Cabbage and Silk: A One-Shot Kale Story
Sekhmet ran up to Dais in the Dynasty palace hallway. “Dais! Have you seen Kale?”
“What do I look like, his keeper? I do not keep track off his comings and goings.”
“He’s nowhere to be found.”
“He is not off somewhere with Jack training? Or maybe he went off by himself? You know he likes to do that sometimes—as do we all.”
“Jack has not seen him all day. And he’s nowhere in the entire Dynasty--Kayura checked. I am worried, Dais. He has been extremely moody lately and given to fits of temper. When he is here, he paces the halls like a restless spirit. Something troubles him deeply.”
Dais sighed. “Yes, he has been especially agitated recently. But unless he tells us what is wrong, there is nothing we can do. We cannot force him to confide in us. You know how he guards his privacy. But perhaps we could try talking to him when he returns. In the meantime, I’m sure he is fine. He can take care of himself.”
“I guess you are right.”
Kale stretched out in the green grass of the hillside, looking up at the blue sky. He inhaled deeply. It was so different on Earth, so much better. He’d always hated living in the Dynasty. Whenever Talpa hadn’t been paying attention, he would sneak off to Earth just to relax. The air was cleaner here—not fouled with the stench of brimstone and decay. Even the sky was different. Not quite the same color, not the same stars at night. Sure there were some places in the Dynasty that were almost beautiful, almost earth-like, but a lot of that was illusion-magic. If you were around it long enough, the glamour wore off to reveal the gloom underneath. He had never gotten used to the unclean strangeness of the Dynasty. He and the other Warlords had been rebuilding it since Talpa’s death—the others wanted to make it livable because it was their home. But they would never be able to change that strangeness that made him uncomfortable. It had become even more unbearable since they were freed from Talpa’s grip. The longer he stayed there, the more the Dynasty made his skin crawl. It also irked him when the others talked of the future. They all had plans for their lives. They were rebuilding not only the Dynasty, but also themselves. Kale could see nothing of value in the work he did there, could feel no sense of accomplishment. He could barely figure out how he wanted to live today, let alone what he wanted for the rest of his life. It felt like he was waiting for something…
Suddenly a shadow fell over him. Kale rolled over just in time to miss being clobbered over the head. His assailant took another swing with some stick-like object. He reached out to grab the weapon. A broom? He looked at his attacker. She would probably never be called beautiful—perhaps interesting. Her muscles were hard from physical labor. Her short, dark hair clung to her with sweat. Her face was bronzed from too many hours under the hot sun. But Kale thought she was intriguing.
She yanked her broom out of his grip. “How dare you trespass in our grazing fields?” She hit him again. Kale had been too stunned to duck. “My father told you people several times already that he’s not selling! You can threaten us all you want, but we’ll leave this land when our bodies are dead and rotted. And you and the rest of your employer’s muscle-bound goons will have a hard time making that happen, I assure you! Now stop gaping at me like a big, dumb ox and get off our land!” WHACK!
Kale had had enough. He snatched the broom from her hands and broke it over his knee. Instead of backing off, that just made her angrier.
“You good-for-nothing, hired hoodlum! You broke my best broom! You’d better have some money on you to pay for that or I’ll take it out of your hide!”
Kale couldn’t help it. He laughed. That did not help. She picked up the broken handle and rapped him over the head with it.
“How dare you laugh at me! You…you…big baboon!”
Kale caught her hand when she brought it down again. The two of them stood there, eye to eye. They were so close they could here each other’s hearts beating rapidly. Just then, a tall, hardy-looking old man walked up the hill.
“Kinu, daughter. What is going on here? Who is this man?”
“I caught him snooping around in our fields, Papa.”
Kale released her and turned to the man. He bowed. “Sir, I was not ‘snooping’. I stopped to rest in the grass.” He gave Kinu an amused sideways glance. “Your sweet little daughter then attacked me with her mighty broom. A formidable weapon in the hands of such a fearsome warrior.”
