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Dew- Ilaria Graziano 

Mikansei Love Story (Incomplete Love Story) -Yoko Kanno 

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.


    “Mr. Iwase?” 


    “Ms. Marshall is here to see you.”

    “Please let her in.” The doors to his office opened and his lovely lady stepped inside, graciously bowing to Midori before the door closed. 

    “Hello there.” He said with a gentle smile. 

    “Hi. So I’ll make this really short. I have an interview with James & Corrier in like three hours and I had to come to you because I feel like throwing up.” He stood up from his desk and chuckled. 

    “You’re so cute.”

    “Vomit is not cute by any means Hiroto.” 

    “Take a deep breath.”

    “Okay but you know I don’t like these things…” He came to stand in front of her and gently placed his hands on her shoulders. 

    “I don’t like interviews either but…” She pouted. 

    “You’ll do great Rae.” 

    “How you know?”

    “I know you.” She swallowed and tried to keep the nausea down. 


    “Breathe…” He whispered, softly rubbing her back. She inhaled sharply. 

    “Would you like me to come with you?”

    “Yes. Sit with me on stage too.”

    “I don’t think that would be proper.”

    “I need you up there…”

    “Alright fine. I’ll sit with you.” 

    “Thank you.” 

    “You’re welcome.” 

    “Let’s go get some air before I go to this thing.” 



    Weeks of planning had finally been turned into reality and they had taken Rae’s idea and turned it into a successful organization. She had named the organization Junsui and though it had been only three weeks up it was showing to be very promising. He delighted in the fact that she was starting to become an inspirational figure, gaining more and more popularity among the business elites. She didn’t quite know how to handle it but he let her shine in only the way she could. He was proud of his baby in that even though she hated big public affairs, she followed through with it in spite of her unease. Sighing, he ran fingers through his freshly cut hair. 

    Time was moving quite fast, leaving him to wonder when it would ever slow for a moment. His mother had been unusually quiet. In the back of his mind, he knew she was plotting. Still plotting. Still wanting to undermine him. He took a deep breath as he felt small fingers grip his tightly. With Rae’s birthday approaching by the day, he wanted to do something truly special in celebration of this feat. He watched as irritation mingled with nervousness on her face. Unfamiliar hands tangled in her hair and put more makeup than was called for on her face. He squeezed back and stood. 

    “Where you goin?” She asked, eyes growing wide. 

    “Nowhere.”  He came to stand by her side and lifted her chin, causing the many fingers to pause and pull away. 

    “Tamako, could you reapply her makeup?” The women grew offended as she came to the forefront. 

    “Y-you want me to redo it?” 

    “Yes. The others have applied too much.” Tamako blinked and slowly bowed her head. 

    “Of course.” As she began to clear the make up from her skin, Rae visibly relaxed. Once finished, Tamako stepped back with a humble bow. He smiled as he took in her appearance. Stunning. Her hair had been taken up to create billowing clouds that cascaded down the back of her head. 

    “Mr. Iwase? They are ready for her now.” She stood shakily and gripped his hand the entire time. 


    “I’m right here sweetheart.” Eyes were glued on them as they headed up towards the stage. Soon, bright lights blinded them and they were sitting on national television across from James McIntire, one of the most prominent men in the business world.  




    Fingers curled around a slender cigarette, smoke filling the room. Eyes glued to the television. She watched as the woman spoke, her son sitting next to her. At least he looked handsome. His hair styled in a messy yet flattering way, his bangs pushed back from his forehead. She on the other hand looked average. She was a black stain on her existence and for the life of her she couldn’t understand why time and time again her son choose this simpleton over a woman of esteem and poise. Flicking the holder against the ash tray, she put the cigarette back to her lips.

    She’d been made aware by Miyamae that he was beyond reason. Little did she know, he had long since been past the point of reason. Disappointed that she had been so weak, she advised her to let her handle it. She could already foresee her return to Tokyo and money returned to the Miyamae family. And she was going to make Hiroto pay for forcing her to return good money. Had he only listened to her and kept with Miyamae for a little longer, she could’ve gotten both an heir and interest. Her ears perked up as they began to talk. 

    “It is so wonderful to finally meet you Ms. Marshall.” She blushed prettily. 

    “Same to you. Thank you for allowing me to be here.”

    “Glad to see you Mr. Iwase. Your COO is quite impressive.” She froze. COO? Since when had he made that little roach the COO of his father’s business? Lips tight, she continued to watch the program. 

    “Thank you James. Truly, Ms. Marshall is phenomenal. Her vision for Shoutoii matches with mine so beautifully and she’s been able to bring such growth and goodness to the company.” 

    “My, such high praises! How do you feel hearing that from such an influential man Ms. Marshall?” Her blush grew and she smiled. 

    “It’s incredibly humbling to say the least. Mr. Iwase has been so gracious allowing me to be apart of his vision for Shoutoii and I know things will only continue to prosper.” 

    “Today, we are going to talk about your new sect of Shoutoii. It’s called Junsui. Can you tell us a little bit more about it?” She licked her lips and sat up straighter. 

    “Of course. Junsui was something that I thought was fitting being that I have experienced sexual abuse, homelessness and other traumatizing events as a child. Mr. Iwase sympathized and so we worked as a team to make Junsui happen. He expressed that he wanted Shoutoii to go in a direction that directly helped those who were in need. He wanted to take the focus off of business conglomerate and focus more on an approach that was hands-on and active in the global community.” 

    “Amazing. Being that Shoutoii is a Japanese business, I like that you, a foreigner, have kept with the theme. Did you pick the name and if so, what does it mean?” 

    “Yes I picked the name. Junsui means pure. Children, no matter the age, are pure in heart and in spirit. And I think it is important that we as adults try to preserve the purity within them for as long as we can. Another reason I named it pure was because the children we deal with have been told that they are not, given their circumstances. I find this not to be true. Rather, I feel the world has taken the purity from them. Junsui seeks to restore their purity to them.” 

    “How so?”

    “The program connects the child or young adult with access to food, housing, friendship and healing. If the child is younger than 14 years old, we house them in a dormitory style place with other children. The adults there are only those whom we trust to ensure that they receive healing and love in their recovery process.” McIntire looked utterly floored and to his chagrin, began to applaud her. Soon, the whole audience followed suit and he finally spoke. 

    “You are a remarkable young woman with a dream and heart bigger than most can understand. I am very proud of you for accomplishing this feat. Mr. Iwase, thank you for employing her.” He chuckled. 

    “Everything she has done has been by her own doing. The vision she has speaks louder than anything my reputation or influence can do for her. This is her time and her stage to shine upon. I am simply down for the ride. All credit for this goes to Ms. Marshall.” The audience applauded again. 

    “We would love to partner with you in the future Ms. Marshall so James and Corrier will definitely be keeping eyes on you. Let us again thank Mr. Iwase and Ms. Marshall once again!” Everyone stood on their feet and clapped as he slowly bowed. She bowed her head and soon they exited the stage. The cigarette inside of her holder had burned up into ash and she scowled, throwing it down. Fury coursed through her. He thought ruining the Iwase reputation was acceptable did he? No matter the feud between him and her, she would not allow him to air the Iwase laundry. This was a secret she had to keep hidden by any means necessary. 


