It was not unusual for Zen Kari to clean up Hiko’s messes. Sometimes, the son of the Elder of the Kari thought that his father’s friend had been assigned specifically to babysit him. Still, that gave him no right to interfere with things he had no understanding of nor to dictate his presence.
“I am not your father,” Zen began and Hiko was quite aware what words were to follow, “If there is something you wish to say to me, then do not hesitate to do so.”
“Your help was not needed,” Hiko stated simply.
“The urgency in your woman’s voice said otherwise.”
“I didn’t ask for your help,” Hiko responded far more firmly this time.
“I wasn’t assisting you.” There was a loll in the conversation which was typical of Kari men. Back and forth they both played over the continuation of their mutual words until Zen broke the silence, “How long has that Ishi been coming around?”
Vehemently he responded, “Don’t read in to shit.”
“Of whom do you think you are speaking?” The question was rhetorical so Hiko didn’t offer a response, “That snakes agenda is obvious and I doubt very highly you cannot see that. Why are you letting him bait you?”
Hiko looked away, “I told you not to read in to shit. This has nothing to do with him.”
Zen’s demeanor changed suddenly which put Hiko slightly on edge, “What did she say?”
As much as he wanted to pretend it had nothing to do with Tationy, he knew there was no way that Zen would believe him, “Both times he came around she … look, he isn’t the one baiting me and that is all that should matter.” Hiko rubbed his neck as he quietly added, “I just wish she would have a bit of faith in me for a change instead of wondering if things would be different if she was not around or if she should even call for my help.”
“Would you like some advice?”
“We both know you are going to give it to me regardless. So, you might as well just spit it out.”
Zen acknowledged Hiko’s words by speaking, “The question of whether or not you can beat that snake is lingering in your own mind. It is clear you understand that this is a game to him first and foremost, but when he decides it is time to get serious will you truly be able to stop him. With that query lingering in your own heart, how can you expect her to have faith?”
Hiko’s head hung. That question had been there since their first encounter, but he was adamant about protecting Tationy even if it cost him his life. Perhaps, that was foolishness on his part. He was not certain and Zen’s words were ones that he had already been struggling with. His advice did not need to be spoken; he had to learn to have faith in himself.
“What happened….what happened after Tationy and I left?”
“Nothing,” Zen responded casually.
“That snake just let you walk away?”
“He had no choice in the matter. Once he realized he could not goad me into reacting, he lost interest. The game for him is far more entertaining with someone as hotblooded as you are.”
“Why does everything out of your mouth sound like a fucking insult?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps the issue is not with my words, but the person receiving them.” Sometimes, Hiko thought Zen was trying to challenge him. It seemed unlikely considering the man was the epitome of control. Lowering himself to a battle of words or even a confrontation of skill was not his style. Still, Hiko had this nagging feeling that settled to the back of his mind that Zen was always testing his defenses.
Shaking the thoughts from his mind he focused on the Kari before him, “Are you going to tell my father about that snake?”
“You never should have kept it from him.” The obvious tension in Hiko’s body did not go unnoticed by Zen as he added, “Tadayoshi and I handle things very differently. I did not agree with his decision to force you to remain in the village. However, misguided his intentions were, he had your well-being at heart. Had he known about the Ishi … he perhaps would have been a bit more forceful in his request. Still, it serves no purpose to have the CEO of the Kari Foundation imprisoned in Meratoia. That does not mean I agree with you keeping secrets from your elder. Father or not, you should have told him.”
“It is not as though he can do anything about it. The Ishi have no one policing them.”
Zen solemnly agreed, “They have always been a clan that did as they pleased. The individuals needs above the many. However, considering the Ishi clans covet of the Tylo eyes there may be something your father can do about it. Even if it only temporarily stills the hand of that snake.”
Hiko did not particularly want to speak to his father on the matter, but it was obvious that Zen was not going to let him get away without agreeing. One way or another, Tadayoshi of the Kari would learn of Kuro of the Ishi and the mysterious man lurking in the shadows.
With a sigh, Hiko opened his mouth to respond, but stilled his words when he noticed Zen’s hand resting upon some items on his desk. Changing the course of the conversation he asked, “What is that stuff?”
Clasping his hands behind his back Zen spoke, “There seems many situations unresolved around you as of late. I do not wish to presume, but it is time you put your affairs in order starting with your house.”
“We have been looking, but nothing has really felt like home.”