The old man frowned. “You do not work for Unisun Corporation?”
“I’ve never heard of it.”
The old man looked at Kale for several minutes, studying him. “I believe you.” He bowed to Kale and then came over to shake his hand. “Everyone around here simply calls me Hiroshi.” He shook his head at Kinu. “I am ashamed, Kinu, that you would treat a visitor in such a way. Forgive her, young man. She’s headstrong and sometimes forgets the manners she was taught. Please come to my home for dinner. We’ll show you that we know something of hospitality.”
“My name is Kale and I would be honored.” Kale looked at Kinu out of the corner of his eye. She was fuming. He almost laughed. Almost. He thought better of it when he saw how tightly she held the broken broomstick. As they followed Hiroshi to his farmhouse, Kale and Kinu fell behind. Kale spoke in a low voice. “Kinu, huh? I do not think I have ever met a woman so poorly named. Silk you are not. Perhaps your father should have named you ‘Matsu’ because you are prickly like a pine tree. Or maybe ‘Ishi’ because you are as hard as stone. But definitely not ‘silk’.”
Kinu gave him a look that could boil water. “I didn’t ask for your worthless opinion. Besides, what kind of name is Kale? Isn’t that some type of cabbage? And don’t think that just because you’ve fooled my father that you’ve tricked me. He’s too trusting. But I’m going to be keeping a close eye on you, mister.”
“Good. Because I will be keeping an eye on you as well.” Kale smiled his most devilish.
Kinu stared at him speechless and blushed.
Kale chuckled softly. “Well, well. You look quite appealing with your mouth open and no harsh words falling out. I’ve found a way to silence that impertinent mouth of yours after all. I’ll have to think of more ways in the future.”
Kinu turned an even darker shade of red and hurried to catch up to her father. The rest of the walk to the farmhouse was in silence.
Hiroshi had already started dinner so it wasn’t long before it was ready. In the meantime they had a casual conversation about the weather, sports, etc. The three of them soon sat down to a plain but wholesome country meal. Kale’s mouth practically watered. He was so tired of that greasy, stringy Dynasty meat and flavorless vegetables. He ate like a starving man until he realized that Kinu and Hiroshi were staring at him. Hiroshi just laughed.
“It’s good to see someone appreciate our hard work. Enjoying a good meal is nothing to be embarrassed about—it’s a compliment to the hosts.” Nevertheless, Kale started chewing more slowly so as not to attract attention. Kinu kept staring at him.
After dinner, they all went into the living room. It was a medium-sized room with modern conveniences such as a telephone and television, but it was more country-cozy. Kinu had started a fire in the fireplace. The three of them sat down. Kale had no idea what he was supposed to do next. What did they expect of him?
Hiroshi settled back in his chair. “So, young man. What brings you to our area?”
“Um…well I was just walking across the countryside. I stopped to rest and fell asleep. It is a lot different here than where I am from—more restful.”
“I shouldn’t be surprised. The city’s a terrible place to live. It’s too polluted, too crowded, too noisy. This is the only place for me. A lot of people come from the city to stay in the nearby town for vacations. It’s much more laid back but still has most of the conveniences of the big city—TVs, telephones, and such. If you were looking for a place to relax, you’re in the right area.”
Kale laughed to himself. They thought he was a city-boy on some kind of vacation. Perfect.
Kinu was curious. “So. What do you do for a living?”
Kale hadn’t thought of that. What could he say? “Well, nothing right now. I used to be a…a soldier.”
Hiroshi shook his head sypathetically. “Trained to fight and kill. Now you’re back among regular folks and don’t know what to do with yourself.”
“Something like that.”
“I was a soldier myself. Understand completely. It’s hard to go back to a normal life at first. That’s why the wife and I moved out here to the country. Couldn’t stand to be around so many people. Trust me though, young man, you’ll get over it—just hang in there.”
“Thank you, sir. I’ll keep that in mind.”
“See that you do. And don’t call me ‘sir’. Never was one for formality. Makes me feel like I’m back in uniform. All my friends call me Hiroshi. You, too.”
