Author Note: Just a quick reminder that a chalta is someone that can weave energy. Essentially, a magic user and manon means friend.
It had been a while since Sune hung out with Anjou. They had always been friends, but their relationship had never been as strong as the one the Yamada mab had with Hiko Kari. Close enough that if they crossed paths they could chill for a bit and it wasn’t awkward.
They never hung out or got lunch. It was just two guys that went to school with each other hanging for a bit here and there. At least until recently. The last time they had run into each other Anjou had told him that they should get lunch sometime and there they were, doing just that.
They had made quite a drive from Thacian to Sokamya which gave them plenty of time to get the pleasantries and obligatory, how is this or that going, out of the way. So, as they walked the path toward the restaurant they engaged in casual conversation, “How is your sister doing?”
“Honestly, I have no idea. Tsubaki has been pretty quiet for months now. The last text I got from her talked about how busy she was and how she was getting modeling jobs. I don’t know though. Something feels off, but I can’t force her to talk to me. She is a big girl and made the decision to go against the Matriarch’s wishes.”
“Maybe you should ask Tationy. The two were always texting each other,” Anjou stated and then quickly added, “There is a chance she might know what is going on.”
“I thought about it, but I just met her.” He had been about to continue when Anjou shivered. Lightly he spoke, “Manon, you should get yourself a heavier coat.”
With a sigh the Yamada responded, “Never know what the weather is going to be like. Just a couple of days ago it was warm enough for shorts and now I am freezing.”
“If you believe the reports coming out from the weather center it only gets worse from here. Huge storms forming they say.”
“Yeah, fifty fifty chance,” Anjou stated and the two men laughed.
The humor would only be understood by those that caught the news. There was this one perky meteorologist that reported the weather in the morning. No matter what it looked like she always gave a fifty fifty chance for something to happen. She was a terrible meteorologist, but people tuned in to watch her bounce and jiggle as she gave the weather report with a cute smile.
There was something about a girl that could brighten up your day. No matter her mood she could just laugh and everything was suddenly amazing. He had a girl like that in his life once. Even with all of her darkness, she somehow kept him smiling. He missed her laugh and sometimes he thought he heard it wherever he went. Today was no different as he glanced around, surprised to see a familiar face looking back at him.
“Hey,” was all he could muster and Anjou didn’t say anything at all even though they both knew who she was.
It stung that she was standing next to another guy with a smile as she offered a cheery greeting, “Hello.”
The moment was certainly awkward. They had dated for over twelve years and then he suddenly ended it. He crushed her; the truth was, he felt bad about that, but it was better to end it than drag their relationship out any longer.
He tried to keep his composure and the mood light even though he felt eyes scrutinizing him. The Ishi at her side had not taken his gaze off of either of them. There was no wondering whether or not this guy was her new boyfriend. It seemed obvious just by the way he was burning holes through them, “How have you been?” Sune questioned.
As he waited for a response, he considered the man at her side. Sune had allowed his eyes to fix on him briefly before offering a greeting and the most obvious thing other than his clan was his notable height.
There were plenty of tall people in Aslann, but there was not a single Ishi that stood under six feet. He had heard rumors that there were members of the snake clan over seven feet tall, but he had never met one before. This one, towered over them and made Sune who stood six feet, five inches appear short. He was probably fairly close to that seven foot mark, just shy of it by a couple of inches.
No matter how curious he was, Sune did his best to keep his attention upon Mikaela as she quickly answered, “Amazingly well, thank you for asking.” He had shared a life and a bed with her. Sune knew her well. No matter how she said it, there was something wrong. He wanted to ask, but it was not his place as she quickly added, “I am surprised to see the two of you together so far away from Thacian City.”
Not surprising considering the collective history between the three of them. Anjou had been her first love and some people thought that Sune was the rebound. He wasn’t though as far as he was concerned. Mikaela and him had been in love and even though Anjou was the one that broke her heart, she never looked back at it longingly. At least as far as he could tell. So, he quickly responded, “Well you know, I like to eat and Anjou agreed to pay.”
