That morning they made their way to the Kari Foundation. Hiko directed her to head toward Zen Kari’s office while he made his way to his own. She was nervous, only because she was uncertain what to expect. Much like it was with Hiko and his father Tadayoshi there was a swirling vortex of uncertainty. Beyond the veil, her eyes could not reach the Kari.
Tationy had to take a deep breath before knocking lightly on the door. At first there was no response and she thought maybe Zen Kari was not in his office. So, she very cautiously opened the door and peeked her head in. There he was sitting at his desk looking at a screen with a rather pensive expression upon his face.
“Excuse me,” She said softly though no response came. Her lips pursed; her expression soured and she could not help wondering if she was being ignored. With purpose she stepped into his office and closed the door behind her, “Hiko said…”
“Be quiet woman,” He stated rather coldly. Tationy could not help reflecting on the fact that it was her first day and she was already on the bad side of her new boss.
He looked quite a bit different from Hiko. She could see some similarities between Tadayoshi Kari and the man known as Zen, but it was a case of expectations versus reality. She expected a man with harder features and a snarling face. Certainly, while his expression was quite cold his face exhibited a bit of structure not found in the faces of Hiko and his father. She recognized it as being the qualities of the Waichia.
Could he read her mind? The thought certainly was one she was ill-prepared for as she waited for him to regard her in some way.
His posture had rather suddenly changed. With a tilt of his head his eyes were fixed upon her which certainly made her uneasy. After all, she had just been considering whether or not he could spy upon her private thoughts. “Is it your intention to dress like that every day?”
Tationy’s mouth opened, but no sound came out initially, “Is there something wrong with how I am dressed, Mr. Kari?”
“It is busy…” He stated crisply. Zen Kari’s gaze was far more scrutinizing than those belonging to Hiko and his father Tadayoshi. She tried not to fidget as she adjusted the folds in the fabric, “I don’t expect you to be here long. Whatever your relationship is with Hiko is not my concern. Attention to detail is important in this office and you are clearly lacking.”
Tationy’s eyes widened as she tried to decide if they were still talking about her outfit or something else entirely. She did not want to speak out of turn and Hiko did warn her that the Kari known as Zen was difficult. Persnickety was a good word for him. She thought she looked nice, but clearly there was something about her outfit that he did not favor. Though even as she stood there with a rather unsettled expression she could not put her finger on what it was.
There was little chance to take it all in either as he stood suddenly and much like Hiko moved with a purpose as he spoke, “I am not a babysitter.” Tationy moved quickly to follow him, “I resent the fact that Hiko has pushed you off on me. You should be home, pregnant, and taking care of the house like a good woman. Not playing executive when you have no qualifying skills. These jobs are for accomplished men and women; educated people.”
He stopped talking, slid open a set of doors adjoining his office, and waited for her to step inside. When she did he followed suit. It was a six by eight room; most likely it had been a storage closet, but it was set up with a desk, computer, and some comforts. Tationy would describe it as a mini-office.
“This will be where you work,” He responded and initially there was some excitement at the thought that she got her own space. Sadly, it lasted only a few minutes, “I have no tolerance for the whims of the uneducated. So, I will make this easy for you. All of these boxes have stuff in them that need to be delivered to various parts of the Kari Foundation. Go through them, deliver the items to their appropriate departments, and have it finished by the end of the day. If you cannot accomplish that, then I suggest you tell Hiko that you quit.”
That was all he said as he walked away closing the doors behind him. Minimal direction, no explanation as to what one does if they did not have a department listed nor if the one listed no longer existed. Had she taken on a task that was bigger, then she could handle? It certainly seemed that way.
Despite how the day was starting out, Tationy was not about to allow it to dampen her mood or change the course she had set out for herself. She wanted to work and Hiko had given her an opportunity to do so.
Tackling the task at hand was going to take some time, but there was no point in standing around worrying about whether or not she could do it. Stepping forward, she worked on sorting one box, then the next, then another. By the time it was lunchtime there were piles all over the office and no end in sight.
There was no certainty that she would be able to finish by the end of the day. Did she want to give up? There was a small part of her that thought that she might have to admit defeat. Even as she walked toward Hiko’s office to deliver a few documents and tell him she would not be available for lunch, she had considered the words she might say to him.