Kale was taken aback. Friend? “But I hardly know you, sir.” Hiroshi wagged a finger at him. Kale amended. “Hiroshi.”
“Ah, but I know you. My daughter thinks I’m an old fool to trust strangers so easily. But I can tell about people. I know which ones are the good ones and which ones I shouldn’t bother with. You look like someone who’s had a lot of trouble, lot of pain, but you’re coming out of it. Looking for something to do with yourself, huh?”
Kale was uncomfortable. The old man must be some kind of seer.
Hiroshi laughed. “Sorry. I’m getting too personal. Want to watch some TV?”
Kale realized he’d been there for hours. “No thank you…Hiroshi. I must be going. It is late.” Kale stood up to leave.
“Suit yourself. Now don’t be a stranger. Come back and visit any time. It’ll do you good. And I’m sure Kinu would like to see you again.”
Hiroshi laughed at her shocked expression. He turned back to Kale. “I need to put these old bones to rest. You’re right. It is getting late. Kinu, will you take Kale outside and give him directions so he won’t get lost in the fields.”
With an exasperated sigh, Kinu led Kale out the door. She told him which way to go to get back on the road to town. “Well, I’m still not sure about you, but I don’t think you’re working for Unisun. At any rate, you certainly made a good impression on Papa.”
“I am sure your father is that hospitable to everyone. I am no one special.”
“But he gave up a night of TV to talk to you! That’s a high honor! My uncle gave Papa the TV set for his birthday. He hated it at first. But after he started watching it a little, he got hooked. Now every night after chores and dinner, he’s glued to his favorite programs. I usually just read a book or watch along with him. He doesn’t like to interrupt his routine for anything. But he did for you. Maybe you should come back to visit soon.” She quickly added. “For Papa, of course. He likes you.”
“I will be sure to make another visit…to your father. And if it’s not too much trouble, perhaps you will be here as well.” He bowed with a smirk.
“Perhaps. Good night, Kale.”
Kale left the farmhouse reluctantly. He was loathe to go back to his rooms in the Dynasty palace. As he dragged his feet through the fields, he looked up at the night sky. It was so clear and full of stars. He sat down in the grass. He’d only intended to stay a moment, but quickly found himself lying down. He hadn’t felt this way in a long time. There was a sense of freedom, excitement, and…anticipation in him. Instead of dreading empty tomorrows, he welcomed the thought of seeing Kinu and her father again. He was so relaxed that in minutes he was asleep.
Kale had just barely drifted off, when he was awakened by someone shaking him violently. He balled up his fist, ready to punch the attacker, when he saw that it was Kinu, her face practically glowing in the moonlight.
“What are you doing sleeping out here in the field, Cabbage-Head?” When Kale didn’t answer, Kinu frowned. “Papa was right then!” Her voice became softer. “You…you don’t have any place to go, do you?”
“It’s okay. You don’t need to be embarrassed. Things like this happen. There’s no shame in being homeless. Papa realized after you left that from the way you behaved, it must have been a long time since you’d had a good home-cooked meal and a cozy place by the fire. He sent me after you.”
“But I do have a place to go.”
“I’m sure you do. But I bet it’s not a nice place, is it? Probably run-down, cold…”
“Fine. Then it’s settled. You’re coming home with me.”
He grinned mischievously. “If you insist, my lady.”
“Don’t get any funny ideas, mister! You’ll be sleeping in the guest room. My father’s room will be between ours. And I always sleep with a sharp weapon.”
“Now, Kinu. Do I look like the kind of person who would try something underhanded?” He smiled slightly.
“Absolutely. Now come on. It’s late and we have to get up early to do the chores.”
“Yes, ‘we’. If you’re going to stay with us, you’ll have to earn your keep. We are a self-sufficient farm after all.”
“I would be happy to repay your family’s generosity with work. I have labored before in my youth. I’m sure I can do it again.”
