It was well into July and there had been so much going on and probably even more that Tationy was unaware of.
Anjou had not reached out and contacted her. Not once in those two months. At first she thought that eventually he would come and get her. Regret his decision and turn his back on the newly appointed Matriarch of the Yamada. Sadly, that did not happen and realistically Tationy never should have hoped for it. All it did was bring disappointment.
Tadayoshi of the Kari, father to Hiko, had kept his distance. Whether or not that was a good or bad thing, Tationy really could not say. Hiko seemed to like it or at the very least was not bothered by the silence. Tationy, however, thought it was simply the calm before the storm. Tadayoshi with the frozen heart was a dangerous man and she had tread upon his doorstep far too lightly.
The thing weighing most heavily on her mind, however, was the feeling that Hiko was keeping things from her. Sometimes he had conversations on the phone that were abruptly ended when he realized she was around. It was not as though Tationy could fault him; despite their cohabiting she was still a stranger to him.
There were a few times she attempted to ask him about the calls and he would simply dismiss her question as he had done so many times before. It did nothing to satisfy the curious part of her mind. So, in the months since her unexpected arrival into the life of Hiko Kari there had been so much worry. Never before had she ever struggled with this many unknowns.
There were some things that were still consistent. She attended work with Hiko, every day and spent most of the time pretending as though she were the CEO when he was out of the office or lounging about his sofa like a throw pillow. It was frustrating. She had well over two months to explore every nook and cranny of the place and as time passed there was nothing left for her to do.
Tationy was getting restless. So much so that she would offer to deliver things for Hiko in place of his secretary. After all, how hard could it be to drop a memo off to the human relations department. It seemed easy enough, at least initially. Her curiosity sometimes got the better of her and she would take a look at those interoffice memos. That was how she learned that Hiko was unhappy with the revolving door of assistants for the design department heads and ultimately, why she was dressed the way she was that day.
“Stop fussing,” Hiko demanded as the two walked toward the estate they had looked at exactly thirteen times.
“It feels weird,” She responded as she tucked a piece of hair behind her ear and played with her bangs.
“You were the one that wanted to change your hair style.”
Her lips pursed and then she scoffed, “Because you told me I have a big forehead.”
“I believe my exact words were that style makes your forehead look large.”
With a deep sigh she changed the topic, “Why are we here again? We have looked at this place thirteen times and you still don’t know if you like it. It is far away from everything. No neighbors to cause you problems or bug the fuck out of you.”
Hiko snorted, “Still upset I see about the loud music over the holiday.”
Tationy rolled her eyes, “The music was fine. It was the obnoxious jokes about my chest size and my hair color from the drunks, I did not appreciate. Like I would show any of them. Besides, you cannot act all high and mighty on this one Hiko Kari.
He took a page from her book as he responded, “I don’t know what you mean.”
Hiko definitely did not forget what happened and Tationy was well aware that it was still weighing on his mind. It started out innocent enough. The holidays had come upon them and Hiko’s neighbors threw a party that seemed to last several days with a lot of people coming and going including the Maiba from the beach. Several heated words later and the incident nearly came to blows.
Really it seemed to light a fire under the Kari man because after that, he was bound and determined to find a place of his own. Hiko dragged Tationy to look at several, but this one old house they kept coming back to. In the grand scheme of it all, it was not as big as some of the others and certainly not the biggest in Aslann. There was a charm too it, plenty of room to add on, a huge yard, pool, and it sat right on a private beach. What more could a person ask for?
They wandered around it so many times and Hiko never really said whether or not he liked it. Tationy thought it was just the most perfect house and she got excited every time she was in it. So, this time she told herself that she would be reserved. This was Hiko’s choice. It would be his home and he needed to make the decision.
If only he understood that, “Do you still like it?”
“Of course,” She said as she downplayed her enthusiasm.
“Are you sure? The last time we were here I thought I saw you twirl.”
“Funny,” She responded with a pout as she looked away from him. It would be moments before she would venture to speak further, “Do you like it? We have visited it quite a few times and you have never really said what you think.”
Hiko began to move and much like he always did he changed the topic, “Why did you wear that? I thought I laid something else out for you.”
