They had traveled all the way to Garvator which was roughly four hours away from Thacian City. Hiked to a particular spot that Hiko had said was always his favorite. Which took a good hour, lugging camping equipment, and maneuvering small and winding trails. Another forty-five minutes to set up camp and by the time she was able to sit down she was already spent. Camping was exhausting.
Hiko had stoked the fire to life and got her a beverage before taking a seat next to her. A deep contented sigh left his lips and she realized that he was in his element. As much as he was Hiko Kari, Chief Executive Officer of the Kari Foundation. He was also, a man of the wilds.
For a time they enjoyed the mountain scenery and the cooled air. It was beautiful and not at all like anything Tationy had experienced before. The simplicity made it so easy for her to get lost in the moment and her ever wandering thoughts. She should not have been surprised when Hiko finally broached the topic they had been tap-dancing around all week.
“What did you see?”
It was not an easy question for her to answer because she was not even certain of anything. That made her far more hesitant to speak initially, “A girl with wild hair. She was young; maybe thirteen or fourteen. I am not sure.”
“Why did you react the way you did?”
“There was this feeling that she wanted me to see her. It was as though she was trying to say something, but without using words. She wanted me to feel what she was feeling. It is weird, I know. I have not felt like that since I was a kid and …”
“Don’t stop talking to me Tationy,” Hiko encouraged.
“I am not sure if she was really there,” Tationy admitted. “For so many years I was trapped in these dreams. The veil was just open all the time and I could not tell what was real or what was spilling out from the door that was ajar. After I went on the medication that feeling went away, until I saw that little girl.”
“Do you think your medicine is not as effective as it used to be?”
“I think that is a possibility.”
It was unspoken, but there was no way he did not understand the gravity of what their conversation might mean. Still, Hiko had not said anything to her words. Tationy could hardly blame him after all it was a heavy burden to place on the shoulders of anyone especially a man that had taken her in because of a favor.
His gaze was fixed toward the mountains as he said, “I will make sure you are always taken care of. Right now all we can do is concern ourselves with one day at a time. I think when we get home the first thing we should do is contact your doctor.”
Tationy pursed her lips to keep from smiling. She was happy; it was a strange feeling because he really only offered her a few words. In the long run she was certain that disappointment would eventually come her way because actions were far more important than flowery speeches. Still, it was too easy to be lost in this particular moment until she realized he had mention her doctor, “I don’t know if he will see me. He came to the estate and was the private physician of the Yamada.”
“How much medication do you have left?”
“Half a months worth,” Tationy stated.
The choking sound from Hiko and the way his head turned swiftly to look upon her said that she should have mentioned that a long time ago. “Were you going to say something?” He questioned and then quickly added, “Before you were out?”
Scratching a spot on her cheek she sighed, “Anjou always took care of it.”
Hiko noticeably sighed as he stood, “Well he is not here anymore. This is part of your responsibility so you have to be proactive when it comes to these sorts of things.”
“Are you mad at me?”
“No,” He stated and offered his hand to her. When she accepted he continued while moving, “We will take care of all of this when we get back. Right now, let’s focus on having fun.”
Hiko’s idea of a good time apparently involved baiting a hook with a worm and casting a line into water. There was a certain peacefulness about it, but Tationy had been far too squeamish to deal with the bait and she fumbled a bit awkwardly with the casting.
Once they were situated into a comfortable routine, the two stood side by side. Hiko would give her instructions now and again about how and when to use the reel. Overall their conversation remained fixed on the task at hand until Tationy said, “It is really beautiful here.”
“Ahh, if it were not for my position at the Kari Foundation I would probably spend a lot more time in these parts.”
“Do you ever think about doing something else?”
“No, never. I will probably be doing the same job until the day I die. Maybe I am just not the type, but I do not ever see myself sitting around enjoying my old age and retirement.”
“You do what you love and love what you do.”
“Ahh,” He took a moment to pause before asking, “What about you? How are things really going with Zen?”
“What do you mean?”
Hiko chuckled, “Zen is the most unforgiving Kari I know. A hundred times worse than my father. I would like to think that he is not treating you like shit, but the man knows no other way to deal with people.”
Tationy sighed, “I don’t want you to fight my battles.”
“I won’t if that is not what you want, but I can listen.”
With resignation she stated, “I think he really hates me. All he does is give me boxes to go through. Apparently, by his standards that is all I am capable of doing. Not to mention, for some reason he completely hates everything I wear.”
“How do you feel about that?”
“Well I am kind of getting used to every Kari man hating me, but I have no idea what was wrong with my outfits.”
“Sounds like you are more troubled by the fact that he does not like your clothing,” Hiko stated.
Tationy wrinkled her nose, “Well when you put it that way it seems silly.”
“I think it is a little cute,” He responded and then quickly added, “As difficult as it might be for some people to understand, I did not hire you because of our relationship. I think you will be good for the design department and Zen as you have been for me.”
Tationy didn’t understand why, but the faith he had in her was an overwhelming feeling for the girl that never felt as though she belonged. His words were so simple and always meaningful. Sometimes he was harsh and almost always direct, but with her Hiko always had a gentle hand. Still, she found it difficult to respond to words that made her stomach flutter all about.
They had spent several hours fishing, though the only thing hooked was a turtle. Tationy had felt so bad as she watched Hiko cover its head and quickly pull the hook from its mouth before releasing it back into the water. Probably a hundred times she asked if the little guy was going to be alright. With a comforting smile Hiko had told her yes and insisted that turtles were quite resilient.