“Boy, you sure do talk funny. ‘I have labored before in my youth’. You sound like a snob. Loosen up.”
“I’m not very good at loosening up. Perhaps you could show me how?” Kale took her hand and kissed it.
Kinu yanked her hand from his, flushing. “In your dreams, Cabbage-Head. Come on.” She led the way back to the farmhouse where Hiroshi was waiting. Kale tried to explain his situation, but Hiroshi would hear none of it. He’d already prepared the guest room. That night Kale slept more soundly than he had since he was a boy.
The next morning, Kale awoke to the bright sun streaming in his window. He just lay there for a while feeling its warmth on his skin. He figured it was early because he didn’t hear anyone about. He got up and did some stretching, all the while just enjoying the morning sun. A knock at the door startled him out of his thoughts. “Rise and shine lazy bones! Time to get up and get to work.”
Kale opened the door in a rush. Kinu jumped back in surprise. Kale noticed she was staring at his bare chest. He smiled. “I told you I was no stranger to work. I have been up for a while now. I have not had time to get completely dressed yet, though.”
Kinu’s mouth was dry. “So I see. I’ll come back in a few minutes to get you.” She hurriedly turned to walk away. Where had he gotten all those scars? The same place he got the one on his face?
“Kinu, would it be possible for me to use the telephone? There are some people that should know where I have gone.”
“The phone’s at the end of the hall.” She looked back at his chest again. She thought of how those wounds must have hurt. It made her feel strangely…protective of him. Kinu ran down the stairs and did not go back for him.
“Thank you.” He put on a shirt and went to the phone. It took him a few minutes to remember Mia Koji’s number. Then it took him several more minutes to remember what Jack had told him about how these things worked. Mia answered.
“Hello, this is Mia Koji. Can I help you?”
“This is Kale.”
“Kale? Don’t take this the wrong way, but…why are you calling me?”
“Could you deliver a message for me? I would not ask if it were not important.”
“Let Kayura and the Warlords know I am well and on Earth. I am on…vacation.”
“Um. Oookay. I’ll tell them.”
“Thank you. Goodbye.”
“You’re welcome.” Astarte, Anubis, and Mia were always early risers. They sat around the table having coffee. Astarte was intrigued by the call. “Who was that?”
“It was Kale.”
Anubis almost spit out his coffee. “Kale? Using a phone? I thought he hated most modern devices. It must have been extremely important.”
“Well, he said it was, but he just wanted me to tell the Warlords that he was on Earth and that he was fine. Kale said he was on vacation.”
Anubis got up. “Maybe this is some strange code and he needs help. I could summon the others and we could go looking for him.”
Mia shook her head vigorously. Her armor’s ability to see the truth of things put her mind at ease. “No. Nothing’s wrong. Maybe everything’s right with Kale for once. We should just tell the others what he said and let him have his privacy.”
“So he is in no danger?”
Mia smiled. “I didn’t sense that he was--not physical danger anyway. But he might be on the verge of loosing something he won’t mind loosing at all.” Mia refused to say anything more on the subject. “Anybody want more coffee?”
Kale spent most of the morning helping Kinu take care of the animals. He then tried to help Hiroshi repair some piece of farm equipment, but Kale did not know anything about the workings of such machinery. If Hiroshi was puzzled by Kale’s glaring lack of knowledge about simple modern concepts such as electric power, he said nothing. For several weeks Kale stayed with them, becoming a part of their world without realizing it. One evening after dinner Kinu and Kale took a quick walk up the path to a small hilltop while Hiroshi stayed behind to watch TV. Kinu liked to go there to watch the stars. Now she had Kale to enjoy them with her. Kinu looked out over the moonlit fields. “If Unisun has its way, this will all be gone. It calls itself a corporation, but it’s run by someone named Tanaka. He is Unisun. He wants to build some big chemical plant here. He’s already bought out most of the neighbors. Only Papa and a few other farmers haven’t sold out. If his bully tactics work, though, we may soon be the only ones left. I hear the others are about to fold.”
