Tationy did not know what to do with herself. After Hiko disappeared to his office she was restless. Up and down the whole night. Eventually, she just stood in one spot and watched the rain fall endlessly.
There was a part of her that was quite happy when she heard him making his way down the stairs, fussing around in the kitchen, but she did not brave finding her way there. At first she just peeked around the corner at him, “How long are you going to do that?” He had eventually asked and she lightly stepped through the archway and made the short distance into the kitchen.
Fiddling with her fingers she managed to say, “My grandmother says a young woman should not interrupt a man when he is having his morning coffee. Something about his mood…”
He interrupted her though did not acknowledge what she said, “I am going to be gone most of the day. If you need anything, I will leave my number. The doorman is pretty good about keeping…”
She stopped him, “Wait, are you leaving me here by myself? What….what will I do?”
With a dismissive shrug he responded, “I don’t know. Watch television or read.”
“I have never been alone before.”
There must have been something in the way she said it because for the first time since she arrived at the kitchen he looked up at her. No words followed, at least not initially, but eventually Hiko Kari spoke with what she thought was an annoyed sigh. At least it seemed reminiscent of the ones thrown at her by Anjou, “Get dressed quickly if you want to come with me.”
“Is it alright?” She managed to ask, but if she was being honest she was slightly relieved. Tationy had no idea what she would do in a strangers home for hours by herself. It was hard enough entertaining herself at the home she grew up in.
“Ahh,” He responded.
Hiko did not talk a lot. Even after she readied herself and they made their way to the Kari Foundation where he was the CEO. He hardly said more than a few words. That was alright though, Tationy had not minded. She simply stared out the window and soaked up everything she could see.
The moment they stepped into the Kari Foundation, there were people whispering. Some of it was understandable after all she was a strange face in a business reportedly owned and operated by all Kari. However, there were a few subtle voices questioning whether or not she was his girlfriend.
Hiko did not seem to notice or care, even as he allowed her to walk at his side. She tried to pay no mind, after all rich and successful guys like Hiko Kari probably had tons of girls sharing their bed. That was about the point she realized that she didn’t even know if he had a girlfriend. If he did, would she mind Tationy staying there?
Somewhere in the mess of her thoughts she distracted herself, “Is that statue of Kazuma?”
When Hiko responded she realized she had asked her question aloud, “Ahh. It once stood in the Kari Village near Shimragata.”
“I thought all of the statues of the gods were destroyed.”
“There were certainly clans that tried,” Hiko stated as they made their way through the lobby.
The whispers were getting louder and she noticed that people were starting to gather close together. There was pointing and staring. She tried desperately not to make eye contact with anyone, but it was hard to take in her surroundings and not notice that the people around saw her as some sort of spectacle.
She looked down as she walked, fussing with the creases in her clothing and adjusting her bag. “Is my outfit alright?” She asked a loud though hardly expected the infamous Hiko Kari to answer.
“It is very pink.” Tationy directed her attention upon him and barely managed to open her mouth before he added, “Did your grandmother buy it for you or something?”
Her lips pursed and at first she denied his question as though it was the most ridiculous thing she had ever been asked, “No….” Of course the way he looked at her made her stomach flip all about and she foolishly corrected herself, “Well yes.”
Hiko snorted. Which must have shocked everyone in the lobby because Tationy swore up and down the room became rather silent. Though his amused expression hardly lasted long and just as quickly as it happened his face contorted into that angry scowl he always wore.
Still, there was something about his face, his eyes, and the way he fixed his gaze upon her. It made her uneasy. Her stomach twisted in knots and jumped all about. She didn’t get nervous, not around anyone, at least she hadn’t before. There was something though that sent a shiver through her body every single time she looked at him.
“You are pouting,” He stated and she realized far to late that she had dropped the pretenses that the Yamada were taught to uphold. They were meant to remain guarded and any hint of displeasure shrouded behind a mask of charm. “Did I hurt your feelings,” Hiko asked as they stepped into the elevator.
He waved off several people who had attempted to join them and not until the elevator began to move did she venture to answer, “My feelings are not so delicate that your words would break them.”
