Until Then: Better Together

Two hours before the start of the party, Ayane and Ryuji decided to start prepping for it. Ayane did her own hair and makeup since there was no time to call for a professional. She pinned back the left side of her hair and let the right side flow down. She placed a hairpin with a dragon and a tiger symbol on it on the pinned side of her hair to emphasize it. After she did her hair and makeup, she was having trouble zipping up her gown. Left with no choice, she asked help from Ryuji. 

“Ryu, can you zip me up?” She asked. Ryuji walked up to her and zipped her up. She did a small twirl and asked Ryuji how she looked. He stared at her, not able to answer. Ayane giggled at his reaction and helped him with his tie. Ayane’s phone suddenly rang and she went and picked it up. 

“Aya, I’m with the twins now. We’ll be flying over to Tokyo and we’ll be arriving in less than an hour. We’ll meet you at the party.” Rei’s voice was loud since she was by the runway where the private jet was. 

“Okay, be safe. We’re on our way to the party now.” Ayane answered. Rei ended the call and Ayane went over to Ryuji to relay the message. Ryuji nodded and took Ayane’s hand in his. They went down to the lobby where the car was waiting to take them to the party. The party was being held at the grand ballroom at the Architects Institute. When they arrived, a number of guests were already there. Ayane and Ryuji walked hand-in-hand, attracting the attention of the journalists. 

“Welcome Ms. Kamenaga, Mr. Tennouji. It’s a pleasure to have your presence in this party.” The host greeted them at the entrance. Ayane and Ryuji thanked the host and they went inside. Ryuji led Ayane to a vacant stand up table and asked her if she wanted any drinks. She asked for a cosmopolitan cocktail and Ryuji went over to the bar to get some. While waiting for Ryuji, a familiar voice called out to her. 

“Ayane?” She turned to see who was calling her and she wasn’t the least bit surprised when she saw who it was. 

“Oh, Mr. Takechi, long time no see.” Ayane was calm. She was expecting to see him tonight. Kenji looked at her with longing eyes. The only woman he loved was standing in front of her yet he felt that she wasn’t the same woman he knew. 

“How are you?” He asked. Ayane smiled at him. 

“I’m doing great. Thank you for asking. How about you? I heard about your engagement with… What was her name again? Oh right, Ms. Saiko.” Kenji frowned when Ayane brought it up. Ever since Ayane disappeared, Kenji was continuously pressured by Miyu’s family to marry her for the sake of the child. It was only recently that Kenji agreed to the marriage. 

“Ayane, please let’s just talk about what happened.” Kenji took a step closer to Ayane but stopped when he heard someone calling out to him. 

“There you are Kenji. I’ve been looking everywhere for you.” Miyu appeared in front of the two of them; the second appearance that Ayane wanted to see. When Miyu looked over at Ayane, her eyes widened. Ayane saw this and it was clear that she was guilty of something. She tried to mask her guilt with arrogance. 

“Oh Ayane. It’s been so long since I last saw you.” Miyu said; her voice was a pitch higher than usual meaning she was nervous about something. Ayane smiled at her. 

“Ah Ms. Saiko, indeed it’s been too long, if you ask me.” They shook each other’s hands. There was tension in the air and Kenji felt uncomfortable in it. They were silent for a while when a little boy came running up to Kenji and clung to his leg. 

“Dad!” The little boy said. He was about a year older than the twins and he’s features were nothing like his father. The child looked at her and suddenly cowered behind Kenji. Miyu saw this and took it as an opportunity to mock and humiliate Ayane. 

“Looks like kids aren’t fond of you. It’s a shame if you ever decide to have a kid.” Miyu said. It struck a nerve with Ayane when she heard about having a kid from Miyu, the reason why an innocent child in her womb died. Ayane kept herself calm so as to not attract too much attention. 

“Oh by the way, I’ve heard that you two got recently engaged. I’d like to congratulate the two of you.” Kenji and Miyu’s faces turned sour quickly the moment Ayane mentioned the engagement. They were both silent making Ayane feel like she’s won. She decided to taunt Miyu more and see if she’ll be stupid enough to reveal what she’s done. 