Kale frowned. “Have these people hurt you and your father?”
“They haven’t actually hurt us yet. But those goons told us last time that there would be no more warnings.”
“They will have to come through me first.”
Kinu just stared at him. “That’s nice of you, but it’s not your fight. Besides, what could you do against a bunch of muscle-bound thugs by yourself?”
“I’m full of surprises.” He stared into her eyes longer than was comfortable. Kinu was the first to break eye contact. Kale smiled. All of a sudden, Kinu let out a sharp gasp.
“Kinu! What’s wrong?”
“Look over there, on the road! It’s that same black van that Unisun sent out last time—the one with the men that threatened us! They’re headed for the house!” She ran back along the path as fast as she could. Kale was right behind her. She saw him out of the corner of her eye. “Kale, what do you think you’re doing? Get out of here or you’ll get hurt!”
“I will not leave. Don’t worry--I can take care of myself.”
Kinu just growled angrily and ran even faster. By the time they got to the house, the men had pulled Hiroshi outside. One of them pushed the old man to the ground just as Kale ran up. He took the thug by surprise when he kicked him in the side. Kale yelled at Kinu. “Take your father into the house and lock the door!”
“Just do it!”
She helped Hiroshi up and they hurried inside.
Kale considered using his armor, but thought better of it. How would he explain it to Kinu and Hiroshi? Besides, there were only three medium-sized men. If he could not take out so few enemies, he would be a poor warrior indeed. He grabbed one man’s arm and slammed him against the side of the house, twisting the arm painfully. The dazed man slid to the ground. Kale immediately spun and kicked the man sneaking up on him. His foot smacked the man’s head sideways. Blood and spittle flew from his mouth. While he was still stunned, Kale punched him in the chest. The man fell backwards, gasping for air. Kale turned to face his last opponent, when to his surprise the man crumpled at his feet without a blow. Then he noticed Kinu standing behind the man with that broken piece of broom in her hand.
Kale was furious, but he turned his anger on the men who were now getting up slowly. “Get out of here now, or I will not be so easy on you! Tell your boss that this family is under my protection. He does not know who I am, and believe me, he does not want to know.” The men helped each other into the van, never taking their eyes off Kale. They drove away quickly. Kale turned on Kinu. “And you! I told you to go in the house!”
“I did. But I figured you would need some help so I came back out. Wow! You sure did a number on those guys.”
“You should not be out here! I could’ve taken all three of them with ease.”
“Reign in the testosterone, mister! I was just trying to help.”
“Well, you might have gotten in my way.”
“Gotten in your way? You men are all alike! Can’t accept any help from a woman. Have to prove you’re a tough guy stud…”
“You are the most ill-tempered…”
They were in each other’s faces, trading insults. Then they suddenly stopped. Their hearts were pounding with adrenaline. Kinu was breathing hard. “So…um…isn’t this the scene in all the movies where the hero grabs the woman and kisses her forcefully?”
Kale’s voice was quiet, almost breathless. “No.”
Kinu flushed with embarrassment and the beginnings of anger. “No? So you’re just playing games with me? You lousy creep!” She slapped him hard.
Kale did not move.
“No. If you want something to
happen, it has to be on your terms. I
do not force myself on women.” Kale had
wanted something to happen, but he was not sure of Kinu’s feelings. “It’s up to you.”
Kinu stared at him for several minutes without a word. What kind of man was this Kale? She had the feeling he was hiding so much. But his past suddenly didn’t matter. He’d shown her all she needed to know to trust him. Kinu grabbed his shirt and kissed him passionately. He returned the kiss.
Kale laughed. “Next time you want to kiss me, perhaps we could forego the slapping part. I like a woman with spirit, but I am not a masochist. And promise me you will get rid of that broom handle. It is a dangerous weapon.”
“Only if you buy me a new broom. This is all I have left of my best one thanks to some shifty-looking trespasser I met in a field a few weeks ago.”
