himself on her sofa and pulled her quickly down atop him. Her body was tense at first, but eventually she relaxed, “I have to get going soon.”

“I know.”

As much as he wanted to stay there all day and night with her, he knew that was not a possibility. He held her tighter, “I would like to get your number so I can call you sometime.” Mikaela had not responded which frustrated him, “Are you just not interested in me?”

“It is not that.”

“What is it then?”

“Honestly, you remind me of this guy…” He did not interrupt her even as her words hanged there, “He’s Yamada and even has the same tattoo.” Same tattoo? Was she talking about his brother? “We went out for a couple of years and things were great; then they weren’t.”

Gripping her arm tighter he asked, “What happened?”

“I was really sick for a couple of weeks and missed my period.” Anjou held his breath as he listened to her words, “I took a pregnancy test and it was inconclusive. Took it again, same result. So, I called him and told him I might be pregnant. He told me it wasn’t his. Turned out it was a false positive and I thankfully wasn’t pregnant, but things were never the same between the two of us. He apologized; said he freaked out because he was young and the thought of being a father had never occurred to him even though he hated using condoms. I loved him so much and when I needed him the most he was just not there. I don’t want you to think it is you, I just don’t want to be told that again by some pure-blood. I am alright to fuck and slum with, but not to bring home to your precious family.”

Her words earlier in the evening about understanding her position made sense now. Anjou got why she kept running away from him; he was a Yamada pure-blood, just like the guy that broke her heart. It was true that bringing a girl like her home to meet the family would cause great difficulties. It would be frowned upon. Her blood was not pure and she was not of any of the elite clans of Aslann. This was just sex, so things like that did not matter, but he found himself irritated with himself and his kin for seeing her as nothing more than an object for their ejaculation. The annoyance in his voice was not hidden, “What was his name?”

At first there was silence and he understood that she was not telling him this for sympathy. Holding on to negative memories like that, never sharing, gave them power. She needed him to understand that whatever this was that they were doing was not going to end up as it did with the other Yamada man. It was about protecting herself. Finally, she responded softly, “Doesn’t matter.” Even though she did not give him the answer he wanted he was certain he already knew who it was.

Anjou would not be able to voice his displeasure on the matter for a couple of days, when he arrived at his grandfathers house and sought out his brother. He saw red, the moment his eyes laid upon him and Rio must have realized the state he was in because he began to back away without a word. It was not going to end with him walking away and Anjou gripped his brothers shirt as he snapped, “What the fuck were you thinking?”

There was a somberness to his brothers voice, “She told you, I see.”

“Don’t you fucking act so cavalier about it. What type of man are you? How could you fucking do that?”

His brother had not fought back; tried to stop him or even voice any explanation. Why? What was it that Rio could not say? “I loved her….I still love her,” Rio finally responded which took Anjou by surprise so much that he let his little brother go. “It just came out of my mouth and after I said it I just kept screaming inside to take it back. I fucked up and granddad told me to fix it, but she just couldn’t look at me the same way after. ”

The fact that Ainar Yamada, their grandfather was aware of the situation between Rio and Mikaela only brought more questions to Anjou. Which he did not get the opportunity to ask about because their grandfather had joined them, “Rio, I believe you have someplace you need to be.” Not surprising, his little brother made a quick departure and Anjou stood there staring down the man that raised them. What part did he play in it all? Casually his grandfather moved toward the sofa and took a seat, but did not speak right away. “As the voice of the Yamada you are wondering why I did not tell you and as Rio’s older brother you are angry that you were left in the dark.”

“I should have been told.”

“What would you have done?”

“I would have made him fix it. Do what was right. Take responsibility for his actions and….as his brother I would have kicked the shit out of him.” Anjou paused as he took a seat, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Anjou, you would have made him feel guiltier than he already did. His whole life he has struggled to live up to the unrealistic expectations you have for people especially those close to you. Always, you are the one person he does not want to disappoint and he thought if you knew that you would never be able to look at him the same way again. I told him to fix it and he did try, but Mikaela could not look past the pain he caused her.”

“He never told me about her. I never even knew he had a girlfriend.”

There was a quietness that surrounded his grandfather, “She was freshmen at Sofore Academy when the two of them met. He was in his last year and he described it as a moment where time seemed as though it stood still. Rio had never been so captivated by anyone before and he was afraid that if she met you, he would no longer exist. Girls he liked always liked you better even though you never seemed to notice. He did not want to compete with you for the girl he was in love with and make no mistake, your brother is still in love with her.” There was a momentary pause, “Rio told me that you and Mikaela are involved.”

Involved? Was that the word Rio used? “It is just sex.”

His grandfathers scrutinizing gaze settled upon him, “Probably for the best seeing her blood is not pure and your brother still has feelings for her.”

Why did those words anger him? “There is barely a pure family left in Aslann. None of that shit matters any longer. As for Rio…” What should he say? His brother had wanted to go to the water-park knowing that Mikaela worked there. Was it so he could see her? Anjou was confused. There was a moment his brother had told him not to fuck her in the pool and it had felt like he was encouraging him to go after her, but now he found himself analyzing every word and moment.

Far to late he realized his grandfather had said those words on purpose, “Yamada men are all Adam’s apple and fast at heart. The god Hisoka designed us this way; we are swagger and unbridled passion embodied in living form. We make humans buckle under our charismatic charm, but there is always one creature that seems immune. She toys with us; her words inviting and teasing. Our senses are overwhelmed and before we know it we are imprisoned. If you do not feel anything for her, Anjou, then let her go so that your brother might once again try to fix what he has broken.”

“I won’t see her again,” Anjou responded though the pained feeling at his chest was unexpected. Why was he troubled so much? Why was it okay for Rio to date her and not him?

His grandfather had not offered a response as he stood which made Anjou curious if his words were not what the old man expected. If Ainar Yamada had any thoughts on the matter, he kept them to himself as he said, “Collect yourself. The Zenaku matriarch should be here any moment.”

“Here, why?”

“She wished to speak with me about matters pertaining to her clan and the potential assistance of our matriarch. Does that make you angry?”

He was looked upon as a young upstart who could never replace Ainar Yamada as the voice, despite having worked the position for over ten years. It was not surprising that there were still those among the clans that disrespected his authority and consulted his grandfather. Anjou bowed his head the annoyance clear in his tone, “You already know the answer to that question.”

The matriarch of the Zenaku seemed taken aback upon her arrival by the fact that Anjou was there and that his grandfather had chosen to give them privacy. Her name was Vijodia and she had served as the matriarch of her clan for nearly twenty years. There were rumors that she possessed the Zenaku clairvoyance, though whether or not that was truth or fiction had yet to be known. What Anjou knew of her was minimal due to the limited contact the Zenaku had with other clans.

“My presence here makes you unhappy,” She finally voiced after having stared each other down for at least ten minutes. “Truthfully, I wished to speak with your grandfather on this matter. It is meant as no insult, I thought his age and knowledge of the clans would be beneficial in helping me regarding a most troubling decision I am having to make.”

“I am the voice of the Yamada, stepping over me to present anything to him or another of my clan is disrespectful. For the sake of clan relations, I will pretend it did not happen, but I will not forget this transgression.” If she was unhappy with his words he could not say as she regarded him quietly, “So, what is it you came all this way to discuss with my grandfather?”

Truly he had expected her to walk away, “There has been some trouble between the Zenaku and the Anami as of late due to an incident involving a daughter of my clan and a future priest of the Anami. They laid with one another and the father of the boy demanded we make amends for what was taken from his son. He refused a union, money, and numerous other retributions offered. Now the Anami will not speak with us and I have had to remove my Arsibi from his position.”

Anjou tried to contain his surprise at the news that no one was currently holding the position of voice for the Zenaku, “Why was he removed?”

“His daughter was the cause of all of this drama and she has since disappeared. He tells me he does not know where she is, but his aura darkens when those words are spoken and his wife will not even look at me. I cannot prove it, but I believe they might be hiding her. I have done what I can to resolve this, but without guidance I fear the relationship between the Zenaku and Anami will continue to be strained. I wanted to ask your grandfather his thoughts on the matter, what else I might be able to do to bring some resolution to this conflict.”

“The Anami give all of their soul to protecting the spirituality of Aslann and its people. Children of the Anami are chosen at birth to become priests and priestesses and it is considered the highest of callings. They get no say in their future; to the father of this boy the loss of his son’s purity whether or not he was truly chaste means he will never reach the pinnacle of spiritual euphoria and thus never be able to truly awaken. It is something the Anami are not capable of putting a price upon because it transcends money and power. To them, offering up that girl was insulting because in this instance she is the incarnate of temptation.” His arms crossed over his chest, “Waiting as long as you have, does not help the situation. Had you come to me sooner, I might have been able to prevent this situation from worsening. Now, even with the help of the matriarch it might be too late.”

Her nose wrinkled which told Anjou that the leader of the Zenaku had little faith in Tationy’s ability to replace Miso, “I do not wish to involve her in this.”

The voice of Ainar Yamada drew Anjou’s attention toward the entryway of the living room, “Vijodia, you and I have been through this before and being stubborn about it will not resolve this situation. The matriarch might be young and not fully acclimated, but she is in the best position to assist you in this matter.”

Something felt wrong and the most obvious was the fact that his grandfather interrupted the meeting Anjou was having with the Zenaku matriarch. Ainar had never disrespected Anjou’s position before so he found himself wondering what might cause the former voice to interject himself in a meeting that had nothing to do with him. He heard heels on the wood floor and noticed Vijodia was moving swiftly in the direction of his grandfather, “I want your voice on this matter, not that of a child.”

The way they looked at each other was telling and the words left Anjou’s mouth rather quickly, “Are the two of you fucking? Was this a booty-call that I just happened to interrupt?”

Whether the two of them were actually going to answer he was uncertain until his grandfather reached down and grabbed the hand of the Zenaku matriarch. They exchanged somewhat mischievous smiles before his grandfather responded, “You and your brother have terrible timing.”

Anjou felt the pit of his stomach lurch at the thought of his grandfather getting busy. “I am not even going to try to wrap my mind around this. Next time, just say you are fucking and don’t drag me into it.”

He noticed how his grandfather squeezed the hand of the matriarch, “It is not that simple. Vijodia is willfully stubborn and I thought if she spoke with you it might ease her mind about communicating her concerns with the matriarch. This situation between the Zenaku and the Anami cannot be left as it is. Already, clans have taken notice of the rift and have begun to better position themselves. Tell him Vijodia.”

“Tell me what?”

No words were initially spoken until his grandfather and the matriarch were seated, “The clans are moving.” An ominous way of putting it, but Anjou imagined that was the point. “Recently I became aware of certain changes happening within clans. Mind you, some of them are simply rumors, but we all know that most tales are based on truth in Aslann. There is a young upstart born of the Takahashi and Kensuku that has risen quickly among his people. Not since historical Aslann has a voice been as powerful as Cho. His name is Senri and he is organizing the two largest clans of Aslann. The combined might of the Takahashi and the Kensuku is dangerous. Alone their massive size rivals only a handful of clans such as the Zenaku and Ishi. Smaller clans will be hurt if they are united. Thus far, neither clan has announced Senri’s appointment, but it seems only a matter of time.”

His grandfather added, “Most likely the boy is making sure everything is in order. If he puts himself out there too quickly the other clans will eat him alive. Only when he has the power and backing of the Takahashi and the Kensuku can his presence make an impact.”

Anjou was not entirely surprised, “Miso mentioned many times she thought that eventually the Takahashi and Kensuku would come together. She did not know if she would see it in her lifetime, but she seemed certain that eventually a voice powerful enough to unite them would present itself. Cho organized hundreds of clans during the days of historical Aslann, if this boy is capable of accomplishing the same thing, he will not stop with just the Kensuku. So tell me Lady Zenaku, what preparations have you made to ensure your clans survival?”

“That is not a proper question to ask,” Ainar scolded.

“It is alright,” The Zenaku matriarch interjected, “Your grandson is quite perceptive and I imagine I would not be able to keep it from him for very long. If he is anything like his grandfather, he will begin to investigate the clan movements the moment this conversation is over. It is better if I just tell him.” She paused only a moment, “As you know, there are two tribes among the Zenaku; the Bretroah and Cartosta, which during the days of historical Aslann were actually two clans that came together during a time or war and renamed themselves the Zenaku. When I became aware of what was transpiring among the Takahashi and Kensuku my hand was forced and I reached out to a clan that the Zenaku have been closely tied to for many centuries.”

Anjou interjected, “You are talking about the Maiba.”

“Correct. The Elder of the Maiba Erobus and I have reached a mutually beneficial agreement and the Maiba will soon become a tribe of the Zenaku. We intended to make the announcement at the annual Aota, but seeing none of us have received our invitations yet, there is speculation that the new matriarch thinks herself above the clans of Aslann.”

Hiding his annoyance was proving to be difficult, “I assure you that is not the case.” He had not yet had a chance to talk to Tationy and Hiko about a home and what would be required of them for the annual gathering of the clans and the Yamada family. He was hoping not to rush things too much, but in the end, it seemed as though he had no choice, “The matriarch currently resides in an apartment not suitable for the annual Aota. Once the matriarch has acquired an estate the invitations will be sent out.” Rubbing the back of his neck he added, “Tell the clans if they have something to say about the matriarch that they can come and talk to me. Speculation and assumptions make them all look like fools.”