    Bottles popped and champagne flowed, leaving the two startled. All around, the faces of their team radiated with happiness.  

    “Rae…I can’t believe it! Look at God!” To her surprise, Leah Williams came through the crowd and squeezed her hands. She giggled, tears coming to her eyes. 

    “You made it..” 

    “Of course I did! This was more important than anything else!” She hugged her. 

    “It’s been so long Lee.”

    “Girl…don’t even get me started…” Pulling away from her, she turned to face him, whose eyes hadn’t left Lee yet. 

    “Mr. Iwase, this is Leah Williams.” He bowed his head politely, eyes staring right into her soul it seemed. 

    “It’s nice to meet you Ms. Williams.” 

    “Same here Mr. Iwase. Rae’s never before been this happy and I can tell that you are good people.” 

    “Thank you.” 

    “She’s never told me about you before.”

    “Same.” They both turned eyes on her. 

    “Uh… okay can we do introductions later?” Lee pursed her lips. 

    “Durn skippy.” Without another word, she was nearly bomb rushed by persons from all sides, all eager to talk with her about her endeavor. The two watched from the side as she basked in the adoration and praise. 

    “How long have you been friends with Rae?” He turned his gaze down to the smaller woman who had spoken. 

    “Almost fourteen years.” She blinked at him, mouth slightly ajar. 

    “Fourteen years?! Damn. You known her longer than me!” 

    “Does that devalue your friendship somehow?” He asked curiously. 

    “No..but whew. That’s a long time. How y’all meet?” His eyes turned back onto Rae, his lips smiling. 

    “We met in high school. Circumstances brought us together and we’ve been connected ever since.” He felt her eyes on him. 

    “You love her.” That made his smile grow slightly bigger. 

    “Yes. I do.”     

    “Does she know?”

    “If she doesn’t by now, I have no problem showing her again.” 

    “Oh snap.” He laughed, shocking her. 

    “You sound just like her.”

    “Well…that’s why we clicked in college.” 

    “Ah yes, please tell me about her then.”

    “You don’t know?”

    “It’s a bit complicated but no. I don’t.” 

    “Well we were the “shorties” as she called it. Both small but fierce. I had issues of my own and she came to the rescue one night when it had gotten really bad. We were inseparable.”  

    “I can tell you two were a force to be reckoned with.” Lee smiled. 

    “Yeah. But I don’t know… I be feelin so bad when I can’t see her as much as I’d like to.”

    “Don’t feel sorry Ms. Williams. Rae understands that with whatever it is that you do, you are working very hard to make your dreams for yourself reality. She’s supportive of you, that I can tell. Don’t apologize for trying to make your life better.” Lee was silent for a little while until she spoke again. 

    “You right. I appreciate it.”

    “No problem Ms. Williams.”

    “Lee, Leah… anything but Ms.Williams. You makin me sound like some old school teacher.” She teased with a laugh. He chuckled. 

    “Well then Lee… I insist you call me Hiroto. Deal?”


    “Before folks find out I’m gone, let’s get goin now!” Rae said suddenly, rushing by them as she headed out of the door. 

    “After you my lady.”

    “Thank you.” Chuckling, they followed her and soon made their swift getaway. 


    “So, Hiroto told me all about y’all.” The three had slipped into a small vintage diner, each held a cup of coffee in their hands. Rae however, choked on hers. 

    “Huh?” Lee’s eyes twinkled over the rim of her cup and she glanced at said man who sipped his cup of joe nice and easy. 

    “You ain’t tell me you had such a fine man over here. I woulda tried to get you to hook me up with one of his friends long ass time ago.” Another cough and the cup was put on the table. 


    “What…” She shrugged, a grin on her face. 

    “You a mess.”

    “You already knew this.”

    “I can’t. Hiroto you hear this?” He cleared his throat, the tiniest smirk on his face. 

    “I’m sorry what?” 

    “First, y’all ain’t know each other and now y’all in cahoots.” 

    “While you were being adorned, we had time to get to know one another.” His simple and emotionless answer. 

    “I don’t trust y’all.” Finally, a chuckle escaped his throat. 

    “That hurts babe.” 

    “Nah nah nah. You two are trouble together. I shoulda known.” 

    “Listen, ya boy got his head on straight, loves you and wants to worship the ground you walk on. Again I ask, do you gotta friend…brotha…somebody?” Lee asked with a dramatic sigh.

    “Lee stopp…”

    “I ain’t.” She replied, sticking out her tongue out at her.

    “Something tells me you two were just like this in college.” He mused, the biggest grin on his face yet. 

    “Yep. Rae over here actin brand new cause you here. But she just as bad as me.” 

    “Is that so?” 

    “Oh Lord…y’all two…”

    “You got yourself a handful Hiroto. I tell you.”

    “Nothing I can’t handle.” He winked at her, a furious blush spreading through her cheeks. 

    “This been a treat. Sad I gotta go back to Cali.” The mood suddenly dampened a bit. 

    “If you don’t mind me asking..what is it that you do?”

    “I own a private practice specializing in drug addiction and clinical disorders.”

    “Quite impressive. You seem very young to own a practice.”

    “So I’ve heard.”

    “My best regards to you Lee.”

    “Thank you.”    

    “When you flyin back?” Rae asked, a pout on her face.     

    “Early in the morning. Y’all be sleep by the time I fly out.”


    “Don’t worry Rae, I come back to visit.”

    “You’d better.” He watched the two women with a smile and soon they finished their coffee. 

    “I’d better gon back to my hotel. Now that you done running from the masses, gon relax. You did amazing up there.” They paid for their respective drinks and stood up. The two women hugged tightly before letting go. 

    “It was nice to meet you Hiroto.”

    “Pleasure as well.” Soon, they parted ways. 

    “She’s a great friend.” He commented as they headed to her apartment. 

    “She really is.” 

    “I have to say..I am so proud of you baby. You were exceptional today.” She leaned her head against his shoulder. 

    “Thank you. Now I wanna get this make up off, let my hair down and get comfy.”

    “Sounds great.” 

    “Stay for a while?”

    “Can’t. Have an engagement tomorrow morning myself.”

    “Aw..okay then.” She sighed as they pulled up to her door. Getting out, she leaned in and kissed him. 

    “Space you later cowboy.” He hummed against her lips. 

    “See you soon.” 


    The next morning, he went to a community service luncheon where business leaders met and interacted with the local community. As he went around and observed, he noticed the skepticism surrounding his initiative. Eyebrow raised slightly, he followed other men into the main hall. Whatever doubts remained concerning his move would be brought to an end today. He wanted to make clear that it wasn’t because he had money or knew of people with money. All of this had come from his heart.; it was his heart. When it was his turn to speak about Junsui, he stood and cleared his throat.

    “Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Before I start, I have a secret that I want to share with you.” He faced what seemed like thousands of eyes, all trained on his next words. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. His heart beat against his chest and for a moment, his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. No one outside of Rae and Tobu knew what he was about to reveal. But in this, transparency was a must. It would save so many. 

    “I was verbally, mentally, emotionally and sexually abused by my parents and other influential adults as a child.” The weight of his statement shook the audience and he felt his nerves rattle inside of him. Such young faces…some old…some in disbelief and some in awe. 