“I heard there was an unexpected surprise during the party. Oh how I wish I could have witnessed it.” Ayane said confidently. Miyu felt insulted and surprised. What happened during the party was limited to those who attended. She was confused why Ayane knew about it. It led her to believe that she was the mastermind behind that trick. 

“How did you know about that?” Miyu asked, her voice hushed. She tried to calm herself to avoid making a scene. She was advised to lay low to let the rumors die down. Ayane looked quite pleased with Miyu’s agitated face.

“Coincidentally, I’m currently staying at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The rumors were all around the hotel.” Ayane answered confidently. Miyu’s anger grew and grew until she couldn’t take it anymore. 

“It was you, wasn’t it? You were trying to sabotage me because you’re jealous that Kenji was marrying me instead of you.” Her voice was loud and obnoxious and it attracted the attention of some of the guests but Ayane wasn’t bothered. Kenji tried to restrain Miyu but she wouldn’t calm down. 

“You’re just jealous because he chose me and dumped you a few years ago. Now you want to take your revenge because we’re getting married.” Miyu said. The guests started to gossip but Ayane was still calm and collected. 

“That’s enough, Miyu.” Kenji tugged Miyu’s arm to get her away from Ayane. When she had taken a step back, Ayane folded her arms. With a smile on her face, she looked at Miyu with menacing eyes. 

“You think I want him back? Don’t be stupid. Who would want to keep a cheating man? Oh I know who, conniving and scheming liars like you.” Ayane’s voice was cold, her stare was menacing. Everything about her radiated confidence. Miyu took a step back; she was obviously affected by Ayane’s words. Kenji’s eyes were filled with sadness. 

“You can have him. I already have what I need.” Just then, two voices could be heard calling out to Ayane. Everyone’s eyes looked for the source of the sound. Ryuji entered the scene with the twins in both arms. He walked up to Ayane and planted a kiss on her cheek. 

“I wasn’t able to get the drinks since these two wanted me to carry them.” He said. Ayane took Kotaro from Ryuji.

“Mommy! Daddy carried us.” Kotaro said while planting tiny kisses on Ayane’s face. She noticed that they were staring at them, and Ayane turned to Kenji and Miyu. 

“Oh sorry for cutting our conversation short. It seems my presence is needed on stage.” After that, she turned her back on them and walked all the way to the stage with Ryuji in tow. The host announced Ayane’s name and she went up to the microphone to speak. At the end of the speech, Ayane called Ryuji to stand next to her. 

“Good evening everyone. I’d like to introduce to you, my fiancé, Mr. Tennouji Ryuji of Habitect Co. and these are our children, Kotaro and Kayda. I hope you treat them with the same respect as you treat me.” The crowd clapped for them and they left the stage. They were greeted by architects who attended the party. 

“What beautiful children.” One of the guests complimented. Ayane looked at her kids and smiled. Ryuji led them to a table where Ayane and the kids could take a seat. 

“Are you hungry?” Ryuji asked. Ayane nodded so Ryuji excused himself to get food. The twins were well-behaved whenever they were with their mother. They sat on Ayane’s lap patiently waiting for Ryuji to come back. After a few minutes, Ryuji came back with a plate filled with food. The twins’ eyes sparkled with excitement. Ryuji took Kayda and had her sit on his lap. They both fed the twins before they had food for themselves. 

“Yummy!” Kayda said. Ryuji took a table napkin and wiped the sides of her mouth with it. He couldn’t help but smile when he saw how happy she was. Ayane saw his smile and it made her smile as well. 

“Look at daddy being so happy.” Ayane said to Kotaro. Both the twins heard and they turned to look at Ryuji. He quickly turned away and hid his face. Kayda held Ryuji’s face and she smiled. 

“Daddy is happy with Kayda and Kotaro and Mommy.” She said. Ryuji looked at her and patted her head. 

“Daddy is very happy.” He said. Seeing how close he’d become with the kids, Ayane’s heart started to beat wildly. She couldn’t understand what made her feel this way. She decided to ignore it and continued to feed Kotaro. After the twins had their share, Ryuji offered to hold Kotaro so Ayane could eat. 

“What about you?” She asked. Ryuji looked at the twins and smiled. 

