335 – To the New Year – II
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Thick, pearly steam filling the air. A comfortable warmth that felt like a cozy blanket wrapped all around, paired with the occasional cool breeze wafting in from the open air hotsprings.

Asako let out a content sigh and leaned back against the side of the hotspring and closed her eyes, basking in the warmth. After sitting there for a bit, she reached off to the side and picked up the bottle of sake that the onsen owners gave them to enjoy.

Popping the cap off, Asako poured herself a bit in a saucer and then sipped on it, taking in the atmosphere.

"...Yeah. This made it worthwhile."

Asako let out another content sigh and then stared up at the starry sky.

In the past, she went to a lot of onsens and hotsprings. As the Seiryuu Heiress, she always had access to luxury goods and places. Of course, it came with its risks. Since her father had been indestructible, the brunt of the anger fell to her. And as a result...

Asako subconsciously rubbed her bare arms and then marveled at how smooth they were. "...I never really thought about it, but Betty did a lot, didn't she?"

Asako had scars. Living a rough life and forcing unruly yakuza around meant that fighting was inevitable. As a result, she picked up scars over the years, marks that showed her history and past.

But they were wiped away now. From a casual look, it would seem like she was just an ordinary young woman who liked to stay in shape, not the Seiryuu Heiress who had run around knocking heads, breaking down doors, and taking names.

Asako poured herself some more sake and sighed. "Life really takes some weird turns."

Ever since the day she bumped into John while checking up on places downtown, her life had been a constant rollercoaster.

The entire yakuza world getting uprooted, becoming an idol, having supporters from around the entire world, falling in lo-

"Oh. You got in already, Asa-chan?"

A beautiful and clear female voice called out.

Asako flinched and looked over to see Alphy walking towards her, wearing nothing but a white towel. Alphy's black hair was damp from the steam, making it a bit curly. And her skin was a bit red as well from the heat, giving her a rosy complexion.

Asako coughed and averted her eyes. "Y-Yeah. Gotta get some private relaxing in before the brats start hogging the place."

Alphy giggled and then set her towel down before slipping into the water next to Asako. "You really like teasing them, don't you?"

Asako grabbed the sake bottle and started pouring herself some more sake. "It's not teasing. It's keeping the brats in line." She frowned and said, "Like Chihiro. That girl..." Asako drained her sake and then poured some more. "Just because she's an otaku doesn't mean she can flap her mouth like that all the time. Not knowing manners doesn't mean you can ignore them. You know?"

Alphy nodded. "I do. But you should take it easy on her. Chi-chan means well, but she's just a bit awkward."

"Hn."

Asako leaned back and stared at the sky.

During that time, Alphy let out a content sigh and slipped deeper into the water, letting it go up to her neck. Closing her eyes, she leaned back and relaxed, basking in the warmth.

As a result, Asako reflexively looked towards her.

Beautiful. That was the only way to describe it.

A few sakura petals were drifting around the hotspring, fallen down from trees around the hotspring. Paired with the steam and the clear water that left nothing to the imagination, Alphy looked like a masterpiece painting brought to life.

'I can see why the Alfis call her Alfi-sama...'

Alphy was always beautiful. And that was actually why Asako initially challenged her to a race way back when. Asako thought it'd be fun to teach a lesson to the pretty face that seemed to be having a joyride out on a rich businessman's car.

But back then, Alphy had been beautiful in a dangerous way. Like some of the other women in the underworld that Asako had met in the past. Mob boss daughters and wives. Other 'princesses' like Asako who knew where they stood in the line of power in the underworld.

Haughty and aloof. A cold and dangerous beauty that was like a sword.

But the Alphy here...

"Ah~" Alphy smiled and said, "It's nice relaxing with the people you love, isn't it?"

'...Dammit John. You and your damned family...'

Her appearance hadn't changed. Alphy still had sharp and beautiful facial features. And when she got mad, that woman Asako first met came back out. But it was different.

Her smile was warmer. Her crimson eyes were softer, more like rubies than blood. Her mannerisms were smooth and calm instead of sharp and tense. Not only that, but she even started to tease a bit more these days instead of just being cutesy.

It was to the level that Asako couldn't look away even when she tried. Or more like she kept looking even when she tried not to.

Alphy cracked open an eye to look at Asako and then let out a warm smile before leaning on Asako's shoulder.

'@#[email protected]#$!'

Asako quickly scooted away, sending water splashing over the edge of the hotspring.

Alphy caught herself and then sat up, giggling. "Sorry, Asa-chan." She reached over for the sake bottle and poured a pair of saucers, one for her and one for Asako. After that, Alphy held one out and said, "Here. Can I make it up to you with a drink?"

Asako quietly thanked the heat for hiding her flushed face and then slowly nodded. She moved back towards Alphy and took the saucer before sitting next to her.

Alphy raised the saucer up to her mouth with two hands and quietly took a sip.

Asako raised her own saucer up with her left hand and took a sip as well. As she did, she kept watching Alphy.

Again... Or rather, as usual, Alphy was calm and serene. As if nothing in the world could bother her and she was living a dream.

"...You really changed, huh?"

Alphy glanced over at Asako and nodded. "You've changed too, Asa-chan." She let out a radiant smile and said, "I really like you the way you are right now, you know?"

"Tch." Asako turned her head to the side and said, "You need to stop copying your Dad's talking habits."

"But I'm serious, you know?" Alphy sipped on her sake and said, "I really, really, really like you, Asa-chan."

Asako felt her face heat up even more. But she couldn't just ignore Alphy's words, so she gave Alphy a sidelong glance and muttered, "...I know."

Alphy's smile widened and then she leaned on Asako's right shoulder.

Asako tensed for a bit, but then she sighed and gave up. Holding her saucer back up with her left hand, Asako took a sip and said, "I swear, you're going to be the death of me, Alphy."

Alphy nodded and said, "Yes. Because I won't let death take you away from me."

"...Does smoothtalking run in the family or something? I swear..."

Alphy laughed and then straightened, leaning away from Asako.

Asako immediately felt like she was missing something when Alphy did, but she brushed that away by sipping her sake again.

Alphy smiled and said, "It might. Papa's blood is really strong, you know?"

"Considering how beautiful everyone in your family is, I believe it."

Alphy giggled and then said, "Hey, Asa-chan."

"Yeah?"

Alphy leaned against Asako's right shoulder again and said, "Could you tell me some stories about you? I wanna know more about the person I love."

"...You're just as shameless as your dad, huh?"

"Papa always said communication is important, especially when you love someone. And he also said it's important to keep reminding them, so... Yes."

Dammit.

Of all the places where John was a good father, it had to be that one...

Asako rubbed the back of her neck out of embarrassment before saying, "I dunno what to tell you. I mean, before I met you, John, Sis, and everyone else, my life was pretty boring."

"I still want to hear it though."

"...Alright." Asako sighed and then leaned back to look at the starry sky. "I guess we can start with my mom? My dad was absolute garbage, but Mom was an angel. Back when I was small..."

-----AI|IA-----

On the other side of the hotsprings, hidden from view behind a partition, Suzume let out a long sigh.

"...How am I going to leave now when those love birds are whispering sweet nothings like that...?"

Glancing through the cracks in the partition and watching Asako pull Alphy close, holding her under her right arm, Suzume shook her head and then closed her eyes.

...Maybe they would give up and leave if she waited. Most people started getting dizzy if they drank and sat in the hot springs, so it wouldn't be much longer.

Right?

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