    “Being the only son of my very prestigious family, pressures were put on me to be absolutely perfect. Anything that was less than was deemed unacceptable. My parents forced me to have multiple sexual partners with many women… varying in age.” Still, silence. He felt like his heart was going to come out through his chest. Tightly gripping his fingers, he stood still, swallowing thickly. Members of his board were here this morning, associates and partners from other firms. And of course, the kids. They all had to know why Junsui was so important to him. 

    “From the age of 7 until the age of 19, I was prostituted throughout Japan. It was a never ending cycle of torture and abuse and I have just now began to tackle it.” Now began the murmuring. The judging. He, however, stood strong and tall. 

    “I come to you all this morning, having revealed the most secret part of me for a purpose. To all of the children who have come to attend this morning, I thank you personally. Many of you, I look at and see myself. Hurt, broken and searching for something to fill the emptiness inside. I hope that instead of a guy you see on television with lots of glitz and glamour, you see someone who has been where you are and knows the struggle you face. I am so grateful for you and hope that through Junsui, you can one day reclaim the dreams you once had and make them reality.” That was it. This was all he had before he started to grow dizzy. 

    The camera seemed to swallow him whole and yet the next sound brought him back, forcing him straight and steady. Loud roaring applause. Many of the kids had stood up, some with tears in their eyes. Associates and partners… they all received him. He felt tears well up in his eyes and for the children's’ sake didn’t try to stop it. He slowly smiled and bowed before he felt arms enclose around him. Opening his eyes, he saw so many young faces, eyes filled with gratitude. He hugged them back tightly and allowed himself the tears. He hoped they would fight for their lives and fight for their freedom. Like him, they too could have happiness, sanity and good things. God protect each and every one. 


    A glass smashed against the wall, red wine splattering all over the white surface. How dare he! How dare he embarrass the Iwase name! He wasn’t worthy then nor was he worthy now of the name. Lungs wheezed and grew tight. She would kill him. If she had to… she’d take him out to protect everything she had earned. She’d be damned if he tarnished the legacy she had sacrificed so much to build. 


      The sun had began to set and lit the sky with the richest shades of pink, purples and oranges. He pressed his face against a hip and sighed. 

    “Roto, what’s wrong?” He pulled her closer. 

    “I can’t stop thinking about my mother.” She leaned up and gently slid fingers through his hair. 

    “This is random. Why’d you start thinking about her now?” 

    “She’s far too quiet.”

    “Listen, you had a wonderful day, made an amazing impact on the kids…why even think about her?” He pressed his cheek against her hip. 

    “She is the biggest fraud to ever taint my family and I will expose her.” Her fingers paused. 


     “She has twisted the truth and deceived everyone around her.” 

    “Whoa okay you lost me…Where is this comin from?” He lifted up, jaw tight. 

    “I found some damaging information that Eri tried to hide. While she was obsessed with you, this secret she let slip through her fingers.” She blinked, taking in the seriousness of his tone. 

    “What secret?” 

    “Something I’m not yet ready to reveal. But, trust and believe… it will be rectified.” 

    “Roto…” He leaned over and gently nuzzled her lips. 

    “When it’s time, I will let you know.” She slid her fingers around his neck. 

    “What are you going to do?” 

    “Nothing.” He breathed against her mouth. 

    “Don’t say that when I know you are.” 

    “I won’t do anything too rash. I promise.” She sighed, pulling back slightly, looking him straight in the eyes. 

    “You mean it?” 

    “I promise.” 

    “Okay..” She laid back against his pillow and turned her eyes onto the sun which had been swallowed up by the horizon, leaving tendrils of violet darkness in the sky. 

    “You look tired.” Her eyes fluttered closed as she felt his fingers glide down her cheek.

    “Yeah with Junsui and everything, ya girl been real busy.”

    “Well, if you feel up to it, you can rest here.” 

    “I’ll take you up on that.” She turned and snuggled against him, wrapping her arm around his waist.

    “See you in the mornin?”

    “Bright and early.” 



    The sound of something smashing jolted him awake. He laid still for a moment and listened, his senses on high alert. Soft footsteps traveled through what sounded like the kitchen. Female. His heart sunk into his stomach and he reached up to run exhausted fingers across his face. The only one with information to gain access inside was Noa. Gently flipping the covers back and across Rae, he lightly put his feet on the floor. Pushing his hair back from his face, he made his way into the kitchen. There she stood, cabinets open, reaching for another plate. 

    “Noa, what are you doing?” She froze. 

    “Why are you breaking in my house in the middle of the night?” She turned, anger having made her skin blotchy and lifted the plate in her hand.  

    “You bastard…you cheating scum…” Sighing, he came closer with the intent of grabbing his quite expensive plate from her. To his dismay, it narrowly missed his face as it crashed into the floor. 

    “She’s up there isn’t she? Did you sleep with her?” 

    “What are you doing here?” 

    “I came to crash your little party!”

    “I could have you arrested for burglary. You understand that right?” 

    “This is the only way to get you to listen to me!” 


    “How could you choose that insignificant black bitch over me? You’re actually going to allow her to taint your blood? This is all unacceptable! I would have loved you until my last breath!” Another plate smashed by his face and he tightened his fists. 

    “What we had was never a relationship.” 

    “This is not fair! This is not the way it should have been!” 

    “If you have a problem, take it up with Eri. You’ve been cheated at the hands of my conniving mother and for that I sympathize. But I will not sacrifice or apologize for the love I have for Rae. The choice in how you live your life now is up to you. I’m finished with you.” She began to wheeze angrily and ran to him hitting him. 

    “How did she win you? What did she do?” She screamed, pounding his chest. He didn’t stop her. He deserved it. In fact, he deserved for both of them to hit him. He’d prolonged this simply out of dread and it had boiled over. Each hard blow of pain left him gripping the table behind him. He had to let her get this out. She had kept it in far too long.     

    “You’ve followed her all the way here. You’ll go to her until you die.” He couldn’t reply. She was right.

    “Noa,” He suggested once her blows softened. She was crying, her body shaking.

    “Look at me.” Her teary eyes found his. 

    “I’ve been nothing but an asshole to you and unfortunately, I can’t and won’t change that. I cannot give you something that was never yours to begin with.” She bit her lips, tears flowing down her cheeks. 

    “You deserve a man who will love and cherish you for the rest of his life. A man that will give you his heart unselfishly and fully without question. I believe that someday if you are willing, you will find that man.” He swallowed and lifted her face, giving her the tender touch she had been craving for so long at last.

    “I don’t wish anymore harm to you Noa. Learn to provide for yourself and depend on no one but yourself. Be patient and humble. Be free from everything and everyone who desires to hurt you. If necessary, separate yourself from your family until you find who you are and are comfortable in that identity.” This was the only advice he could give her.

    “Why do you sound like a big brother right now?” She sniffed, reaching up to wipe her tears. He let his fingers fall from her chin. 

    “It is something I could’ve been but my mother had other plans for you and I.” 

    “You’re going to her now aren’t you? You can’t be away from her one second. It’s actually kind of pitiful.” He allowed himself to kiss her forehead and pulled away from her. 