Anjou expected his grandfather to scold him, but surprisingly he offered no words on the matter. Vijodia boldly asked, “What will the Yamada do?”

“Considering the fact you are fucking the old man I am sure he already told you, so why bother even asking me.” He snorted, “I am going to be frank with the two of you, the fact that your fucking does not sit well with me. I don’t trust a woman of your power sleeping with a man of his, especially one closely associated to the matriarch of the Yamada. If you really have feelings for my grandfather, great I am happy for you, but if you are just fucking him to get information I suggest you leave right now because if I find out that is the case, you won’t have to worry about the matriarch toppling your clan because I will make sure there is nothing left of them. I don’t take kindly to women that use their bodies to get information.”

His grandfather had gone to interject, “Anjou….”

“Don’t pretend you would not say the same thing if the positions were reversed. When I was sixteen you told me that a boy can become blind when there is pussy involved and I am saying the same thing to you and adding that age does not matter. Even someone as old as you can lose sight.” He stood quickly and his grandfather followed suit. It was clear that he was angry, but Anjou was not about to take back the words he spoke. “I suggest you watch what you say during bedroom talk.”

“Don’t talk down to me boy.”

“I am the voice of the Yamada and I cannot have you sharing clan secrets after she gives you a little taste. Don’t pretend you wouldn’t knock me on my ass if I was doing the exact same thing. I am not going to sugarcoat shit just because you are my grandfather. No offense to the matriarch of the Zenaku, but she cannot even marry. This union will never be more than what it is, the two of you sharing a fucking bed. Someone that cannot give themselves over completely to a union, have to be looked at suspiciously because they have nothing to lose, you told me that.” He paused the briefest of moments before adding, “Lady Zenaku I mean no offense and if you have been with my grandfather long enough, then you are probably used to this sort of directness. I cannot allow any harm to come to my clan and until you prove otherwise, I cannot trust you.”

Gracefully she stood and took a spot next to his grandfather, “I understand. The voice of the Yamada has to be very protective of his people and such a position means that trust is not something easily given. If I could marry your grandfather I would. Unfortunately, I am the matriarch until my death. It saddens me that my relationship with your grandfather will always be limited, but he accepts my love and I accept his. Someday, perhaps you will grow to see that I care for him and his clan. Despite his love, Ainar has never shared anything about the Yamada and I do not press him to do so. Love is understanding that some things you simply cannot say even if you want to.” There was a momentary pause as she added, “Such a vibrant aura you have Anjou Yamada and yet a shadow engulfs your heart. Denying and making excuses for how you feel will only ensure that you will never know love.”

Anjou noticed how his grandfathers stern expression softened in to concern as Ainar asked, “Are you….are you in love with her?”

This was not a conversation he wanted to have, so he quickly changed the topic while moving to depart, “I need to make the matriarch aware of what is transpiring, if you will excuse me.”

There was so much to do and very little time to get it all done. The amount of work he did in a single day was four times the amount of men and women with a normal job. After he had left his grandfathers he began to investigate clan movements, which meant a lot of back and forth with his contacts. On top of that, there was no putting it off any longer and he had to find Tationy and Hiko a house so that the annual Aota and Yamada family gatherings could take place. The invitations should have been sent out months ago, not to mention all the planning that was involved from entertainment to the catering. Despite the enormous pile of work he had on his plate his mind kept wandering to Mikaela. He told his grandfather he would not contact her, but every moment not spent working he was thinking of her.

Anjou had asked Hiko and Tationy to meet with him after work the following day, of course that meant he would not see either of them until late in the evening. When they finally arrived at the location he had suggested they seemed annoyed, “Tationy said you live in some sort of bachelor pad on the water, this is not exactly what I expected.”

“It is not mine,” Anjou responded glibly.

Anjou noticed how Tationy began to walk away, leaving him alone with Hiko. It was not him that Anjou needed to speak to so he was slightly annoyed by the fact she had disappeared so quickly. As the seat next to him on the sofa moved his eyes shifted toward the Kari who finally responded, “Ahh, I know. When I told her the address she knew instantly where we were going and why, so she gave me the condensed version as we traveled here. If things were different, I would buy this place for us when I made my first million, but that is not really an option for us now. She tells me she does not like how things are changing that with each deviation from our path she cannot be certain how things will progress. So, tell me why I should not tell the Yamada where they can stick it.”

“Look, I tried to put it off for as long as I could. I did not bring it up because I know the two of you are trying to keep some things sacred. I get it Hiko. My grandfather always said that Yamada men were all Adam’s apple and fast a heart. We both have the same fucking Yamada blood, rushing is somewhat of a thing with us, but responsibility supersedes our own desires no matter how much we do not want them to.” Anjou paused, “The two of you rush forward and the few things you want to keep sacred are important and chosen because they set the foundation for your future. This is one of those things that has to be rushed and not because the two of you have decided that you want to, but because responsibility dictates that you must.”

“How is Mikaela?” The sudden change of topic caught Anjou off-guard, “Tationy tells me that Mikaela showed her around Sofore campus during her first week and that she was the adviser for the initial residential hall she stayed in before she moved into the spirit dorms.”

Why was he asking about her? His mind worked overtime trying to understand the sudden interest in his personal life and then it dawned on him that the reason Tationy gave him the day off had nothing to do with her not needing him. She would have known that he would encounter Mikaela. Was she manipulating things? “Look, she is a nice girl, but ….”

Hiko interrupted him, “Tationy said you would tell me you were not interested in her.” Were people trying to annoy him? As he watched Hiko stand be thought about asking him why he even bothered to ask, “I am going to take a look around. I am sure Tationy will find you when she is ready to talk.”

Anjou had already looked over the place so he found a spot on the balcony to quietly contemplate the past week. There were many things troubling him, but how to express his concerns to the matriarch and have her take them seriously was the question that was most difficult to answer. Tationy only cared about Hiko which meant that anything that did not directly effect him she would dismiss, “What a callous woman you must think me. Have you come up with an answer; a means to make me appreciate and consider something other than the man I love?” She paused a moment before teasing him as her hip purposely bumped his side which elicited a groan, “Still taking care of me like the little sister you never wanted.”

At first he refused to respond after all, she was not entirely mistaken. There were many times after he became the voice of the Yamada that part of his responsibility included being her babysitter, “I hate it when you are like this.” The two fell silent which gave Anjou an unwanted opportunity to think of the past and his relationship with Tationy.

“Tationy, the matriarch….” His words halted suddenly as he found her in the den working on her art. He nearly choked, “Uhh, what exactly are you painting?”

“The human form,” She responded softly and then added, “I find it quite difficult.”

Staring he sighed, “You are a weird little chick.”

If she cared one way or the other about his words to her it was not reflected in her response, “Anjou, do you have a girlfriend?” Quite taken aback by her question he thought he misheard her at first, “Is it normal to be interested in girls at your age? Do you have sex?”

His lips pursed, “Who has been telling you about sex?”

Unexpectedly she halted her painting and after a moment of collecting herself she stepped down from the stool she was standing on and turned to face him, “Sometimes, I see very strange things that I do not understand. At first I thought they were being hurt, but as time has passed I have come to understand that it is this thing called sex and that people engage in it when they reach certain ages; though I am quite confused because the ages seem to vary and it is not always boys and girls, but sometimes boys and boys, girls and girls, and other times girls that are not quite girls and boys that are not quite boys.” The expression on her face seemed confused as she played with her fingers in what he assumed was a nervous habit, “The emotions involved seem to vary and I do not quite understand what the point of such an activity is. I have even lately seen myself; much older of course, but I know it is me.”

Anjou was only sixteen and he would not say he was knowledgeable in the subject matter, he had not even had a girlfriend let alone kissed someone. The scariest part of the conversation was the fact that Tationy at six was probably more knowledgeable about sex than he was. The power of the Tylo clan was frightening.

Anjou offered his hand to her, which she readily accepted and the two began to walk. He did not really know what to say to her or even how to explain. The matriarch was probably the more appropriate person to bring this subject up to, yet Anjou often found that Tationy asked him such questions instead of her grandmother. As he sighed she responded, “I have troubled you.”

“I just do not understand why you do not ask these questions of the matriarch.”

Tationy had made a thoughtful sound and then responded, “I do not ask her because I know what she will say. It is you, who I am never certain about.” A momentary pause gave him time to consider her words before she added, “The matriarch always answers a question with a question.”

He tried to think of what his grandfather would say at a moment like this, but truthfully none of it was appropriate for someone who was only six. When they finally made it to the study he gestured for her to join him on the sofa and nervously he tried to find the words. Unfortunately, they were not readily available around her and that became clear when she said, “Do you ever wonder why the matriarch puts you in charge of me? Certainly as the newly appointed voice of the Yamada there are better things for you to do with your time, yet she continually places you and I together.”

“The matriarch has her reasons, I am certain.”

“Do you never question those reasons?”

“The directives of the matriarch are the only commands that are important; it is not my place to question her.”

“What if someday the matriarch’s decisions go against what is best for the Yamada? Will you still follow her wishes regardless of where it leads?” What kind of question was this? Would a time like that come? “Did you know that during the days of historical Aslann that the leader of the Yamada was male? His name was Seelie and the foundations of the three bloodlines of the Yamada were formed by him. Everything the Yamada holds sacred was implemented by a man and yet, there has not been a single male leader since him. Why do you think that is?”

“Yamada men are willfully stubborn; short in temperament, rash in decisions, unbridled in their passion. They are difficult to control and unpredictable in power.”

“Those same words once described the Kari Commander and look what he did for Aslann, don’t you think those things are a strength to Yamada men and not a weakness?”

“I…I never thought about it that way.” He took a breath, pausing the conversation a moment before he said, “About what you asked me earlier. I suppose at my age it is normal to be interested in girls, but I do not have a girlfriend. Sex is something that should always be shared between two people that love each other and I have not found that person and I am not looking. I cannot quite understand what it is you see with those eyes of yours, but if you have a question for me, I will do what I can to answer it as directly as possible. I know the knowledge that comes to you is not something that you can control, but you do not want to grow up too quickly Tationy. Someday, you will meet a man that makes your stomach feel like butterflies are dancing around inside and when you do, your Yamada blood is going to stubbornly hold on and never let go. Nothing and no one will matter but him and then all of these questions you have right now swirling around inside of you will have answers. Just have a little patience and now, it is time to study.”

It was not uncommon as they practiced the old crafts for Tationy to be relatively quiet, but that day he was not even certain she was listening as he walked her through each ingredient. He was about to inquire if she had any questions for him when she asked, “Do you believe in soulmates?”

“The Yamada believe that the soul can connect itself to a single person, but that does not mean there is love. It varies from person to person; comfort, trust, kinship, spirituality, among others. The actual concept of soulmates is considered a romantic notion that people use to identify feelings that they cannot express naturally. How do you describe being connected to someone you have just met; love at first sight, love of a lifetime, one true love, soulmates. It is easier for people to believe in the notion that such a thing exists than it is for them to put faith in a god they cannot see.”

Quietly she asked, “But what do you believe in Anjou?”

“I believe that people are connected through time and with each new reincarnation you take on a new identity, but those connections are never quite severed.”

“Do you believe this because you are Shima?”

Definition: Dragon Lords of the Shima – Three mighty generals; Bai, Shun, and Tan, that led the Shima and ruled over Shimragata during the days of historical Aslann.

The fact that she knew that took him momentarily by surprise, “The three bloodlines of the Yamada are all descended from the Dragon Lords of the Shima. During the age of war and conquest, it was not unheard of for the Dragon Lords; Bai, Shun, and Tan to take liberties among villages they stayed. Yamada women were often used for pleasure by the so-called mighty generals of the Shima.”

He realized far to late what he said, “By pleasure you mean sex?”

“Sex is something that is mutually shared between two people that love each other, this was something else entirely.”

Anjou was not used to Tationy becoming quiet so suddenly and he realized far to late she had an odd expression upon her face. Did she understand what he was referring to? Had she witnessed such a thing? While tending to the lavender she whispered, “So, I am also Shima?”

“All Yamada are, Tationy.”

“Interesting, but you never answered my question. Do you believe that because you are Shima?”

“Sometimes, I have a feeling I cannot readily explain when I meet someone. A moment of deja vu that haunts me. With so many moments like this am I suppose to believe that they are all soulmates? It makes something that is meant to be special seem pretty insignificant if every single thing that cannot be simply explained is defined by terms like those.”

“I like your answer,” She finally responded, “I have seen many lives and each one I tend to be drawn to the same people. Certainly the names are different, but there is no denying who they are. I wonder though if such a thing as soulmates can truly exist or if we are all simply linked through the people we met in our very first life.” Six years old and she approached topics that most adults were not even comfortable discussing, “Anjou.”

“What is it Tationy?”

“Do you love me?” He halted what he was doing suddenly as his eyes focused in on the awkward little girl. If she expected him to respond she did not give him the opportunity, “Do you take care of me because you are following the orders of the matriarch or do you really care what happens to me? How do you know if you love someone? You mentioned earlier that it was like butterflies dancing around in my stomach, but I don’t know what that feels like. Is that what it means to be nervous? Excited? Everything I experience with others, feels forced upon me and all I want to do is voice my displeasure with the circumstances and the people. Am I incapable of loving someone?”

