Tationy had woken that morning to a feeling of unease. She made a mistake the night before. Sadly, there was no explaining or excuse she could give to get Hiko to understand. He was angry and she really could not blame him.
She spent the entire night thinking about it. Replaying the moment over and over again looking for the answer. The only one she could find was that she was afraid. The burden placed upon the shoulders of Hiko and the unexpected crazy that was looming all around her was simply too much for any one person to shoulder.
Her bed felt absolutely perfect. Not because it was comfortable or it was one of those days that sleeping in felt ideal. It was simply because she wished to avoid looking upon his face that morning. Tationy was used to people being disappointed in her, but it felt so much worse when it came from him.
It took all of her strength to force herself to get up, shower, dress, and brave venturing downstairs. Once she did, she had not expected to see him standing there with breakfast ready.
“Good morning,” She whispered tentatively.
At first it seemed as though he would offer her no greeting. His stern expression and cold eyes, fixed securely upon her. “Morning,” He finally stated and gestured for her to take a seat.
Hiko did not even look at her. He offered nothing in the way of conversation and he spent a good five minutes, picking at his food. Tationy had experienced some awkward meals in her life, but this one certainly beat them all.
There was little hope that he would offer her any words. She had already resigned herself to the fact that things might never be the same again between them. That was really the part that hurt her. Tationy was used to the hatred of those around her, but this was the first time it was coming from someone she cared about.
“I’m sorry,” She whispered aloud.
If Hiko was moved by her words she could not tell because all that followed was silence. At least until he set his fork down and lifted his head to look at her, “Do you want to be with the Ishi?”
“No,” She stated.
“Then explain; why did you not call for me? I was right there. What the hell do you think would have happened had I not woken up?”
“Please don’t be mad at me,” She began though she would be unable to finish her words.
“I am not pissed,” He stated and then quickly added, “I was fucking terrified.”
His words caught her off guard. Hiko was not the type of man that showed fear. Not a single hint even when he was fighting the Ishi man the night before. So, learning that he had been fearful caused an ache in her heart for having burdened him further.
Tationy took a deep breath. The smell of the rain was relaxing, but her mood was sour. She didn’t know what to say to him and even if she spoke from her heart she doubted it would make sense.
Rambling seemed more the course she would end up taking even though initially she did not speak. “I have seen the monster that man is,” She responded. “Even when he told me to scream for you I couldn’t. I didn’t want to, but then you appeared and there was relief. It didn’t matter what happened to me as long as you were not hurt.”
“I don’t want you sacrificing yourself for me. So, whatever martyr complex you have, lock it away in a box. You are my responsibility…” She cut him off.
“That is not fair. You cannot just ask me to stand there and watch. I won’t. Even if you tell me to,” She snapped as she forced her eyes to fix upon him.
There was tension in his posture as he asked, “What are you going to do against that snake?” There was no answer she could give. It was not as though she thought she could stand against the Son of Rin with her clouded eyes. Even if there was some small chance, there was still that shadow that lingered in the darkness. “I have faith in your ability to grow, but as you are right now…”
“I get it. So, I do not need you lecturing me like I am some child. If you have not noticed, Hiko Kari…” Her words ended there. She was too irritated to continue them.
It was now Tationys turn to play with her food. Absently she moved her fork around as she internally fumed. She knew he was just trying to protect her, but she didn’t need a reminder of her own weakness.
Hiko, however, had other things in mind when he ended the silence by speaking. “I’ve noticed.” He stated and only continued when Tationy ventured to look upon him again, “It has been over two months since Anjou left you in my care. I might not lust after women, but I am also not blind. I am quite aware that you are not a little girl.”
“Then why do you treat me like one?”
There was plenty of hesitation from him. Perhaps it was uncertainty on how to answer without upsetting her. Whatever his reasons, he did not offer any words right away. Instead, an exasperated sigh left his mouth as he rubbed his face in what seemed to indicate frustration. Then he blurted the words, “Because if I don’t, I am going to end up making you mine.”
“What?” She stammered awkwardly.