There were a lot of boxes and she was only one person. It seemed like a sound argument on one hand and on the other, Tationy thought if she spoke the words she would come off as a kid that wanted to run at the first sign of something challenging.
She had to take a deep breath even to make it through his door and instead of coming face-to-face with the man that had taken her in, there stood someone she did not recognize. “Looking for Mr. Kari?”
“Yes,” She responded awkwardly. “I’m sorry…Are you waiting for Hi..Mr. Kari?”
The man fixed his gaze squarely upon her, “I am. His secretary said he had to step out for a moment, but would be right back. When the door opened I figured I would be looking at him. Can’t say I am disappointed.”
Any other woman might have thought that the man was flirting, but it went completely over Tationy’s head. “I am sure he will be back shortly,” She responded as she opened her mouth to say she would come back later.
“Have not seen you here before. Are you new to the Kari Foundation?”
“Today is my first day.”
“How is it going?”
“Well, but busy,” She stated. “I am sorry, I did not get your name. I’m Tationy Tylo and you are?”
“Seiji,” He introduced.
There was recognition in her eyes, “Lord Seiji Shima.”
He laughed, “Lord Seiji Shima is it? How formal. You can just call me Seiji.”
“Is that alright?” She questioned, “It is my understanding that you are the lord of your people. It seems a disservice to your title and your position to refer to you as anything other than Lord Seiji Shima.”
“Spoken with grace and elegance; a true Yamada woman stands before me. I take it you are the granddaughter of Miso.”
“Yes, how did you….”
“My father mentioned you when I became the lord of my clan. Truly, I am honored.”
Tationy felt a strange feeling from the way his gaze was fixed upon her, “No, the honor is mine…” She fidgeted, “Forgive me, Lord Shima. I shall see if I can find Mr. Kari for you.”
“That is not necessary. I am rather enjoying your company.” He stated and then quickly continued, “I have seen your picture quite a bit in the paper lately. Everyone in the nation wants to know all about the mysterious young woman at the side of Hiko Kari.”
“Even the Lord of the Shima?”
“Asking me a question you already know the answer to?”
“Let’s pretend I don’t,” Tationy responded.
He smiled, “I can understand why Mr. Kari would have you at his side. Any man of power is a fool if he cannot see your assets; it would be a lie to say that I am not observing this situation and wondering whether or not I should be concerned.”
Her head tilted slightly, “Is that all you are wondering?”
Seiji Shima laughed and shook his head, “You are climbing into a very dangerous bed, Miss Tylo.”
Tationy adjusted the documents in her arms, “You assume Lord Seiji Shima that I am not already sleeping in that bed.” Her words offered him plenty to comment on, but Tationy felt that if this conversation continued it could lead to trouble. She offered a quick and brief smile, “If you will excuse me Lord Shima, I have work to attend to. I will let Mr. Kari’s secretary know that you are still waiting.”
He briefly licked his lips and nodded his head. His smile, the way he looked at her, brought a lot of questions to her mind. All she knew was that it was dangerous for her to be around him. His handsome face and kind charm hid guile; she did not trust him. It was the same dark feeling she got from Sesiago Kari.
Returning to her office and the boxes of work, hardly distracted her thoughts. Hiko told her not to look. That he did not want her help and yet, she kept going back to the fact that if she just took a peek beyond the veil she might know the reasons behind Lord Seiji Shima’s constant refusals.
She sighed and then jumped when Hiko said, “I told you to stay away from him.”
Hesitantly she turned, “I stopped by to let you know I would not be able to have lunch. How was I suppose to know…” Her words ended suddenly when he gave her a rather stern expression, “How did your meeting go?”
“The same as it always goes with that man. He refused,” Hiko stated and then quickly asked, “What did he say to you?”
For a moment her lips pursed, “He knew who I was. Told me, I am climbing into a dangerous bed.” She paused a moment, “Truth is, I am more concerned about what he didn’t say.”
“Same feeling I get…” She glanced toward the open door.
Hiko must have sensed her concern, “We can talk about it later. When we get home.” Quickly he changed the topic, “How is your first day going? Zen treating you well?”
Tationy had to muster the strength to keep from having any outward reaction toward his question, “Yes, it is going great. I got a lot to do though so I really don’t have time to talk.”
“Not even with the boss?”