“What brought this on?”

Her lips pursed a moment as she sat the lavender to the side and said simply, “Do people prefer a lie over reality if the illusion of happiness is intact?”

Anjou shook his head, “Go put your winter clothing on and meet me outside.”


“No arguing,” He responded.

Once outside the two of them started building snowmen a common thing around the Yamada estate during the winter months, much to the dismay of the matriarch. Sometimes there were moments when Anjou simply did not know how to answer her. Tationy was not normal. He imagined that every Tylo that existed had a similar unmoved disposition. Did they love? Probably as close to such a feeling as the Tylo were capable, but how do you tell a little girl who was asking you so many deep and hardly age appropriate questions that she might never be able to feel the way other people do? “Why do we always do this, you know I do not like the snow or making these things or putting all this heavy clothing on. It is cold out and I don’t like getting snow in my boots.”

“For someone so small you sure do complain a lot.”

“I just understand what displeases me.”

“Perhaps if you put some of that energy into what you like instead of what you dislike, you might come to understand those feelings you keep questioning. After all, how are you to know what you enjoy and love if you are so focused on what you hate? So, is there anything you like?”

Truthfully, Anjou had not expected a response from her. She had never displayed any sort of interest in anything and the few things that she did do frequently such as painting, reading, and playing the piano she often said she did not enjoy, “The Kari Commander.”


“I think he and I are the same.”

“How so?”

“The Kari Commander was both Yamada and Kari and yet both clans denounced his parentage. There was no one like him; he was alone. I am the same. Even though the matriarch has taken me in, I do not believe she wants me. The Yamada see me as botahmo, the cursed one, and the Tylo do not see me at all.” What did it say about her that the only person she identified with no longer existed; having died centuries upon centuries ago.

Anjou turned suddenly which took her by surprise; she had told him once that she always knew what the matriarch would say, but with him she was never certain. He didn’t ask her why, but now as he looked upon her he found himself contemplating the answer to that question. Rubbing the back of his neck his scrutinizing gaze washed over her, “Are you going to pretend that none of it matters? That as long as you and Hiko live happily ever after that all the pieces will fall into place.”

“Life does not work that way,” She responded simply. He needed the matriarch to be concerned about what was transpiring. Anjou was not honestly certain that Tationy would play her role. Forcing her would prove to be difficult and he knew he was over-analyzing the situation as he looked upon her face, “Senri has you terribly worried.”

Her words took him by surprise and offered insight that the matriarch was already aware of the movements of the Takahashi, “How much of what I have to say, do you already know?”

Thoughtfully she considered his question, “I am Tylo, most of what you have to say will not be unexpected. Truthfully, there should be some concern regarding Senri. There are very few among the Takahashi and Kensuku capable of uniting the two clans under the same banner. However, the absorption of the Kensuku into the Takahashi is less of a concern because Senri will still have to make his case before the Yamada to be accepted among the elite. Even with the sheer volume of people they would have upon a united union, they cannot risk forcing their way into Aslann upper-crust. To do so, would put them at odds with the other clans and while I would not put such a maneuver above Senri and either clan, if they failed at doing so both clans would pay the price.”

“If that is the case, it is probably a wise decision to make sure that Senri is aware that the Yamada are watching. That way he understands that if he steps out-of-line that there will be consequences.” He paused a moment, “I take it you are aware that the Maiba will be absorbed into the Zenaku?”

Tationy had waved her hand dismissively, “The matriarch of the Zenaku is not doing anything surprising. Over the past twenty years there have been numerous Maiba-Zenaku unions. Most of the elite clans of Aslann consider these two clans closely tied together. Honestly, it is foolish to unite under the same banner because they go from two votes to one. The Zenaku and Maiba have always voted the same on any decision presented before the elite clans, now the Maiba will no longer have a voice of its own. It hinders them, but the Zenaku matriarch is looking at the Takahashi with concern and wanting to beef up their numbers which will only hinder them and not help. Your grandfather told her as much, but with all of the conflict going on in her clan, she is having to take in the opinions of many instead of the Zenaku voice consolidating and presenting the words of the majority.”

“This situation between the Zenaku and the Anami needs to be handled. She had gone out of her way not to bring it before the Yamada to mediate and the conflict between the two clans has worsen.”

“It is too late; any chance there was to fix the relationship between the two clans was damaged with bad decision making. The Zenaku matriarch was not to blame in this though; her voice took it upon himself to try and handle a situation he was not entirely capable of negotiation. Even if the Yamada try to mediate the price for them will be high and it seems unlikely they will be willing to pay it.”

“Still, we cannot allow it to continue. I will have my contacts look into the situation and then make arrangements for mediation which may take some time if the Anami have truly washed their hands of the Zenaku.”

Sighing he leaned against the railing, his eyes closing a moment. There were plenty of things that needed to be discussed and he was organizing his thoughts, but soon those thoughts would become a jumbled mess as Tationy asked, “How are things with Mikaela?”

He snorted in annoyance as he looked away, “You and Hiko, why the fuck do the two of you keep asking about her?”

“No reason,” Tationy responded as she joined him at the railing and mimicked his posture.

“Did you know that she and my brother use to date?”

“They did a lot more than date, Anjou.” Her words did not make him feel any better, “Had things not transpired as they had, he would have married her, but Rio has not quite grown up yet. Their relationship would never have worked out. Mikaela is serious and pragmatic, she likes order and resolution. Stability is important and being able to count on the person that means the world to her is something that she could never live without. Rio at this age is simply not reliable for any woman.”

“Well it does not really matter what she wants, I don’t intend to see her again. Now, I would rather not talk about her any longer….”

She interrupted him, “So, let’s discuss whatever it is you think is more important.”

Anjou inwardly groaned. That was Tationy’s way of saying he was making a mistake without coming right out and saying it. “Fuck, I hate it when you do that Tationy. My brother is still fucking in love with her, what do you expect me to do? What type of man would I be if I just took my brother’s girl? This shit irritates the fuck out of me because I thought I would be calling her this week to do something and all I can think about is losing her fucking number.” She had not responded which was not entirely unexpected, “What does it matter, she is leaving for Harvard soon anyway.” Nothing, she still did not offer a single word. Irritated he quickly changed the topic as though the two of them had not even been discussing Mikaela, “Once the other clans become aware of the changes taking place within the Takahashi-Kensuku and Zenaku-Maiba they will most likely begin moving as well. What do you think will happen?”

Tationy began walking though did not offer a response until she entered one of the rooms and took a seat upon a small coffee table. She gestured with her hand for Anjou to take a seat and only after he did would she offer him any words regarding the situation, “There are 5847 clans within Aslann. Do you really wish to discuss the movements of each and every one of them?”

“How about we just pick apart the ones that might cause trouble for the foundations that Aslann is built upon.”

With a thoughtful sound she considered her words and eventually spoke, “The Waichia are most likely already aware of what is transpiring. It will be difficult to hide this knowledge from a clan that can read minds. Additionally, any clan that has Waichia blood mixed in with their bloodline is also most likely aware. So, we can probably safety assume that a large portion of clans are already making preparations.”

“Is this your way of saying that the Yamada are the last to know?”

“It is strange that the matriarch was unaware. As one who had a strong link to her Waichia blood even in the state she was before her death she would have most likely have known of the potential changes that were in the works and there is of course her special relationship with the Elder of the Tylo. There were numerous opportunities for this to become common knowledge for her.”

Anjou groaned, “Seems likely someone stopped her from telling us.”

“That would be a logical assumption.” Concern knitted across his features, but he did not have the opportunity to voice his thoughts on the matter as Tationy added, “The Waichia are in the strongest position. Their abilities far outweigh the meager talents that many of the clans exhibit. It seems unlikely they will make such a bold move and absorb any clan, though truthfully if they do, I expect they will go after the Shinohara.”

“Financially that would be a wise decision. The Shinohara control the film and music industry of Aslann, not to mention the hottest clubs. Anyplace in our nation worth being at they have their hand in. I agree that the Waichia will most likely not absorb the clan, especially considering they could just force them to turn over their assets and crush the clan without even lifting a finger. The Shima I think will be the clan that makes the biggest and most obvious of moves.”

While considering his thoughts on what the Shima might do, he realized that Tationy was staring at him. Her head was slightly tilted and the look was reminiscent of many he received from the matriarch Miso before her death. “I hated it when she looked at me like that and it is even worse when you do, what is it?”

“I was just thinking that you would have made a great leader for the Yamada if they were not so stubbornly obsessed with having a matriarch. I suppose such a wistful thought means nothing if you are not willing to rise above your station. Perhaps, that is the real reason that no Yamada man has ruled since Seelie.” Quickly she asked, “What bold move do you think the Shima will make?”

Anjou was not quite certain what to make of her words and tried not to think too deeply on them. This was about the Yamada and what was best for them and he did not have time to contemplate what ifs and whys. “The Shima are all about blood purity so they will most likely go after clans they know are not tainted by weak blood. With the close ties the Shima have with the Yamada we would probably be at the top of their list. I expect that Osa will present himself before us at some point, but he is most likely struggling with how to deal with you and your relationship with Hiko. It would not surprise me if they also sought out the Sosa, what is left of them.”

“The Sosa are no longer a clan we need to worry about. Emitoya has left Aslann and with an ego like his, he is more than content being the last of his bloodline. Even his own son is not worthy to carry on the name as far as he is concerned. Abe will not even bother with the Shima and if they persist and try to force him it will automatically put him on the defensive. He does not take too kindly to people pressuring him to do things that they think are in his best interest. I am more concerned with the Sweela.”

“The Shima already have control of an assassin clan in the Saitama why would they waste their time on the Sweela?”

“Good question, consider it like this. The demon Nakamaru clan created the Sweela from the blood of the Shima and the Sosa. There is no clan purer. They are immune to the abilities of chalta’s, they have the spatial awareness of the Shima and the exceptional reflexes of the Sosa. Not to mention are a highly skilled killing clan. Combined them with the Saitama and the Shima would be a force difficult to handle.”

“Fuck, they cannot be allowed to get their hands-on the Sweela.”

“I do not know if we alone will be able to keep that from happening.”

Tationy was suddenly oddly silent and Anjou had almost asked her what she was thinking about until Hiko stepped into the room, “Sorry, did not realize the two of you were in here.”

“Nonsense,” She responded simply, “Have you looked around the entire house?”

“Ahh….” He paused a moment, “Am I interrupting?”

There was a moment when Anjou was about to say yes, but Tationy had quickly responded, “Of course not. Please join us.” She had waited for him to take a seat and Anjou was certain the conversation they were having was suddenly over until Tationy unexpectedly continued, “As uneasy as it makes me, I will try to foster a relationship with the leader of the Tylo. Though, I think it would be far more beneficial if Hiko was the one to communicate. Soti appears to have an interest in him and it would be better for both the Kari and the Yamada if the Tylo remain allied with us instead of the Shima.”

Anjou quickly spoke, “Are you worried that you will do more harm than good when dealing with him?”

Hiko interrupted, “The Elder of the Tylo gave his word to her grandmother that no harm would come to Tationy, but what I got from my conversation with him the Yamada were not included in that. He sees her as a Tylo child that was never meant to exist. The only reason he is even willing to protect her is because of Tationy’s grandmother. A guy like that will stay neutral unless he has a reason to align.”

Quickly his attention turned upon Hiko, “I see the two of you have been discussing this.”

“Only somewhat; Tationy prefers I go into most situations with limited knowledge and just react. It makes my movement in the time-stream difficult to predict or so she says.”

“Hiding from the Tylo is a useful skill,” Anjou responded simply, “However, that does not mean you will be able to convince Soti Tylo to remain aligned with the Yamada especially considering you are Kari.”

Hiko snorted, “Seriously the whole lot of you. When I am among the Kari all they can see is my Yamada blood and when I am among the Yamada all they see is my Kari blood.”

Anjou’s body tensed as his attention swiftly fell upon Tationy. While the two exchange looks he realized what it was about Hiko that had drawn Tationy to him. There had been plenty of speculation around Aslann and there was not a day that had gone by since her appointment as the matriarch of the Yamada that people had not played the ‘guess why she is with him’ game. Now it all made sense. There was one thing the weird little chick had always been consistent about and that was her ‘like’ of the Kari Commander. A subtle curve graced her lips very slowly and he realized that she was well aware that it had finally dawned on him.

Did he have a shocked expression upon his face? As he sat there next to Hiko he kept thinking he probably appeared bewildered. “Trust me Hiko, no one forgets that you are Yamada and Kari. It is just easier for clans to identify you as one or the other. There is not a single person in Aslann that is simply one clan, but due to the foundations laid before us by our predecessors we are confined by our clan name and in some cases by the defining features of a particular blood. As time passes very few clans will continue on because they will have been absorbed by the blood of other more dominate clans. The Sato for example were once quite a powerful clan which were said to be able to sooth those around them, but during the days of ancient Aslann their territory was sought out by the Shima. Those among the Sato that did not willingly submit were annihilated and what remained of the clan was given off to powerful Shima. Thousands of years have passed and Aslann has begun to transition once again. Whether in a positive or negative fashion will be determined by how we handle these events that lie before us.”