“I like you, way more than I should and each day I am reminded that we are in this situation that complicates everything. Couple that with your age and the fact that you have spent your entire life locked in a basement and … I don’t want to rush things or make you feel uncomfortable.” There was a long pause before he added, “Last night it became real and I had to face the reality that someday, I might lose you. I did not like that feeling.”
Tationy just stared at him for a while which clearly troubled him because he could not stop himself from saying, “Don’t get quiet on me. Fucking say something.”
“Hiko Kari likes me,” She mused and then giggled a little bit.
A rather serious response followed, “You seem way too happy about this.”
“Why wouldn’t I be? You are cool and strong,” She started rambling.
“Don’t make me some white knight. I am Kari, we are not good men.”
“A woman who thinks that a man is good has never seen it when he has been taken to his breaking point. All men, all women, have the potential of being bad. Some are just far more honest about it. With that said, you can be a white knight and still be a bad man; chivalry is not defined by someones morals in this day and age. Besides, even if you are not a good man by some romance novel bullshit definition, you are to me.” She shrugged her shoulders and with a rather whimsical expression added, “And if you want to make me yours, I am not going to stop you.”
Hiko laughed, “There it is. I was wondering how long it would take for that romance infused brain if yours to surface again.”
“You can pretend you do not like it Hiko Kari, but we both know you do.” She teased and then paused a moment, “So, am I forgiven?”
He groaned, “Ahh, but don’t scare me like that again.”
“I cannot make that promise, but I will try not to.” Tucking her hair behind her ear she added, “So…”
“Calm yourself down,” He stated though his tone was quite light. “All I did was tell you, I like you. We have a long road ahead of us before we even consider taking it a step further.”
“You suck the enjoyment out of all of my happy moments,” She pouted.
“One of us has to be grounded.” He stated then paused a moment to take a drink before adding, “Not to change the topic, but what is it about Sesiago you do not like?”
She wrinkled her nose, “I am not sure really. Just this feeling that something is off. I don’t trust him, but I cannot say why.” Tationy noticed the expression upon Hiko’s face and added, “You don’t either.”
“My father and his father seemed to think that he would come work at the Kari Foundation, but instead he took a job at Shima Aerospace. Sure, he owns stock in it because of his mother’s blood, but the decision always troubled me.”
“It was difficult for me last night to tell if you liked or disliked him…”
“I hate him,” Hiko stated quickly.
With a shake of his head and a subtle shrug of his shoulders he responded, “My gut tells me there is something fucked up about him and it has never been wrong.”
“Do you think he is part of the reason that Shima Aerospace is refusing to assist on those contracts?”
“I haven’t ruled it out as a possibility,” He stated. “However, today is not going to be about work. We have a house to finish and if you are up for it, I thought we could do some more shopping.”
“Is it alright?” She asked as she stood and turned toward the open door, “It is raining really badly and will only get worse.”
“Would you rather stay in?” He questioned as he made his way toward her.
Despite it being summer, storm season was quickly upon them. Still, Tationy had no complaints. She loved the rain and it always brought with it a calm that washed away all of the uncertainty that lingered in her heart. Taking a breath in she responded, “I would, but there is still a bunch of things on your list….lists.”
Hiko glanced toward her, “Have something against the way I organize my thoughts?”
“No, I think it is a little cute how you have lists all over the house of things you need to do,” She responded and then took a thoughtful pause, “Don’t we need to get your other car?”
He groaned, “You are not driving.”
Tationy wrinkled her nose, “I do not believe I asked if I could drive Hiko Kari, but we could take that car service thing from last night right?”
Thoughtfully he nodded his head, “Ahh, we can do that. So, I take it you are up for a little adventuring outside the house?”
“Maybe a little,” She responded.
Tationy and Hiko had not left the house right away because Sesiago had stopped by to get his car. It was a perfect opportunity to make herself scarce because she had no desire to be in the company of that particular Kari.
About thirty minutes later he was leaving and the car service Hiko had called arrived to get them. First stop was picking up his other vehicle and then onto several stores. Mostly they talked about the house and the types of things they wanted and when there was silence it was rather companionable.
After several hours of adventuring around the city, Tationy was exhausted and ready to head home. Hiko, on the other hand, wanted to make one more stop.