“I do recall,” She said with a laugh. Mikaela always had a great one. It was subtle and sweet. One thing he noticed was she did not cover her mouth when she did it and she almost always did before. Was this the doing of the guy standing at her side? Was she comfortable? Unsurprising to him she politely added, “Forgive me for being rude. Togore Ishi this is Sune Zenaku and Anjou Yamada.”
“Hey,” The snake had said and Sune along with Anjou quickly returned the greeting.
There were plenty of questions he wanted to ask and Sune had thought about doing so. Maybe Mikaela realized, he couldn’t say because she was quick to end the conversation, “It was good seeing both of you. Hate to rush off, but it was a long drive and were completely starving.”
It was obvious quickly that they were heading to the same restaurant. Once inside, Sune found himself stealing glances as he looked over the menu. There seemed a bit of tension and no words shared between Mikaela and the Ishi until the restaurant was quickly brought to a standstill, “Just tell me which one you fucked.”
He just tried to keep his attention fixed upon his menu after that and noticed he was not the only one. It would be several long moments of silence before Anjou would finally end it, “Why did you two break up?”
“I don’t know if I should be talking about this with you, manon.” Even though he said that he quickly continued with a frustrated sigh, “About seven years ago the Matriarch of the Zenaku told me that no matter how I felt about Mikaela that it would never work between us. We were fated for different paths.”
“Just like that it was over?”
“No, I didn’t want to believe it. I loved her; I still love her. That feeling is as strong now as it was when we first got involved. We talked about getting married and she finally told her mom that she wanted us to meet. I had this bad feeling that her mother was not going to except me and put Mikaela in this terrible position to choose between me and her family. I kept thinking if that was me what would I do. Even though I knew Mikaela would choose me, I…”
“You couldn’t say the same.”
“It is the will of my Matriarch. How can I go against it?”
Anjou sighed, “Ahh. I wish I had an answer for you.”
“Why do I get the impression manon that the reason for what happened between you two all of those years ago was for the same reason?”
Sune sensed hesitation in Anjou initially, but eventually he responded, “The late Matriarch of the Yamada forbid me from continuing to see Mikaela. My future was bright and her blood was not pure. Respect and favor are important among my clan and I would lose both if she was at my side. I didn’t really care about that, but my grandfather who had been grooming me to be the Voice of the Yamada put his foot down. I either ended it or I was going to be banished. I didn’t feel I had a choice in the matter.”
Anjou placed his menu to the side, “I wish I would have told her why. She is really smart and understanding. I think that she would have accepted it no matter how much it hurt. I took the cowards way out and just stopped talking to her. Hiko was fucking pissed at me for months for how I handled it. Called me a shitty human being.”
They took a moment to order their food before continuing their conversation, “It seems she has moved on from the two of us.”
“Ahh, but why did she have to downgrade to a fucking snake?”
Sune shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know. She seemed pretty happy when we crossed paths outside. Maybe he offers her something that the two of us couldn’t.”
“Perhaps, but getting involved with the Ishi clan after that news article…”
“It has to be fake,” Sune interjected. “I have run my oddities shop for a few years now and I have never once seen an actual chalta. They don’t exist.
“You are probably right. Wouldn’t be surprised if there was some Photoshop going on in that picture, but still. The whole nation is in an uproar over it. Wen has had to have several meetings with the Ishi clan regarding their brazen behavior and not conforming to the will of the unified clans.”
“How is the new Matriarch of the Yamada doing?”
“It has been a rough transition for her. A lot of people didn’t agree with some of the decisions Miso made, but they feared her. The loss was great for the Yamada. It has been a struggle, especially dealing with other clans because Wen just does not have the command that our late Matriarch did.”
“Give it time, she is young. My grandmother worries about the transition for the Zenaku when it comes time for her to step down as Matriarch,” Sune stated and then quickly asked, “Talked to Hiko since the incident?”
Sune felt the tension radiate off of Anjou Yamada. Certainly there had been an awkwardness running into Mikaela who they both at one point were involved with, but what he felt asking about Hiko was completely different. It seemed as though minutes passed before Anjou stated, “We are not friends anymore.”