Hiko Kari always took long pauses between her responses and his. It appeared that he was gauging everything she said, though why and what he was looking for she could not say. He was far too perceptive and she honestly wasn’t so sure she liked it, “Maybe the first thing you should do when Anjou gets things situated for you is buy yourself a new dress.”
“I wouldn’t know what to get,” She stated.
“Perhaps something that isn’t pink.”
“Maybe if you added a little to your wardrobe you would understand the benefits of such a color.”
He simply hmm’d thoughtfully though offered no response, even as he stepped out of the elevator.
Briskly he walked through hallways until he reached his office and she did what she could to match his stride. What she encountered when the door opened and they both stepped inside was a far contrast to the apartment he called home. There was stuff all about. Most of it was traditional in nature and there was barely a space that was empty.
So many things drew her attention from the unique and ancient items accenting the dark walls and floors to the unusual pieces of tech adorning shelves and cabinets. She wanted to ask him about each and every one of them.
Her finger reached out and ran along several objects. Many of them had textures that were smooth to the touch. Still, there were a few that made even her inquisitive mind overwhelmed with excitement, “What is this?”
Foolishly she touched the oddly shaped item which forced her to tense suddenly as scenes played out before her, “Traitors to the great nation of Aslann are to be executed. No exceptions. Have you nothing to say for yourself, Prince Tatsuya?”
“I fear not your blade, but the only traitor here hides behind a uniform and follows the will of an Emperor masquerading as the divine. You are nothing more than death commanded by the will of a false god.”
Tationy could hear Hiko calling her name amid images from the past. It took her a moment to steady herself, though she did not dare to look at him until the remnants of ghosts beyond the veil faded from her sight. “I am fine,” She managed to respond.
She took a deep breath in and held it there a moment. Uncertain what she would even say to him if he questioned her about it. Of course, she was hoping he would just pretend he had not noticed, but it was clear that would not be the case when he asked, “Is that how it works? Do you just touch something and see things?”
“For me, perhaps it happens that way.”
“What do you mean?”
Tationy turned to face him, though she was uncertain how to respond initially. She fidgeted with her fingers when she finally mustered her voice, “When I was little I would dream a lot. I call it dreaming, but that was not really what it was. There before me, I would see the past, the present, the future. It was constant to the point where I was hardly a functional human being.”
“That does not seem to be the case now,” He responded.
“Effexor XR, Clonazepam, and Prazosin; it took a long time to find the perfect combination of pharmaceuticals to dampen these eyes. My grandmother thought it was for the best, but it does not shut out the veil entirely.”
“It is the place where time comes together. I believe your god Kazuma called it the Land of Souls. Essentially it is a great archive of what was, what is, and what will be.” Tationy did not think it was possible for his surly expression to become anymore dour, but it did. “Knowing this displeases you,” She stated.
“There are just certain things that men should not know. This is one of them. In a way, I can understand why your grandmother thought it was for the best, but at the same time she put you in a rather vulnerable position. How are you to protect yourself from harm if your eyes are the equivalent of a cracked crystal ball.”
“I would say they are more clouded than cracked. I still see some things…” She sighed, “Mostly the past though.” Any conversation would be better than the one they were having so she quickly turned back to the item she had touched, “What is this thing exactly?”
“When my grandfather was CEO he bought it off some inventor. Supposedly, it collects energy.”
Hiko shrugged his shoulders, “Honestly, I have no idea. It is just a decoration these days.”
“Room accents do not generally cause me to see beyond the veil,” She stated absently.
“Is that your way of telling me I should have some of our scientist run test on it?”
“No, no, no.” She responded as she turned quickly to look at him, “I would never presume to tell you anything.”
His hand waved dismissively, “It will give them something to do. We have several government contracts we have been working on, but two of them are currently on hold.” Hiko paused only a moment, “Which reminds me, I have a few meetings today so I will be in and out of my office. Feel free to wander around the building. I will let security know that you have my permission. Floors 22 through 30 are off limits, but you can generally go anywhere else. Down the hall to the left you can find a lounge with coffee and donuts.”
Tationy watched him as he began to pick up files that were sitting upon his desk. She was not entirely certain what she would do with herself, but she did like the idea of being able to wander around and explore. Never had she ever been in an office building before, nor one as infamous and large as the Kari Foundation.