The little shop could hardly be called a store by any definition. It was the epitome of the three d’s; dark, dank, and dirty. Though it certainly gave further insight into the man known as Hiko Kari as he talked with the purveyor and she wandered around.
There were many curious oddities from animal entrails to exotic spell books. This was the type of place that dabbled in the darker forms of magic. Tationy herself had no skill in the manipulation of energy, but she had a fondness for alchemy which seemed to be shared by Hiko if his conversation with the owner of the little shop was any indication.
It was far too easy to become distracted in a place like this. Still, her wandering came to an abrupt end when she caught something move out of the corner of her eye. Turning she stared at the hazy mirror and shook the questioning thoughts from her mind. At least until a face appeared in it and she jumped noticeably nearly knocking over an entire table of what looked to be eyeballs.
Awkwardly she straightened herself up as Hiko and the man behind the counter chuckled, “She has never seen a cursed mirror before, manon?” She knew that word. It was Zenaku for friend.
“Ahh, seems unlikely. You know how the Yamada feel about objects like these.”
“Clans that believe in law and order even among chaos. My grandmother says their brains are not right….with her own special flare.”
Hiko laughed, “Ahh, I remember my dad telling me that his mother called the Waichia and Yamada, osodd.”
That was a word she did not know, but the man behind the counter laughed and nodded his head sagely. “Some clans see order where there is none; place laws on that which cannot be governed. Sanctimonious bullshit if you ask me,” The young Zenaku stated, “So, do you want to see what I got? It is really good. Not a sword like you favor, but it is by far the most cursed item I have ever laid my hands on.”
Tationy remained toward the side watching the interactions. She was confused and curious as the Zenaku purveyor brought a book from the back and placed it on a stand. “Bound in the flesh of men, written in human blood. My grandmother believes it is the oldest spell book of the Sun clan.
Her eyes squinted as she watched Hiko intently look it over. “How much do you want for it?”
“The Thacian City Museum is willing to pay quite a bit…”
Hiko interrupted him, “I will buy it right now. Whatever your price.”
The Zenaku chuckled briefly, “My grandmother said you would say that.”
“What else did she say?”
“Do you really want to know the answer to that question?”
“Ahh,” Hiko quickly responded.
When the man’s eyes fell upon her she felt tension, but they only remained their briefly. Did that mean that his grandmother spoke about her? “She said you should always go left,” The Zenaku stated rather emphatically, “And to tell you the book is a gift.”
“A gift…” His words hung there as Tationy cautiously moved toward Hiko, “Why?”
The owner of the shop simply shrugged his shoulders, “The matriarch of the Zenaku does not share the wisdom behind her words, not even with her own grandson.”
His words were rather curious to her. Not about the book being a gift, though that certainly brought about its own questions. What caught her attention was the fact that he said he was the grandson of the Matriarch of the Zenaku which meant that in some way he was related to Tsubaki. She wanted to ask, but there was scarcely an opportunity as her distracted mind was pulled to a large flash of lightning.
By the time she gathered herself, Hiko was ready to leave and she spent the car ride homing thinking about the many strange and fanciful people that she had encountered since coming into the life of Hiko Kari. Sometimes the entire thing seemed a dream of her own imagination. Which could hardly be ruled out. After all she had spent many years beyond the veil, dreaming while awake.
At home they shuffled about the house getting things put away before finding themselves in the kitchen. It was there that she gave Hiko a gift she had gotten. Well he had bought it, but Hiko had not seemed to notice that she slipped it in with many other objects while they were at the store.
When she presented the cup to him with the grumpy cat on the front saying no, he had a rather unexpected expression upon his face. He was not mad, happy, or anything easily recognizable.
Tationy awkwardly opened her mouth to ask if he liked it, but he turned away to get himself a cup of coffee. It eased the tension that had gathered around her because if he did not like it, he would not use it. Right? Well as logical as that seemed she was still uncertain if he did even as he turned back and looked at her.
She debated whether or not she should ask him, but instead chose to avoid eye contact altogether. “What do we need for dinner, I will get it out,” She stated as she tried to make herself seem distracted and busy by getting the cutting board and a knife.
