The week had initially been exciting. Tationy got to see all kinds of new things, but by the end of it she was moping around Hiko’s apartment.
He had been very understanding about having a strange person in his home. Even more so about letting her tag along to his work, but eventually the sparkling rainbow glitter sprinkles wore off.
Tsubaki kept sending her messages trying to get her to respond, but the truth was, she had no idea what to say. Not to mention she had stuck her foot in her mouth with Hiko and he was mad at her. Even though he swore up and down he wasn’t. There were other things piled atop heaps of frustration such as missing her grandmother and Anjou, but the thing that was really dragging her down centered around her unknown future and freedom.
Tationy wanted to be normal. Just like everyone else. It seemed an impossible dream and it did nothing at all for her mood. Often she would end up rather pensive to the point of moping around. Today for her was just another day like that, but from the perspective of the man pacing outside the living room it probably appeared as though the world was coming to an end for the young girl.
There were moments she considered telling him she was alright, but she figured he would do what Anjou did. Pace for a bit and then be on his way, but that was not at all what happened. Eventually, it became clear that he was just standing there.
His voice was always gruff, “What is your problem?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” She stated dismissively.
There was a telling sigh and the sound of shoes on hardwood. It was clear by the way he approached that he was not going to allow her to get away with that sort of response, “You have been sulking all week.”
“I have been moping there is a big difference.”
Her words clearly displeased Hiko as he snapped, “Sit your ass up and tell me what the hell is going on.”
There was a deep sigh that took her whole body with it as she forced herself to a seated position. She made it obvious she was not happy about doing so, but the look he gave her said he didn’t much care what she wanted. After a moment of her being silent he asked, “Is this about your grandmother’s death?”
“People die,” She stated simply. “It is part of life and there is nothing at all that any of us can do to stop the hands of fate. Are you concerned about the way I am mourning?”
“Not really, more curious if your reason for moping about my apartment was because of your loss.”
“I miss my grandmother. She had very unusual things to say that gave my mind a distraction from itself. I think there are people who wish for me to mourn in a more deep and meaningful way, but I do not cry and I do not feel sadness as you do.”
“Then what is your problem?”
Tationy sighed, “Tsubaki has sent me several messages and I am not certain how to respond.”
“This is the reason for your mood?”
“It might seem trivial to you, but this is quite an issue for me. If I say the wrong thing she will return and I don’t want that. This is her dream, her future, and I should not get in the way. Still, the longer I go without responding the more messages she sends me. So, I need to say something…”
Her thoughts were distracted when Hiko took a seat on a nearby sofa. At first he just stared at her for a time. If it were a contest of patience he would definitely win because she had very little and the longer he said nothing the more frustrated she got. Thankfully, Tationy did not have to wait all that long for a response, “Just tell her not to worry that you have been busy.”
“You clearly do not understand,” She stated with a pout.
“No, I understand perfectly well.” Hiko did not even give her a moment to respond as he stood quickly. She thought for certain he was going to walk away, but there was no opportunity to react to what was about to happen, as he grabbed up her phone.
She was more frustrated with herself than she was with the fact that he had taken it upon himself to deal with it. Her phone was not locked. Nor was it difficult to find Tsubaki in her contacts after all Tationy was quite organized. So, he managed to send her a text and offer a, “There all done,” before she could even get herself to a standing position.
She looked away meekly, “Why did you do that?”
Tationy hesitantly took her phone when he offered, “Putting something off does not make the problem go away.”
“I know, but…” She paused as she looked at her phone and made an annoyed sound, “No! She is going to know this is not me. T-x-t really? You could not have just typed text? That e was that difficult?” Tationy turned the phone to face him, “What the hell is that thing?” She pointed at the small smilie rather emphatically.
“It is an emoji,” He responded.
“I know it is an emoji, but it has a fucking sword.”
Hiko snorted, “That potty mouth is almost cute on you.” Tationy had no retort as she stared blankly. She felt heat throughout her entire face and was fairly certain she was bright red. He did not hesitate to continue talking seeing she had clearly given him the floor with her silence, “It will be fine.”
“No it won’t. She always teased me that if I was a secret manual I would end up in the wrong hands, so I have no faith she is not going to call Anjou to see if I have been kidnapped because your text doesn’t even read like me. T-x-t, who even types that?”
“Everyone,” Hiko responded.
There was a deep sigh from the man before her after a lengthy pause. He must have realized that her unhappiness was not simply limited to the fact he responded to Tsubaki. “Look, all I did was tell her you are busy and will text her later. That is not a big deal. There is no reason to be pouting over it. So what if she contacts Anjou. Besides, you are busy.”
“No, you are busy. I am lounging around your house like a throw pillow.”