“You can feed me.” He said. Feeling obligated to, Ayane consented. The twins looked at their mother feeding Ryuji and they were happy about it. They were giggling and moving a lot that Ayane missed Ryuji’s mouth and the sauce from the spoon stained the side of his mouth. Ayane quickly took the table napkin and wiped it off. Kenji and Miyu were seated in a table across from where Ayane and Ryuji were. His eyes clung to the woman sitting across from him. 

If we were still together, we could’ve been that happy. Kenji thought. His chest tightened whenever he saw Ayane and Ryuji being sweet to each other. Miyu saw how affected Kenji was with Ayane’s presence. She recalled how she tried to get rid of her before and how she thought she was finally gone but then she came back and was now the president of a company. Her blood started to boil from seeing her happy. She wanted to make her suffer. 

“Mommy, can we dance?” Kotaro asked. Ayane nodded and Kotaro led Kayda to the center of the room to dance. 

“Watch over them. I’m going to the ladies room.” Ayane said to Ryuji. He nodded and Ayane left to go to the bathroom. When she exited the bathroom, someone was waiting outside for her. 

“Ayane, let’s talk please.” Kenji begged. Ayane crossed her arms and sighed. 

“What’s there to talk about?” Ayane asked. Kenji took a step closer and held onto Ayane’s hand. 

“You’re the only woman I’ve ever loved. What happened between me and Miyu was a mistake.” Kenji explained but Ayane refused to listen. She’s heard this reason before. 

“It was a mistake? So that young boy is a result of your so-called mistake?” Ayane answered. Kenji looked down, unable to answer. 

“I gave up everything when I chose to be with you and then you come here and tell me that what happened between you two was a mistake? Do you think I’ll believe that?” Ayane wasn’t mad nor did she raise her voice. She was level-headed about the situation. She knew how to handle it. 

“I know you still love me Ayane. I want to be with you again.” Kenji said. Ayane stepped back, disbelief clear on her face. 

“When I told you to stay away from Miyu, what did you say to me? Didn’t you say that there was nothing to worry about because you were childhood friends? Then what happened? I told you not to see her while I was away. Then what did she do? She got you drunk and you had sex with her. Now you tell me it was a mistake? Because the way I see it, you were asking for it.” Ayane calmly stated. Her eyes were burning with rage but she held it in. Kenji looked down, unable to answer. Feeling tired and angry, Ayane walked away from Kenji. She went back to where Ryuji and the kids were. He was carrying the both of them and they fell asleep in his arms. 

“Why don’t we go back to the hotel?” Ayane suggested which Ryuji agreed to. She went to the host and apologized for leaving early. She explained that her kids were tired and needed to be taken home. The host understood her and they left. When they arrived at the hotel, Ryuji put the twins on the bed. Ayane groaned as she took off her high heels. 

“My feet hurt.” She complained. Ryuji sat next to her and took her feet in his hands and gently massaged it. Ayane was surprised at first but it felt too good for her and she let him be. 

“Did you get what you were hoping for?” Ryuji asked. Ayane looked up at him and smiled. 

“I got more than what I bargained for.” She answered. Ryuji chuckled at her response. After a while, Ayane asked Ryuji to stop massaging her feet. She got up and went to the bedroom where the twins were sleeping. 

“I’ll change the twins’ clothes while you change yours.” She said; her voice hushed. Ryuji nodded and went to get his pajamas. Ayane slowly undressed Kayda and she put on her pajamas. Same goes for Kotaro. After they got changed, Ayane moved them to the center of the bed. Ryuji came into the room already wearing his pajamas. Ayane took out her pajamas and asked Ryuji to unzip her gown. When he did, he wrapped his arms around Ayane’s waist, stopping her from moving. 

“What are you doing?” She asked. Ryuji leaned closer and whispered in her ear. 

“It’s time for me to claim my reward for my role as your fiancé.” He answered. Ayane felt a shiver down her spine when he’s hot breath tickled her ear. Ayane unknowingly blushed at Ryuji’s attempt at flirting. 

“Shameless.” Ayane answered while removing his arms around her. She turned to look at him, although still shy and embarrassed from what he said. Ryuji smiled, already expecting a refusal. Ayane placed both of her hands on Ryuji’s shoulder while slowly bringing herself up to his face. She placed a quick kiss on Ryuji’s cheek which surprised him. 