Of course she tried to keep her excitement in check until Hiko was out of the room. She looked foolish enough in front of him with her broken eyes and frumpy dress.
After his departure, she spent at least a good hour looking and touching just about everything in his office. She spun around in his chair, played with his computer, pretended that she was the CEO. It seemed like a perfectly good thing to do at the time, but she quickly became bored and her stomach was slightly screaming at her.
That was about the point she ventured out of his office. There were people everywhere and she almost quickly turned around when all the whispering started again. She did not quite understand why they all were so curious about whether or not she was Hiko’s girlfriend.
With a sigh she rounded the corner, grateful that there was not a soul in the vicinity or at least that was what she thought until she stepped into the small alcove where the smell of coffee and donuts were coming from.
The man that stood before her with cup in hand had strong features and a rather pensive expression. There was a moment she had considered taking a step back and disappearing down the hallway before he noticed her. Unfortunately, there was only a split second before she considered that thought and his attention falling swiftly upon her.
He had a rather gentle smile, but it conflicted with his dangerous gaze. Tationy was certain that he was one of those men that her grandmother always warned her about. The ones with two opposing sides. “I am pretty sure that such a lovely creature does not belong among the darkened hallows of the Kari Foundation.”
She felt heat reach her cheeks. It was the first time anyone had called her lovely and for a moment she had looked behind her to make certain he was in fact speaking to her. “Are you lost little lamb?”
“No,” She stammered, “Hiko said there might be donuts here.”
“Oh, did he now,” His smiled broadened, “I must say, I have never known Hiko to bring a guest to work. You must be the girlfriend I keep hearing whispers about.”
Tationy tried desperately to keep her composure, but she found her cheeks were warm again and a feeling of fluster overtook her even though she thought for certain the man was teasing her. It took her several moments before she mustered the courage to respond, “It is not like that. Hiko is just letting me stay with him.”
There was a moment she thought she said something wrong when an unrecognizable glint showed in his eyes. Taking a brief moment she considered what it might have been as he set his coffee on the counter. Lifting the box of donuts he offered it to her as he spoke, “How are you entertaining yourself with Hiko in meetings?”
“How did you know he was…”
The man cut her off, “I am waiting on someone who has come to speak with him.”
“I thought…don’t you work here?”
“Once upon a time,” He responded rather casually. “I am retired these days.” There was a moment of pause taken as she reached into the box and picked out one of the donuts glazed in chocolate hazelnut. “I’m Kyo Kari,” He introduced.
“Tationy,” She stated between bites.
There was an uneasy silence that followed the introductions. Much like Hiko this man was keeping his eyes fixed squarely upon her. When she left his apartment that morning she never expected to have garnered so much attention. It distracted her thoughts enough that she did not notice when the man known as Kyo Kari had wandered away.
Still she was not entirely certain what to make of it all. Nor whether or not she should ask Hiko. So, she did what she could to push the thoughts from her mind. It was easy to distract herself with the sweet taste of caramelized hazelnut and all of the sights and sounds of the Kari Foundation.
By the time she made it back to Hiko’s office she was in a relatively good mood or at least she was until she saw the expressions of the two men she interrupted. It had only been less than a day, but she was getting pretty used to the surly expression of Hiko Kari, but the man standing near his desk seemed far more dour.
“Tationy,” Hiko said her name which allowed Tationy to pull her focus away from the man shooting daggers at her. “Take a seat, we will be just a moment more.”
“Alright,” She stammered and quickly stepped toward the sofa.
Really she tried to be as quiet as she could, but she was fairly certain that their eyes were still upon her and that knotted feeling in her stomach returned swiftly when the man spoke, “Are you out of your mind?”
“Ahh I just might be, but let’s not pretend you won’t just blame it on my mother’s blood.”
The man swiftly turned toward Hiko. The temperature in the room felt as though it had dropped by twenty degrees just in the moments since her arrival, “You and I are going to have a long discussion about this…”
“Later though. Tationy and I have dinner plans.”
Her mouth opened to question Hiko’s words, but quickly shut when the Kari man stormed out of the office. The silence she could tolerate, but the expression upon Hiko’s face saddened her a bit. She braved speaking, “He doesn’t like me.”