“Strawberries, onions, lettuce, tomatoes,” He rattled off in rapid succession.
While he leaned against the counter and drank his coffee, she gathered the fruits and vegetables needed. She missed out on cooking with him that morning, but for dinner she wanted to make certain she was a part of the whole process.
“Are we slicing these onions?”
“Ahh,” Hiko responded. His eyes were still upon her though he was hardly saying a word. It left a weird knot in her stomach though she was uncertain why. It was eased when he finally spoke, “We never did decide what time we wanted to have dinner every night. Do you have any thoughts on that?”
She shrugged her shoulders as she worked on the onions, “Does it matter?”
“It is good to be consistent when it comes to eating habits. I tend to work a lot of long hours. So, there is the likelihood that I will not get home some nights until later in the evening.”
“What is the latest you have stayed at the office?”
“Before you came into my life, I could be there until nine or ten in the evening. Sometimes even until midnight, but that won’t work. It is one thing when it is just me, but now there are two of us. We should pick a time…”
She interrupted him, “It is thirteen minutes after seven. Why not now?”
“Well it certainly would give me plenty of hours at the office if I need to stay over and give us both opportunities to stop to the store if we need to after work.” There was a momentary pause before he changed the course of the conversation, “Until I can hire some security, we will head to and leave work together. Once there are people in place to help protect you when I cannot, you will be able to come and go more freely. Until then, I will have the head of the Kari Foundation’s security assign someone to move with you if you have to leave the office when I am busy.”
She was still not certain how she felt about having security, but she understood his reasoning for it. There was certainty she was meant to respond to his words, but at the same time she was not sure what she should say. That was about the point she heard a soda can and his cup being set upon the counter and felt him move in behind her.
“You need to make them thinner,” He breathed hotly along her neck. She was so flustered by his proximity that she dropped the knife on the cutting board.
Hiko had not hesitated for a moment to begin working on the onions she had been preparing for dinner. It seemed so easy for him. He could just move in on her like that and appeared unfazed, but for Tationy she felt her breathing increase and her heart pounding wildly in her ears.
These little moments with him seemed intimate, but they were not anything she had ever felt before. Tationy had many experiences from her time beyond the veil. Sweet and romantic ones were not among them; honestly, she swore that most days she saw the worst moments of a person’s life or the debauchery that inflicted the hearts of mankind.
At seventeen years old she could tell you what it was like to be raped and even what it felt like to rape someone. She had witnessed it beyond the veil at a time when it felt so real for Tationy that she did not know if it was happening to her.
There were no words to explain how strange it felt having these moments with Hiko Kari. How they contradicted everything she had experienced of life beyond the veil. Sometimes; most of the time, they seemed unreal. That frightened her more than anything she had witnessed with her eyes because she did not want to wake up and have it all be an illusion conjured by the manufactured dreams of her power.
“I want to stay here forever,” She wished softly.
Of course, typical to Tationy’s life she was unaware that she said it aloud, “Are you sure that is what you want?”
Flustered she stammered, “I…I…” There was a pause as she tried to gather her courage to respond, but she simply change the topic, “Do we need bowls or plates?”
Hiko had not pressed the issue and they finished making dinner without any further awkward moments though there was plenty of silence. At the dining room table, the two ate quietly for a time as Tationy tried to decide if she should say something. Now and again she would glace toward him, but it would be quite a bit before she even braved speaking.
“Do you think it is weird how we deal with this Ishi situation? I mean, one moment it feels like there is drama everywhere and then the next it is like it did not even happen.”
Hiko made a thoughtful sound between bites, “Sometimes, moments of crises happen very quickly and then they are over. It does not mean they are not still looming, but there is nothing more that can be done. It is better to handle it. Then, after it is over we do what we can to ensure it is taken care of, but we do not dwell on it.”
There was a momentary pause between bites, “I think that life is like that a lot. Things will be going along fine and then there is some conflict that comes up. Our shit is just bigger than the average mans that is why it is such a huge surprise when things go from amazing too dramatic. Far too many people see conflict as quicksand and they just let it pull them under while life continues on around them. I am not interested in running, hiding, or dwelling.” He paused a moment, “There are far more important things in life then letting shit drag you down until you’re dysfunctional; honestly, I prefer my head on my shoulders instead of up my ass.”