“If I had money, I would buy you as many brooms as you want. Gold brooms, jeweled brooms, magic brooms that sweep by themselves.”
Kinu was pleasantly surprised. “Really? You would do that for me?”
“That and more. Whatever is in my power. And I promise you this—as long as I live, no one will hurt you or your father. I will not allow it.”
Kinu stared at him wide-eyed. She believed him. Everything he said. Then she remembered. “Oh! Oh, my goodness! Papa! We have to see if he’s okay.”
Hiroshi was standing in the doorway smiling at the two of them. “I’m fine, daughter. Just a few cuts and scrapes.” His eyes twinkled with amusement. “I see the two of you are fine, as well. You’re an amazing fighter, Kale. What part of the service did you say you were you in?” There was an uncomfortable silence as they looked at him curiously.
Kale knew he couldn’t lie to them anymore. Already they were like family to him. The longer he kept things from them, the harder it would be in the future. “There are things I need to tell you. I have not been completely honest with you.”
Hiroshi ushered them into the house. “That goes without saying. I figured you just needed some time, young man.”
The three of them sat down in the living room. How much should he tell them? Would they understand? He looked at the two of them as they waited expectantly. They also looked…concerned. They were worried about him? What a strange feeling. Kale held his breath for a moment then released it slowly. He had to tell them everything. “A long time ago there was an evil demon named Talpa…”
They sat there for over an hour while he told them the story of how he came to serve Talpa. (*author’s note—see Into the Darkness, part of Ghosts to Rest, for Kale’s life story) They listened intently, not saying a word--unlike the Sentinels, Warlords, and Ronins who had interrupted every few minutes when he’d told the story at Mia’s campout. It was so strange. For so long he’d kept his thoughts and feelings private, but twice in as many months he’d opened himself up to others. He felt vulnerable, but also oddly relieved. There was an old saying that if you shared a burden three times, the weight of it would become bearable. Perhaps he needed to find one more person to share it with. When he finished, there was complete silence. They sat there taking it all in. Hiroshi was the first to speak.
“I could tell you’d seen terrible things. I just didn’t know how bad they were. But you don’t need to dwell on those things anymore. You’re here. That’s all that matters. I think we need something to drink.” He headed for the kitchen, patting Kale on the shoulder as he went by.
Kinu refused to look at him. She burst into tears and ran out of the room and up the stairs. Kale did not follow. Hiroshi came back in. “Don’t worry. She just needs time to take it all in. She may seem strong on the outside, but she feels things deeply.”
Kale only half listened the rest of the night. Surely Kinu thought he was some kind of monster. He slept uneasily that night, wondering if maybe he should have kept lying.
The next morning, Kinu went to Kale’s room and knocked. She had to talk to him. The things he’d suffered had made her so upset, she’d gone to her room to cry. His pain had been so palpable, she felt like it was her own. What must he think of her? “Kale! Please open up. Please?” No response. She tried the door and found it unlocked. Kinu went in. Kale wasn’t there. The window was open and he was gone. There was a note on the night table.
Dear Kinu and Hiroshi,
I have taken advantage of your hospitality. No more. I will go back to where one such as I truly belongs. But first I will keep my promise. I will make sure Unisun never bothers you again. Nor will I. If anything ever happens to me and you need help, contact the person on the back of this note. Mia Koji and her friends are very resourceful and will do whatever they can to help—just for the fact that you are in trouble. Thank you for everything. You have given me far more than you will ever realize. Far more than I deserve.
No! Oh, no! The idiot would get himself killed! She ran downstairs to show her father the note. “We have to find him, Papa! We have to!”
Hiroshi looked at his daughter kindly. “You love him, don’t you?”
“I…I know it’s sudden. I mean it’s only been a few weeks. But I feel like he’s been with us forever—like he should always be with us. I do love him, Papa! I don’t know what I’ll do if something happens to him.”
“Perhaps if we get in touch with the person on the note, she’ll know where he is. Maybe she can stop him from doing something foolish. Does she have a telephone number?”