“I suppose that depends on if this is business or pleasure, Mr. Kari,” She teased him rather boldly.
He pushed away from the door and took a single step as he spoke, “I will let you get back to work then.”
“Just like that you are walking off without responding?”
Hiko smiled and teased as he turned his back, “Taking a page from your book, besides cannot let you get away with flirting with the boss. People might get the wrong idea.”
[AUTHOR NOTE: I changed the Kari Foundation building. So, from this point on the building aesthetic looks a bit different. ^_^]
Her conversation with Hiko, although brief, put a smile on her face. It was amazing how a single person could change your mood. He made her feel confident; certainly, it was important for her to have that within herself. After all, one should not rely upon another for their strength, but there was something in the way he spoke that sounded as though he was saying ‘I believe in you’.
Tationy had never had that before. It was always moments of being told what to do or what was expected of her. It was a strange feeling knowing that there was someone out in the great big world that had faith in her. Sure, she was young and probably reading a lot more into what he did not say, but there was a part of her that needed that even if it was just the wishful thoughts of a teenage girl.
“Daydreaming?” A voice startled her.
“Mr. Kari,” She stated as she turned to face him. He had a rather serious and unexpected expression upon his face. Softer perhaps than the face he had worn earlier in the day, but still stern enough that she felt on pins and needles, “I…”
“There is no need to make an excuse.” There was a momentary pause before he quickly continued, “You got a lot more done than I thought you would. However, there are still plenty of boxes left and I am leaving for the day…”
She interrupted him, “So early.”
“Is that an issue?” He questioned.
Tationy quickly stammered, “No, not at all. I did not mean anything by it. Hiko…” She bit the inside of her cheek, “Well he said you work as much as he does. It just surprised me is all to hear you say you are leaving for the day.”
His gaze remained on her for some time, though whether or not he was going to acknowledge her words she could not say. Eventually, he placed his hands behind his back and stated rather directly, “My grandson turns one today. I am expected to be at the celebration.”
“Oh, I did not know,” She responded and then opened her mouth to ask about the child when she was quickly shut down.
“I take it you will continue working until Hiko leaves?”
“If that is alright.”
“Do as you wish,” He stated and then quickly disappeared.
One thing Tationy learned about the Kari very quickly was if they had nothing more to say, they just turned around and walked away. No goodbyes; no well wishes of any form. They were just done. Zen Kari was no exception.
She was fairly certain that Zen did not like her, but she was bound and determined to make sure the task before her was done. Unfortunately, going through old documents was rather boring and it was easy for her to get distracted the longer it took for her to go through them.
Tationy was a little annoyed with herself; how her brain worked sometimes hindered her more than actually helped. She got frustrated, hated being lectured because she felt as though people were telling her what to do or repeating themselves. Neither of which she was a fan of. Unfortunately, the biggest issue she found was that she often had wandering thoughts and then she would come back to reality only to realize that she had lost track of time.
The amount of hours that had passed would not become clear to her until Hiko’s arms wrap around her, “Ready to go home?” Three times that day she had been startled and the rather surprised expression on her face did not go unnoticed as Hiko chuckled, “For someone that has the eyes of the Tylo, you sure do get sneaked up on a lot.”
Flustered she avoided the comment, “It is time to go already?”
“Ahh,” He stated.
“I am not done yet,” She remarked rather somberly.
Hiko pulled away from her, “Is this your way of telling me that I need to wait until you are done?”
“Is that alright?”
With a simple nod he responded, “Ahh. That is fine.”
Hiko had disappeared to his office and came back with his tablet. He reviewed e-mails while she attended to what remained of the boxes. Not once did he ask her why she wanted to stay and finish them. Even if he did, she doubted it was wise to say that Zen was a dictator that liked nothing about her and gave her this job because she was not qualified for anything else.
Tationy broke up the silence as she worked by talking about random things that came to mind, “Zen has a son?”
“Ahh, Tsuna. He is a little older than you are.”
“He said it is his grandson’s birthday,” Tationy stated.
“I suppose it is,” Hiko responded. “I think the boy’s name is Sen.”
“Aren’t you and Zen closely related?”
It was clear that Hiko was considering the question, “He and my dad are first cousins.”
“You are not close though…”
Hiko cut off her words, “Zen keeps to himself. Most of what I know about him is through my father or I learn from other people. Honestly, if you want to know about him you would be better off asking my dad. They are pretty close.”