One thing Tationy learned the hard way was that Hiko was quite true to his word. If he said he was going to do something, he meant it. He was the most opinionated man she had ever met, but what she realized very quickly was that he really just knew what he liked.
Some people might take it wrong that she was allowing him to dress her. They would see the relationship as something it was not. Certainly, Hiko was picking out her clothes for her. The reality though, was she was allowing him. Tationy liked how confident he was and he was not afraid to say, you look amazing in this or this color really suits you. Not to mention if something looked terrible he would tell you without restraint. She liked that honesty.
The best thing about it though was that she had a voice. If Tationy did not like the outfit he was not going to force it upon her. Every piece of clothing she ever owned before Hiko was picked for her by her grandmother. She never had a say even if she did not like it. Hiko bought her clothes, but she was right there with him trying on every piece. That was liberating and she had no fear that she wouldn’t hear the truth about how she looked.
Still, she had to be careful how she responded. Not because she was afraid of his reaction, but for fear he would understand why she had chosen that outfit for today. “I wanted to wear this one,” She stated simply.
“I thought we got that one for interviews, just in case you decided to look for a job.”
“We did,” She responded with a shrug as she moved with him, “I like how the lace feels.”
Once they were outside Hiko had stopped moving and she could not help noticing the smile adorning his lips when he turned to face her, “You like how the lace feels, huh.”
“Why do I get the impression you are filing something away for later?”
“I think that is because deep down you have a dirty mind,” He stated and then quickly continued. “I was just thinking that wedding dresses are usually made of silk and lace. Seeing you have told me several times you are not sure if you want to go to school or get a job, maybe it is the family you are searching for.”
He was teasing her and the fact that she was getting pretty good at telling told her that they were spending far too much time in each other’s company. “Next topic,” she groaned.
With a laugh he responded, “Alright, alright. I can take a hint. So, what do you really think of the house?”
“Hiko,” She said his name, “My opinion does not matter. The question you need to be asking yourself is whether or not you like it.”
She had been prepared to continue when he stated, “I like it.”
“I knew this was the house I wanted the moment I saw it. That is why I bought it a month ago.”
Tationy stared at him trying to translate his words into a language she could comprehend, “You bought it…why the hell have we been visiting here over and over again then?”
Hiko laughed, “Well we could not move in until the paperwork was all situated. So, I thought it would be nice if we visited when we could. You were the one that assumed I was still shopping around.”
As she stared at his face she realized how happy he seemed. She had never witnessed him smile so much and to be truthful, she was not entirely certain what to make of it. Any opportunity to ask though was quickly hindered by the sound of an amused laugh.
Hiko had grabbed her arm and pulled her quickly to him. His posture was always casual, but she could tell he was ready for a fight. Still, he never once hesitated to put himself between her and danger.
“Forgive our intrusion. We heard rumors that you have been looking at this place. It seemed a perfect opportunity to speak with you,” The young man stated.
“Maiba scum treading upon my property, is very unwise.”
“We are not Maiba,” A second voice spoke and it became clear that there were two of them.
“Hmpf. You look and smell like Maiba trash. I suggest you leave now…”
The man before them quickly cut Hiko off, “We are not looking for a fight. Simply an opportunity.”
Much to Tationy’s surprise Hiko had responded with, “I’m listening.”
The expression of the young man changed considerably, “I was honestly expecting this to come to blows.”
“It still can,” Hiko stated. “I suggest you get to what you are here for quickly before I change my mind.”
With a brief nod of his head the young man man spoke, “There are a lot of rumors going around about you. Talk about the upstart Hiko Kari making a play for power that will change all of Aslann. Didn’t know if I should believe in what the seers were predicting. Utter nonsense generally, don’t you agree?”
Hiko dismissed the question, “Get to the point.”
“The clans are going wild with news of this Tylo girl choosing to stand at your side. Enemies you did not even know you had are moving against you. Whether or not the seers visions are true, there are a lot of people bound and determined to bring you down and take what you have.”
“Is that why you are here?”