Hiko sighed, “Sometimes when you talk I feel like I am in a political history class.”

“It is far more frightening considering she probably witnessed such events with her own eyes,” Anjou added.

“I am not sure if I should be annoyed by the two of you at the moment or not.” Tationy responded as she pouted her lips and looked away, “I will have you know….I only witnessed the end of it, I was a little busy at the time.”

“A little busy doing what?”

“Hiko that is probably not a question you want an answer to,” Anjou stated.

There was a snarl to the Kari’s voice as he asked, “Is that so?”

Quickly Tationy changed the topic, “Anyway we were discussing Soti Tylo. It might be a good idea for the two of you to jointly negotiate with him. Anjou has attended many meetings alongside the former matriarch that the Elder of the Tylo was in attendance and he seems to have taken a liking to you Hiko. If the appearance that the Yamada and Kari are united against what is to come is presented it would put us in a favorable position with the Tylo.”

“We would have to communicate what we are doing with the Kari before we make any arrangements to negotiate with the Elder of the Tylo. However, there are plenty of issues with that; the first being they may not feel comfortable having Hiko represent them additionally the Yamada and Kari have not been on the best terms after what happened with….”

“Say it,” Hiko demanded.

Anjou sighed, “Chilè and Ako did plenty of damage to the relationship between the Kari and the Yamada. The former matriarch tried repeatedly to communicate with the Kari, but all attempts failed. The last one was with the Shield and Osoma of the Kari, Kazuki. He would not even listen to what the matriarch had to say or even … accept what she had to offer.”

Hiko quickly questioned, “What was that?”

“Me, Hiko. She was offering me,” Tationy softly stated. The tension around Hiko was obvious and it was clear that the young couple would have plenty of things to discuss when he was not around, but for now he needed to keep the two of them on task. Thankfully it would be Tationy who kept sight of what was important, “We need to negotiate with the Kari. Resolve the slight against them. Try to arrange a meeting with the Elder for sometime this week, Anjou. The sooner we resolve the damage done the sooner our two clans can heal and move forward.”

There was a moment of silence that followed before Hiko broke it by asking, “Won’t the Ishi be an issue when it comes to the Tylo.”

“Does he not know?”

Tationy stood and moved toward the fireplace a quietness overtaking the room. It would be some time before she turned and directed her attention upon the two of them and stated simply, “What remains of the Tylo is also Ishi. The last Tylo without Ishi blood died centuries ago and what remains is a mixture Ishi and Tylo along with a handful of other demon and pure clans such as the Nakamaru and the Saitama. What the Ishi want is the remainder of those that call themselves Tylo to be absorbed into their ranks which Soti Tylo has consistently prevented as he stood against them.”

“It would be unwise to approach the Ishi until we are in the best possible position. If any weakness is left they would most likely exploit it.”

“Don’t forget what they are trying to do,” Hiko barked. “They want my woman and my company. The Kari will not back down from a fight and if the Yamada chose to side with the Ishi even if they remained out of the conflict regarding my families company they would not forget that they could not be counted upon. So, if this is one of those conversations where the two of you try to use big words and talk in circles until I think we are talking about one thing when really we are talking about something else, don’t even bother.”

The way Tationy smiled said plenty about how she was feeling, “My Hiko has spoken on the matter. The Yamada will not approach the Ishi.”

Anjou inwardly groaned, “We are overlooking one of the biggest and most powerful clans. I seriously hope you know what you are doing.”

“There are smaller clans of power that are often overlooked which could easily match the Ishi. The Yamada need to stop shying away from reaching out to the Hamara and Amano. These two clans could bolster our ranks and certainly would make the other clans cautious enough to think twice about striking against us.”

Anjou made note that they did not discuss what the Kari might do in this situation. There was a part of him that believed that anything that had to do with the Kari, Tationy was acutely aware so the likelihood that she avoided the topic because she was uncertain was naive in thinking. Why was she silent on the matter? Speculating did him very little good, but he could not help considering what action the Kari might take when they become aware of what the other clans were doing.

There had been a momentary pause in their conversation which allowed Anjou to take the opportunity to check his voicemail and text messages. As he was looking them over, he was slightly disappointed that there was not one from Mikaela, however he did receive one from his brother wanting to talk. Insistent even that it was important and that they should meet for coffee tomorrow at lunchtime. Inwardly he groaned, trying to decide if responding to the text was even worth it. Thankfully the unwelcome thoughts were distracted as he listened to Tationy and Hiko exchange words.

Hiko spoke with a subtle amount of annoyance in his tone, “Lately all we have been doing is spending money and hardly making any, not to mention we are going off to school and the house is just going to sit empty. December is not really that far away and it has to be in order before the annual Aota. It doesn’t feel like our dream house; the home we are going to spend the rest of our lives in. It just feels like a huge obligation neither of us are ready for.”

Anjou could not really blame Hiko for the way he felt. During several of their meetings together, Hiko had shared his long-term goals; school, official engagement, full-time at the Kari Foundation, first million, house, marriage, and if all worked out by the time Tationy was twenty-five they would be pregnant with their first child. Once a guy had a mental image of his path, it was hard not to be upset when things unexpectedly changed.

When Hiko groaned, Anjou glanced away from his phone long enough to notice that the Kari had his hands-on Tationy’s hips and she was giving him ‘that look’. Inwardly, Anjou had laughed because it had nothing at all to do with Tationy’s blood. No, when a man gave a woman his heart, she could make him buckle to her will with a single seductive stare. With a sigh, Hiko finally broke down and asked, “How much is this place?”

“Just shy a million, but I think you might be able to get it for as low as seven hundred thousand. The previous owner’s wife lost her battle to cancer and he has moved in with his daughter. There have been plenty of interested parties in the estate, but no sales. Buyers have backed out and the one confirmed bid that remains is for five hundred thousand, but the owner has not accepted it.”

Hiko’s words were directed toward Tationy, “Are we really going to do this?”

“It is our house Hiko, we are just getting it a bit sooner than expected.”

There was a subtle pause of hesitation from the Kari man, “Anjou, how long does this usually take?”

“It can take up to thirty days, unless of course you pay in cash which brings it down to five. The two of you could be in the house before you even leave for school, provided your bid is accepted.” Anjou paused as he regarded the two, “Do you want me to let the realtor know that you are interested when I return the key?”

Anjou noticed how Hiko gripped Tationy’s hips a bit firmer before responding, “Ahh, but for now let’s keep this between the three of us until everything is finalized.”

He kept thinking about how Tationy and Hiko interacted with one another. Most people wanted that happily ever after, fairy tale kind of love, which was not realistic in the slightest. Every day was not going to be filled with sunshine and lollipops, happy songs and heart-shaped eyes. Anyone that believed in that utter trash was a child that would never grow up and accept the person in their life for whom they were. They would always try to change them, pout and stamp their feet, wonder why they love that person more.

What Tationy had said about Mikaela, Anjou identified and in some ways as he looked in from the outside on Tationy and Hiko’s relationship he thought it was what everyone should strive for. It was not that over the top love where they were floating on clouds. Perhaps to some degree they were, but it was hardly evident in how they acted. If he were to label them, it was as though they were an old married couple. They compromised, showed respect, and communicated. It was clear they understood that they would not be able to spend every moment together so what time they did share was precious to them; quality over quantity. They chose their battles and stood together, perhaps there were times that they did not agree, but in front of others it would never be evident.

After they had finished up, he had watched them passively as they stood closely and discussed what they wanted to do with the house when and if they got it. Even though it was evident that neither of them was happy or believed they were ready, they were still making the best of it and moving forward together. Anjou had never had that. Neither of his relationships ended well. Both women felt he loved his job more and that they were just there to share his bed. Maybe they were. Perhaps, that was all he could give to someone and worse yet, his family suspected that the only thing the two girls were after was his money.

Sighing inwardly he realized far to late that his coffee was now cold and he was still waiting for Rio to show up for lunch. He had wanted to tell his brother no, but it seemed as though Rio had things he needed or wanted to say. Honestly, Anjou did not care to hear any of it because it was none of his business who Rio loved or at least that was one of the reasons he gave himself.

People did not go to restaurants just for the food. There was the social aspect and in some cases the entertainment. Restaurants were a great equalizer where the common man was on the same level as the wealthy and even the famous. Anjou liked eating out, but being a terrible cook was only a small part of the reason why. It was a perfect opportunity to eavesdrop on the conversations around him. For a guy like Anjou, it was important to know anything and everything that could give the Yamada an advantage. So, it was not uncommon for him to try and distract his overworked mind by listening in while he enjoyed a meal; today, however, he was struggling to focus on something, anything, other than his own thoughts.

A woman’s laugh pulled his attention and he recognized her almost instantly as the lead vocalist for a rock band called Dirty Kitty that sometimes headlined the Shinohara clubs with Zipper Mishap. “So, he really just walked away?” She had asked the man she was sitting with and upon closer inspection, Anjou realized it was the drummer from Tequila Monsters. “What a waste of a great opportunity.”

“Cannot entirely blame him. Miroku and Hero are the same as always; still treating anyone that is not part of their original band like shit. I have mixed feelings on it all. One part of me gets why he would leave after all it weighed pretty heavily upon him knowing that they wanted his friend instead of him, but on the other hand I think he took the easy way out. He is the type of guy that needs constant stimulation and I cannot see him getting it playing in a band on the weekends and living a normal life. Eventually a guy like that is going to get bored and most likely get himself into some major trouble.”

“That really sucks. Does this mean your tour is on hold again or is it completely canceled this time?”

“No idea. Hero is fucking pissed at Miroku for shit I cannot even begin to explain.”

“What about Miroku?”

The Tequila Monster’s drummer laughed, “Still crushing on him huh?”

There was a soft smile that adorned her lips, “All of those groupies that scream his name and say ‘my Miroku’, just don’t get him. His songs strike you right to your very core. For a guy with no emotional response at all, he is so passionate. Just listen to his lyrics and you will get a chill. Your heart will beat wildly and that emotion will build inside of you. He might not be able to express himself with smiles, hugs, and kisses. Tell someone he loves them or how much they mean to him, but when he plays the piano you can see his heart and I feel sorry for anyone that is too blind or dumb to get that and it sounds like that guy, will never understand why Miroku and Hero are the heart and soul of Tequila Monsters.” Pausing a moment she added, “I might still have a little crush on him, but I have always liked him for whom he is and I feel honored when he plays the piano for me.”

“Don’t need anything else?”

She spoke softly, “No, listening to him play is its own orgasmic experience. He and I are married to the music, the heart that beats so wild and free and does not require anything more than the keys.”

There was a quiet that followed her words and Anjou almost pulled his attention away from the conversation entirely until the drummer quickly responded, “Join us, on the road….”

“What? Do not even joke Toshiro.”

“Suemeli, we need you. If something does not happen, there might not be a Tequila Monsters by the end of this year. They are fighting a lot. Hero is so angry and Miroku is just different. Which is saying a lot seeing he is a weird guy to begin with. I am worried; scared even that whatever this shit is with Miroku, that it will destroy the band and there won’t be any recovering this time.”

Anjou did not get the opportunity to hear her response because his attention was quickly pulled away when his brother joined him. There was a quiet that settled around the two of them and he could feel Rio’s eyes staring at his face. Neither spoke until the waitress came over to ask if Rio wanted anything to drink which the Yamada brothers used as an opportunity to order food and return to the silence that was surrounding them. As uncomfortable as it was, Anjou thought it would be far worse to be the first to speak seeing he had no doubts that the reason the two of them were having this lunch had to do with a certain girl with a rather seductive angry face.

There was a part of him that was perfectly happy with the silence continuing just so the two of them would not have to discuss Mikaela, unfortunately it would not last as his brother finally said, “I was really young; not in age mind you, but in mentality. I wanted the dream. Playing in a rock band with my girl watching on. Traveling the world, living the life, but when she told me she might be pregnant it just all crumbled down around me so quickly that I said the first stupid thing that came to my mind.”

“Why did you tell the old man and not me?”

“I am not perfect like you Anjou. I don’t walk on water and turn nothing into something. I am pretty used to being in your shadow and having you look at me like I am some big disappointment. With her, I just didn’t want to see that look upon your face.”

“What look?”

“The one dad used to get when we failed to live up to his expectations.” Anjou was irritated by his brothers words, but they were not entirely unexpected. When they were kids, Rio had often mockingly called him dad. “How…how is she?”

“I don’t know, I have not talked to her.”

“Why not?”

“Are you seriously fucking asking me that question? Mikaela does not even know that I am your brother; she is not even going to look at me when she learns the truth. What did you think I was going to do when I found out?” He felt his anger bubbling over as he continued, “I have no idea what to even say to you, but I cannot pretend I am not disappointed so, don’t fucking expect me to.”

Not unexpected the two brothers stopped talking as the waitress brought some soup and Rio’s drink. Anjou thought if he could just survive a half hour of lunch with his brother without losing it completely that he might be able to salvage his day, but he doubted that was even a possibility as his attention focused in on any other conversation.