Tationy could not help thinking that one little piece of information explained why he did not like her from the start. With a sigh she decided to change the topic, “I overheard a conversation earlier. Something about the Kari Foundation closing for a week. What is that about?”
It was the first time in hours that Hiko looked up from his tablet. With a rather thoughtful expression he stated, “I suppose that is coming up.”
“The Kari holiday,” He stated.
Tationy fidgeted with her fingers as she waited for him to offer her some response. It was clear he was considering how to answer, but why? Hiko took a breath as he stated, “It is a coming of age festival that happens once a year; the entire foundation shuts down and families spend time in the village while their children are going through their rites of passage.” He responded and then added quickly, “I usually just work.”
“Why have I not heard of this holiday before?”
“Only the Kari celebrate it. It really does not apply to you or I.”
“We don’t have children.”
“So, what do single and childless Kari do during the festival?”
“Same as everyone else without the anxiety I imagine,” He stated and then quickly added, “Do you want to do something?”
“We can attend the festival if you want to or do something else. Unless you would like to spend the week in the office.”
There was always the chance that she might not have a job if she did not finish the work before her. With a sigh she grabbed up a stack of papers, “I doubt your father would appreciate me being there.”
“I don’t really give a fuck what my father thinks on it. If you want to attend we will.”
“Do you want to go?” Hiko failed to respond to her question right away which told her that he was not particularly interested in attending the Kari festival. So, she quickly added, “Let’s do something you want to do.”
“Something I want to…really?”
“Yes, anything you want.”
It was quite possible those words were going to come back and bite her, but it seemed unfair that Hiko spent his clans holiday in the office. She did not understand, but at the same time she did not want to push him to explain.
There were plenty of times when he had talked about his clan that it was clear he was doing it hesitantly. Not to mention, she felt as though he was leaving out details. She could not blame him. The secrecy was not limited to just the Kari; all the clans of Aslann went out of their way to be vague when it came to clan traditions, values, and even their histories.
After their brief conversation, Tationy delivered files around the Kari Foundation and found her way back to Hiko. She was done or at the very least she thought she was. Somehow she figured that Zen would dump a bunch more boxes on her the next day, if he even allowed her to continue working for him.
As they exited the Kari Foundation they talked about their potential trip, “But why does it have to be camping?”
“You said we could do whatever I wanted.”
“Yeah, but I did not think you would pick camping.”
Hiko snorted, “Seriously, sometimes you are so difficult. You will like it; we will have fun.”
“You say that, but….” Her thoughts were suddenly distracted as she stopped moving which forced Hiko to stop as well.
“Is something wrong?” Hiko questioned.
“No it is just…I had a weird feeling,” She stated. His smile relaxed her, but it only lasted for a moment when her head jerked suddenly.
It was brief, but her eyes made contact with a young woman standing near the Kari Foundation sign. Tationy took a step toward her as she opened her mouth to call out. That was about the point that the girl took off rather quickly.
“Wait,” Tationy shouted as she chased after the young woman. She could barely hear anything other than the sound of her heels hitting the concrete. Somewhere, somehow, she lost her and that was when she realized that she was standing in the middle of nowhere with Hiko coming up behind her. “Are you insane? What were you fucking thinking taking off like that?”
“I…I thought…” She was uncertain at this point if she imagined the girl or not, “Did you see her?”
“The girl with the weird hair.”
Hiko shook his head, “No, I didn’t see anyone.” There was a momentary pause, “Are you feeling ill? Have you eaten today?” It was clear he was concerned about her as he took her hand. All Tationy managed was an awkward smile and an uncertain shake of her head. She could see the concern etched across his features as he stated, “Come on, let’s go home.”
“Alright,” She meekly responded.
Not once did he push. She doubted that he was not concerned over what she potentially saw or the fact that she took off the way she did. Hiko was not the type of man that did not reflect upon every little detail of things that transpired. Still, she was not even certain what she saw.
Tationy tried desperately to put the unknown girl to the furthest part of her mind, but even as they headed back toward the Kari Foundation she was still lingering there. Something familiar and dangerous; a sign perhaps. She did not know, but she had a feeling something was coming and that little girl with the unusual hair was trying to tell her as much.