“Then what the fuck do you want to do?”
Tationy’s eyes lit up, “You mean we can go do something?”
There was resignation in his voice as he responded, “Sure, why not.”
“Can we have a summer romance?” She noticed the way he quickly opened his mouth and then closed it. “Did I say something wrong?”
At first he simply rubbed the back of his neck. There was uncertainty in his posture, at least a first. Eventually, he responded. “I am not saying yes, however, what might that entail?”
“Can we go to the beach? Tsubaki says it is amazing and the best place for a summer romance. Though, it is not quite summer yet, but there should be people there in the spring….right?”
“Ahh,” He paused a moment while glancing at her. She was pretty excited so she had not noticed he had a rather awkward expression upon his face as he asked, “So, that is it? You just want to go to the beach?”
Tationy squinted at him and then smiled, “Tsubaki says it is the best place to meet boys. You can walk on the beach, hand in hand. The warm air and the smell of the water brings serenity to the moment and then…” Her hands went to her cheeks and she squealed excitedly, “I need to get ready.”
She could barely hear the sound of Hiko calling after her, “I didn’t say yes to this.”
Even though he protested the two of them did manage to make it to the beach. They left most of their stuff in the car and began walking down the path toward the sand lined with umbrellas and people. That was about the point that Tationy realized that she was really there and her excitement transformed into uncertainty.
“The view is nice in that direction,” Hiko pointed as they walked. “Unfortunately, there tends to be a lot of people over that way and the smells of whatever shit they are cooking can make for an unpleasant atmosphere.”
He continued talking, “Over by the lifeguard station there are more families. So, we would have to deal with kids, screaming and crying.”
The more he talked the more her mood soured, “The center is not a bad spot, but there is a lot of foot traffic…”
Tationy quickly cut him off, “Maybe we should go back.”
“You were the one that wanted to fucking come here.”
“I know, but…I feel like people are looking at me.”
Hiko sighed, “Of course they are. For starters you are barely dressed. Couple that with the fact that you are Yamada and I wouldn’t be surprised if every man here isn’t trying to get a good look.” He stopped moving and turned to face her, “What is this really about?”
“I thought….I thought it would be different.”
“I don’t need you laughing at me. Anjou always does.” She glanced away, but despite her words she continued speaking, “He thinks I should know better because I have these eyes, but is it so wrong to want there to be some magic to the world?”
“Aslann lost that a long time ago. Everywhere you look is dirty, sweaty, old men pretending to be warriors as they battle over things that mean nothing. If you want magic…your living in the wrong era.” She could feel the pout grace her lips which brought about the telling sigh of Hiko Kari. “Come on, you can tell me all about what nonsense your friend put in your head about magic and summer romances.”
They had found a spot to sit, right near the center of the beach. Close enough to the lifeguard station, but far enough away from the smells of food cooking. Unless of course the wind changed direction.
Hiko stared toward the water with a rather pensive expression. The initial silence was not awkward, nor inviting. “It is the same every year. There is no magic. Salt air, warm winds, and people milling about like sheep.” Her attention fell upon him, “I see mankind pretending that there is more to life than this feeble existence.”
“You’re a pessimist,” She stated.
“I’m a fatalist,” He corrected. “We are just cattle to the will of Kazuma. Nothing we do will matter here and there will be no legacy left behind…”
She cut him off, “I see death.” He pulled his attention away from the sea and allowed it to settle upon her. Despite his attention she did not initially elaborate.
Tationy’s eyes scanned the area. Battles upon battles in this single insignificant spot. Truly, there was not a portion of it that had not been stained with the blood of men, “The tamed beast of the Prince of Aslann.”
“Your words wound me, Commander Kari. No man has tamed my sword.”
“Yet you stand before me. My men slain. What excuse do you have for drawing your blade against the great nation if not that of loyalty to the prince?”
“Why? I fear you will not like my answer. However, before I strike at the very heart of the nation you love I shall bequeath upon you the answer you seek….I do it because I like killing. Just like you do.”
Shaking the images was not as easy as closing her eyes and opening them. Sometimes it took her minutes and hours to push them to the deepest part of her psyche. Still, she forced herself to put distance between her eyes and the moment with Hiko Kari.
“Many people died here and once upon a very long time this was the final battle ground between Commander Kari and the strongest of the elite guards of the Prince of Aslann. There were men hanging in that tree,” She gestured briefly with her hand, “As powdered flakes cascaded gently to the ground. Blood dripping upon snow covered sand. So much rage in the Kari Commander and an unsettling calm from his enemy. This is what I see. Everywhere, every day. So, I do not think it is too much to ask for a little magic in the world. Something untouched by the taint of death and war.”
