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Akame’s hair blew against the breeze and tickled her cheeks as she walked down the long endless dirt road. How long had it been? Her eyes fluttered closed and she inhaled the fresh air – rare without the tainted smell of copper. Three years… Three long years. The small idol was tucked firmly in her upper cloak pocket, weighing heavily against her chest and in her heart. Everyone in Night Raid was gone, and losing each member was a pain she would never forget, but –

Her eyes snapped open and she frowned. None lingered as deeply as Tatsumi’s.

Tatsumi…

She cast her gaze downward as she continued down the road and clenched her jaw. Tatsumi was gone – and that stupid bitch Esdeath didn’t even give her the opportunity to lay his body to rest. She swallowed the lump in her throat as the small village came into view, halting her movements.

And that’s what made this moment so hard. She ran a hand through her hair. Harder than anything she’d done before. She narrowed her eyes resolutely. But she could do this… for Tatsumi’s sake.

A few children darted by excitedly playing a game of tag. A little girl squealed with delight when she was tapped on her upper back and then spun around to chase her attacker. They froze when they caught sight of Akame. A small pale blonde boy glanced at the intimidating sword strapped to her back. The kids exchanged looks and huddled together, running deeper into the town.

She frowned. Of course, they were afraid of her. The townsfolk huddled close together, just outside their homes and she knew they were shielding themselves from her.

The children returned a moment later, hiding behind an elderly man. She stopped a few feet in front of him and he eyed her skeptically. “Hello. What brings you to our little town in the woods?”

Akame stared at him blankly. “I um,” She cleared her throat. Wow, this was going to be harder than she thought. “I am a friend of Tatsumi’s, I came to-,”

“Tatsumi you say?” The old man’s eyes brightened.

“Tatsumi! Tatsumi!” A little girl with dark hair and pig tails in her hair jumped up and down.

The elder in the village shooed away the children and gave Akame a reassuring smile. “Please, any friend of Tatsumi’s is a friend of ours. How has our dear Tatsumi been?”

-[]-

Akame wiped the sweat off her brow with her forearm and continued to hammer away at the new shingles for the roof. “Miss Akame! Miss Akame!” She looked down to see two small girls jumping up and down excitedly. “Mama made lemonade. She says it’s time for you to come down and take a break!”

“I’ll be down in a minute!” She sighed and stared up at the clouds rolling across the sky. She’d been here for three months, almost willing to call this place… home. With the revolution in full swing, she found herself with less assassination work and being able to help this small corner of the world gave her a sense of purpose.

When she first arrived, the elder insisted she stay in Tatsumi’s old home and for the first few nights Akame slept on the floor with only her cloak to keep her from the cold. However, by the fourth night, with winter quickly approaching, her survival instincts kicked in and she timidly slipped beneath Tatsumi’s sheets. Even after all this time, they still held a faint scent of what was unmistakably, Tatsumi.

It was the first time in years she’d slept that good.

Her second day in the village she presented the elder with a large sum of money, claiming that Tatsumi was unreachable now, but wanted Akame to bring his earnings to the village.

She stayed for a few weeks to help them rebuild some of their fallen and damaged buildings. They bought a bounty of food and medical supplies and the village began running smoothly again.

One month later, a storm hit a few villages over, wiping out the town almost completely. The survivors spilled into Tatsumi’s and the next two months were spent using Akame’s funds to continue building to accommodate the new arrivals.

Akame leapt off the building and the girls gasped in awe. They each took one of her hands and pulled her inside.

The assassin let a light smile grace her lips.

Perhaps being part of a village wouldn’t be so bad.

-[]-

It was in her fifth month, that the village additions were finished, and a huge town feast was held in honor of its completion. Akame was sitting on a stool at a table, ignoring the food in front of her and watching the villagers dance to the live music in the streets. A few girls were sitting behind her, tying her black sleek hair into a long braid, with beautiful white flowers tucked inside.

“Akame?”

She looked up and locked eyes with the old man who welcomed her all those months ago. “Yes, elder?”

“Would you please come with me?”

“Yes, elder.” The little girls let out disappointed groans and she gave them a light smile. “Thank you, little ones.”

She followed the elder to the temple, the noise of celebrations dying behind them. He unlocked the door to the building and shut the door behind him. Akame’s senses picked up and she felt the weight of the sword behind her. “Akame, have a seat.” The lights inside the temple were on low, and a deep well sat at the front of the temple. She sat on the steps in front of the well and the elder sat beside her. “I know Tatsumi is dead.” She bristled and her fingers twitched in anticipation, her hand ready to grip the sword behind her. “Calm yourself, dear. There’s no need for your weapons here.”

A heavy silence fell over them. When Akame spoke again, her voice was barely above a whisper. “When did you realize?” She paused and added. “How did you know?”

He gave her a gentle smile. “The moment you stepped foot in our village.” He moved his gaze away from her. “I could see it in your eyes. It was a quiet… sad happiness. Like you were coming back to an old friend.” She heard his voice crack. “You two must have been close.”