“That’s enough for now. I’m going to go change.” Ayane left and went to the bathroom. Ryuji couldn’t believe what just happened. Ayane felt embarrassed after what she did. She hurriedly changed her clothes and went back to the bedroom. When she entered the bedroom, she saw Ryuji carrying Kayda in his arms while humming a lullaby. The scene made her heart beat fast. Ryuji saw her and motioned for her to come close. 

“Kayda woke up and said she had a bad dream so I carried her and rocked her back to sleep.” Ryuji whispered. Ayane felt a smile form on her face. Ryuji’s care for the twins made him even more attractive. Seeing as Kayda has already fallen asleep, she told Ryuji to slowly put her down on the bed. He did what he was told and he slid in next to the twins. Ayane was on the other side of the bed, forming a barrier so there’s no chance for the twins to fall out of the bed. Ayane placed her hand on top of the twins. Ryuji did the same and their hands touched. 

“Goodnight Ayane.” Ryuji whispered. Ayane smiled and held onto Ryuji’s hand. 

Maybe falling for him wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Ayane thought. She’s witnessed a side of him that he only shows in front of her and her kids. He was sincere and honest about his feelings and the twins adore him. Ayane thought that if the twins could have a father, she’d want it to be Ryuji. As the thoughts about Ryuji ran in her head; a feeling of dread and fear slowly disappeared from inside of her. Ayane decided to start opening up to Ryuji. 

Morning came and the twins were up before both the adults were. They looked at their sleeping parents and noticed their joined hands. Feeling mischievous, the twins decided to slip past their parents’ arms and out of bed. They successfully did so and went to the living room to play. Ayane was the first to wake up; she moved her hands around the bed and noticed that the center of the bed was empty. Her eyes shot open and saw that the twins weren’t in the bed. 

“Ryu, wake up.” She held onto Ryuji’s shoulder and shook him up. Ayane saw Ryuji flutter his eyelashes but he didn’t open his eyes. She shook him harder until Ryuji wrapped his arms around her and pulled her down to his chest. 

“Good morning Ayane.” Ryuji whispered. Ayane was still processing what had happened. She lightly pushed Ryuji away and her face was filled with worry. 

“Get up. The twins aren’t in the bed.” She said. Ryuji smiled and nestled his face on Ayane’s neck. 

“The twins are fine. I’m surprised you didn’t wake up from their attempt at escaping.” He said. Ayane suddenly felt hot when she felt Ryuji’s nose touching her neck. She tried to push him away but he wouldn’t let her go. Just then, the twins entered the room and saw Ayane and Ryuji hugging each other. 

“Mommy and Daddy are awake.” Kayda said. They both climbed on top of the bed and squeezed their way between their parents. Ryuji chuckled and loosened his hold on Ayane. Kotaro and Kayda both held onto their parents.

“What are you doing?” Ayane asked. Kayda and Kotaro smiled at their accomplishment. 

“Hug Sandwich.” Kotaro said. Ayane couldn’t help but laugh. Ryuji sat up while still holding onto Ayane and the twins. 

“Would you like to go somewhere?” Ryuji asked the twins. Their eyes sparkled and their face lit up. 

“Zoo!” They both shouted. Ryuji smiled and looked at Ayane. She sighed and nodded her head. The twins jumped on the bed out of excitement. Ayane got out of bed and prepared the twins clothes while Ryuji kept them busy. 

“Come on kids, you need to take a bath before we leave.” Ayane said. The twins climbed out of bed and ran to the bathroom. She looked at Ryuji who was making the bed. 

“You can use the other bathroom so that we could all get prepared at the same time.” Ayane suggested. Ryuji agreed with her and he grabbed his clothes and went to the other bathroom. Ayane and the twins bathed together and she dressed them up in matching clothes. Ayane wore a simple white shirt and a pair of black skinny jeans. When they got out of the bedroom, she noticed that Ryuji wore the same outfit as she was; a white shirt paired with black pants. 

“What a coincidence.” Ryuji said. Ayane looked skeptically at Ryuji. The twins also noticed that their parents also wore matching outfits like they were. Ayane hung her head in her hand and giggled. 