“As important as that is, at this point it is better that you are out of that hotel. That Ishi spent weeks lurking around that park waiting for you to show up. You need a place to call your own and security, twenty-four seven.” Hiko began shaking his head, but was halted when Zen quickly added, “Before you were just Hiko Kari, son of Tadayoshi, who was given the position of CEO. A young upstart that was only worthy of bad press. A stain upon the Kari name. Now, the bad boy suddenly has a good girl on his arm and everyone wants to know about it.”
Hiko glanced away, “I have noticed that the paparazzi seem a lot more eager than usual, but getting a house and security is not going to change that.”
His words of protest were layered; he had thought many times that they needed security, but it was more about the Ishi then anything else, “The eyes of Aslann are upon the two of you, Hiko. It is not just you anymore. Everything you do is a reflection upon the two of you. As your press gains, so does hers. Sometimes, who she is, what she is wearing, and why she is with you is discussed more than what things you are doing for our great nation.”
“Enough with the lecture. I get it, but that does not change the fact that finding a house is not all that easy.”
Zen pulled a piece of paper from his pocket and handed it over to Hiko, “I don’t know if you have been paying attention to the news, but that famous musician Saitama died recently. His entire estate is owned by his record company, Twisted Death. It would seem that they are aware that you are in the market for a home. Today, they called and left a message about the private auction they are having on Monday.”
Hiko recognized the name of Tationy’s favorite singer, “I am not interested in someones assets.”
“It is not just the decor and artwork, they are auctioning off the entire house and everything in it.” Zen paused a moment, “It would be a quick and easy solution to your housing issue. More importantly, it is not far from where I live if you need me.”
“Thanks, really, but…”
Zen quickly interrupted him, “My wife has decided that you will be willfully uncooperative regarding the best interest of your family and has begun to prepare a room for the two of you.” Zen’s voice was calm as he continued, “I am not your father, Hiko. If you do not get your affairs in order, then I will do more than insist. These are the only two options being afforded you at this point; buy a house or come live with me and Sumika.”
Shoving the paper into his pocket, his hard gaze settled upon Zen. Among the Kari, it didn’t matter how old you were. If you wore a heroska upon your wrist you were considered a man. Yet, continuously Hiko felt as though he was treated as a child. It was that same feeling of being challenged; he was never certain what to make of it, but the pressure felt far more intense than it ever had before.
Still, Hiko didn’t backdown to anyone, “Don’t concern yourself with the state of my affairs. Now get to the point of why you wanted me here.”
There was no hesitation from Zen as he responded, “This was delivered by messenger an hour ago.” His hand rested briefly upon the binder situated under a pile of mail, “It would seem the Lord of the Shima was waiting for you to be out of the office before offering you his final word on your negotiations. I thought you would like to see it before Monday.”
There was no need to ask what details lay within the binder, after all Hiko had been doing the same dance with the Lord of the Shima for months now. The snarl was unrestrained, “What about the other shit sitting there?”
“Due to your current lack of residence, some of your mail has been forwarded here. Most of it can be disregarded, but there are several invitations that need your attention.”
“Is that it?”
“No,” Zen stated though did not initially elaborate. It was difficult to not become agitated with the lengthy pause, but the Kari man before Hiko had always been cautious. He would choose his words carefully and speak when he was ready too. “I know you have a lot going on. No matter how guarded your thoughts there will always be glimpses. The foundation of your home is shaky. Communication is important and the two of you are not speaking when you should. I will not tell you what you should do, but if Sumika and I can lessen the burden by offering you a place to stay, then we gladly welcome you.”
Unnerved he shook his head, “Thanks. Really we appreciate it, but …”
Zen interrupted, “I don’t think you could make it anymore obvious that you do not trust your blood. There is nothing I can do to change that except extend my hand and hope you accept it.” He grabbed the items from his desk and offered them to Hiko, “I will not judge the decisions you make from this point on, but I implore you to deal with that Shima lord once and for all.”
“Ahh,” Hiko acknowledged as he accepted the offered documents and mail, “I am done being nice.”
After speaking with Zen, Hiko made his way to Tationy’s office where he found her working. At first he just took a seat on the sofa and looked over the information delivered by messenger, but his mind was a chaotic mess of thoughts and dealing with the Shima was only one of many problems.
Placing aside the binder his eyes settled toward Tationy’s direction. There were plenty of things he could question her about. The episode and what transpired was one that certainly needed to be addressed, but he barely took a moment to consider his words, “When you spoke to Zen … ”
“Are you wondering if there was urgency in my tone?”
Momentarily Hiko was taken aback by her question, “I sometimes forget that your eyes can see far…”
Tationy interrupted him, “Actually, I was listening.” Her hands which had been typing furiously upon the keyboard stilled, “I think Zen is very smart and he heard something in my tone that I had tried desperately to hide.”
“What would that be?”
