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Loyalty, honor, duty, and love

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The feeling of bliss. What an unusual sensation.

Back during her time in the Yakuza, Rui couldn't remember when she experienced this sole feeling without a sword of Damocles hanging over their head— without danger lurking everywhere and making them feel restless.

If someone had told Rui that one day, she would have been able to live out her idyllic life with Tamao without the fear of losing her, she would have called them crazy or naïve. And yet…

Lost in a deep ocean of amethysts, lulled by the warmth of a gentle smile, as bright as the sunbeams caressing their skin, Rui was more peaceful than ever. It's been a year since the Akikaze began their new life overseas: the couple now lived in a friendly little house in a quiet village, a few kilometers away from the nearby city. They opened up a Japanese restaurant called 'Rinmeikan,' symbolizing a dignified and bright place where their clients would enjoy their meal in the middle of activities such as traditional dance representations. Tamao managed the business and took the chef’s role while Rui helped her, taking the orders and service.

Even though they still needed time to heal their past wounds, they slowly recovered in a world that was theirs, far from perfect yet much more carefree… and full of love.

Because adoration was everything that Rui felt at this precise moment, lying in the emerald grass of their garden, surrounded by the daffodils they planted together. Tamao and Rui were alone in a universe that was theirs, wrapped in the comfortable warmth of each other’s arms and brushing their noses together.

Rui couldn't tear her eyes off her, wanting to freeze that picture in time, imprisoned in a whirlwind of emotions she never wanted to leave. She reached out to caress Tamao's cheek, brushing her thumb against soft skin and smiling fondly as Tamao's eyes crinkled and brightened at the contact.

"What are you thinking about?" Tamao whispered, sighing happily and closing her eyes when Rui pressed their foreheads together.

'You' sounded like a too-perfect answer. But Rui wasn't sure it was the most appropriate, considering that Tamao was everything she was thinking about whenever they were alone. So, instead, she leaned in for a chaste kiss, simply pressing their lips together and savoring the blissful sensation.

Tamao reciprocated in tow: she snaked her arms around Rui's neck as their lips meshed together in a long, unhurried, hazy kiss. Neither of them wanted to speed up: they appreciated every second without any ulterior motive besides the joy of sharing an intimate, relaxing moment with the person they loved the most.

"Hey, newlyweds," a familiar teasing voice called out, "I know you don't mind being watched, but I didn't expect that you invited us for this sole purpose ~."

Neither Rui nor Tamao immediately stopped kissing upon hearing Yachiyo. After all, they grew used to her antics since they met her and Mei Fan during one of their business trips before they got married. Both couples attended the same theatre pieces, and by chance, sat next to each other. They ended the night talking for hours about the play, about life, and many further details. As Yachiyo was observant, she quickly noticed the Tomoe emblem hidden on their clothes and didn't seem bothered upon discovering their prior occupations, unlike Mei Fan, who seemed more careful.

' Don't you think that having arch-criminals friends could be exciting? ' Yachiyo joked, much to her horrified wife's dismay. Of course, it was clear that the woman was also distrustful about them. But as time passed, their growing friendship took over their suspicion, and the four of them learned to trust each other and sympathized over their respective passions.

Mei Fan was a rising actress, becoming the headline act of prestigious movies all around the world— a passionate, loyal woman with interests in martial arts and fortune-telling. Yachiyo, her wife, worked as a famous designer and could read people as quickly as she could guess their body size, even though she found Tamao and Rui to be fascinating, unreadable subjects when they first met.

Although none of them expected to ever trust each other, this was probably the reason why their sudden honesty became the fuel of their budding friendship and how Yachiyo and Mei Fan offered to help the couple out if they ever needed them.

Tamao and Rui didn't have many friends, but meeting the two women convinced them that, at least, they knew how to choose them. Neither of Yachiyo or Mei Fan betrayed them: their bond got reinforced once they became neighbors, if anything. Rui would spend her free time training and hanging out with Mei Fan, while Tamao enjoyed sharing their respective hobbies with Yachiyo.

"Yachiyo!" Mei Fan's voice scolded, "Sorry to tell you this harsh reality, but not everyone is like you!"

"It's okay, Mei Fan-san," Tamao answered when she finally pulled away from their intimate embrace, "she isn't that wrong, though this isn't the reason why I invited you over ~."