    “Love is indeed quite pitiful.” He replied, eying her with an emotionless gaze. She sighed. 

    “Fine. I’m done with trying to make this work. I’ll going home.”

    “I wish you well in your journey.”

    “I hope you understand that…I’ll always love you Hiroto.” He balled his lips, keeping silent. She sighed again and hastily wiped her tears. 

    “Here.” He stood still as she gathered herself and slowly removed the ring that had promised her so many things, things that had been nothing but lies. She placed the ring into his palm and flipped her hair over her shoulder. 

    “Goodbye Hiroto.” Once the door had finally closed, he lost all feeling in his knees. Sinking to the floor, he opened his palm to look at the ring. He hoped that this would be the beginning of a new Noa…one who would grow and flourish. Simply a young girl who had been lied to, he hoped she would overcome that and rise to her own in her own shadowHe gripped the ring in his hand. 

    “May I ask what the hell all this racket is down here?” He turned to find a sleepy irritable Rae standing in the hall, rubbing her eyes. He found strength to stand and swallowed. 

    “Kiko was here.”

    “I figured by this big ass mess.” She replied with a yawn, glancing at the shattered pieces of plate all over the kitchen floor. 

    “I ended it.” 

    “Ended what?”

    “Our engagement.” 

    “You shoulda ended that way before now Hiroto.” Tightening his grip on the ring, he sighed. 

    “You’re right. I should have.”

    “And you didn’t why?”

    “I wanted to deal with her when I was ready to. It wasn’t fair to either of you and I intended to confront her soon.” She leaned down and picked up a piece of plate. 

    “Welp, it happened when it was supposed to I guess.” 

    “Be careful babe. Let me get that.” He gingerly took it and threw it in the trash. 

    “I’m glad you finally ended it with her. That heifer was gon make me catch a case.” He chuckled. 

    “Let’s clean this up and go back to bed.”

    “Mm.” After the glass and porcelain had been swept up, he glanced at the ring that had enslaved him for ten years, gleaming in his hand. 

    “You think she gon come back? If that heifer decide she gon pop back up, I know somethin.”

    “She won’t.” 


    “She’s gone. For good.” Throwing the ring into the trash, he slid his fingers through hers. 

    “Let’s go back to bed hm?”

    “Kay.” She let go of his hand and hoisted herself up on his back. Sighing against his jaw she smiled. 

    “Think we can sleep in extra late tomorrow mornin?”

    “If that’s what you want.”

    “Mmkay.” She reached down and grabbed his hand, ring finger bare and unmarred. Staring at it, she tightened her grip. Finally. As he laid her on the bed, she leaned up and kissed him, fingers tightly intertwined. 

    “You’re a free man now. How does that make you feel?” She spoke softly against the corner of his mouth. He sighed contently, a smirk coming to his face. 

    “It feels surreal.” She looked at him, eyebrow quirked up. 

    “Soak it up cause it’s real.” With a smile on his face, he pulled the duvet over them. Snuggling back in her favorite spot, she closed her eyes. 

    “Good night baby.” 

    “Good night.” 



    Picking up the phone, Eri Iwase scheduled a flight to New York. It had been a few weeks time, enough to let him get comfortable being away from Miyamae. As expected, she had returned to Tokyo and instantly, her family demanded a return of funds. She’d graciously given it back to them with a smile on her face, deep apologies coming from her mouth. But, inside she felt a rage like never before. Once again, it seemed as if she would have to do things herself. They always got done better that way. The man she called husband had always been too soft on him, leaving it up to her to fix it. She was due to fly in the morning after the next and she would show up to one of his speaking engagements. All of this would end and let her have her way, so would Ebere Marshall. 


    The crowd bustled with life and he swallowed thickly. Public affairs always made his stomach flip in knots. But… this one was sure to be the most special one yet. As it stood, today was his baby’s birthday. The day God had brought her into the world and blessed him with her existence. He felt even more nervous about what he had planned for later. Though the conference they were attending would last nearly all day, he wanted to take her out to eat something nice. Friends, family or alone should she choose. Straightening his bow tie, he slid fingers through his hair. He had been in deep contemplation since Kiko had finalized her separation from him and moved back to Japan. Having come to the end of that contemplation, he had decided that he would ask her to marry him. After everything they had been through, he felt they were finally ready to handle marriage. He wanted to set things back to the way they always should have been but first, she had to say yes. Clearing his throat, he pulled shaky hands away from his hair. His throat tight, he balled his fingers into fists and slowly began to make his way out into waiting area. He could feel the energy from behind the door. So many people had come to see him. 

    “Hey.” Turning, his breath stopped. She looked gorgeous, wearing a long sleeved dress, cut just right at her knee. Tights to cover her legs and a slight platform boot, she was stunning. A light feminine color adorned her lips and thin eyeliner graced her lids. Messy curls teased her neck and chin, having slipped from the updo. His palms began to sweat. 

    “H-hi.” She lifted an eyebrow. 

    “Stuttering huh? What’s gotten into you?” 

    “Nothing.” He answered, once again trying to clear his parched throat. 

    “You nervous…”

    “Nervous as hell.” 

    “Come here…” His body came at once without hesitation. 

    “You better at this than me. No matter how nervous you say you are. You never look it.” She said quietly, reaching up to straighten his tie. 



    “I need a smoke.” She clucked her tongue, her fingers soon playing in his hair. 

    “Nah you got this. Mr. Calm Cool and Collected.” 

    “You think so hm?” Standing back, she sized him up one final time, a confident smile on her face. 

    “I know so. Come on, it’s time.”

    “O-okay.” She grabbed his hand and squeezed. 

    “Hiroto…you’ll be just fine.”

    “Mm.” Closing his eyes one last time, he inhaled deeply before the doors opened and every eye turned on them. She let his hand go and smiled at the applause as they began to enter into the auditorium.


    Eyes watched as they stepped unto the stage. How handsome he looked. Just like his father did at his age. That little twit bowed and soon left the stage. Eyes followed her until she sat down a little distance away. Good. Separated from him. 

    “Hello and thank you for all attending today’s conference! I am Hiroto Iwase and I will be talking about our new initiative Junsui.” Claps resounded throughout the hall and he bowed humbly until they waned.     

    “Truthfully, I wanted my second in command Ebere Marshall to come up here but as you see, she left me to fend for myself.” Chuckles. 

    “If you haven’t heard about Junsui, I’m curious to know what some of you think it is. Would there be anyone to take a guess?” A voice answered suddenly in the crowd. 

    “Perhaps one of your father’s past initiatives that you are continuing.” He lifted his eyebrows, impressed. 

    “My, you are well versed. No, Junsui was not something my father considered at the time. It is an organization primarily focused on providing shelter, employment, food, clothing and other basic necessities to young adults and children who have been sexually abused.” 

    “Where did the inspiration come from?” He swallowed but met the eyes of the person who has asked the question. A young teenager, skepticism tight on his face. Perhaps he doubted him; doubted this entire thing. But alas, it was not a show. 

    “As Ms. Marshall stated, she experienced it as a child and I thought a voice needed to be given to those who have been intentionally silenced.”