Still, Tationy did not feel uncomfortable fishing any longer so the two opted for a nature hike. They put the gear away, dosed the fire at their camp, and walked the trails in silence for a good thirty minutes before Hiko reached down, took her hand in his, and finally spoke, “Minus the turtle, are you enjoying yourself?”
“It is not what I expected, but it is turning out very nice.”
“Does that mean you want to do this again sometime?”
“I think I would like that,” She said and then felt Hiko give her hand a squeeze. Momentarily Tationy was dizzy with the wild idea of a summer romance, but it was quickly overridden with all the questions she wanted to ask him.
“Where are you?”
“What?” She asked as she shook her wandering thoughts.
“I asked where you were.” For only a moment he let his words linger there, “Lately, I have noticed that you disappear in your thoughts a lot. I was just curious where they were taking you.”
Tationy stumbled over her response, “Different places.”
“Ahh, am I there with you?”
“Does Hiko Kari want to be there with me?”
He subtly glanced toward her. A short smile graced his lips, but he didn’t respond. The fluttering in her stomach was a strange sensation. Tationy had never been the type of girl to get nervous when it came to other people, but there was something about Hiko that made her body feel warm and her head swim with so many different thoughts.
She tried to act as cool as he was, but always ended up failing miserably. Today was no different as she returned his smile with one of her own only to jump from the unexpected sound of a thunderclap. He laughed while her cheeks pinked.
Tationy tried to distract from her embarrassment by focusing on the obvious shift in the weather. It was roaring and loud and moments later the rain came pouring down upon them.
They were not close to the camp, a good couple of miles of running through the rain on uneven terrain. Hiko held her hand the entire way, never once, not even for a moment letting go. She was forced to keep his pace.
By the time they reached camp they were both soaked. Hiko only stepped in the tent long enough to make sure she was safe before he exited into the rain again. A few minutes later he returned and the two of them peeled themselves out of wet clothing.
It was different from being at his house. Sure sometimes she left the bathroom door open or even the one for her bedroom. The first time she had, Hiko was quick to ask her why and she told him that she had felt comfortable. This moment, in that tent, soaked to their very bones Tationy was nervous even with her back to him.
With the darkened sky, sound of rain and thunder, it was not all that difficult to settle into a cozy atmosphere. Still, her heart was pounding and she didn’t initially look at Hiko until his hand rested gently upon her back.
“What did you go back out for?” She questioned softly.
“I put a stake in the ground to monitor the water level. Garvator was not supposed to get any rain…”
“Yet, here we are holdup in a tent with rain accumulating at a rate of three tenths of an inch.”
His fingers teased along her back as he asked, “Disappointed?”
“No….No, not at all. Why would you ask that?”
“I am just not used to anyone wanting to be trapped with me anywhere.”
“I can’t think of any other place I would want to be.”
“Is that so?” Before she could respond to his question, he refocused their conversation, “Hopefully, it will just rain for a few hours and then dissipate. If it doesn’t and it persist for days there is a chance we may have to abandon camp and hike to higher ground. It will be important for us to keep an eye on the water level. If it reaches the stake, we will have no choice.”
“Are we in danger?”
“Not at the moment,” He responded. Despite his words she still felt a bit of tension which was only eased when his forehead rested to hers, “Don’t be afraid.”
“I’m not,” She tried to deny.
“I don’t believe you,” Hiko stated and then the two fell silent. There was no moment of awkwardness or fussing over how to respond to his words. It was comforting; sometimes, it felt as though he knew her soul and there was no need for pretense. It did not happen often, but there were even times with her that he showed a gentleness that contradicted the abrasive man she knew as Hiko Kari.
For a while they just stayed like that without any words until Hiko pulled away and shuffled himself around. Once he was comfortable he had not hesitated to pull her to him. There was so much excitement just from having his arm wrapped around her as they snuggled together.
“Is holding you like this alright?”
She stammered, “Yes.”
Her confirmation brought relaxation to his body, “The coming months there is going to be a lot to do at work. We might not get another opportunity to take time off. So, I was thinking that maybe if you want to, we can spend our weekends making a day of it. I know there are plenty of things you still want to experience…”
Tationy interrupted him, “Hiko, do you think I should attend a university?”
“I think that is a decision you have to make.” Tationy initially sighed after his response, but Hiko quickly added, “You and I talked about this before and you told me you just didn’t want to go. Now you are asking what I think. Why don’t you tell me why you are so hesitant to attend a university.”
“I don’t think I will learn anything,” She stated honestly. “People study for exams and I go to bed and wake up with the answers. When I attended school, I was the freakish girl that did not even have to think about the problem. I knew the equation before the teacher even wrote it on the board. Heard the lecture before I even stepped into the class.”
“Must be rough being the smartest person in the room,” He stated. At first she thought he was being facetious until he quickly added, “I think that you should attend. Not because you will get a degree or for the potential of learning some abstract concept you will most likely never use.”
“You are beautiful and intelligent, but you struggle with how to respond to certain events. You have spent so much time sheltered that you have not had the opportunities afforded other people when it comes to emotional and social learning. So, while I think you might be right that an education will simply be a piece of paper to a mind like yours. I feel that attending a university may broaden your abilities to interact with people on a social and emotional level.”
Tationy hmm’d softly, “I never thought of that.”
Hiko tightened his hold upon her, “You still have time to enroll if you want to attend in the fall.”
“Maybe…I don’t know,” She stated with uncertainty as she closed her eyes.
Upon her forehead she felt his lips press lightly before ending their conversation, “Get some sleep. We can talk more in the morning.”