“Don’t take it to heart. My father doesn’t like me either.”
It all happened so quickly she barely had a moment to take in the unfamiliar man’s appearance. Had she stepped back from the tension she would have recognized him instantly as Tadayoshi Kari, father to Hiko Kari. Despite the familial relationship shared between the two Kari men, Tationy could feel the pain radiating off of Hiko from the encounter, “Why?”
Hiko shook his head, “Anjou was right about you.”
“What do you mean?”
“You are a weird chick. Most people would say stupid shit like, I am sorry or if you want to talk about it I am here for you. Not you though. You just come right out and ask. Never apologize or correct yourself. I am starting to think the Yamada kept you locked in a basement.”
She tried to hide her reaction to his words, “Tell me what you want me to say and I …”
He interrupted her, “Just be who you are.”
“Ahh,” He responded and then quickly changed the topic, “Where do you want to go for dinner?”
Tationy blinked at him before awkwardly asking, “Do you mean like a restaurant?”
Well if he did not think she was weird before he definitely did now. That gaze fixed on her with one raised brow and she inwardly sighed as he asked, “Have you never been to one before?”
“No. My friend Tsubaki would bring me food sometimes from a place called Perlato’s, but my grandmother never let me leave the grounds unless it was for school.” She paused a moment and very hesitantly asked, “Can we really go to a restaurant?”
Hiko chuckled under his breath and nodded his head briefly. “Did you like the food from Perlato’s?”
“Yes, very much so. It was really good.” She got rather excited, “Can we go there?”
“Anywhere you want,” He stated. She caught him looking at her, his gaze not as harsh as it generally was though she would hardly say his features softened. Tationy could not recognize what the moment was or identify the glimmer in his eyes, but there was something there lingering within them. In the end, she simply pushed it out of mind because there were other things to bombard her thoughts.
Still, at the restaurant she could not initially hide her excitement. She felt grownup though definitely out of place when she saw how well-dressed the other patrons were. The staff fussed over Hiko as though he was the Emperor himself. Certainly, she had witnessed that type of behavior before by servants at the estate of the matriarch, but this appeared different.
In a small alcove they were seated away from other guest of the establishment. The waiter had talked about the chef’s special and asked if they would like to order a bottle of wine. Tationy felt her stomach jump at the prospect of being able to have her first drink, but Hiko shot that down quickly. “Just a glass of red wine for me and bring her water,” He stated.
There was a little part of her that liked how he ordered for her, but at the same time she was flustered. “Why can’t I have a glass of wine? I am old enough,” She responded quickly.
“You are pouting again,” Hiko expressed as he picked up his menu and began to look it over. It would be a moment of silence before he would add, “I am not surprised you have not noticed, but you have not learned how to shut it off yet.”
“Shut what off?”
“The charm of the Yamada,” He stated. “I noticed it the moment that Anjou dropped you off that it is always lingering there, but it gets a hundred times worse when you are excited. The last thing either of us needs is for you to have a drink of alcohol.”
“It is just one little drink….” She tried to say.
Hiko cut her off rather quickly, “There is a very fine line with the Yamada abilities. Too little and they cannot sway or too much and this entire restaurant will have their way with you.” Never once did he sugarcoat his words, “I will not speak on how they raised you, but for the sake of yourself and the people around you it is for the best that you never ever have a drink.”
“Is that why you are being so nice to me because of my Yamada charm?”
Hiko placed his menu to the table and dismissed the approaching waiter with just a wave of his hand. “Anjou does not discuss family or work. I always suspected there was something going on with him, but I never knew it revolved around a single person. This is not about being nice to you. Just the little bit of time I have spent in your company, I can understand why it is the late matriarch wanted to keep you away from the Ishi. There are clans that will use those eyes, that body, and your charm to get what they want.”
“Is the infamous Hiko Kari above using me for such endeavors?”
That cold hard stare told her she had perhaps crossed a line she could not step back from as the very air around them appeared to thicken. Still, there was something in the way he looked at her that made her inquisitive mind spark with questions. “I don’t lust after women,” He stated coldly. “Call it an immunity to your charms or whatever you wish, but I have no need for your eyes, your body, or the power of your sway over men and women.”