It was Rui's turn to gasp and blush when Tamao gave a final amused peck before she stood up, extending her hand to help her to do the same. Sometimes, Rui wondered if Yachiyo was a good influence for Tamao… Or maybe the two women completed each other just fine at being terrible teases.

"See?" Yachiyo chirped, appearing out of nowhere next to Tamao to place a hand over her shoulder, "Tamtam' knows how to answer to my good ol' jokes ~."

Rui had to stifle back a burst of laughter. Even after a year, she couldn't get used to the ex-mafia boss being called such a nickname. It was refreshing, seeing Tamao enjoying herself and giving her friend a grin as she playfully pushed her away. The sight was enough to make Rui smile.

"Rui…" Mei Fan pulled Rui by the shoulder, her tone solemn, "I think we both married vixens…"

Rui snickered. "We did, although mine is also an adorable dork…" she added dreamily, watching Tamao pouting during her conversation with Yachiyo.

"… We are helpless, aren't we? I’m your elder, I can tell you that we are."

"We’re literally the same age…"

"But I have more experience!"

"Yup, you've got more experience in being a dork than I do."

"Hey!"

Both women playfully fought, taking turns to ruffle each other’s hair. Although Mei Fan could be intense and overdo most things she was doing for others, she was a wonderful friend for Rui. They could spend hours talking about their past, without judgment despite their fixed ideas over various topics. Sometimes, Mei Fan would even let out tears upon hearing what Tamao and Rui went through and couldn't help but pull Rui into a bear hug.

It took a while for Rui to get used to it, but she quickly grew fond of the one she could now call a best friend. She could never be thankful enough for everything those women did to help them and how Mei Fan would always be there for her and Tamao. It was refreshing, the experience of everyday life with their own family and a circle of friends.

"Jeez, you two…" Yachiyo shook her head as she joined them, Tamao beside her. She looked at Mei Fan with a soft expression that could be described as nothing but adoration, "Why are you always being so cute whenever we leave you alone…"

"I don't know…" Mei Fan wrapped her arms around Yachiyo, tenderly pecking at her cheek, "Maybe because we secretly like it when you look at us like that…"

Cute wasn't exactly the word Rui would use to describe herself, considering everything she had done… Rui glanced in Tamao's direction, grinning as their eyes met. But even though this wasn't her opinion of herself, Tamao's adoring expression made her believe that her wife agreed with Yachiyo. She extended her hand to grab Tamao's, relishing her warmth and presence while their friends mentioned their plan for the day.

Their existence had indeed changed for the best. Of course, both still had nightmares, suddenly waking up with the fear of losing their lives and being tracked down like deers under a headlight. But whenever that happened, they curled up comfortably in each other’s arms and talked about their lingering insecurities until they would drift back into a dreamless sleep.

They knew they would never forget what they experienced, all the things they did in the past. But they weren't alone. They didn't have to be wary of every person they crossed paths with— at least, they hoped they wouldn't have to anymore. Tamao and Rui moved on: with a fresh start, new goals, and a much more comfortable life. Like every couple, they would face barriers they had to overcome, but they would also entertain new ideas to fuel the happiness they had started to build.

Because yes, they were happy. More than any word could describe. And they cherished every second of it, catching up for the lost time spent to survive and wish they would never have to repeat what happened.

"Honey?"

Rui was jolted back from her thoughts by her wife's soft whisper. She glanced back at her questioningly, losing herself into her amethyst globes for the countless time of the day.

"What are you thinking about?" Tamao asked again, mirroring her earlier question.

A simple question, indeed. The first time a proper answer didn't come up to Rui's mind, feeling too evident yet unappropriate, but now, Rui found the word she was searching for this whole time. She held Tamao's gaze, reaching out again to stroke her cheek gently as she gave her the most genuine smile she could muster and squeezed their linked hands.

" I'm thinking about us."

The sentence resonated and meant more than a vow they made when they got married: this was their promise, their desire, and their joy— the moment when ‘you and I' became 'us.

On a path strewn with pitfalls, they both built their own, peaceful road, where they progressed hand in hand. And Tamao and Rui both knew that as long as they would be 'us', they would perform the stage of their life that would lead them to the happiness they always desired.