She looked down and pulled out his small statue from her cloak pocket. “We were.” She murmured.

“Akame!” He shouted. She jumped and clutched the small figurine close to her chest. His entire demeanor had changed. His voice was frantic and his eyes wide and erratic. “Is that – is that the statue I gave Tatsumi a few years ago?”

Her grip tightened. “I – I took it after Tatsumi died.”

“We can-” He stood to his feet and held out his hand. “We can bring him back.”

Akame’s ears started ringing. Bring him back? They could… they could bring him back? She stood up and scowled. “What do you mean bring him back?”

He shook his head. “That’s a Spiritua Statue. It means that the entire time Tatsumi had it, he poured a bit of his soul into it up until he died. The moment he breathed his last breath the statue locked away his soul. If we can unlock it, he’ll come back.

“Elder,” Akame felt tears pool at the corners of her eyes and she blinked them away. “Elder, please don’t be lying to me-,”

“Akame,” He chided gently. “I’m not. I can perform the ritual that will bring Tatsumi to the place he calls home.”

“Do it.”

-[]-

4 days. 16 hours. 22 minutes. And 47 seconds.

Akame paced back and forth at the top of steps leading to the temple. The elder held out his hands to calm the frustrated assassin. “Akame, you must have faith-,”

She halted her movements and threw up her hands. “Have faith?” She glared at him. “You want me to have faith? I was finally able to let go, starting to move on! And you let me get my hopes up. Why would you-,”

“Akame.” The elder’s voice held a finality to it and she stopped talking, giving him her full attention. “I’ve told you before. The Spiritua statue was damaged which could have easily produced unforeseen circumstances. Tatsumi will return home-,” He furrowed his brows thoughtfully.

“What is it elder?”

“Tatsumi has been gone for quite some time. Perhaps he no longer sees the village as home.”

Her eyes widened. “You mean he could have returned to any of the locations he’d been at while possessing that statue?”

He nodded fervently. “Yes! Precisely!”

“I will search for him. I will do everything I can to bring him back.”

-[]-

Akame’s footsteps echoed against the marble floors, bouncing off the empty walls. She held out her hand and let her fingertips graze against the plaster wall. It felt like an entire lifetime ago that Night Raid resided here. She never thought she’d return to this place again.

She paused in her old doorway. Her hand clutched tightly to the doorframe. Her old room…

She closed her eyes tightly, steeling her resolve before pushing through the doorway and into the familiar room. She carefully let herself drop to the bed.

“Tatsumi…” She whispered. “Where are you?”

She stayed at the old Night Raid base for two weeks managing to pick up a few extra assassination gigs to help raise more money to return to the village.

-[]-

Another three weeks passed by in a blur. Akame searched every place Night Raid visited since Tatsumi’s arrival. She sat atop a tall hill, her knees pulled to her chest and her face buried in her legs. Tatsumi…

She looked up and let tears roll down her cheeks. She watched the sun crawl down to the horizon, her anger rising. She leapt up to her feet. “Dammit Tatsumi!” She screamed. “You were supposed to come home!” She clenched her fists and raised her face to the sky. “You said you’d never leave me! Tatsumi, you fucking promised!” Her chest was heaving and she ran a hand through her hair. “You promised…” She whimpered pathetically. “You were supposed to come home…”

There was a low chuckle and Akame froze. “I’ve been trying to, but you’ve made it a little difficult.”

Her heart pounded in her chest. She knew that voice. It haunted her dreams. She whirled around. “T-Tatsumi?” She gasped.

Tatsumi stood before her. His brown hair tousled lightly, emerald eyes gleaming playfully at her. His arms were crossed over his chest and a lively smirk tugged at his lips. “In the flesh.”

“Tatsumi!” She sobbed. She darted forward and threw her arms around his waist and buried her face into his chest. “Tatsumi, you’re here. I can’t believe you’re here.” She chanted.

He ran his fingers carefully through her hair. “Akame…” He chided gently. “It’s alright. I’m here. I’m here. It’s alright.” She felt him place soft kisses in her hair and hold her even tighter against his chest.

Her tears subsided and she looked up at him. “I-I don’t understand. We performed that ritual a month ago. When you didn’t show up in the village, and when I couldn’t find you anywhere I else I just thought- I thought it didn’t work.”

“It did work. It sent me home.”

“But then why weren’t you in the village?”

He kissed the top of her head and a faint blush grazed her cheeks. He ran a thumb gently along her cheekbone. “Because, the Spiritua Statue sends me home. Akame, home is wherever you are. I just had a hard time finding you when you were constantly moving.”

“Tatusmi…” She murmured.

He held her face in his hands. “Akame, I-I missed you.” He closed the gap between them and pressed his lips tenderly to hers. “I missed you.” He whispered again and kissed her more firmly a second time. “You saved me, and I promise to never leave you again.”

They broke away, gasping for air. “Tatsumi, I love you.”

He tucked a loose hair behind her ear. “I love you too. Now,” He gave her a quick chaste kiss. “The elder has been worried sick about you, and I think it’s time we go home.”