“So,” He allowed his eyes to fix on her, “Do you want to run away Tationy?”
“Would I be running away with Hiko Kari?”
He laughed, “You have been playfully teasing a lot more lately.”
“Ahh, I think you found a new way to completely avoid a question.”
“No,” He stated simply and then changed the topic, “There has been something I have been meaning to ask you. I know the Yamada still dabble in alchemy, but did your grandmother take the time to teach you?”
“Anjou did,” She responded.
“What about energy? Can you weave it? I am just asking because you have Ishi blood and there are said to be many powerful chaltas among that clan.”
“Not as far as I can tell. I think my grandmother was actually relieved that I was unable to. Can you?”
“No, I am not able to manipulate energy. There are very few among the Kari that can.” He stated and then continued quickly, “Like cooking, we are trained in the mastery of alchemy from the time we are small.”
“As well as combat?”
At first he did not offer her a response, but eventually nodded his head, “Kari boys are generally trained by their fathers.”
“What about Kari girls?”
“Depends on her desire. There are some daughters that are trained in combat, but there are even more that have chosen to focus on other fields such as medicine. During ancient times it was far more common for Kari girls to be trained in combat. Women were left home to protect the village and family when the men were away on assignments. In this time young girls are given the choice.”
There was something in his tone, “You don’t agree?”
“I do not think learning to protect oneself should be a choice. I want my daughters to be able to handle any situation including ones that could come to blows and not have to rely on someone to take care of them.”
“Do you think I should learn some form of combat training?”
“Your focus should be on those eyes. Someday, you are going to be able to see everything and there is not going to be a man or a woman capable of laying a hand on you. Until then, you got me. I cannot speak for any others, but I have a healthy respect for a woman that scares the shit out of me.”
She wrinkled her nose, “You’re afraid of me?”
“Ahh,” He stated.
“I just….” His words hung there as he stared at her. She wished she could read the expression, but there they were in this moment and he could not find the words. It would be some time before he would change the topic, “Do you want children?”
“I don’t…I don’t think I would be a good parent.”
“You have a very energetic and curious personality that would make any kid excited. I think you would be an amazing mom someday, but I can understand all to well why you might feel that way. I was never close with my mom or my dad for that matter. I have some memories of us when I was little, but I honestly don’t know what happened. Maybe I am just too much like her; whatever the reason, my father and I started butting heads and it has never stopped.”
“Do you want things with your father to change?”
“Sometimes, then he says something and I am reminded that in his eyes I am always going to be a worthless piece of trash like my mother.”
“He doesn’t see you as Kari at all?”
Hiko hung his head, “None of them do. The only reason I get the respect I do is because I am the son of Tadayoshi Kari. If I was any other…” His words hung there as he shrugged his shoulders.
It was clear to Tationy that he wanted to discuss something else so she changed the topic, “Do you think I should show off my boobs more?”
Hiko choked and then looked away, “I think if that is what you want to do…”
“That is not what I asked you.”
Silence and a deep breath later it became clear that he was considering his words, “What brought this on?”
“Now you are just avoiding the question,” She said with a rather whimsical sigh before adding, “At the club those girls were in very sexy dresses and my eyes were instantly drawn to Mikaela’s boobs and Moochie’s legs. It seemed to me that both picked clothing that accentuated particular assets of their bodies. So, it got me thinking that maybe I should …”
Quickly Hiko stopped her, “I think if you want to wear clothing that shows off more of you that it is a decision that you should make. After all, you have to be comfortable.”
Her lips pursed, “Again, not what I asked you.”
Hiko sighed and looked away as a very subtle smile graced his lips, “I would not complain one single bit even as I beat the shit out of every guy that takes a peek.”
“Why do I get the impression that smile on your face is because you are thinking about the fighting?”
With a laugh he stood and began to clean up the table, “So, does this question mean you want a new wardrobe?”
“Maybe,” She stated as she followed suit.
“Well, how about we come back to this conversation in a month. Then, if you are still interested in having something a little more revealing, we will buy a couple of outfits.”
