It was the last thing she expected him to do, but it was exactly what she wanted him to say.
Rika pulled him up by his wrists, bringing him back to his feet, and leapt up to reach his broad shoulders, winding her arms around him. She drove their lips together, releasing everything that had been bottled inside her since the day they met: her passion, her fear, her longing, her happiness. Her eyes squeezed out hot tears that splashed onto his cheeks.
She separated a moment later, realizing that she hadn't answered his question.
"Yes. Yes, and...we can do it right here."
She slipped out of his arms and tried to think past their heartbeats pounding in her ears. Dai's clothes were stained with the shape of her soaking body. She fished around one of her pouches, pulling out a small scroll which dumped out a steady stream of water when she tipped it to its side. Holding her breath, she unrolled it. The seals were still intact.
"Right, just...give me a few minutes."
She didn't look at him. Suddenly she felt very...aware of herself. Her cheeks flushed and her hands had a slight shake to them.
"It won't take long, just...a few minutes."
...she just said that.
- - -
It took longer than a few minutes.
Night was settled now, trails of diamonds circling a wide and curious moon. The ghostly light soaked the sparkling waterfalls, broken only by one circle of orange. The small fire sent long, languid flames into the sky, burning at the end of the peninsula.
Rika surveyed her work. Her survival tent was set up nearby, just within the edges of the firelight's perimeter. Her clothes, soaked from her dive, were spread across several rocks. It hadn't left her with much to wear - she managed to tie a brown survival blanket around herself to create a makeshift strapless dress, held together only by her utility belt, which had her Nanaya blade, and a few clever knots.
She felt...very exposed, especially with no undergarments beneath the odd dress but...well it wasn't like...
Her hair was adorned by a single white blossom that Dai had plucked from a cactus.
Dai waited for her by the edge of the fire, where she had told him to stand. She walked beside him, slipping a bare arm underneath his mechanical limb. She had already told Dai that the Nanaya ceremony would be just the two of them, sharing sacred vows that had been passed down from generation to generation. Rika was trying her best to hold onto them in her head; she'd been taught them when she was twelve, but her heartbeat was too loud to think through.
She took in a long breath and nodded to Dai. They walked into the ring of light until they were beside the fire. They both turned to face each other, taking their hands and kneeling to the ground.
Her voice was crackled and shuddering. She swallowed and took a breath, giving Dai's hands a squeeze. His eyes sparkled in the white and orange light, spiraling like galaxies. She found comfort there, finding her center.
"To be Nanaya..."
She let out a breath.
"To be Nanaya means to rely on yourself. To be Nanaya means to carry the strength of our ancestors in our veins. To be Nanaya means to stand alone against the world."
Rika reached over and pulled out her knife, watching it glisten in the light. She set it between them, the blade handle facing Dai.
"But when a Nanaya finds another of same heart and mind, it becomes proper for the two to join together, merging their strength as one and passing it to their children and keeping the power of our forefathers alive."
As he had been instructed, Dai drew his sword and crossed it over Rika's knife, facing the hilt toward her.
"When two such decide to join together, let nothing tear them apart. Not their own foolishness, not any other enemy of the Nanaya. Only death shall rend them asunder."
That was it. The end of the vows. They were married.
...but that didn't feel right.
"Dai, I...I love you. I love every part of you, even the things I have yet to learn about you. I think I've loved you from the first time we spoke. I'm not very good with feelings or love or affection but I swear to you here and now that my heart is yours, that my mind is yours, that my body is yours and that I will do everything I can to make you happy. I know that I will make many mistakes, and that I am not a perfect person. But know that my love for you is absolute."
She was smiling so bright now, her whole body filled with a radiance that can only be from a girl who is in love.