    “You talk about Ms. Marshall but what of yourself? If I remember correctly, you told the world that you too were sexually abused as a child. Is this really true?” Fists grew tight. Whomever was asking the questions needed to stop. 

    “Yes. You are correct.” It grew quiet as all eyes were trained on him. 

    “Members of my family subjected me to physical, mental and emotional abuse as well.” 

    “May I ask whom?” She had wanted to wait. Perhaps do this privately. But, now she hadn’t been given a choice. Slowly she stood up.

    “Hello dear son.” The calm over his face never wavered. 

    “Mother.” He spoke calmly, never once taking his eyes off of her. Ruby red lips smiled. Murmurs started amongst the crowd and he stood tall. She drew nearer, not caring about the cameras or the teleprompter that blazed unspoken words.

    “I’m so proud of you for doing these things in your father’s honor.” She spoke smoothly as the chit chat grew louder. 

    “On the contrary, I’ve done this in the honor of truth.” 

    “Truth?” It didn’t matter that the entire atmosphere had changed. Or that most of the people looked on curious to know what would happen next. His answer would determine how things would go. 

    “To my associates, partners and esteemed guests, this is Eri Iwase…my mother.” She warmly smiled and bowed. Awkward applause scattered throughout the room. 

    “If you wanted to know about the origin of who I am or why I agreed to start this organization, here lies your answer. This woman has made it her business to deceive everyone who crosses her path. And now, here she stands in front of you all.”  Now it was her turn to pause. 

    “What are you referring to?” She asked as she lifted. The room was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. 

    “Come now mother. Surely, it has grown tiresome having to keep up with the act. I must say that you have played one hell of a part.” 

    “What are you talking about?” 

    “Your true identity.” Again, her lips smiled and she eyed him with the utmost seriousness. 

    “Pray tell, if I am not the woman who birthed you then who am I?” 

    “You’re a murderer.” At his statement, a gasp echoed throughout the room. But, laughter arose from her belly.

    “My, is that what you think?” 

    “Not once have you proven me wrong.” 

    “Come now Hiroto, this is not the place or the time. Must you do this in front of all of these people? Surely, I’ve raised you better than that.” Once and only once did a smirk escape the rather emotionless curtain on his face. 

    “You wanted to be at the center of attention. How could I as you son deny you that?”

    “Then by all means, tell me who it is you accuse me of murdering.” 

    “Eri Hada. 17 years old. Your sister by blood.” Her face grew white and her hands started to shake. 

    “Excuse me?” His glare was fearless and sharp. 

    “You heard me.” Fingers gripped together tight. 

    “Where did you hear of such a claim?” 

    “In the very place you least expected anyone to look. While you had your eyes on other things, you allowed yourself to become less mindful of the secrets you hid. I spent a great deal of time going through letters and other archival material that proves you did ir. Shall I too tell you the reason why you did it?” Silence. Her hand shook uncontrollably. The bastard. He spoke with such calm elegance, confidence not that far behind. He looked just like his father… the cold and emotionless stare that seemed to peer into the very soul. The question now was… how did he find out? She had killed many more in order to keep this one secret safe.  Yes, her hands were stained with blood and she didn’t regret it. In order to survive in a dog eat dog world, she had to be composed. She had to do what she had to. 

    “At a loss for words?” He asked, that damned curling up of his lip setting a fire in her chest. She might as well tell the truth. There was no sense in hiding what had been exposed.

    “Eri was too weak. She wasn’t fitting for the Iwase throne.”

    “You, Mizu Hada, were brash, conniving and callous. Not quite the ideal picture for the family.”

    “The bitch thought she was better than me because she laid underneath your father.” 

    “He loved her. And you couldn’t stand it. Allowing her to have yet again something that you wanted for yourself. After all, you were the ordinary one while she was beautiful. You were the undesired one while every man wanted her, regardless of status.” 

    “That is why she had to die. I couldn’t allow her to one up me. This time, I would get what I wanted.” Finally, anger began to cloud the rather droll expression on his face. 

    “You murdered your sister in cold blood, stabbing her with a hair pin.”

    “More than 50 times. I did.”

    “And while you stabbed her, she fought you.”

    “I had to fix it. So, I strangled her until the last breath left her body.” 

    “As if that wasn’t enough, you left her to rot while you stole her belongings.” 

    “I did.” 

    “The desire to be Iwase was so great that you erased her from your family history. You took her name and identity, in spite of it being a lie. You lied to my father and told him that your little sister Eri had slipped and fell while on a morning walk. In her honor, you would take her name and live to make her spirit proud. And he, grief stricken, believed you. Only a demon could be capable of such cruelty.” She felt the cold iciness of exposure wash over her. He had succeeded in publicly humiliated her in front of the entire world. At long last, the thing she was going to take to the grave had unearthed itself. Fury blazed bright in her belly. How dare he do this…like this.

    “Are you satisfied Hiroto? Having humiliated me in front of all of these good people?”

    “Not nearly as much as I could be.” Little did he know, they both more alike than he cared to admit.

    “Allow me then to make it even better for you.” She slid her hand inside the collar of her quite expensive dress and pulled out a dagger. He recognized it as being his grandmother’s. 

    “Avenge her.” She held the blade outwards towards him. Everything was still. Everyone was still, gripping their seats. 

    “Avenge both of the women that I forcibly took out of your life. An aunt who I am sure would have dearly loved you. And your old decrepit grandmother. As a son of Iwase, it is your right to seek vengeance for them.” The emotionlessness on his face was gone and what stood in the wake was centuries of fury and rage. His hands shook with the desire to spill blood. As was expected. The warrior spirit inside him wouldn’t allow him anything less than that. Nostrils slightly flared, he eased up to her, graceful and calculating. Grabbing the tanto, he gently flipped it and pressed it against the skin of her neck. By now, every one was on their feet, petrified by the heavy revelation. She smiled. Do it Hiroto. Show me what a proper son I’ve raised.

    “If you in your insatiable lust desire spilt blood, spill your own. This is only but a fraction of the punishment you shall receive. You have seen nothing yet.”

    “Are you afraid to do it?” His hand was calm and steady, his gaze so intense it sent chills down her spine. 

    “I will avenge my grandmother and aunt in a different way. They shall be avenged in the children to come. With every breath they take, they shall be paying tribute. And each God forsaken breath that comes from your lungs will be in payment for your sins.” 

    For you, Mizu Hada, I formally disown you as my mother and as a relative of the Iwase estate. As head, I declare that you shall live the rest of your days in solitary exile. As you once damned my grandmother, so I shall damn you to the same fate. You shall be stripped of every asset, benefit and monetary profit you received as wife of Shou Iwase and live as you once were. Sparing you your life seems a much more fitting punishment for the crimes you’ve committed. Don’t you think?”  He dropped the knife and it clattered against the stage floor. Turning his back to her, he addressed the crowd. 

    “To everyone in attendance, I sincerely offer my apologies for the wasted time and quite personal subject matter that came up today. It was not my intention to do this in front of you all or in this way. I will offer reimbursements should anyone be interest-” A loud disgruntled scream pierced the air and before he knew it, a sharp tearing ripped into his body. Turning, he found his mother pressed against him, tanto deep within him. Blood trickled down the hilt and slid across her fingers. She breathed heavily, eyes hidden by her hair. 