Hiko made an annoyed sound as he stood, “Come on.”
She was uncertain why he had such a sour expression upon his face. So, with a great amount of apprehension she stood. Big eyes glancing in his direction, “Is something wrong? Did I say something that upset you?”
“We are going swimming,” He responded.
“We are what?” She managed to ask as she tried to take several steps back, but he caught her hand and began tugging her along. “I can’t get wet. That is not part of a summer romance. No one looks good wet….”
Hiko cut her off, “Your friend give you those words of wisdom?” He looked in her direction for only a moment, though never hesitated to pull her toward the water, “The beach is for swimming. How do you expect any guy to take notice of you if you just sit in one spot and act like some timid creature? Men like confidence.”
His words to her were rather unexpected. The truth was, she really did not know what boys wanted let alone a man. That was why she sighed and matched his pace. Though she offered no conversation as they made their way to the water. At least not initially.
“This is not so bad is it?” Hiko questioned.
Tationy mostly just stood there at first, waist deep with Hiko not far away. “Sixty-two percent of the human population admits to peeing in the sea. Of course, it is harmless and dilutes right away, but still I find myself troubled that I am standing in a toilet.”
“I am more disturbed by the fact you know that.” He paused a moment before shaking his head, “Who the hell knows that?”
She sighed, though at the time she had not realized she pouted as well until Hiko addressed her again, “Why are you so obsessed with this whole summer romance nonsense?”
“You just don’t understand. While girls my age were having friends, meeting boys, going on dates; I was stuck at the estate doing nothing. The only reason I even met Tsubaki was because my grandmother allowed me to do a couple of years of school. Straight there and back, no exceptions. When she first came over to see me, I thought for certain my grandmother was going to send her home. Do you have any idea what it is like to learn about the world through the stories of someone else? It sucks.”
Hiko had not responded to her words so she added, “I would give up these eyes just for a glimmer of a real life.”
“There is this saying that my father always liked about being careful what you wish for.” Hiko paused a moment, “It is about not knowing what to do with your bliss when you have it and understanding that with ones dream will always come an equal amount of bad and good things to humble the ego.”
“Next you are going to be telling me that having a life is overrated.”
Hiko shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t really have one.”
There was a moment she thought he might answer, but then he splashed her with water. His amused chuckle made her pout, but every time she squealed his name he laughed harder. By the time he was done torturing her she was soaked.
The day was exciting. Hiko insisted they take a lot of pictures on her phone to send to her friend Tsubaki. He was less surly and more animated than she imagined he could be. The impenetrable wall of Hiko Kari came down long enough for him to smile and laugh. Something she was certain he rarely did. It was nice and she thought he should do it more often, though she was not brave enough to tell him as much.
As they walked back to their spot on the beach for the fifth time that day there was talk of maybe getting ice-cream on the way home. “It’s not strawberry, but I got something you can lick,” A voice interrupted their conversation.
Tationy found herself wondering who the young man was speaking to, but it became rather obvious when Hiko suddenly stopped, “Watch your mouth, Maiba scum.”
With a rather jovial laugh Hiko was taunted, “Kari dogs are all bark and no bite.”
“Tenzo, we did not come here so you could pick a fight with some worthless piece of shit. His girl might be nice to look at, but she is probably just as vapid as he is. Besides, remember the last time?”
Tationy noticed how Hiko’s attention fell upon the other man. It was probably too much to hope for that he would remain in the good mood he had been in. Which brought her back to the saying that his father favored about being careful what you wish for.
Tationy crossed her arms over her chest, while her eyes settled in on the smiling Maiba known as Tenzo. What should she say? What should she do? There were so many questions running around in her mind. If she was Tsubaki she would certainly find the most appropriate response to the events transpiring. There was even a part of her that thought she should let Hiko handle it, but could he take on two at once?
Tenzo laughed and finally responded, “Right, this is the one whose daddy cleans up his messes.”
“At least he knows who his father is,” Tationy stated coldly.
Truly she did not know what prompted her to say it, but when Hiko relaxed and snorted she realized it was the right decision. Though probably a foolish one on her part.
Thankfully, the soft voice of a girl pulled the attention of the two Maiba. “Tenzo and Denzo. You promised me that there would be no fighting that was the only reason I agreed to come hang with you.”
The girl was shapely. A bounce to every movement made which captured the attention of both young men rather aggressively. That was about the point she shifted uncomfortably. Tationy was Yamada, they were not exactly known for being beautiful so next to cute girls like this and thinner ones like Tsubaki, she always felt a bit frumpy.