“Let’s go. We’ll have breakfast first before we go to the zoo.” The twins cheered and held onto their parents’ hands. They went to a nearby restaurant where the dishes were kid-friendly. Ayane put the twins in high chairs while waiting for the food. The food they ordered arrived and Ryuji and Ayane took turns feeding the twins. 

“Oh what a coincidence.” Ayane heard a familiar voice behind her. She knew exactly who it was. She turned to look and saw Miyu and her son standing behind her. Ayane put on a fake smile before answering. 

“What a coincidence indeed.” Ayane said cheerfully. She stood up and offered her hand to Miyu, asking for a friendly handshake but Miyu ignored her offer. She helped her son sit by the table next to Ayane’s table. A little while later Kenji appeared, looking surprised to see Ayane. 

“Ayane…” He trailed off but Ayane ignored him. Ryuji noticed this and kept silent. He poured his attention on Ayane and the twins. Kayda realized that Ayane wasn’t eating any of the food since she’s feeding them. She pulled Ryuji’s shirt down until he noticed her. He lowered his head and lent her his ear. 

“Mommy isn’t eating.” She said. Ryuji looked at Ayane’s plate and noticed that it wasn’t touched. He looked back at Kayda and winked at her. He took his fork and twirled some spaghetti on it. On the other side, Kotaro had the same idea. He whispered this to Ayane and she did the same thing as Ryuji. They faced each other; fork in hand, ready to feed each other. When they realized what was happening, they both looked at the twins who were giggling in their seats. 

“Say ahh.” Ryuji told Ayane. She looked at him with a raised eyebrow. Ryuji wasn’t fazed and was waiting for her to open her mouth. With a defeated smile, she willingly opened her mouth and ate the spaghetti Ryuji fed her. The twins giggled and clapped their hands attracting the attention of the table beside them. Miyu side-eyed them but Kenji was visibly upset. Ayane paid no mind to the stares given by the people on the table next to them. She picked up her fork once again and placed it before Ryuji’s mouth. 

“Open up.” She said. Ryuji smiled and opened his mouth. As she was feeding him, a strand of spaghetti dangled from the fork and smeared a bit of sauce on the side of Ryuji’s lip. 

“Oops, there’s a bit of sauce on your face.” She said. Instead of picking up the table napkin, she got up and kissed the side of Ryuji’s lip where the sauce was. It sent a wave of shock to everyone who witnessed it. Ryuji couldn’t help but smile at Ayane’s actions. The twins were grinning as well; begging for their mom to kiss them too, to which Ayane happily agreed to. Kenji kept his gaze on Ayane but she wouldn’t even cast a glance at him. 

“Kenji, your food is getting cold.” Miyu tapped his hand and his attention went back to Miyu and the boy. Miyu couldn’t stand seeing Ayane being happy. She would sneak glances at Kenji and saw that he was still madly in love with Ayane. She couldn’t accept that after everything she did to make him hers. 

“Let’s go.” Ryuji said after their meal. He took out Kayda from her high chair and Ayane did the same with Kotaro. After paying the bill, they went out of the restaurant without uttering a single word to Miyu and Kenji. They entered the car and the driver took them to the zoo. The twins were ecstatic once they entered. 

“What should we go see first?” Ayane asked the twins. They were standing in front of a map of the zoo with pictures of animals all around indicating where they were located. The twins were indecisive about where to go first so Ayane turned to Ryuji. 

“What about daddy? What does daddy want to see first?” The twins looked expectantly at Ryuji. 

“How about we see the Tiger exhibit?” Ryuji suggested. Kayda looked at Kotaro and smiled. Kotaro was ecstatic upon hearing this and agreed. The twins held hands and ran to the direction of the tiger exhibit. Ayane and Ryuji followed closely behind them. Ryuji reached out for Ayane’s hand while walking and it startled her when she felt his hand in hers. 

“You scared me.” She said. 

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to.” Ryuji apologized. Ayane shook her head and giggled. She reached out for Ryuji’s hand and held it in hers. Ryuji smiled and intertwined their fingers together. The twins looked back and saw their parents holding hands. They looked at each other and smiled. At the tiger exhibit, Ayane and Ryuji carried the twins so they could see the tigers. 

“Wow!” Kayda’s eyes glistened upon seeing the tigers. Kotaro was somewhat scared but was still fascinated. Kayda spotted a tiger cub following what seemed to be its mother. Kayda turned to Ryuji.