    “HIROTO!” That voice. One he’d know anywhere… but filled with such bloodcurdling terror. 

    “You’re just as weak as all the others. I had placed such great hope in you.” As quickly as she had the first time, she struck him again and again until he felt his legs disappear from underneath him. Screams rang out and at once someone pulled her away from him, leaving the knife embedded in his side. Once his head hit the floor, everything grew black. 



    She pushed. Tears having slid down her cheeks, she pushed against the throng of people. 

    “MOVE OUT OF MY WAY! HIROTO!” She cried, her throat tight. Slipping through a small opening, she grunted as she ran into more bodies. 

    “I HAVE TO GET TO HIM PLEASE! MOVE…MOVE!” Eyes turned to her and instantly recognized her. Soon, they started to break apart, leaving a clear path. There…up ahead she could see his hand which laid on the stage floor. 

    “Oh my God…” She ran as fast as she could and soon knelt above him. 

    “Hiroto…” His skin was pale, a growing pool of blood collecting underneath him. She lifted shaky hands to his face, her tears dripping on his lips and nose. 

    “Oh God…” Hysterical, she curled her fingers around the small blade with shaky fingers. 

    “Don’t pull it out or else he’ll bleed out!” A woman screeched, face ridden with worry. She let go, tears wetting her dress. How could she stop the blood? Already, his crisp white shirt had been bathed in it. Somewhere near, she heard laughter. It sent chills down her spine and she turned her head to find his mother, having been detained, staring at them. 

    “You tried to enter into my family. So I took what you wanted most away from you.” 

    “HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO YOUR OWN FUCKING SON! HOW DARE YOU!” She snarled, anger hot in her veins. 

    “He should’ve taken the opportunity. He was weak. Just like his father. Just like his grandmother and aunt. It’s inexcusable for an Iwase!” Fresh tears welled up in her eyes and she pressed her forehead against his chest. 

    “Please… someone…help him…”

    “Someone called the ambulance! They will be here in five minutes. Hold on to him until then.” She sniffed and nodded, bunching up his shirt in her hands. 

    “Thank you.” Five. She could see the beads of sweat that had started to bead upon his hairline. She reached up and slid disheveled hair back from his forehead and cheek. Four. 

    “Hiroto…” Three. She pressed her forehead against his, tears gliding down her cheek. 

    “I need you to fight…” Two. 

    “One last time…fight for me…fight for us.” One. Before she could utter another word, the hands inched back as the sound of sirens permeated the building. EMTs rushed into the room, bringing a stretcher.

    “Ma’am we’re going to need you to step back.” She inhaled sharply and obliged, watching as they cut open his shirt and peeled the wet fabric carefully from his flesh. The blade lodged in his body was left alone but they put a tourniquet on the wounds from his back. One of the EMTs checked his heart rate. 

    “His pulse is weak but it’s there. He’s lost a lot of blood.” Her heart beat for the both of them and she gripped her fingers together tight. 

    “Ma’am, we are going to transport him to the hospital immediately.” 

    “O-okay… I’m coming with you.”

    “All right. Ladies and gentlemen, please leave the walkway clear!” They straightened his spine and carefully lifted him onto the stretcher. Hooking him up to a heart monitor, they began to proceed down the stairs of the stage. She gripped his hand the entire time, finding herself running as they wheeled the stretcher out of the auditorium. Outside, they placed him inside the ambulance and helped her inside. She folded her arms around herself and bowed her head, tears flowing. God, please save him.


    Hands pressed against him, fingers outstretched, nails piercing the skin beneath. The sound of weeping struck his heart and he heard one word and one word only: Live. Slowly, eyes opened and pupils dilated to adjust to the intense pouring in of light. It was then that he felt the pain all over his body. The most intense in his back and side. He glanced down and found small brown hands on his chest, a face hidden by a cloud of hair.

    “Rae.” She lifted up. She had been crying, her cheeks glossy. 

    “Hiroto! Oh my God…” She lifted and pressed as much of her body against his in a hug as she could. He groaned and couldn’t control his body’s certain urge to lift. 

    “No no no…” Those hands pressed against him again.

    “Relax..” He inhaled deeply and let her voice wash over him. Rae. When he felt he could, he opened his eyes again and this time, vision was clear as they set on her face. Her voice was strong. Just as he expected it to be. 

    “When…did I get here?” He asked gruffly, licking his cracked lips. She reached up to wipe tears from her face, clearing her throat. 

    “Hours ago. Eri narrowly missed one of your major arteries.”

    “How long have you been here?” He asked, looking at her sister who had stood.

    “Bout an hour. Just comforted Rae and prayed a lot..”  

    “Thank you.” She gently squeezed his hand. 

    “I’m just glad you’re breathing Hiroto. God knows what Rae would have done if you hadn’t made it.” The smile on his face faltered as the pain stung him again. 

    “I go get the doctor… hold on.” Amee left them. 

    “How…are you doing?” He asked in between breaths, taking in her face again. 

    “I wanna know how you doin.” 

    “I’m fine now that… I’m seeing you.” She took a shaky breath and looked down. 

    “I don’t know what I woulda done if…” 

    “No ifs. It didn’t happen.” He swallowed the pain and tried to straighten up. 

    “But it could have.” Gently, he brought her gaze upward. 

    “It didn’t.” Slowly, her arms came around his shoulders, fingers deep in his hair. He pressed his face against her chest with a deep sigh. No words were spoken between them and he was glad. He couldn’t begin to vocalize just what he felt in his chest. Her warmth and scent was enough. She pulled away from him, only slightly. Her eyes spoke so many things… how afraid she was. How grateful she was. Just how much she loved him. He leaned up and tenderly pressed his lips against hers. She fisted his hair and deepened the kiss instantly, allowing him to taste her fear and gratitude. Hands slid across her jaw and tears from her eyes wet his lips. She pulled back, biting her lips to try to silence her cries. 

    “Don’t do that…” He whispered before their lips connected again. The cry came into his spirit and he breathed against her neck as her lips created tiny little sparks across his jaw. 

    “I’m so glad….you didn’t leave me…”

    “I wouldn’t dare leave you.” The underlying hunger that lived in her bones called out to him and his body started to grow warm, in spite of the pain. Desire stirred in his stomach and he let his mouth meet hers one last time. Such a pity he could do nothing else. A groan vibrated in his chest and she took it in, fingers gently pressing against his stomach. Before they separated, a throat cleared suddenly. She pulled away from him, biting her bottom lip. Cheeks, warm, he swallowed and let her go. A doctor stood in the doorway, holding a clipboard to his side.

    “Mr. Iwase, how are you feeling?” 

    “I’m in a hell of a lot of pain but I’m alive. For that, I am grateful.” 

    “Yes, you sustained three stab wounds, all very deep. The woman who stabbed you narrowly missed a major artery by an inch. Had it ruptured, it would have killed you. Thankfully, it did not. You fought to live and you won. I’m proud of you.” 

    “I appreciate it.”

    “We’ve stitched up your wounds and should be releasing you in a few more hours. We want to monitor you just a little bit longer.”

    “That’s fine. Thank you again.”

    “You’re welcome. We’re going to give you something for that pain too.” 