Tationy sighed and looked toward Hiko to see if his eyes were upon the body of the unknown girl. It was expected, after all her grandmother had always said that men could not resist a great body and a pretty face. Both of which the girl had. However, much to her relief his attention was still fixed upon the two Maiba and remained there until the twins wandered off.
Hiko turned rather suddenly and moved back toward the water, “Where are we going?” Taiony asked as she matched his brisk pace.
“I need to clean the Maiba off of me,” He stated rather emphatically.
His words were a little odd to her, “You make it sound like you are washing dirt off your boots.”
“Did…something happen?” She cautiously asked.
“With those two that goes without saying.”
“So, you know them?”
He grumbled under his breath, “You ask a lot of questions.”
“I am just trying to understand.”
Hiko sighed as he changed directions to walk along the beach, “The Maiba twins played basketball for Aslann High School. Anjou and I played for Sofore Academy,” He explained. “Our schools were rivals so we were always crossing paths. Their shit, like their school and their blood.”
“You really hate them, huh?”
“I don’t like anyone,” He stated.
Tationy pouted and joined him in the water when they were finally far enough away from the main beach, “What about the girl?”
“The one with them. Do you know her?”
“Now you are just fishing,” He evaded.
“So, you do know her.”
There was a deep annoyed sigh that left his lips, “Let’s talk about something else.”
“Alright,” She stammered though the two fell silent rather quickly. She felt that she had once again said something that irritated him. Hiko was just about as moody as Anjou and it seemed to her that it took no effort at all to get them to change the topic and sulk. Did that mean she was annoying? Her mind was completely occupied with those thoughts until she saw something move by her out of the corner of her eye.
“Shark,” She practically screamed.
“Tationy, don’t yell shark at the sea. It causes a panic…” Hiko had halted his words rather suddenly when he caught sight of the creature, “It is just a blacktip reef shark. They are harmless unless….” When the shark moved toward their direction Tationy squealed and before Hiko could react she was climbing his body like a ladder. “Spooked,” He finished with a sigh.
“Tationy, Tationy,” Hiko said her name many times. “Calm down.”
She was wiggling upon his back, barely listening to what he was saying. “Get me out of the water,” She demanded and then foolishly added, “Take a picture.”
“Woman,” He snapped. “Calm the fuck down.” Hiko was grumbling under his breath, “You want me to get you out of the water, but you want me to take a picture. Do you hear yourself? Stop being irrational. He is more afraid of you.” There was a momentary pause as Hiko added, “Will you get the hell off me, I cannot see or protect you if you are hindering my movement.”
Despite his insistence that she remove herself from his back, she stayed there until he got her safety out of the water. His expression was quite sour and the atmosphere had changed considerably. He was mad or at least she was fairly certain he was.
Tationy tried very hard not to be saddened by the fact that she had upset him once again. She started walking and it would be a few moments before Hiko caught up. “I took a picture of the shark for you,” He stated. She only offered a depressive sigh and a pout, “Did I hurt your feeling when I yelled at you?”
She made a sound that came out like a ‘meh’ before asking Hiko, “Am I annoying you?”
He rubbed the back of his neck as the two walked, “Not really. I am just not used to anyone so excitable.”
“Are you sure because you seem like you get mad at me a lot. I ask you questions and you do not answer or you get snappy. Always you are very surly…grouchy…obstinate,” Hiko sighed which made Tationy’s features darken, “See even that. Anjou does that all the time as well.”
“Seriously woman, what did you expect when you just pointed out my flaws? Might as well just cut me with a knife it would have had the same effect.”
“You can point out my flaws if it will make you feel better,” She stated.
He laughed, though it was clear to Tationy that it was not the type people did when they thought something was funny. It was similar to what she had witnessed Anjou do when something was so unbelievable that he chuckled in disbelief.
“Ahh,” He drew out the sound, “I would not know where to start.”
“Do I really have a lot?” The concern over it was clear in her tone, but in typical Hiko fashion he ended the conversation as he had many times before. It frustrated Tationy when Anjou did it, but it seemed even worse from Hiko. Still, there was nothing much she could do except walk silently at his side.
“Shit,” Hiko said under his breath. “Stay close to me, keep your head down, and do not say anything if they speak to you?”
“Who?” She asked and then realized there were people nearby with cameras, snapping photos repeatedly.
“Hiko, Hiko,” One man called his name to get his attention. “Is this your girlfriend? How long have you been together?” The man rattled off an abundance of questions.
Tationy tried to do as Hiko asked, but she was feeling nervous and her stride slowed. That was about the point he reached down and grabbed her hand. Her entire body felt on fire and she imagined she was the brightest shade of red, but that simple action just made the camera flashes go off more as other paparazzi arrived to get a look at the infamous Hiko Kari.