“Still trying to get that interview with the Kari boy?”
*Laughs* “Trying and failing; I am not the only one though. The Kari are not letting Hiko speak with the press at all. The few verbal responses that he has made are to frivolous questions about his love life. Those directed toward his outburst at the gala are quickly met with silence.”
“It would be unwise for the Kari to allow that rabid dog to foam at the mouth, it is most likely a calculated decision.”

The annoyance in his brothers tone pulled his attention away from the conversation that was distracting his conflicted thoughts, “Anjou, did you hear what I said?”

“I was not listening,” He responded curtly.

Rio snorted, “I noticed. Look, just let me say this and then you can zone out for the rest of lunch if you really want to. I love her.” There it was again. Anjou could not explain why those words pissed him off so much, but the first time Rio said them all he wanted to do was rip his head off. Now was no different. “I am still struggling with those feelings and I don’t think I am going to be over her any time soon. It has been a couple of years and I still find myself thinking about Mikaela. Maybe that is because I fucked up so bad and I lost the most amazing woman I have ever met, but there is no fixing what I did. I tried and she just caressed my cheek, told me she loved me, and walked away. Any chance I thought I might have with her ended when I saw her with that guy.”

Anjou’s attention was finally captured, “What guy?”

“Some Maiba she met at a party. Up until that point she was single, so I thought there was always a chance, however slim, to get her back. In April, she stated dating that guy and it felt like she was slapping me in the face saying…look, I have moved on. I know that was not what she was doing, but I was not prepared for it. Two years she didn’t date anyone; maybe, she was waiting for me to get my act together and really prove to her I was not the same guy I was back then. Whatever her reason, my time has run out and she has moved on. Not only is she dating again, but she is welcoming someone into her bed. Of course, I was not expecting it to be my brother. Honestly, I would rather it be you then that Maiba trash.”

To say he was surprised would be an understatement. Not so much by what he said, but how he said it. The disdain in his brothers tone as he spoke about the Maiba was foreign to Anjou. Rio had never been the type of Yamada to get petty about blood, but there he was calling that Maiba names. One might assume he was hurting and just lashing out, but for Rio to call anyone trash meant he really did not like the someone. The question was, why? “Did you and this Maiba have a run in or something?”

“No, nothing like that.” Anjou’s brows knitted in a combination of confusion and concern as his brother added, “She deserves better than some low blood.”

Anjou had opened his mouth to respond only to be halted by the ringing of his cellphone. He had almost let it go to voicemail, but he thought that answering it might give him an opportunity to analyze his brothers words and body language for whatever it was he was not saying. “This is Anjou.”

As he listened his face must have contorted in some sort of obvious worry because his brother had asked, “What happened? Is it granddad?”

Bringing his finger up to indicate he needed a moment he responded to the person he was talking to, “I am on my way.” He did not take the opportunity to explain, reaching into his wallet and tossing some money down, “Go straight to the old man’s place after you leave here and stay there until I call.”

“What happened?”

“I can’t discuss it right now,” Anjou responded as he left his brother sitting there and departed the restaurant in a rush.

By the time Anjou reached Thacian City there was a media frenzy waiting. Zen greeted him outside the hospital and explained the situation in detail. There had been a shooting which resulted in Hiko and Tadayoshi Kari being taken to the hospital. “How bad is it?” Anjou finally asked as the situation was laid out for him in somewhat hurried detail, but Zen was careful not to leave anything out.

“Tadayoshi’s was shot in the chest and his condition is listed as critical and Hiko’s is unknown. He was hit in the shoulder and despite, what they portray in popular media there is no safe place to be shot. The doctors seem extremely concerned over his condition, most likely because the shoulder contains the subclavian artery, which feeds the main artery of the arm as well as the large nerve bundle that controls arm function. So far, we have received no further word as they were both rushed off to surgery fairly quickly.”

“I was worried this might happen.”

Zen had made a thoughtful sound before responding, “The two of us talked at great lengths about this possibility. There was no way of knowing that a strike would happen so quickly, not to mention we cannot be certain whom the target was truly meant to be. Which I suspect was purposely done.”

“With all the preparations we made, I had hoped it would be enough.” He was concerned about Tationy, but he did his best to keep his emotions in check as he walked with Zen toward the waiting room, “The press is going to want information.”

“They have already begun to camp outside the hospital and there is still a large number watching the movements of detectives at the Kari Foundation. Which reminds me, I need to be getting back. With the condition of Hiko and Tadayashi the responsibility of the company falls upon me.”

“Probably works out for the best,” Anjou stated. “I hate saying it, but this shooting might be a blessing in disguise were the Kari Foundation is concerned. This allows you to assume control until Tadayoshi and Hiko are capable of returning.”

Zen was quiet for a moment, “I was unaware you realized that I was the one running the company.”

“With the situation that transpired with Tationy’s mother and Tadayoshi the most logical maneuver would have been for him to relinquish control of the company. He could not simply turn it over to Hiko, despite him being its future. Let’s face it, he is just not ready. I realized after we were introduced that you were most likely the one currently in charge, despite the appearance that Tadayoshi was still at the helm.”

“Why didn’t you go to the press with that information?”

“The Kari and the Yamada still have much distrust between them. Informing the public would have only ensured that our clans relationship remained troubled.”

Zen kept this thoughts to himself on the matter as they rounded the corner toward the waiting room and all eyes shifted toward them. Kari men, everywhere Anjou looked and none of them seemed at all happy to see him. It was not simply because of what had transpired with Tadayoshi Kari and not one, but two Yamada women. No, this was a territorial thing that revolved around the matriarch of the Yamada, Hiko’s girl, who had quickly stood and began to move toward him.

His arms wrapped around her the moment she was within distance of him. Anjou could feel the eyes of the Kari still upon them, so he did not allow the embrace to linger too long. “Are you alright?”

“I feel a little ill, but I am not hurt.”

He tried to hide the concern, “I know it is difficult, but you should try and eat something. Hiko will not be happy if he finds out you were so worried you made yourself sick.”

There was so much emotion adorning her features and Anjou could barely recall a time since he met her that he could read her so well, “I couldn’t stop it from happening.”

“The eyes of the Tylo give you sight far beyond the norm, but that does not make you a god, Tationy. Sometimes, you will see things and simply not be able to prevent them.” No amount of words were going to take that feeling of guilt away from her so he relented, “What do you want me to do?”

“I know a Yamada man might not understand what I am about to say, but I just need to be a woman of the Kari right now. Please, handle the affairs of the Yamada and let the Kari handle this.”

“Tationy, it does not work that way,” Anjou had said as he sighed and looked around. It was clear that the Kari were not happy he was there, but taking into account her words and the hard stares he was receiving he realized far to late it had nothing at all to do with what had transpired between the Yamada and the Kari. She was Hiko’s woman and there were expectations that went along with that not to mention, someone struck out against the Kari and they were not entirely certain that the Yamada didn’t have a hand in it.

Her words pulled his attention back to their conversation, “Take your girlfriend home, hold her tightly, and remember what it was like before you were the voice of the Yamada.”

“I don’t have a girlfriend….” He had responded, but was halted from continuing when Tationy lifted her hand and pointed.

When he turned he caught sight of Mikaela standing there with a nervous and uncertain expression upon her features. There were plenty of questions that came to mind as he stared. Tationy spoke, “My place right now is here and I cannot be the matriarch of the Yamada, so I need you to handle it. More importantly, you need to stop running away from that feeling tugging at your heart because in a single moment you could lose her. Is that really what you want?”

Anjou turned to respond to Tationy’s words, but she was quickly back among the Kari as though she had never left their side. He did not like it, but he understood as he took a step toward Mikaela. When he stopped before her he asked, “What are you doing here?”

Maybe it was not the best way to ask the question because her response seemed slightly hurt, “I am sorry; the news said someone was shot at the Kari Foundation. You mentioned that night at the club that you had been spending a lot of time there, so I came to see if you were alright.”

When she looked away from him he found himself reaching out to direct her attention back upon him, “No, I am the one that should be sorry. That came out a bit more abrasive than I intended.” He paused as he took in her appearance. While it was not over the top, she was slightly dressed up and his first thought was that she had been on a date. Was she with that Maiba that Rio mentioned? He hated those thoughts as he somehow managed to find the words, “Thank you for worrying about me. I am fine; Hiko and his dad were both shot.”

Concern graced her features as she glanced past him toward the large group of Kari before asking, “Is Tationy alright? Do the two of you need me to do anything? Call anyone? Get you anything?”

So many questions all at once and he thought how odd it was to be on the other side of this sort of behavior. Normally he was the one asking questions like those, “Tationy just needs to be among the Kari right now. They will take care of her. She doesn’t need me.”

“I am sure that is not true, it just feels that way at the moment because she is surrounded by so many that understand how she is feeling.”

Anjou reached down and took her hand in his, “Come on.” Despite the demanding words his tone was gentle as he led the two of them toward the exit. Mikaela had never protested though he would not have been surprised if she had. Even when he stopped just at the entrance doors she remained quiet, “I need you to keep your head slightly bowed. If the press directs their attention upon you by saying or asking anything, remain silent. Even if they provoke a response, don’t look at them or respond. They want information and will do anything to get it.”

“Maybe we should leave separately, I don’t want to cause you any trouble.”

“Right now, I don’t think I can let go of your hand without losing my balance,” He responded.

Mikaela had whispered, “I understand.”

They had managed to survive the media frenzy and the remarkably silent ride back to his place. Even after he exited his vehicle and walked around to the other side to get her door he still had not found the words. Holding her hand, he weaved them through his garage which was filled with his collection of muscle cars and motorcycles. Seriously, what type of boyfriend would he even be? Did the fact that he took her back to his place really mean he saw her as his girlfriend? His mind was clouded with crazy thoughts about a woman he barely knew. Anjou had told his grandfather he would not see her again and listened to his brother discuss how much he was still in love with her and yet there he was, struggling with what he should do in the face of so much emotional chaos.

He did not have time to think about a relationship. Hiko Kari and his father Tadayoshi had been shot; bullets which might have been meant for the matriarch of the Yamada. It could not be ruled out. Not to mention all of that stuff he and Tationy had discussed regarding what the clans would do. Anjou considered the answer to the movement of the Kari lay in the fact that a man of the Matsuo clan stood among so many Kari men in the hospital waiting room. It certainly brought up many questions, none of which had readily available answers.

Once inside his place he dropped his keys and his phone to the table, opened the balcony doors and some windows in his room, and then sought her out. What should he say? Bringing up Rio at a moment like this would probably not end well, but that was one of the things he really wanted to discuss. However, just being like this was fine or at least he thought, “That look is different. Normally you give me the, I wanna sex you up look. Talk to me, what is wrong?” He did not think he was being obvious as his hands gripped her hips and he stared into her eyes, “Are you worried about Tationy?”

Anjou tried to evade, “I just have a lot of things on my mind.” Whether or not she believed him he could not say, but he thought it would be better if he continued the conversation rather than let it hang there. “You look really nice. I hope this situation did not drag you away from anything.”

It kind of sounded like he was fishing for information as he kicked himself for phrasing it that way, “Thank you, but you do not have to say things like that.”

“I mean it, Mikaela.”

There was some tension filled silence that overtook the two of them before Mikaela asked, “Do you want to take your frustration out of someone?”

Was that it? As he thought about it he considered she was probably right. There were so many things to do and Tationy tied his hands. Leaving the Kari in charge of handling the shooting especially in regard to Tationy was not something he was at all comfortable with. Certainly he understood why she made the request, but it did not sit well with him. Not to mention he was staring at the woman that his brother was in love with. Finally, he mustered the courage to respond, “Yes.”

“Alright, I will let you take it out on me.”

Those encouraging words were giving him permission to do with her as he pleased until all of his frustration was washed away. No man would turn down such an offer as he leaned in and claimed her mouth and only after the first couple of kisses did he allow his body to relax enough that his eyes closed. Mikaela felt amazing in his arms, but was she his? Anjou’s mind kept rushing back to the fact that his brother was in love with her and even though Rio said it was over, could he really have her? Should he? Part of him felt like he was doing something wrong by wanting her even though he had no idea going into anything that Mikaela and Rio had dated. His brother could have told him, long before it progressed further than a one-night stand.

After some intense heavy petting and kissing, she had pulled away and disappeared into the bathroom. Anjou took the opportunity to pull a condom from his wallet, change into something more comfortable before positioning himself upon his bed. Even though he wanted to completely get lost in carnal relations with her, the heaviness that was lingering in his mind kept pulling his focus away from the moment. How long had he been lying upon his bed before he noticed her? He took several deep breaths allowing himself to memorize every detail. She was in great shape which was far more evident when she was not wearing anything. Mikaela was stacked with endless curves that would make any Yamada woman envious.

There was a moment where she quietly regarded him before speaking, “You are thinking about her.” He inwardly groaned. Most conversations during his previous relationships started with the woman in his life bringing up the fact that his mind was on another woman; not just any other woman, but the matriarch of the Yamada. What did he expect? Women were all the same. Mikeala sighed as her fingers brushed her hair off her face and he expected her to make some catty comment because that was generally what followed, “Anjou, just because the matriarch of the Yamada told you to leave did not mean you had to. It is clear you are worried about her; so, why don’t we put a hold on this. We can pick her up an overnight bag because you know she is not going to leave the hospital until Hiko is released and then stop at Perlato and get some food for her and the Kari.”