At first she didn’t respond to Hiko’s question as she maneuvered toward the front of her desk. Sitting quite casually her eyes locked on his, “Fear mostly; sometimes, I worry that I am burdening you to the point where I am tying your hands. That maybe I am just causing trouble for my Hiko.”
“Does it matter what I think? How many times do I have to tell you that I don’t see it that way before it sinks into that brain of yours?” Hiko snarled, “Fuck it I am tired of catering to the delicate sensibilities of society. I am just going to say it. You are my woman. This is not some noble romanticized knight chivalrously protecting some damsel. I am a fucking possessive asshole that is going to break the neck of anyone that tries to hurt you.”
Unexpectedly Tationy had made the cutest sound that Hiko had ever heard before her features softened, “I like you just the way you are, but can we have a little romance now and again just to spice things up?”
In a combination of annoyance and relief he shook his head, “I don’t think you deserve any after today.”
A soft pout graced her lips, “Is my Hiko mad at me?”
“Furious,” He paused a moment as he adjusted his posture. Clasping his hands in his lap he finally continued, “That Ishi is amusing himself at our expense.”
She didn’t respond as he continued, “Someday he is going to get bored and try to take you. I have accepted long ago that this is our reality, but what I am unable to wrap my mind around is the fact that you still can’t trust in me.”
“You asked me if I could win against him if you were not around. That answer doesn’t fucking matter because I don’t intend for you ever not being there. Maybe I am just …. foolish.”
Tationy quickly interrupted, “No, I said the wrong thing or asked the wrong way. Sometimes my thoughts just come out in any fashion they wish. What I was trying to say was, I … I know he is always going to use me against you. He is not exactly subtle when it comes to his intentions. It puts you at a disadvantage going into any altercation because you have to focus on him, on you, and on me….”
The realization of her words slowly formed into something Hiko could understand. It wasn’t a matter of trust, but in their inability as a young couple to communicate. As she continued he quietly listened, “I just thought; if you believed you could beat him without me around, then there was a possibility we could find a way to do so with me at your side, but … I …”
The emotion featured upon Tationy’s face was too much, as he stood quickly and reached out for her. Initially she had tried to pull away, but he silenced her protests when his arms tightened around her. There were no words to describe the feeling of her body melting against his, but her muffled words whispered a different atmosphere, “You need a shower.”
“Ahh, you can take one with me later.” She made a surprised little sound which brought him comfort, but that emotion would not remain. Their conversation had reached its peak and the reality that laid before them was no less dire. With a deep sigh he stated, “We have a lot to talk about, but let’s leave it for tomorrow. Tonight, I am all yours. What do you want to do?”
“Really? Can … can we go dancing?”
Hiko laughed, “Ahh, we can do that. First, I want to take you home and shower you in…”
She playfully interjected, “Kisses?”
His hold never lessened as he teased lightly, “Maybe. You will just have to wait until we get home to learn the answer.”
There was no opportunity for him to say anything further as she excitedly tried to pull herself away from him, “Let me lock up and then I will be ready for you to shower me in ….”
Hiko pulled her to him again, “I promise you that you will love it, but just don’t be disappointed in me if it is not exactly what is in that romance infused brain of yours. I can’t read your mind after all.”
“Is that how it is? Should I just tell my Hiko every dirty little thing that goes on in my head.”
The snorted laugh was brief as he teased, “I might be too naive for the sex club escapades that go on in your dirty little mind.”
Tationy quickly pushed back to gaze at his face. She had a crooked little pout and never once backed down, “I have seen you look at me, Hiko Kari and there is not a single innocent gaze that graces your eyes. You are definitely fucking me already.”
He cleared his throat as he choked on the words he was trying to form. It was not a lie. Not in the way she had put it, but he had been thinking a lot about their relationship; emotionally, spiritually, and physically. He wanted to feel her body against his and taste her mouth in the most intimate way possible. It was not about the sex, but the deepening of their connection. His emotions went wild at the thought of her giving all of herself and him returning that kindness.
That was really what it was all about. It was not a man taking what he wanted from a woman, but her offering him a moment of connection. The purest and most unadulterated coupling that two people could share. He was ready for that, but at the same time there was hesitation because Hiko had never given himself over to anyone like that before. She would be his first and he hers.
Was their emotional connection strong enough? Was their spiritual connection deep enough? Was their physical connection unbridled? There were so many questions that he asked himself as they moved forward. While he gazed upon her, many of those questions were washed away with the emotional completion of his heart, “Ahh.” His answer was short and to the point and the surprised look upon her face told Hiko that she wasn’t expecting her teasing to be accepted as fact.