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Ryoma had not been expecting Takumi to voluntarily become his shadow once they returned to Hoshido. At first, it just seemed to be a newfound enthusiasm that Ryoma expected to burn off quickly. While Takumi had never seemed particularly disinterested in politics and administration, now he dove all-in. They'd talked about it a bit, yes, but Ryoma hadn't entirely expected it to stick. Not at first, at least.

It felt good to have Takumi at his side, though, and not have to worry about Takumi being so locked up in his own head. Their early-morning spars were becoming a thing of pure joy and, often armed only with practice swords and not the advantage of divine weaponry, Takumi was starting to win a respectable number of matches.

But he didn't brag or comment too loudly on his wins, even as they washed up together and dressed to face the day. Ryoma knew he could bear a bit of teasing, but perhaps it was for the better. It might not be bad to drop it into conversation later, though. While Takumi was growing and becoming more confident, Ryoma was recognizing his own imperfections and how he needed to rely on others for many thing, including a loss or two at the hands of another skilled warrior.

At the moment, they were locked in combat, bamboo swords echoing in the stillness of the morning. Down in the castle town, Ryoma knew other soldiers would be up and starting practice. Soon he'd see pegasi and a few newly-transplanted wyverns in the skies. But at the moment the grounds of Shirasagi belonged onto to the two of them. If they kept at it too long, their retainers would put in appearances, as would Hinoka and Sakura. Perhaps a servant or two might pause in their duties to watch.

That didn't seem to rattle Takumi like it used to. Before, if too many people were around, he'd just stop. Ryoma knew it was because Takumi didn't want anyone to see him lose. Now, however, Takumi kept fighting. And Ryoma didn't dare falter or do anything to make it seem like he might be letting Takumi win. Takumi could see through that-- They were both far too familiar with Ryoma's teaching strikes compared to this rough yet joyful sparring.

Takumi, however, ended up over-extending and leaving himself open. Ryoma pulled the strike to save a bruise, but he knew he'd still given Takumi a good tap.

"My victory today," Ryoma said as he straightened and offered a nod. Takumi winced and then smiled, echoing the nod with a bit more of a bow.

"Only today, brother, and only because I thought I might've come up with a new way to get you."

"Oh? And how is that?"

Takumi shook his head. "I want to keep trying it til I know if it'll work or not. You'll just have to be surprised."

"You've certainly surprised me already," Ryoma admitted as they put their swords back on the rack. He grabbed for a towel to wipe away his sweat.

"Hmm?" Takumi was giving him and odd look, but Ryoma just shook his head.

"I look forward to seeing what you have in store for me. I'm sure it'll be more interesting than the rest of our day..."

Takumi winced. "That property line dispute and... sorting through those ledgers. Ugh..."

"The small things are as important as the large," Ryoma reminded him. Possibly more so, and likely involving more waterfowl.

"Then I guess we'll have to get started," Takumi replied. The smile had returned to his face and Ryoma knew his words were genuine.

It was a victory, unspoken, that they shared.