Why did her words surprise him so much? He felt guilty for lumping her into the same category as every other woman. Rio would never have dated her if she was the type of girl that got worked up over every woman in a man’s life, but he could not help wondering if she got jealous at all or at the very least, wonder why she was not jealous of Tationy. Anjou always got the impression that the majority of women that interacted with the new matriarch were intimidated by her; so what made Mikaela different? “Anjou, you are staring,” She teased him as he adjusted his position and kept his eyes fixed on her.

Anjou watched as she shifted slightly under the weight of his stare and would not speak until he was certain he wanted to know the answer, “It does not bother you that Tationy is a major priority in my life? Don’t most women not like to be second to another woman?”

“Wow, assuming I am most women. Not sure if I should be offended or not.” He understood she was not being serious as she moved toward his bed and climbed upon it.

Mikaela’s body stilled as his fingers lightly trailed over her bare skin. Smooth and taut; easily he was able to get lost in the moment so, it took him far too long to find the words as he finally broke the silence and said, “I tried dating a couple of times and things did not really work out too fabulous. I don’t really want to go into detail right now, but the matriarch of the Yamada was a huge issue for both of them. I sort of expect now that women are going to assume I am sleeping with her.”

“Well that would never happen, you are not Tationy’s type.” Anjou choked on his own saliva, coughing several times as he stared at her back as she responded, “Don’t stop rubbing.” His mind tried to wrap itself around her words, but he simply couldn’t and thankfully she continued speaking so he did not have to, “I went on a couple of dates once with this guy named Abe, who at one point was involved with her. He spent the entire time talking about Tationy, so when she finally arrived to Sofore Academy, I felt like I already knew her. No matter how attractive you are, a guy like you is not going to pull her attention. I think if it was a thing over a person, perhaps the two of you would make some amazing power couple, but she is jealous and possessive and a girl like that would never be second to another woman; no matter who she was.”

Anjou considered her words, “How much time did you and Tationy spend together?”

“Well in the grand scheme of things not that long; just shy a month. I was her student adviser so I got her acclimated to Sofore and the adjacent room to mine was open so she stayed there. I actually think she sleeps less than I do so I told her if she could not rest and wanted to talk all she had to do was knock. Of course, she was the first person to take me up on it. Honestly, I think it was less about needing to talk with someone and more about her sizing me up.”

Under his breath he responded, “That sounds about right.” His fingers began to tease her skin again slightly which elicited a soft moan which oddly relaxed him enough that he started talking, “Tationy tied my hands. She wants the Kari to handle the shooting and I am just suppose to sit back and do nothing. No offense to you, but I could be working right now. Trying to figure out who did this and she wants me to stay out of it. There is no knowing if Hiko and Tadayoshi will even survive and Zen is now officially in control of the Kari Foundation. What does that mean for the company? I know I should not be concerned about it, but companies like those are important to Aslann; is he even going to be able to protect it by himself?”

“My only contact with Zen was during my freshmen year at Sofore when he taught my physics class for a term; very serious and overly intelligent. The Kari do not seem like the type of people to leave a conglomerate like the Kari Foundation in less than capable hands. Not to mention, I don’t think Hiko will leave Tationy alone. He does not seem like the type of guy that is going to allow death to do as he pleases.” Anjou snorted at her words because she managed to sum Hiko up in single sentence. “Most of what is happening right now there is not a soul in the world that can control it and I know it is so easy to say, don’t worry about it, but I understand it is your job to do just that and take care of anything and everything that affects the matriarch. So, it is alright if you need to work instead of playing with me, but don’t think for a second I am not going to tease you.”

Anjou wrapped his arm around her, as he leaned in and kissed along her back whispering, “Would you make this body of yours jiggle and bounce for me because that would be fantastic.”

“I don’t think you could handle that,” She teased.

His hand possessively rested upon hers and Anjou could hear the subtle increase of her breathing. Maybe Tationy’s suggestion would not be all that terrible. He had taken her home, held her tightly, and even though he knew it could not last it was rather nice not being the voice of the Yamada, but that did not take away from all of the thoughts going on in his mind. He had not forgotten that Hiko and Tadayoshi Kari were in surgery that someone had nearly killed them and Tationy, and that the clans of Aslann were moving and stepping on each other regardless of the cost. No those things were still very much in his thoughts as he allowed himself to be temporarily lost in the moment.

“Mikaela,” He said as he finally halted his attention upon her back, “This is probably going to ruin the mood, but I want to talk to you about that guy. The one I remind you of.”

She shifted around so the two of them were now looking at each other, but offered him nothing which only made things far more uncomfortable. At least that was what he thought until she said, “Let’s not pretend Anjou, you want to discuss your brother.”

“How long have you known? Was….was fucking me to get back at him? Please, tell me it wasn’t.”

Mikeala softly sighed, “I saw the two of you at the water-park together. Side by side there was no denying it and I honestly thought the same thing; that he sent you to humiliate me. Even thinking that, I foolishly slept with you, yet again. Guess that makes me a glutton for degradation or something. I realized that you had no idea who I was in regard to him when I told you what happened.”

“Rio is still in love with you. Do you feel the same?”

“He was the first guy I gave my heart to, but he broke it and no matter what he says it just cannot be fixed. Rio has a beautiful soul; he is gentle and loving, but I need to know I can rely on the man in my life. That no matter what happens he will be there and after two years, I still cannot look at him without being reminded that he discarded me. I can forgive, I just can’t forget.” There was a subtle intake of breath before she added, “Is this where we part company?”

Is that what she wanted? His fingers teased along her back as he stared at her face, “I don’t know, Mikaela.”

For hours they stared at each other, without speaking. Maybe they both had things they wanted to say, but simply could not find the words. Whatever the reason that silence remained until Mikaela fell asleep and Anjou pulled himself from her warmth and tried to get some work done. It was not such an easy thing because his eyes kept drifting toward the woman sleeping peacefully in his bed. He was conflicted; uncertain what to do. As ridiculous as it sounded he felt as though he was betraying his brother by even having her in his house. Whether or not Rio saw it that way was hidden in what he said to him earlier in the day, but “it” being Anjou over some other guy was not a preference based on happiness. Rubbing the back of his neck, he did not even bother swearing under his breath.

“Is work frustrating you?”

He tried to quickly compose himself as he hit a button on his laptop which automatically closed out everything and brought him to his desktop. As his eyes finally sought her out he blatantly stared before stumbling over the words, “A lot of things at the moment are.”

“Did you at least get some work done?”

“A little,” He responded.

She giggled as her voice teased him, “Anjou, you are staring again.”

Quickly he looked away. He was not going to apologize for looking, he loved the way she was shaped and every opportunity he had to memorize her curves he was going to blatantly do so. No Yamada man would say he was sorry for appreciating the curves of the woman in his life. He changed the focus, “Why were you so tired?” Inwardly he thought how foolish he was fishing for information again, when he could just come out and ask her if she was with another guy. Was it even his business what she did when they were not together?

“I picked up a shift at the clinic last night.”

“The clinic? Did you stop working at the water-park?”

“No, I work there as well. The water-park gives me a couple of days a week. They have several on staff with lifeguard and CPR training, so hours are kind of difficult to get. The clinic calls me when they need someone to fill in so it can be any time day or night. I am not going to get rich doing either of them, but they pay the rent and utilities and allow me the opportunity to save money before I head off to school. Cannot really complain too much right?”

Was there a heaviness surrounding him? At the mention of school he felt like all the life in his body completely drained all at once, “It is really impressive that you will be heading off to Harvard. I have been the voice of the Yamada since I was sixteen, so school was not really an option and even if it was, I doubt I would have gone.”

He noticed how she rubbed the sleep from her eyes and remained quiet for a time. What did she think of him for admitting that? “Well you have a very important and difficult job; school seems silly with all you will see and do. I guess the question every person should ask themselves before going off to a university is will it improve my life? At the end of the day it is just a piece of paper saying, I wasted how ever many years to make something of my worthless existence, but the answer regarding whether or not it is worth it only comes many years later when you look back on it all.”

Anjou was aware that Harvard was her mothers dream, but he got the impression that Mikaela did not want to go and he wondered for a moment if he should press forward and ask her. They really did not know each other well enough for him to be delving into such deep and personal questions or at least that was what he told himself. When he opened his mouth to speak he realized she was gazing toward the wall with an odd look upon her face, “What is wrong?”

“Do you hear that or am I losing my mind?”

The two fell silent as he allowed his attention to focus in on any little noise he could hear, “Yeah, sounds like someone is on the fire escape.” Anjou tried to hide his concern as he quickly stood, grabbing him and Mikaela something to put on, and contemplating whether or not he should grab his gun. After pulling his shirt on, he glanced toward Mikaela and watched as she dressed. He did not want to scare her, but all things considering he could not risk it being someone trying to further harm the Yamada.

She gave him a look which at first he could not decipher until she whispered, “Please do not do anything reckless.”

Reckless; as though he was Hiko Kari. Those words were almost insulting as he decided against getting his gun and swiftly moved toward the fire escape door with her not far behind him. Looking out he did not see anyone and the brightly lit landing would certainly reveal if there was anyone there. He unlocked the door and opened it glancing about before jumping slightly when something brushed by him. As he turned Mikaela responded, “Hello boy.” Offering her hand for him to sniff, Anjou simply stared. It would not be difficult for an animal to climb the fire escape stairs, but strays in this part of Thacian City were practically unheard of. “He is so cute, can we keep him?”

Confusion graced his features and he considered she probably did not mean it the way it came out. Sighing he responded, “He has a collar. The dog probably belongs to someone.”

She examined him, “His tags are missing.”

“We are not keeping him,” Anjou responded sternly. “His owners are most likely looking for him.”

“But….” Was she really begging him to keep a dog when the two of them were not even a couple, not to mention did not even live together?

“No,” He said a bit more sternly as he moved by the two and headed toward the kitchen.

Mikaela had caught up to him rather quickly and reached for his hand which halted him, “Please.”

She was pouting which forced a sigh to leave his lips, “Alright, he can stay until we find his owner, but we are not keeping him.”

“What if we do not find his owners?”

Awkwardly he laughed, “You are just not going to let this go are you? I work way too much to take care of a pet.”

“I will do it, he will be no trouble.”

“Mikaela, you are going off to school soon in another country. You are not going to be able to take him with you.”

Her face contorted in what could only be described as an uncertain somberness. Anjou did not quite get why this was so important to her, especially considering they were not even a couple or were they and he just did not realize it? Relenting with an exasperated sigh, “Fine, we will worry about that when we get to that point.”

In a weeks time, things felt different for Anjou as he stepped off the elevator and let himself into Hiko’s apartment. There was ‘arguing’ or at least that is what Anjou would call it as he stopped just inside the main room and witnessed an Anami and a young girl walking briskly toward the exit. Hiko was staring at them from the sofa. It was clear that whatever words were exchanged did not make the Anami happy. Stepping aside he did not bother watching them further, just waited for the telltale annoyed door slam to indicate that they were no longer in the apartment.

Walking toward the sofa, “Out of the hospital for less than twenty-four hours and you are already picking fights. Didn’t the doctors tell you to take it easy and avoid stress?”

Groaning Hiko responded, “They said a lot of things, but they do not have Sadamitsu living with them. There is a reason Tationy calls him our big kid.”

“Isn’t he the guy that was playing for Tequila Monsters?”


“The girl? What is she like ten or eleven?”

Hiko snorted, “Thirteen, which is way too young for him and I have told him plenty of times that he needs to keep it in his pants.” There was a momentary pause before he added, “His life is pretty fucked up right now. I really do not care about the girl, if he is happy great, but Sadamitsu is experienced, despite what he will tell you. He is just going to keep teasing until she gives in. Not to mention the other shit; the lawyers at the Kari Foundation are still trying to deal with the broken contract with Tequila Monsters. He has not been looking for a job; spends all his time hanging out with that girl and none of it trying to get his shit in order. I don’t know what to do about him.”

Anjou could not help chuckling, “Does sound a bit like he is your kid, but was that really what you were arguing over?”

Shaking his head Hiko continued, “His dad has realized he is staying here and has been trying to reach him. Sadamitsu refuses to call him back. I am just not very sympathetic at the moment.”

“Well, you and your dad were both shot and he is still in the hospital. Seems reasonable that you would not be, after all once your father is gone there is no getting that time back or making things right.”

He realized far to late that there had been something in his tone when he spoke those words, “Something happen to yours?”

Rubbing the back of his neck he thought about how much he wanted to avoid answering. It was with heaviness he responded, “Yeah.”

Hiko must have realized it was a topic he did not wish to discuss so he quickly changed it, “Did you find out who tried to kill us?”

“Tationy told me to stay out of it, so I did.”

“Bullshit, there was no way you were going to let it go even after she told you that. So, don’t fucking blow smoke up my ass. I don’t need you charming me into submission. Just spit it out, who the fuck do I have to make an example of?”

Anjou sighed, “I don’t know. I am still looking into it. The Shima are the most obvious, but I have not been able to find any evidence that they were involved. That does not mean anything though. Certainly with the Saitama they could accomplish this and never leave any trace. Knowing who the shot was meant for will give us some insight into who it is, but no one is even certain about that at this point. The Shima would never strike against the Yamada, but there are other clans that certainly would. Until we know the answer to that question, we are just going to be treading water.”