“Look daddy, a baby tiger.” She pointed at the cub. Ayane and Kotaro heard this and looked around the habitat for the cub. Kotaro’s face lit up when he saw the tiger cub. After seeing the tigers, Ayane decided to take them to the petting zoo where they could interact with the animals. Ayane and Ryuji sat on the available seats inside the petting zoo while the twins interacted with the animals. 

“Are you thirsty? I can go get us some water.” Ryuji said. 

“No, let me. I’m going to buy some snacks for the twins. Do you want anything specific?” Ayane asked. 

“Anything will do.” Ayane nodded and stood up. She went to the concession stands to buy some bottled water. While waiting for the pretzels she ordered, someone grabbed her by the shoulder. She turned immediately to see who it was. 

“Ayane…” Kenji’s face was filled with despair and sadness that resonated with his voice. She pushed his hand away from her shoulder and she took a step back. 

“What are you doing here?” Ayane’s voice was cold and uninviting. Kenji tried to touch her but she evaded his touch. With a sigh, Kenji looked at Ayane with longing eyes. 

“Please come back to me. I’m a mess without you.” Kenji pleaded. Ayane looked at him, annoyed. 

“You’re a mess without me?” Ayane asked, frustrated. She tried to keep herself calm while facing him. Kenji’s eyes were hopeful, he wouldn’t easily let go of her. He tried to touch her again but she swatted his hand away. 

“Do you really think that man loves you? He doesn’t love you like I do. So please, let’s just forget about what happened and start over; just you and me.” Ayane couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She took another step away from Kenji, afraid of what she might do to him if she got too close. 

“Forget what happened? After everything, you’re just going to tell me to forget? It doesn’t work like that Kenji. She has to pay for what she’s done.” Anger was clear in Ayane’s voice. She couldn’t take it anymore. Kenji was surprised at what Ayane said. 

“She? Do you mean Miyu?” Kenji asked. Ayane took a deep breath before slowly exhaling. 

“You don’t even know…” She hung her head in her hand. Kenji’s eyes lit up. 

“You want to take your revenge on her for sleeping with me. Does that mean you still love me? Are you trying to win me back from her?” Kenji said. Ayane took another deep breath and exhaled. She turned towards the pretzel stand and grabbed her order before turning back to face Kenji. As she walked past him, she said something. 

“If you’re so good at investigating, figure it out for yourself.” And at that, she left him standing there. Meanwhile, at the petting zoo, Ryuji was watching the twins as they walked all around. Suddenly, he heard Kayda crying. She was sitting on the floor while holding her hands. Ryuji went up to her and helped her stand up.

“What happened?” He asked. He brushed off the dirt from her dress and wiped her tears. 

“He… pushed… me…” She said in between sobs. She pointed to a young boy standing near her. Ryuji thought the kid looked familiar until his mother came up beside him. Kotaro came up to where Kayda and Ryuji were. Ryuji stood up and looked at the kid and his mother. 

“Your son owes my daughter an apology.” He said; his voice was clear and firm. Miyu looked at him and scoffed. 

“If your daughter wasn’t so clumsy, she wouldn’t have fallen over.” Miyu said. Ryuji couldn’t bear to see Kayda being bullied. With a calm expression, he picked her and Kotaro up. 

“No wonder your son is disrespectful. He takes after his mother.” Ryuji said. Miyu’s face turned sour in an instant. Before she could answer, Ayane, who had heard everything, appeared. She looked at Miyu with a cold gaze. She turned to Ryuji and took Kotaro from his arms. They turned around, completely ignoring Miyu and her son. While in the car, Ayane took out her phone and dialed a number. 

“Rei, I made up my mind. Make her suffer.” And at that, she ended the call. When they arrived at the hotel, the twins had fallen asleep in the car. Ryuji and Ayane brought them to the bedroom and laid them on the bed. They went to the living room to talk about what happened. Ayane felt tired emotionally from seeing Kenji and Miyu. Ryuji saw this and he walked up to her and wrapped her in his embrace. Ayane was too tired to argue and so she let Ryuji be. She felt comfortable in his warmth; she felt her worries disappear.

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