“I wish all of the world was like you then,” She responded with a sigh. “The Yamada only see these eyes; both Tylo and Ishi. I am a disfigurement to their perfect image. If they had their way, I would never have existed.” She paused a moment, “My grandmother offered me too much freedom they felt and it probably led to her death. Maybe it is better if the Ishi take me; no one cares what I want anyway not even Anjou who is off to ensure that I marry Aoba of the Waichia. He is such tool by the way.”
Hiko snorted, “Ahh, that is one way to describe Aoba.”
She smiled brightly and just as quickly forgot about the darkened conversation they were having as he picked up his menu and she followed suit. “I do not understand why anyone would think he is worth marrying. Certainly he is going to be in a position of great power as head of the Waichia Financial Institute. Controlling the money of Aslann is a big deal I hear, but he is so boring and his ego needs checked. Not to mention he completely has no idea he is being used by his family for better positioning with the Yamada and other clans. I just don’t like him.”
“Did you ever tell your grandmother that?”
“There was never any point. The Yamada love to put on a show. Aoba is from a good family with pure blood. I think she thought that it would somehow make people forget that my father was poor and Ishi.”
“I was starting to wonder if you were completely obvious to what was going on around you,” He stated.
Tationy sighed as she set her menu down, “No, it just takes too much effort to care when my feelings have never mattered and will always be completely disregarded.”
She was uncertain if she said something wrong because Hiko quickly changed the topic back to their meal, “Do you know what you want?”
“It all sounds really good, but I am not sure.”
“Want me to order for you?”
“If you do not mind,” She stated and just let her words linger there. With authority he gestured with his hand for the waiter to return. Ordered for both of them; never once, not even for a moment did he pause to consider. He knew exactly what he wanted and when he was finished speaking the waiter scurried away.
There were moments where the two of them grew rather silent. It was not awkward, but it certainly gave her plenty of opportunities to watch him. Though he did not seem to notice that her attention was always on him or maybe he did and he simply did not care. She could not say, but she had to admit in some ways she was rather curious about the man known as Hiko Kari.
She had read plenty of things about him in the paper. They talked about his ego and his temper. Neither of which she had seen. Sometimes they addressed his business skills or his philanthropy; sometimes his lack of both was mentioned far more often. They described him as a bull trapped in a China shop.
Even after the waiter returned with their food, Tationy found herself wondering if he was like her. Shackled by his clan with limited freedom to do as he pleased. Of course, she also thought she might simply be placing her own emotional baggage onto him because she was in a new and different environment. That was about the point he responded between bites, “You are staring.”
Brightly she smiled, her fangs showing. She had always been a bit self-conscious because the Yamada hated the sight of them. “Do you have a girlfriend? I mean, I am just wondering if she will be upset with me staying with you. Tsubaki says girls can be really jealous…”
He cut her off, “Do you have a boyfriend?” Hiko laughed when she suddenly became flustered and then quickly corrected her, “You should not ask a question if you are not prepared to be asked it in return.”
“I don’t have one,” She responded simply though she felt a warmth at her cheeks when he stared across the table at her. “I was just curious. They kept calling me your girlfriend at the Kari Foundation or wondering if that was who I was. Did it bother you?”
“Why would it?”
“Well…” She paused to consider how to answer his question, “You did not like my dress. Does that mean I am ugly in it? Tsubaki says that clothing defines a person. So, if you think my dress looks like something my grandmother bought then what does that say about me and how does that reflect you when I am walking at your side?”
“Eat your food,” He practically demanded as he shut her down.
Tationy’s heart felt heavy as she found herself staring at her food with utensils in hand. She had clearly said something wrong though she was not entirely certain what it was. Picking at her food she tried not to pout and barely mustered the courage to ask, “Are you mad at me?”
“No, just eat your food.”
“Alright,” She responded somberly.
The meal did not taste as good when she was sad. She knew it was foolish to be after all he said he was not mad, but she felt as though she had said something that completely changed the atmosphere of their dinner.
This man had allowed her to stay at his place, but he was a stranger to her. In the end, there was no way for her to know what landmine she might step upon with a single question.