Quiet followed his words though it would not linger for long, “Tationy told me that you and Mikaela stopped by the hospital after I got out of surgery.”

“Brought her an overnight bag and some food. I tried to convince her to stay with me, but she was not going to leave your side.”

“She asked you to stay away.” It was clear that Hiko was aware of what transpired when he was out, but just saying yes seemed pointless so Anjou chose to remain silent and allow Hiko to continue if he wished, “I told her not to do that again.” His attention swiftly fell upon the Kari, “I don’t have a lot of friends and even less people I trust. Even if it is just to protect the Yamada, I do not think you would do anything to harm me. It might just be because if you do, you will have to deal with Tationy. Whatever your reason, I trust you so, I informed the Elder of the Kari that you are not to be dismissed the way you were by any member of my family and that includes my girl. Now, find out who the fuck tried to kill us so I can make them regret it.”

“I am trying Hiko.”

There was a subtle nod of his head, “I know. Tationy said it was not even a memory more like a ‘danger sense’.”

“One of the side-effects of taking the medication is she does not always see things the way normal Tylo’s do. It dulls the ‘dreams’, but occasionally she still gets the impression that something is off or wrong. It was a risk when she went on the medication, but she wanted to be a normal girl and she was dreaming all the time. Wide awake and she was not always there. The moments of lucidity were so rare. She was an odd little chick. Where is she, by the way? It seems unlike her to leave your side.”

“Upstairs, trying to sleep.”

That made sense, she was probably exhausted from worrying about Hiko, “How are you feeling?”

“Well, I am alive. Doctors told me that in a couple of weeks I should be able to resume normal activities and then added that heavy lifting would probably still be out of the question and my full range of movement might not be there.” Anjou could not help himself and snorted which elicited a chuckle from Hiko, “Ahh, I laughed as well. They obviously have no idea what it is like dating a Yamada woman; heavy lifting is an everyday thing.”

Anjou laughed harder as he agreed with a nod, “So, you will most likely have to have physical therapy?”

“Ahh, the brachial plexus was nicked, which as I was told controls the muscles of the shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand. The nerve cluster sends messages to the brain and without them the arm does not work as it is supposed to. I have to keep the muscles from becoming stiff; they said it is like a rusty hinge that even if the muscles are working properly if they become stiff they will not move again. If I do everything the doctors tell me to in a few weeks to a couple of months life will be back to normal, but I might notice a difference in some activities.”

There was a tension filled amount of silence that followed. Anjou could tell there was something Hiko wanted to say, but he was holding back. Should he press him? He did not know if he should force the Kari to discuss something he did not want to, but in no short amount of time he would learn what it was that was weighing on the mind of Hiko. “I have been thinking about meeting with Yuudai Waichia. I know that a lot of people might think it is an unwise decision considering who he is and what he is capable of doing, but being able to read the minds of people in the world is an asset that I need on my side. Certainly Zen is no slouch, but he is not on the same level as the head of the Waichia Financial Institute. Allying with him, would be good for the Kari Foundation and I might get some insight into what that monster knows about the shooting.” Anjou hung his head as he listened to each word. Yuudai played a part in the death of the matriarch of the Yamada. Certainly he was manipulated by the sex of Chilè, but someone like that could hardly be trusted. “Your silence tells me you are not happy.”

“Hiko, a guy like him is willing to manipulate and break anyone he pleases without regard to the consequences. I would be more concerned with what his price might be for helping. Yuudai does not do anything for nothing; that whole clan loves degradation and there are rumors that Yuudai has manipulated people for his own perversions even forced men and women to submit to his will. If you are insistent on meeting with him, I would suggest you do so with a Tylo at your side and I do not mean Tationy.”

“Do you think it is a bad decision?”

“No, but perhaps the answer you want you can obtain from the Tylo instead. I do not know how ready you are to be face-to-face with a man like Yuudai. Though, I imagine the reason this came to mind has as much to do with the shooting as it does your family company.”

“I have been thinking about it; even with the most efficient killer there was always a chance of survival due to Tationy. The people responsible would have to know this. If those shots were meant for my father and I, it seems like the next move would be to strike against my clan or the Kari Foundation. The Elder of the Kari has already enlisted the Matsuo to help protect the clan, but even with Zen at the helm the company is in a vulnerable state.”

“Did you discuss this with Tationy?”

“There is no need to talk to her about it, I am talking to you.” Anjou did not get the opportunity to press Hiko further on the topic when he noticed his hand went to his shoulder. Even though he forced himself to show restraint, it was clear he was in pain. The Kari man stood and moved toward the kitchen and after a moment Anjou fallowed, “We need to wrap this up. The painkillers are starting to wear off and to be frank, you won’t like me at all once they do.”

“Somehow I have no doubt. I actually stopped by to check in on the two of you. I still do not like the idea of you being in this apartment.”

“Being shot changed my perspective, despite having Kari about, it does not feel secure. Zen told me to take as much time as I need, but eventually I have to go back to the Kari Foundation. Every free moment, Tationy and I have, we intend to spend with my father. The Kari will be about as much as possible, but I would rather the two of us be in a more fortified location.”

“The real estate agent has not gotten back to me on your offer. I will give her a call and see if she has heard anything. If the owner is willing to negotiate, what is your cutoff limit?”

“Whatever it takes, even if we have to pay the million, just make it happen as soon as possible.”

“Understood, do you need me to do anything else.”

“Set up a meeting with Soti Tylo the moment the house is situated and be prepared to be there. Whether or not those shots were meant for Tationy or the Kari does not matter. Our clans are in this together and I have a feeling that you and I are on the same page. We are going to find out who the fuck it was that tried to kill us.”

Hiko was not wrong, once Anjou discovered the identity of the responsible party that family would be made to suffer. That was simply the way of things in Aslann. He had plenty of time to think about it all as he ran errands for the day and then met up with Mikaela for an early dinner. It would be their first official date, though they still had not put a label on what they were.

Unfortunately excitement was met with unhappiness when he parked his car and moved toward the building only to hear her soft laugh and catch sight of her standing next to a Maiba. Trying to keep the irritation off his face was difficult as he changed his course and stopped just in front of them; his hard stare settled upon her and the way her features softened told him that she understood he was not happy even if neither vocalized the words. This was a part of the Yamada that he never wanted her to see; the ugly face of jealousy.

“Hey, you must be Anjou. Mikaela told me a lot about you,” The Maiba greeted. At first, Anjou did not even bother to look at him, but after a moment he pulled his attention away from Mikaela and allowed his eyes to settle upon the face of the man that Anjou suspected was the Maiba his brother mentioned. He looked young, fairly tall, with short wild hair. His eyes and skin where typical of the Maiba and the telling lines of his lineage said that he was also Zenaku; not uncommon among those two clans. “I am Baito,” He introduced and offered his hand to Anjou.

Anjou noticed the awkward expression given him when he did not readily take the man’s hand. He did not really want to be pleasant, but he did eventually accept and squeeze as hard as he could while responding through gritted teeth, “Nice to meet you.”

The Maiba had nervously chuckled, “Well, I have to get going. Good to see you again Mikaela; hope to see you in the fall. Anjou, it was nice meeting you.”

Neither of them spoke even after they entered the restaurant and were shown to a private dining room. Anjou knew it was ridiculous to be jealous after all he did not even know if that was in fact the Maiba that she dated. His stomach was knotted and all thoughts of how he might make this dinner memorable were lost in irritation and the pains of trying to conceal it. There was not enough wine in the restaurant to mellow a jealous Yamada man.

Looking over the menu he considered that small talk might be the way to go, but he was certain his unhappiness would be reflected in his tone. Finally, it would be Mikaela that laid it all out there, “Are you going to ask me if I slept with him or let it eat away at you?”

He looked up from the menu and noticed the unhappy expression that adorned her features which instantly made him think she was angry at him, “Did you?”

“No, but we did go out for a few months.”

Closing his menu he waved off the waiter who had returned to take their order. Once they were alone again he asked, “Were the two of you serious?”

“Baito was looking for that happily ever after relationship. After a couple of months, he was talking about us eventually getting married and having kids. It was not that he was moving fast, he just knew where he wanted things to go and I simply was not on the same page. I had a serious relationship with Rio that ended very painfully for me and I was just not ready to give myself over to someone that wanted to spend every waking moment with me. It felt like I was being smothered and it got to the point that I would physically just ‘sigh’ and ‘groan’ at the thought of doing anything with him.”

“If he wanted to get back together with you, would you be interested?”

“Baito already knows where he wants to be in five and ten years; married, children, simple life. He will probably have a normal job and coach his kids baseball team. I don’t want ordinary; that type of life would never make me happy.”

There was a long pause taken as he regarded her, “What did he mean when he said he hoped to see you in the fall?”

“He was accepted to Harvard.”

“Did you know?”

“No, he told me after we crossed paths and started talking. That was the first time I have seen him since we broke up.” That knot in his stomach felt like it was getting bigger as he tried to contain his emotions. This was not even close to the evening he had planned for them and yet there they were talking about her ex-boyfriend.

The news that he was going to Harvard as well irritated Anjou. The jealous bone that all Yamada had wanted to put his foot down and tell her to stay away from the Maiba. Now he understood why Rio kept calling him trash. It wasn’t because there was anything wrong with the guy; it was simply because he stood in the way of him and Mikaela.

Quickly he lifted his menu, thinking that if he buried himself in the details of it that he would be able to forget she was heading off to America with her ex-boyfriend in a month. It was not as though he could voice his displeasure. They slept together a few times and in the grand scheme of things they only knew each other for just over two weeks. How long was he staring at the menu before she finally broke up the silence that had overtaken the two of them, “How is Hiko doing?”

“Oddly restrained. The person responsible for shooting him has no idea the monster they have unleashed.”

“Do you?”

Pulling his eyes away from the menu, they fixed upon her, “Every man woman and child is a sum of their blood. Even if you do not believe that your blood makes you who you are, it does. Hiko has two very strong bloodlines with the Yamada and the Kari, both very much known for their temperament. While the Kari are taught to restrain theirs, the Yamada’s is generally hidden by our charm. In the history of the Kari and the Yamada, there has been only one so no one could be certain how these two bloodlines would mix and not surprisingly Hiko exhibits a lack of control on a far different level than other Yamada or Kari.”

“I went to school with Hiko and even though we never interacted socially, I saw him lose control plenty of times on Sofore’s campus. So, are you trying to tell me that you share his temperament? Can I expect you to go on a murderous rampage?”

Anjou carefully placed the menu to the side as he considered her questions. The simplest truth there was revolved around the fact that most Kari and Yamada, shared a milder form of Hiko’s temperament. They were simply better at controlling it. In a word, yes he did and yes she could. It should be expected with any for those two clans, but what would she think of him after he responded? “Mikaela,” He finally said her name, “I am not perfect. There will be times when I completely lose it, but I will never hurt you.”

“I know,” She responded and allowed her eyes to wash over him. There was no opportunity to continue their conversation as the waiter arrived once again to try and take their order. Anjou felt a little annoyed with himself, normally in moments like these he would shine and the charisma that he was known for would turn this evening into something amazing; he felt like a brooding fool.

After the waiter disappeared, he glanced toward Mikaela only to realize she seemed unhappy, “I am sorry. This is the first time something I planned has not turned out perfectly.”

In a rather serious tone Mikaela said, “Terrible sex, sub-par dates, tell me Anjou Yamada what exactly do you have to offer a girl?”

Choking on his wine his eyes swiftly fell upon her and he was reminded sharply he was dealing with a woman who could easily make him feel three-feet tall with words. Even though some might take what she said as malicious, there was nothing in her tone to suggest that was the case and he was already well-aware that she did not think he was terrible at sex. She was trying to get him riled up, “Keep it up and I am going to bend you over this table.”

“That would require you to stop moping tiger and I simply do not think you have it in you.”

In this single moment he had an opportunity to change the course of the evening all he had to do was alter his perspective. If this was business he would not be fumbling about like some punk trying to impress the girl of his dreams. Anjou Yamada would rise above and the view from the top would be spectacular. When he was with her, he felt awkward. Uncertain of himself and it was not a feeling he liked in the least. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out his phone and he noticed instantly how her body shifted and the sad expression in her eyes. He never wanted her to feel as though she was not important to him.

Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) by Sly & The Family Stone

When the music started he placed the phone upon the table and offered his hand to her. Thankfully she accepted or this moment of salvation might have been awkward. In the private dining room of Perlato he allowed the two of them to be lost in the music as their bodies moved as one. “You are beautiful,” He whispered.

“Keep talking like that tiger and you might make me fall in love with you.”

“Haven’t you already?”

“I am immune to your charm,” She quickly teased.

Anjou smiled, “I am not to yours, Mikaela. Since I saw you at Club Sublime, you have been in my thoughts. A week ago you asked me if this was where we parted company and I told you I did not know, but now I can definitely say I don’t want us to; until we are forced to part I am not letting go so, if you are not interested, then please walk away now.”

Mikaela had not pulled away so Anjou took that as a good sign that she was invested and interested. There was still uncertainty, mostly because he felt guilty regarding his brother Rio and he had told his grandfather that he would not see her again. It felt bizarre having this feeling of being captivated; he was used to eliciting the sensation within others, but never had he experienced it himself. She was his girlfriend; it seemed every other person realized it long before he did. His eyes stared deeply into hers as he asked, “Would you say the evening has improved?”