    “Thank you.” It was quiet as the doctor left them. Amee stepped forward, arms wrapped around her waist. 

    “Besides the pain, are you feeling better?”


    “Good. Rae?” 


    “You good?” She pursed her lips. 

    “I’m pissed as hell but I’ll be all right.” She took a deep sigh and came to stand on the other side of his hospital bed. 

    “I ain’t know your mama was that crazy Hiroto.” 

    “It’s not a surprise. If she had been given a chance, she would have tried much much more.”

    “What do you think is gonna happen to her?” Amee asked next. He licked his lips and closed his eyes. 

    “I tell you what needs to happen. She need to take her old ancient ass back to Japan before somebody take her out.” Rae growled, sucking her teeth. 

    “Rae! Let the man talk.” 

    “Hm.” He opened his eyes. 

    “She will be deported back to Japan and start her sentence immediately.”

    “So you pressin charges?”

    “You can say that.” 

    “Wait… what you mean?”

    “What I’ve declared is greater than any sentence the authorities can come up with.”

    “And what is that?” Rae asked, crossing her arms. 

    “I’ve stripped everything from her. She is no longer recognized as my family and I’ve sentenced her to a life long of exile, just as she did with my grandmother.” The two women looked shocked and for a moment couldn’t say anything. 

    “As soon as she hits Japanese soil, there shall be federal guards there to take her to a pre-determined destination. These specific guards I’ve chosen come from wealthy families and are well versed with the laws of Old. Replicating the caste system that was once set in place, they serve as a private form of enforcement aside from the police. There is nothing that she can and will be able to get away with.” Silence ensued for just a while longer. 

    “Damn Hiroto. You served that revenge cold.” Amee finally spoke up, an impressed expression on her face. 

    “Just the way she deserves.” He answered simply.  

    “Well, you guys won’t have anything more to worry about then. So, whatever you two decide to do from here… I got y’all back.” He nodded at her.  

    “I’m gon head back to the house. Rae, take care of him okay?”

    “You know I will.”

    “I’m so glad you’re okay Hiroto.” 

    “Thank you my dear.” She hugged Rae and soon they were left alone. She exhaled loudly

    “She’s gotten just what she deserves.” 

    “Yes. She has.”

    “I can’t believe she really did all of that. To kill your own sister because you both wanted the same man?”

    “Jealousy is truly something.” She shook her head. 


    “This is the last time she will ever inflict any harm onto me. I’ve made sure of that.” She came to his bedside. 

    “Good.” His hands suddenly started to shake and he pressed them against his side. She lifted them and pressed her lips against his knuckles. 

    “It’s all over now. Now, you can breathe.” She leaned down and gently skimmed his jaw with her lips. 

    “It doesn’t feel real.” 

    “It’ll take a moment…” 



    “Lay with me.” His voice had grown whispery and soft. She shook her head no. 

    “I don’t wanna hurt you.” 

    “You won’t.”


    “Please.” She sighed. 

    “…Okay.”  Sliding off her shoes and taking off her cape blazer, she slowly climbed into the hospital bed. She pressed her cheek against his chest and slowly, his arms came around her. 

    “Am I hurtin you?” She asked, softly laying a hand on his bandage.

    “No. You’re fine.”

    “Okay..” She lifted and kissed his jaw. 

    “Are you sleepy?”


    “Let’s take a nap.”



    A light breeze danced across her face and she gripped her fingers together tightly. Glancing back into the hospital room at his sleeping form, she sighed. The weight of what Eri did had hit her like a sack of bricks. Not even sure if she could be called Eri anymore, she didn’t even know what to think of it all. 

    Her mind still reeled from what happened. How could a mother intentionally and viciously attack her son the way she had? Regardless of all of the tradition, that was her son. A child held in her womb and brought into this world. And it had meant nothing to her. It was completely unfathomable.

     As the day turned into early evening, she leaned over the hospital balcony, allowing the summer breeze to greet her. What a birthday. It figured the day she was to turn the big three-zero things would go awry. Now that this had happened, she had been thrown out to the dogs and was given a true look at the world in which he had come from. Did she honestly want part in it? There were complexities that she’d never comprehend or grasp. It was never just about the money. Instead, it ran deeper than that. Something greater was coveted and anyone would do what they had to to acquire it. Power.

    She licked her lips. After everything that had happened to them… still they remained strong and unwavering. Almost everything had tried to break them and yet they refused to be broken. Clearly, it was meant for them to be together…despite being from such different planets. Honestly, she couldn’t imagine life without him. The very thought of losing him sent her into hysteria. Today was yet another reminder of just how much she needed him…and how much she loved him. A choice was laying in the balance and she wasn’t sure… 

    “Rae?” Turning, she found Hiroto attempting to get out of bed. 

    “Roto, what are you doing?” She called as she rushed back inside. 

    “I want to come out there with you.”

    “No…don’t move around too much… you might rupture your stitches.”

    “Help me up…” He was being stubborn and she sighed as she steadied him as he placed his feet on the ground. 

    “Are you in pain?” She asked, expression full of worry. He smirked some, gently gliding fingers down her cheek.

    “Rae, I’m fine.” Sucking her teeth, she pouted. 

    “We gon out here for a bit but then it’s back to bed.” He chuckled softly. 

    “Okay.” Hand at his side, they walked out to the balcony. At the wind, he inhaled deeply. 

    “Refreshing…” He murmured, smiling down at her. 


    “You can let me go babe, I’m fine.” 

    “Hm.” Her hands slid away from him and things were quiet. She remained quiet, under the scrutiny of his gaze, her throat tight with unshed tears and unspoken words. 



    He watched her, observing her body language.  She had been frightened to death and still shook with it. His mother had tried her hardest to make them fall apart. But even on the verge of death, they both had declared that they would live for one another. Frankly, he didn’t give a damn about anyone or anything else. All that mattered now was Rae. His Rae. It had been years since they had given their hearts to one another. It had taken years for them to come back to each other. Like the waves of the sea, they had turned to and fro. He needed her. He wanted her. And most importantly, he wanted to show her that for as long as he lived.  Here and now, he was going to make all of that a reality.          

    “Rae?” Her eyes turned to face him. Bare, brown skin glowed and her hair in all its thick curly glory shined bright as the setting sun, amber showing through the strands. 

    “What are you thinking about?” 

    “Everything.” She replied, eyes at his chest. 

    “Such as?” He asked simply, taking her in as she gnawed at her lips. 

    “What happened today truly scared me. I…I don’t want to keep going through this.”

    “I understand.” Things were quiet for a while. 

    “I never realized just how much of a burden it could be… coming from the world you do…” 

    “It is something I tried to protect you from.”

    “I see that now…” She pursed her lips and turned her face towards the breeze. 

    “Suddenly… everything you did… it kinda makes sense. Because you loved me… you tried to protect me the only way you could think of..”

    “Sacrificing you for my mother was not a wise thing Rae. Regardless of my intention…what I did was wrong.” She sighed deeply and leaned forward a bit, outstretching her arms and hands. 

    “No wonder why you wanted to escape. Having that witch for a mother…enduring as much as you did…”  He came behind her, his fingers threading through hers.

    “We survived because we didn’t have a choice in the matter.”