“I looked her up, but she’s unlisted. All I have is the address Kale wrote on the back of his note.”
“Hmm. She doesn’t live too far away. Let’s go to her house.”
“I’ll get the car.”
The two of them dropped everything to drive to Mia’s house. The Koji residence was only about an hour away, but it seemed like forever to Kinu. They stopped in front of the house with a screech. Kinu jumped out of the car and ran to the door. She pounded and pounded. “Kale! Kale, are you here?” A man with long reddish hair opened the door.
“Can I help you?”
“Only if you know where Kale is.”
“Kale? I haven’t seen him in weeks. My name is Anubis.”
“Please, is there a Mia Koji here? I need her help. Kale’s in trouble.” The man immediately let her and her father in. There were several other people there, all staring at them. What was wrong with them? Didn’t they care that Kale was in trouble?
“I’m Mia Koji. Can I help you?”
“Kale’s going to do something stupid! If you know where he is right now, we have to stop him.”
Mia stared at her for a minute, realizing this was the reason for Kale’s “vacation”. She took them into the dining room to sit down. “I think you should start from the beginning.”
Kinu quickly told them everything about Unisun and meeting Kale and the previous night. The man called Anubis was surprised. “Kale told you about that?”
“I think he misunderstood my reaction, though. His story didn’t make me hate him. It made me feel so badly for him that I couldn’t stand it. I had to be by myself for a while. I think he’s going to Unisun to do something stupid.”
Anubis laughed. Now that sounded like Kale.
Kinu was angry. “I thought he was your friend! You don’t sound worried at all!”
“If Kale told you about his life, then he also mentioned his armor.”
“Well, the armor is more powerful than you might think. Kale can handle anything Unisun throws at him. But we shall go to his aide in any case.”
Mia introduced Kinu to the others. The dark haired young man was her boyfriend Ryo. Then there was the strong-looking Kento and his girlfriend Zoe, a pale girl with white hair. Then Astarte, a serious-looking redhead with vivid green eyes and Gilgamesh, a fearsome-looking muscleman with a few scars on his face. What kind of people did Kale hang out with? At least she knew where he learned to talk so funny. “We shall go to his aide”. Sheesh! This Anubis sounded like Kale! Astarte stepped forward.
“We shall teleport to the city. From there I will be able to sense the magic of Kale’s armor and more precisely locate him.”
Kinu wasn’t sure she knew what Astarte was talking about. But anything that had to do with locating Kale had to be good. Astarte raised her hand and the jewel around her neck glowed red. In a crimson flash they were gone.
The receptionist stared in fright at the armored young man before her. “I’m s-s-sorry, Mister K-k-kale. But you don’t have an ap-p-p-ointment.”
“I do not need one.” He started to go past her. She reached under the desk. He stopped. “Do you have a family?”
She was startled. “Uhh…y-y-yes sir. I do.”
“Then I suggest you go home to them. I am going to have a private conversation with your boss. It might get unpleasant. And if you pull a weapon on me, you will regret it. I have no qualms about fighting a woman who attacks me.”
She scurried towards the door and then bolted as soon as she reached the hall.
Kale went into the office. A man in an impeccably tailored suit sat behind a desk looking over papers. Kale scowled menacingly. “You are Tanaka? You run this organization?”
The man jumped up from his chair. He stared at Kale like he was a madman. “Yes I am and I do. Who are you and how did you get in here?”
“Your lackeys have already met me. They were uninvited guests to the home of a farmer named Hiroshi. I had to ask them to leave.” Kale smiled his coldest, deadliest smile.
“So you’re the one.”
Tanaka nervously reached for his checkbook. “How much will it take to make you go away?”
Kale swatted the book out of his hand. “Your money is worthless to me. And to Hiroshi. You will leave him and his daughter alone or I will kill you.”
“Are you insane? You
don’t know whom you’re talking to! This
deal is worth millions. I’m not going
to let some backwoods farmer stand in the way of my company’s future.”