“Tiger, the evening was perfect the moment I saw you.”

Nervously he laughed, “You are pretty good at being charming. One would think you were Yamada.”

“Well, are you going to tell me what my racial heritage is or are you going to make me guess?”

“Predominately Irish, but there are large portions of your lineage that include Swedish, Finnish, German, Native American. Your gray eyes most likely are a result of your Swedish or Finnish blood. They tend to have lighter eye shades and gray is just a dimmer form of blue eyes. Interestingly enough, your red hair is not limited to your Irish ancestry. While it is rare, it was not uncommon among Germanic people which included both Germans and Swedes. Gray eyes are extremely rare and couple that with the rarity of red hair among the human population….”

She interrupted him, “I get the impression my jiggly body is not the only thing you like about me.”

“Teasing me again I see.”

“It is easy to do,” She paused a moment then added, “Does it bother you that I do not have the blood of any Aslann clans?”

“No and even if my clan is concerned I will simply tell them that you have two rare genetic traits that make you valuable for breeding.”

Mikaela started laughing, “Oh, my god. What am I suppose to say to that?”

Smiling he leaned down and kissed her lips lightly, “You are the queen of comebacks; I am sure you will think of something, but if you do not do it within the next thirty seconds I get a point.”

“So, if I were to tell you I was not wearing any underwear would that mean I win?”

For a time he simply stared at her in disbelief until he pulled her closer and allowed his freehand to tease along her legs calling her bluff. He had decided, if she was teasing him and just saying that to get him worked up he was not going to let her win, but if Mikaela was telling him the truth, then she was far more prepared than he was to play this game of back and forth that they so dearly loved. There was a tiny bit of apprehension just before his fingers teased along the little patch of hair and she moaned, “Mikaela Raita, you are a very bad girl.”

“I do not know what you are talking about tiger, I am a good girl.”

“Don’t good girls always wear panties?”

“Only when they are being good.”

She did not have to try very hard to get him all worked up and he found himself groaning wantonly between kisses, “I am going to fuck you now.”

A cleared throat unexpectedly and very forcefully pulled his attention away from her, “Very sorry to interrupt sir. I will just place your food on the table and leave the two of you alone. If you need nothing, I will be back in….thirty minutes to an hour?”

Anjou was fairly certain the waiter got a pretty clear view of his hand’s location so there was very little reason to play it off, “Probably an hour.”

“Very good sir. If you will excuse me, I shall leave you to your meal. Enjoy.”

The moment he was gone Mikaela started laughing, “We should probably leave that guy a very large tip. What do you think?” She asked as she looked up into his eyes. Did he have a look upon his face? He must have because her expression changed rather suddenly, “Tiger, you are staring again.

“Would you mind if we called the waiter back and had him pack up our food to go? I, kind of want to get you home.”

A delicate smile adorned her lips as she whispered, “I would not mind, but you have to admit I win.”

He sought out her lips savoring the taste as he delivered affirmation, “One of these days I am going to leave you speechless.”

“I look forward to it.”

It was amazing how quickly things progressed when one was motivated. His grandfather had told him once, just before he became the voice of the Yamada, that anything worth doing would be decided in seconds and not in days, weeks, months, or years. That was simply how it was and anyone that over thought might lose the only chance they would ever get. Anjou only knew Mikaela Raita for a month and a half. There were still plenty of complications and even though they had been living together for nearly two weeks, there was still so much they did not know about each other. Were they moving quickly? He was Yamada, they tended to be fast at heart.

There came a point when he was helping Hiko find a new necklace for Tationy, that he saw a ring and he knew instantly it was the ‘one’. Not some ring he would give any girl, but that perfect jewel to express all of his feelings to Mikaela. Hiko had encouraged him to give it to her, but as the days turned into weeks he never did. Now, it was the day she was heading off to America and he found himself staring at it. Should he? The reasons he hadn’t given it to her were long, but had less to do with how he felt and more to do with what she would say. Anjou had never been the type of man to fear an outcome, but this one was eating away at him.

If she said yes, she might decide to stay and he would be responsible for her giving up Harvard. If he didn’t tell her, she might go off and meet another man while she was away at school never knowing how he truly felt. The possibilities seemed endless. A lot of soul searching revealed to him that he did not want her to go, but how could he ask her to stay? Keeping his composure and hiding his feelings took so much out of him and there was not a single second that he had not thought about begging her, but could he really be that selfish?

His distracted thoughts were quickly interrupted by the sound of her moving up the stairs to the bedroom. Shoving the ring back in his pack he realized he had been caught when her eyes settled upon him, “Tiger, you promised no work.”

It was almost a sigh of relief that she had not noticed the ring, but her thinking it was work was not much better. A moment based on a lie, “I was just checking my text messages while waiting for you. I promise I am not working today.”

“Alright,” She said though whether or not she believed his words were hidden in her tone.

Moving toward him it did not take long for him to have her in his lap and the two were sharing kisses and conversation, “Did you take the dog for a walk?”

“I did and I think he knows I am leaving. So, you will have to make sure you take really good care of him while I am gone.”

“We still have not given him a name.”

“I am terrible at names,” She responded as they continued to share a moment of kisses.

Anjou had pulled back just enough to look at her lovely features, “Still strange seeing your hair so short.”

“Really, do you not like it? You keep mentioning it, but…”

He interrupted her with a tentative kiss, “I love it.” If he could hold on and not let go he definitely would have, “I will not be able to see you until the winter holiday, but I am going to try and e-mail you as much as I can.”

“I look forward to it,” She whispered as her lips brushed against his.

For a moment, he thought he had heard something in her tone, like a cracking of her armor. Was she feeling as emotional as he was? “I am going to miss you.”

Just like her to deflect with humor, “Tiger, you are just saying that because you will not have me around to give you sex.”

“Who gives whom sex?”

She nipped her lip playfully, “I always give it to you.”

His arms wrapped possessively around her as he felt a wave of emotion overtake him. The problem with being Yamada was you could not turn it off. There was no training yourself not to feel like the Kari or being apathetic like the Tylo. So, even though he knew they had to get going so she could make her flight he held on as tightly as he could for as long as she would let him.

To Be Continued


  1. This is probably my favorite line out of the entire part of this chapter: “Right now, I don’t think I can let go of your hand without losing my balance,”

    To see that Anjou clings to Mikaela in such a vulnerable moment… yeah, he’s in love – hook, line, and sinker. Part of me wishes he had told her of his feelings before taking her to the airport, but she might stay if he had. Plus, absence makes the heart grow fonder, or some such nonsense. 😉 Maybe if she comes to Aslann for the Christmas break (or he flies out to America), then the situation might be ripe for that ring giving.

    This chapter was totally worth the wait. You have set up the crumbling situation with the clans nicely. I see the Yamada and Kari eventually overcoming their troubles started a generation ago, or at least I hope that happens. Personally, I don’t think Hiko meeting with Yuudai is a good idea, especially since we know how that monster has treated Abe. :

    • Thank you. He did, and did not realize it. So, that moment was very important because here is is wanting to stay away from her, thinking he is going to, but then she is the one he holds on to when he needs strength.

      Maybe, we will have to wait and see what happens at the Christmas break. I am not going to tell anyone, it is a surprise for many cast members. ^_^

      Hopefully, the goal is to have them work things out, but you know how writing goes. Sometimes, that does not happen even when you want it to.

      Anjou agrees. Yuudai is a monster and we will certainly see more of him as well in the college years and whether or not Hiko eventually meets with him or not or if another path is taken.

  2. Ouch. The worst sex she ever had. Wow, that hurts. OHHHH this is the one where we saw a camera video on the shelves? 😀 wait. so, she left after that? Hey, I must say, Mikaela is very brave to live in that neighborhood, not to mention, alone! Good thing Anjou is here now. I wouldn’t live there if I were her. I don’t know. But, maybe. Depends. hoho

    True. He can run around naked in the house. I don’t mind at all. Uh. Let say Ameya is in that position, she probably blushing too hard than necessary like we all expected from her.

    OHHH. so that’s why Anjou was so mad at Rio. Hmm… Are they talking about Sadamitsu and Tsubaki? They are talking about them right? Hey. Why she didn’t trust Tationy can perform her duty as matriach. hm… why, because she was too young? Young means she won’t be wiser enough? hm… is Vijodia really what Anjou said she is? u know. my sentences sounds wrong and all so I hope you get my meaning. hahahah

    Wait. WAIT. HIKO IN PINK! I always love him in pink! *makes some weird giggling noises* Ok, I’m good, that’s all I need to say.

    Hm. What Tationy said, true, why is it that Anjou is not the one that lead the Yamada? Surely he’s capable enough for it right??

    Screams “My Miroku”. hehehehe.

    OH, you made this like some sort of flashback, or more like, telling both stories on both sides of the world. what happened on the other side while Hiko and Tada got shot. *nods. Ok ok.

    Even though I’m not that happy to know Hiko is going to meet Yuudai, but I actually cannot wait to see it. It should be interesting.

    I usually not gonna ask about the picture. but did you have any trouble with the menu? hehehe

    So.. Mikaela going to leave for Harvard, she’s actually wanted to stay but only if Anjou ask her to. As for that dummy hot Anjou, he wanted her to stay but then he don’t want to be in the way between her and her future. Right. I hate you two. :'(

    OHH did you know I took 2 hours to read this again. I was just skimming things here and there before. hehe

    • Mikaela is quite brave, but we really do not learn anything about her. So, all we can do is guess things like that about her. HAHA, yeah Ameya would definitely be blushing in that position. Yes, Anjou is talking about Sadamitsu and Tsubaki with the Zenaku Matriarch. The Zenaku matriarch does not trust her for a couple of reasons: 1) she is too young, 2) she is Tylo, and 3) because she just took the position of matriarch and is not fully acclimated. Is the Zenaku matriarch just a woman looking for money? We will find out.

      Hiko in pink, it makes him seem softer. That is a question that will get answered in the college years about why no man has led the Yamada in thousands of years. Yeah the chapter takes place slightly before Tadayoshi got shot, so we kind of get to see what is going on with some people, including Miroku. Yuudai and Hiko might be interesting, we shall see if it happens.

      Ahh the menu, some with Anjou due to his height so I had to shift it just a bit, but it was not too bad. Nothing over the top noticeable just a slight gap. HAHA, I know it is rough, but you got it spot on. She wanted to stay, but wanted him to ask her to stay and he wanted her to stay, but did not want to stand in the way. Love at its finest.

      Yeah it took me a long time to proof this one when I was going through it. It was quite a long one compared to others. Lot to say.

  3. Anjou seems to be pretty desperate for something he can’t have. I think the thing he enjoys so much about Mikaela is that she’s from a different world where people live simpler lives. Like she had hopes and dreams, even though she didn’t get much chance to follow them, she still had them. So he’s interested, but at the same time knows it would never work out between the two of them. Though maybe I’m just looking at the dynamic from rather personal POV *goes back to reading*

    • Anjou is very much a work-a-holic and a pureblood from he Yamada. The relationship between the two would be very difficult at best.

  4. The flashback with Anjou and Tationy reminded me of the thing we talked about earlier. Why do people associate soulmates and bonds with romance? It’s such a forced upon idea… I think in this century more than ever. I loved the idea of meeting the same people through lifetimes. An interesting thing to think about. Why with some there is a connection in an instant and with other there is no trust no matter how hard they prove themselves? In that case looking for certain bonds would be simply reconnecting with people… interesting.
    The infamous ”batterflies’ though… why is that always a romantic feeling? I’m a weird person, but I tend to get those feelings towards people when no passionate affection is involved whatsoever.
    Anyway, love the flashbacks as always, haha, they get me musing. Little Tationy always reminds me of myself as a kid, she’s like a grown soul that haven’t grown up physically yet.

    • Yes, exactly that. It is like people cannot explain the connection so they instantly go with soulmates or love of a lifetime or one true love. These concepts are completely things people do for the happily ever after. Which is not a realistic concept in my opinion

      Yes, I do not understand it either. “Butterflies” always seems to be the simplest way people explain some feelings and usually when it comes to passion. I have never felt it before myself when I saw someone that was attractive or that I had feelings for. So the concept never made a lot of sense to me.

      Thank you, I am glad you like it. She is very much a grown soul, but in a child’s body. Trying to understand the concepts of men.

  5. It was almost sad to see Anjou let her go, but this is why I love your writing. You always keep it realistic. I don’t think they could make it work.
    Now I really loved all the input on the clans and political side of the story in this one. It is surely one of my favorite parts about your writing as well!
    Also… I finished the story! ^___^ I will reread the last part tomorrow, but hey! I did it! Now I will go get that one hour of sleep I have left 😛

    • Thank you. Yes that was quite hard for him to let her go, but he managed to do it. Regrets it, but he did manage. He could never hold her back from what she was meant to do, even if he wanted to.

      Thank you, I am glad you liked it. This one had a lot more about the clans and political stuff then the other parts of the story. Dealing with a character like Anjou who is always in the thick of it we get a very different POV then other characters.

      Congrats on finishing it. ^_^

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