She felt like he was pushing it off because of her age, but at the same time she sort of just tossed the question at him. He probably had little time to react to it. Tationy was certain if she gave him a few days, then, approached the conversation again, he might be a little more receptive so she simply responded with, “Alright.”
After they finished cleaning up they chose a nice relaxing evening. They had no television so Tationy and Hiko spent time after dinner watching cartoons on his laptop. At first it seemed normal, just two friends sitting side by side sharing cake. Laughing at the absurd humor and the talking dog while trying to figure out who it was hidden behind the costume mask. Eventually the mood changed as she leaned into him and his hand rested upon her stomach.
There were probably people in the world that would see them as moving too fast or assume they were a couple. Moments like these with Hiko did not feel forced to Tationy. Actually, they felt very natural. They were not moving at any particular pace, just doing what felt right. At least that was how she saw it. Of course, her views on such matters were very different from those dictated by society.
“Are you nervous about tomorrow?”
“A little,” She stated.
“You will do alright,” Hiko responded and then added, “I am going to be very busy. Lord Seiji Shima is coming to speak with me. I am not sure if I will even have time to eat lunch…”
She interrupted him, “Do you want me to stop by your office to see if you are available?”
Then she yawned and stretched which resulted in an unexpected coaxing from Hiko to lie down as he stated, “Ahh, I would like that.”
Initially, she just closed her eyes and listened to the cartoon and the rain. Hiko was being rather silent and she still had not asked him about his conversation with Sesiago. It seemed as good a topic as any as she shifted her body slightly to find a more comfortable position. That was about the point that Hiko’s fingers teased along hers. Which elicited that odd feeling in the pit of her stomach from the night before.
Certain she was holding her breath she had to force herself to breathe, but it was hard to relax completely. Any stray thoughts were pushed away and fixed solely upon him when his other hand rested to her shoulder. Now and again, she could feel his thumb tease along her jawline. Just enough contact to be intimate; it felt like he was trying to tease her.
Tationy did not know how it was possible for a man like him to have such a light touch, but his calloused fingertips were barely touching her skin. It was a distraction. So much so that when he initially spoke to her she had not noticed until he chuckled softly, “Going to fall asleep on me?”
“No,” She stammered.
“Are you sure? I have never seen you this relaxed before.”
“Sorry, it just feels really nice.”
There was hesitation that followed. It put her on edge not being able to understand why he suddenly would stop speaking. Tationy sometimes suspected that she said the wrong thing. After all, it was not uncommon. “I…” Suddenly he spoke, “I am worried about you. There have been many nights I have noticed that you are restless and you do not seem to get much sleep.”
Rather suddenly she rolled over which must have caught him off guard because he tensed. Tationy was not certain how to respond to his words because in her entire life the only moment she ever felt comfortable and slept through the night was lying in a futon next to him the first night they moved in. “These eyes sometimes make it an impossible feat. My mind is always focused on millions of different things at once. So, it is really difficult finding peace.”
She felt his hand rest to her head; smoothing her hair as he responded, “It is not healthy going without sleep. I know you are Ishi and the things that hinder normal men and women do not generally apply, but even your blood has to have a breaking point. Do the Ishi suffer from exhaustion?”
“Are you asking because of me or does the question come about because of Kuro of the Ishi?”
“I don’t give a fuck about that snake,” He stated as his hand rest to her shoulder, “There is a lot about that clan I do not know. It worries me because I have you to take care of.”
Tationy felt guilty for thinking that his pointed question might have had something to do with the Son of Rin they encountered, “I don’t know,” She finally answered and then continued, “My grandmother did not see it fit to tell me anything of the Tylo or the Ishi and I have been hesitant to look into them too much. Afraid of what I might see I guess.”
“Maybe it is something you should consider doing.”
“We should probably go to bed,” She stated abruptly as she tried to pull away from him.
Hiko had not allowed her to get very far, grabbing her hand and holding her close, “Maybe you won’t like the answers you find if you take a peek, but that does not mean you can run away from your blood. It is a part of you. Understand?”
Tationy awkwardly acknowledged his words with a nod of her head before escaping to her room for the remainder of the night.