    “What that woman did frightened you in a way I haven’t seen in a very long time.” 

    “It did..” 

    “Hear me when I say this: There is nothing that she or anyone can do to hurt you or I again.” His voice was quiet but firm, his breath warm on her skin.

    “I…I want to believe you but what if she tries somethin again?”

    “Stop with the what ifs for a moment.” He spoke gently, pressing his lips against her shoulder.

    “Do you trust me?” She turned, bringing her eyes to his. 

    “Of course I do!” 

    “Can you trust me with your fear?” She swallowed and looked back out to the horizon. 


    “Then do something for me. Close your eyes and take a deep breath.” 


    “Close your eyes…” She closed them. 

    “Take a deep breath.” She inhaled deeply, the wind forcing her back against him. 

    “What do you feel?” She was quiet for a little while. 

    “I feel the wind and the sun…”

    “What else?” Her fingers gripped his tighter. 

    “Your warmth. Your presence. It’s all around me.” 

    “How does it make you feel”


    “Do you feel free?” His voice now was a whisper. Tears suddenly came to her eyes.

    “Right now…with you…I do.” 

    “It feels good doesn’t it?”


    “You’ve been used to something or someone always getting in the way. Fifteen years of our lives have been interrupted by greed, jealousy, hatred and heartbreak. And right now, you’re not used to this feeling.” She breathed, tears threatening to overflow. 

    “You’re worried about me. The wounds I have. Whether we can overcome everything done to us. But, let me tell you this one thing…”


    “These are battle scars and I will wear them proudly. They represent the freedom deserved and fought for. You do not need to worry or fear anyone or anything anymore. Can’t you see that we have been liberated from every obstacle that threatened to destroy us?” Her breath was beginning to hitch in her chest. 

    “The choice now is ours. There will be no one to tell us how to love or when. No one to tell us that should we choose to play in the sunlight that we cannot. Should the time come when we allow the love within us to be as colors upon the canvas of our skin, no one but the trees shall see. Only God Himself shall bear witness to the love we make and finally, we have that right. Now, without anyone in the way… the life we choose to live has endless possibilities.” She was quiet, weight of his words stirring her spirit. He could feel it ebb and flow within her and it reached out for his. 

    “Let me be selfish and ask something of you.” She sucked in a breath. 

    “W-what is it?” 

    “If I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you would you let me?” The cry that came from her pierced the sky, the stars above twinkling bright. 

    “Hi-Hiroto…”  The tears came, now smelling of happiness. 

    “Look at me Rae.” She turned to face him, biting her lips.

    “Let me take all the fears in your mind away. Let my hands provide, protect and cherish you. Let me fill your spirit with laughter, tears and joy. Let me give you what you deserve…my love and my heart…irrevocably and without barriers.” He reached up and gently brushed her tears away with his thumb. 

    “I want to you to reign by my side. But first, you have to allow me to be your husband.”  


    For a moment, she couldn’t speak, having started to cry, her heart full of emotions. But his lips just kissed the tears that fell until finally she could utter a word. Her heart pounded inside her chest and the feelings coming over her were unexplainable. 


    “Hm?” She pressed her face against his chest, her hands sliding up to grip his shoulder blades. 

    “I…I love you.”

    “I love you too baby.” He kissed her cheeks and nuzzled her tenderly. She sniffed and looked up at him.  

    “I’ll…I’ll marry you Hiroto. I want to be yours and only yours for as long as we live.” The atmosphere shifted as he leaned down and kissed her. She lost her center of gravity, falling against him. The taste of him overwhelmed her and the force of his love and desire hit her womb with such an impact it left her breathless. She tilted her head, letting him deepen the kiss in a way that made her toes curl. His hands slid down to grab her bottom, lifting her up into his arms. She wasn’t aware that he had moved until she felt herself being lowered onto the hospital bed. She loosened her legs and let them slide lazily down to his hips. He gently sucked on her bottom lip before pulling away, his lips bruised. Her fingers danced along his side and paused above his hospital bandage. 

    “Careful…you don’t want to overexert yourself…” She whispered quietly. He gently laid her back against the pillows and pressed his forehead against hers. 

    “I could care less about that right now…” She let her arms circle around him, curling her fingers up against his back. 

    “You should..” He snuggled against her and closed his eyes. 

    “I wondered at one time if I’d ever feel this safe again..” He whispered against her clavicle. 

    “Now you don’t have to wonder. Now we can be as birds, the whole sky at our fingertips.” His lips smiled against her. She intertwined their legs, sliding her foot beside his. 

    “Mm…” She kissed his forehead and gently moved his hair out of his eyes. 

    “Do you still want to hide away from the world when it gets too much to handle?” She whispered against his cheek. 

    “If I do…can I stay forever?”

    “Stay as long as you want to.” 

    “You won’t leave me?” Sliding her lips up the bridge of his nose, she replied, 

    “No never.” His reply was the gently puff of breath that came to rest on her chest and she smiled. There he was…her precious little baby…His features calm and at ease. At long last, she’d have this to treasure for the rest of her life. He slightly moved and grunted as pain marred the peace on his face. She ran her fingers across the skin near one of his injuries and watched as he relaxed at once. Reminiscent of when they were children, she smiled to herself. At long last, everything had come to fruition and she was ready for whatever that would come. With nothing to hold them back, all they had to do was spread their wings and take flight. After all, freedom only came to those who were willing to fly. 

Chapter End Notes:


A/N: Wow. I am at a loss for words. This chapter took so much out of me but it was truly a pleasure to write. I have wanted to come to this moment for a very long while but I didn't want to rush anything. Everything has to feel right and I hope that everything does up until this point. Y'all, I have teared up and cried some writing (and reading) this chapter lol. My precious babies...Theirs is a love that cannot be explained and it has been a blessing to share that with you. One final roller coaster for the road and boy was it heavy. Kiko gon back to Japan, while everything concerning Junsui is starting to gain attention. To top it allllll off, Roto's momma come to the States and stabs him on national television. Oh, and...did anyone expect the secret Eri held on to to be so devious?? Sad that it happened...disgusting for someone to even consider it.  Lastly... the end. My favorite scene so far...Wow.  I wonder if anyone catches a snippet of it...said almost the same as if the past meets with the future Rae/Roto lol. Alas, now the America arc has finally reached its end and now Mr. and soon to be Mrs. Iwase will begin their new life in Japan. 

To be honest, I never intended it to be quite this long but see the thing is the Spirit of God is leadin this whole entire thing so I gotta be obedient to Him. Originally, I had dreamt this all the way through their life span. And I intend to carry that through. I know the novel is quite long already. If you have the patience to continue reading, I thank you sincerely~ <3 I will not rush anything. This has to be completely fleshed out and written in its own time. <3 I look forward to continuing this wonderfully rich and powerful story with you guys! Thank you for reading, supporting and loving my cast. Below, I will attach some pictures of outfits and things :) 

GOD BLESS YOU ALL! <3 Love you all much! Till next time, 



Rae's outfit: 


Yukie Nakama as Eri Hada (RIP) 


Tanto- Small knife 

Tanto used:

And lastly, a drawing or two of hands that I think represent this chapter so very well :D





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Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.