“If you don’t leave them alone, you won’t have a future.”
“I’m calling security.” He frantically punched several buttons on his phone, but none of the security stations answered.
Kale laughed darkly. “Call as many times as you like. They will not come. They are all lying unconscious throughout this building. They will definitely need medical attention.” Kale sliced the buttons off the man’s suit jacket with a flick of his sword. Tanaka stumbled back, whimpering. Kale stepped closer. “I am not some ordinary man you can threaten.” Kale grabbed him with one hand and smashed him through the window. He held him there, Tanaka dangling several floors from the ground.
“Please! Please don’t hurt me! I’ll do whatever you want!”
“You will build your plant somewhere else. You will not bother the farmers ever again. And I will be keeping an eye on your and your organization. If I hear that you are threatening others to get their land, I shall return. You do not want me to come back.”
“I promise. Whatever you want! Just don’t hurt me! I’ll leave them alone. Please!”
Kale pulled him back in and threw him to the floor. “See that you keep your word. Do not make me come back. You will not be able to hide from me. No amount of security will stop me.” Kale slammed his fist into the desk, splitting it in two. He walked out the door and armored down. He exited the building without looking back. As he stepped outside, he felt the sun on his face. It was a bright day, but he could not enjoy it. He supposed he would go back to the Dynasty now. There was no place for him here.
“Kale! Kale! You’re okay!” Kinu came running up and threw her arms around him, almost knocking him over. Hiroshi, Mia, Ryo, Anubis, Kento, Zoe, Astarte, and Gilgamesh were right behind her. Anubis was looking at him with an amused expression. Kinu wiped her eyes. “I was so worried!” Then she punched him in the arm. “How dare you run off like that, you big dummy! We’ve been going crazy!”
“But I thought…Last night when you ran upstairs…You wouldn’t even look at me…”
“I wasn’t angry at you. I wasn’t disgusted by you. I was feeling very sad for you. If you’d waited and talked to me, you would’ve known that. If you ever take off like that again, I’ll wring your neck!”
Kale was more relieved than he could express. She did not hate him! He did not disgust her! He tried to hide his strong feelings with levity. “Well, we can’t have that, can we? Where would you be without me, Prickly Pine?”
“Same place I was before I met you, Cabbage-Head—perfectly happy.” Then she whispered. “Well maybe not perfectly.” They were interrupted from going further by Zoe clearing her throat.
“So what happened? Did you already take out the bad guy?”
“Let’s just say I put the fear of Kale into him.” He took Kinu’s hands. “He won’t be bothering you or your father again. Not if he knows what is good for him. And I will be there if he tries. That is if I am still welcome…” He looked hopefully at Hiroshi.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way, young man. We’ve gotten used to having you around. Besides, what kind of man would I be if I kicked out my own future son-in-law?”
“Make it soon, will you, Kale, my boy? I’m an old man and I can’t wait forever for grandchildren.”
Everyone was laughing. But then Kale turned serious. “I think he is right. Why wait forever? I know we have just met, but I feel I know you better than anyone I have ever encountered. But do you feel the same? Am I rushing you...If so I can…You do not have to...”
“Kale. Shut up.” Kinu kissed him passionately. “There’s my answer. Did you like it?”
“Very much. May I hear it again?”
Zoe whispered to Kento. “They kiss more than we do.”
“Yeah, but do they kiss better?” He grabbed her for a passionate embrace.
Ryo spoke up. “I think we should all go back to Mia’s. I know I’m still confused and I want to hear everything.”
Astarte rolled her eyes skyward. “Yes, please. Let us return to the house before this turns into a public love festival.”
Gilgamesh chuckled. “Why, Astarte. Goddess of Life. I thought this was your specialty. I did not know you were such a…what is the word?”
Kento piped up. “Prude.”
“There is a time and a place for everything. This is neither.” They all tried to hide their grins at her serious expression, but they couldn’t. She, too, soon found herself smiling. “Let us go.” She held up her hand and they disappeared in a flash of red.