“Nah, nothing of the kind. I know you know who we are and who we work for so I am just going to get to the point.” The young man stated, “The clans are choosing sides and the majority intend to stand against you, but we figure there has to be a reason that girl is at your back. That is why we are here. Rumors have been circulating that you are looking for help protecting her against … everyone.”
Hiko laughed, “Do you really think I am going to believe this bullshit?”
“We did not come here expecting you to. Just looking for an opportunity.”
Tationy felt the hesitation radiating off of Hiko. Certainly, he was wise to be weary when it came to these two young man. Her eyes, however, said they were not being deceptive, but how far could she really trust her abilities. It was not as though her powers were reliable.
Still, her thoughts became distracted as she wondered if what the young man had said was true. Had Hiko been searching for someone to protect her? She did not want to speculate what that meant, but it was difficult for her to not fear that he would abandon her as well.
How long she had been lost in her own head Tationy could not say, but she only came back to reality when she heard Hiko respond with, “If you can make that happen. Then, we will talk.”
It frustrated Tationy. Not just the fact that it was clear now that Hiko was keeping things from her, but also that she was so easily lost in thought. Half the conversations Hiko had she missed parts because she zoned out.
What was wrong with her? No matter how many times she asked the question to herself she came back with the answer that she was not like other Tylo. They were supposed to be powerful, focused, intelligent, and she always felt like she was bumbling around in the dark.
Even at that moment she did not realize how upset she was, nor that she was moving until she was halted by Hiko grabbing her arm, “Let me go.”
“Tationy,” He said her name with so much force that her entire body stilled. “Tell me what is wrong.”
“I’m wrong,” She responded. “Everything about me is a joke. I just … don’t understand why I am so fucking broken.”
He was determined not to let her escape his grasp, which became evident when she found herself pulled to him. Hiko had pressed his forehead against hers while asking, “Why do you think you are broken?”
It seemed awfully quiet. One of his hands was gripping her shoulder, while the other was teasing along her cheek and into her hair. Was it with purpose? She could not say, but his breathing was steady and his eyes were closed. There was no denying that his proximity distracted her thoughts.
How she longed for that first kiss and it was easy to get swept up by the feelings when he was so close. “Talk to me,” He whispered the words which allowed her to shake the foolishness from her thoughts.
“I’m frustrated,” She managed to say.
“Everything….why didn’t you tell me you have been searching for someone to protect me?”
“Why didn’t you mention that you wanted a job?” Her body froze as his eyes opened and locked upon hers, “Getting upset before your interview with me seems a foolish first step.”
Just like that the conversation was changed, “How did you…”
“There are no secrets at the Kari Foundation especially when you made an appointment with my secretary. What did you think she was going to do, tell me my one o’clock was there to see me, but not mention a name?”
“I was kind of hoping,” She responded with a pout.
Hiko chuckled as he pulled back, “Don’t worry I will act surprised and be tough on you.”
One of the many things she liked was that he never gave you any slack. He worked hard and expected you to do the same. That meant that he was not going to take it easy on you. There were a lot of people in the world that probably took these sorts of details about Hiko Kari and turned him into some sort of monster, but really she admired his resolve.
Perhaps he took things too seriously and even as the two of them walked to the car she considered she might as well. That just meant you were passionate, didn’t it? There was a lot of time to consider these things and what she would say if he pressed her on why she felt broken on the ride back to the Kari Foundation.
Though, not surprising, the two remained silent. Far too many of their conversations just ended abruptly and Tationy was not entirely certain why even as she stepped foot inside his company.
She matched his stride throughout the building. If she dawdled at all, she learned rather quickly that he would grab her hand and pull her along. He wanted her at his side. Perhaps not for the romantic notions that she had floating around in her head, but still she had no complaints. She had a crush or at least that is what Tsubaki kept calling it because Tationy’s text as of late were Hiko this and Hiko that.
There was no way to explain to Tsubaki or anyone else that it was more than that. This was not some young woman fangirling over a celebrity. No, nothing like that. This man was something special. Tationy was not even certain the whats or the whys, but she could feel it in every part of her that he was going to do something amazing and she wanted to be there to see it. She just wished she knew what it was.
Still, over two months and not a hint of what his future might be, nor hers. That was frightening because she did not know what it meant.