“Sorry, I had no idea. The two of you were always really close…”
His words were quickly halted, “Hiko does whatever he wants to. He always has.”
There was something lingering in his words that Sune could not put his finger on. It was hard to believe that the two men, who were once inseparable, had fallen out with each other. A little deductive reasoning told Sune that there was a lot more too it than Hiko simply doing whatever he wanted. Though he didn’t pry.
Instead he changed the focus of the conversation, “How’d you fare against that Ishi?”
“The one at the basketball park?” Sune acknowledged with a brief nod of his head before Anjou continued, “He had speed like I had never seen before. I would be lying if I said he wasn’t toying with me.”
The conversation turned dark, “Did you hear those rumors about the Son of Rin?”
“The ridiculous one about an Ishi who was born during the dawn of men?”
“Yeah, that one. After I played him, I kept thinking about whether or not it might be true. No one knows how long the Ishi live and then that newspaper reported on a chalta. Even though I keep telling myself it has to be fake, what if the death god has spawn running around doing whatever they want.”
Anjou frowned, “I admit he is abnormally fast. Perhaps just a prodigy of his clan, but after my encounter with him I did report it to my Matriarch.”
“I did the same, manon.”
The Yamada man spoke in a grim tone, “Wen didn’t seem as concerned as I was about it.” That didn’t surprise Sune as he sagely nodded. He had the same issue with his grandmother Vijodia, the Matriarch of the Zenaku. Sometimes being a man in a clan controlled by women meant that your voice was silenced or not appreciated no matter how much power you might have. Anjou added quickly, “I was thinking about researching his lineage. Did you get his name?”
“Said it was Kuro,” Sune offered and then quickly asked, “Do the Yamada hold archives on the Ishi?”
“Honestly, I have no idea. My clan has traced the lineages of many bloodlines through the ages, but it is quite possible the Ishi are not among our family trees. It is at least worth a look I think.”
Sune wanted to bring up Hiko again and ask Anjou if he stayed long enough to see how the Kari fared against the Ishi man, but he didn’t. There was no reason to sour the conversation further so he offered a brief nod before changing the topic, “There has been so much going on this year. I cannot believe it is almost over. Have any plans for the new year?”
“The usual pompous galas with all the right pretentious pedigrees. Thankfully, I get to spend those nights working instead of being sociable. The Matriarch gets the hard job.”
With a boisterous laugh Sune responded, “Come to think of it. I seem to recall my grandmother asking me to attend on her arm.”
“Wanting a little man candy?”
“Manon,” He said between laughs, “Did you seriously just insinuate that I am my grandmother’s man candy?”
Anjou snorted while offering a subtle shrug of his shoulders, “Mortifying isn’t it?”
Even though it seemed that they were likely joking, the reality was far darker. Both of them had done things because they couldn’t betray their Matriarchs. Choosing her above everything else. It left a bitterness that lingered in the back of the throat or the pit of the stomach as they attended events they didn’t want to or stood at the side of the person they pledged their loyalty to.
As smiles faded the conversation switched back to the girl they both loved, “Ever wonder if you should have taken the banishment, manon?”
“Ahh, every day. What about you? Regrets on walking away from her?”
Sune considered the question a moment before awkwardly nodding his head, “That day I almost turned around and begged her to forgive me and take me back. Sometimes I still think about it. Months ago she left me a message telling me that my stuff was packed and waiting for me. I can’t even bring myself to go and get it. Are you ever going to move on? Marry? Kids?”
Anjou shook his head, “Being the Voice of the Yamada leaves no room for anything else. You?”
“I don’t know, manon. All of that, I wanted with her. Part of me feels it would be a disservice to share it with someone else,” Sune sighed deeply, “I guess as long as I still hear her laughter, I will never be able to move on.”
There was a somberness to the atmosphere and even as Anjou tried to offer a smile, Sune could tell it was fake. Nothing the Yamada man was about to say he meant, “It seems like that now, but it fades with time.” No, it never would. That was what Anjou Yamada was really saying. As long as there was regret you would never move on.