As she sat on the sofa in Hiko’s office she sighed noticeably though it was hardly her intent to pull his attention, “I always wondered what it was that was wrong with me. Why it was I was not like other Kari. I might have even used the word broken a time or two, then I realized that it wasn’t me that was faulty, cursed, or tainted. It was their perception of me because of my blood, my appearance, and even my mother.”
Her entire body felt weighed down by his words. It was a relief that someone understood, but at the same time it didn’t lessen her frustration. “I am sorry about my outburst, I just…why have you been looking for someone to protect me? Are you planning on sending me away?”
“No, nothing like that.” Hiko paused a moment before continuing, “When I was made aware that you wanted a job, it became clear to me that I was not going to be able to protect you by myself. I cannot be with you, every second of every day. There will be times when you will be in the office, running errands, or maybe even a day you want to stay home by yourself. I probably should have consulted you, but I wanted to keep the surprise for your interview seeing you went through all of the trouble to make an appointment.”
Hiko did not allow her a moment to think upon his words. “So, Miss Tylo.” There was a long pause that followed, “Tell me why you are here.”
His question caused her to over think. Clearly, he was changing the course of their conversation and leading into the interview, but the question was certainly an existential one if regarded with deep meaning. Her mouth opened and then closed. She was not so confident that he was asking her the meaning of life and existence. So, she repeated the question to herself many times.
Mustering her courage she began, “Well, I believe that I could be useful to the Kari Foundation. I will be honest and say I have no experience. However, I do have an eagerness to learn and I have taken it upon myself to research what it is that the Kari Foundation does and how it benefits our great nation.”
“I will bite, what is it that we do?”
“The Kari Foundation is involved in aerospace, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, robotics, and even semiconductors,” Tationy paused a moment, “However, what really impressed me is that The Kari Foundation is single handily responsible for the eco-revolution in Aslann. I recently read that your scientist and engineers have developed an eco-friendly semiconductor using water.”
In her head she thought she sounded way to excited about that, but all she could do was curtail her enthusiasm and wait for Hiko to respond.
He certainly did not disappoint, “My grandfather started this company in an age when there was little understanding of what man-made devices did to our environment. Even my father’s generation continued to contribute to the breaking down of the ozone and loss of water and landmass. We have many fine engineers and scientists, but as time has changed we have become far more aware of what damage we are doing as people to our world. It puts us at odds with many companies in Aslann who have not felt the need to meet the same standard. It is an uphill battle,” He explained. “We have no laws or guidelines of which to follow. None of us are policed unless we go too far.”
“Like the man that cloned those boys,” Tationy stated about the two young man that had cornered them at Hiko’s new home.
“Ahh, like him. He made monsters. Spliced their DNA with an unknown amount of clans. There is no telling what they are capable of doing. They live on because Lord Seiji Shima has the kind of power to protect them…”
Tationy cut Hiko off, “Sounds like Lord Shima is quite a problem.”
“You could say that,” Hiko responded.
He grew silent as she waited for him to ask her another question. At first she thought it was lingering there far too long, “Tationy, I am not going to pretend that working here is going to be easy for you. In over two months you have been delegated to ‘Hiko’s girl’ and most people do not even speak with you. There is, however, a position available I think you may be perfect for.”
She did not want to assume what it might be so she simply waited for him to continue speaking, “Zen is our Chief Design Officer. He leads the entire department, but he is not the only difficult Kari in that section. There are several design heads that have gone through assistants at a rather alarming rate. I have repeatedly had to have Human Resources shuffle Kari around to other sections because these three ….” Hiko’s words hung there, “Well lets just say that they are old school like my father. All of them, especially Zen have unrealistic expectations for those around them. They are not looking for someone to do the job, they are looking for someone that is superhuman and can anticipate their needs and accomplish them, without being told.”
“Now, with that said. Are you sure you really want to continue this interview?”
Well when he put it that way, who would? Tationy got the impression that he would not hold it against her if she said no, but what would that say about her if she gave up so easily without even trying. “Yes, I am sure,” She responded after finding her resolve. Though truth was she just wanted to feel useful even if that meant taking punishment from a bunch of surly Kari.