AN: Written as a birthday present for Sihaya-chan, a dear friend and terrific artist. Check out her amazing work!

Warnings: Shounen ai, AU, OOC, fairy tale...prepare to suspend your disbelief ;

Part 1

Once upon a time, there was a lonely, little chibi named Tezuka. Tezuka lived with his mother and father in a cottage deep in the woods. He had no brothers or sisters; only his aging parents for company. Although he loved them very much, Tezuka had often lamented that there were no other children around for him to play with.

Tezuka's parents tried to do everything they could to make their little boy happy. His father wanted him to grow up big and strong and, thus, he let his son play in the woods such that he would learn the names of the flowers, trees, and animals. His father also taught him how to chop wood and to catch fish so that he would never be cold or hungry. But, his mother could see the loneliness in his spectacled, brown eyes. Hence, she would tell him beautiful stories full of wonder and magic.

There was one tale that Tezuka particularly favored. His mother had been telling him the legend of the Wishing Pool for as long as he could remember. The pool was hidden deep in a far-off forest and could grant any wish, so long as the wisher first gathered three, magical objects. Once the items were collected and tossed into the pool, the wisher could make one wish and, if it were made wisely, he would be able to obtain anything his heart desired.

One day, Tezuka decided that he would find the Wishing Pool and make his most heartfelt wish. So, after shaking his father's hand and letting his weeping mother kiss him on his chubby cheek, the strapping chibi set out on his journey.

Tezuka walked alone in the woods for several days. As he got further and further from his parents' cottage, he realized for the first time just how big the world really was. He saw many strange trees and flowers and creatures which didn't live in the forest near his home. One morning, he awoke to find a curious animal snuffling at him, its snout gently nudging his face. It wasn't a large beast, but, Tezuka had only seen it before in a drawing his father had done while teaching him about the ways and means of things.

The chibi jumped up from his sleeping bag and stared at what his father had called a bear. It had a dense coat of shaggy, light-brown. Its muzzle was full of small, sharp fangs and its paws were tipped with the stubby, pointed claws. Though the top of the animal's head reached his shoulder, something about it seemed young, as though it were only a cub.

The bear looked back at him with what Tezuka could only call a pleasant expression. Its eyes were a deep blue and seemed to be full of amused intelligence. For a moment, Tezuka thought that the creature might talk to him. He knew that it was a ridiculous notion, but, as he was all alone in the woods, he decided that it was nice having something to talk to, even if it was just a bear.

"I do hope that you're not going to try to eat me," he began, wondering if the animal would be startled by the unexpected sound of his voice. "As you can see, I'm just a small chibi and wouldn't make a very good meal." To his utter amazement, the bear closed its eyes and began to chuckle.

"No, indeed," a soft voice replied, "I do not want to eat you. I was walking past and saw you sleeping and wondered why you were out here in the woods by yourself?"

It took Tezuka a moment to get over his shock that the bear really could, indeed, speak. But, being the pragmatic boy that he was, he quickly recovered his demeanor. He bowed towards the bear, remembering his mother's lessons that politeness always came first.

"My name is Tezuka. I have traveled very far from home to look for the Wishing Pool." He started as the bear's eyes opened wide and looked at him with excitement. "Have you heard of it?"

"Indeed!" the bear answered. "Everyone has heard of the mystical pool that can grant your most fervent wish." The cub narrowed his eyes as he gazed at the boy. "But, you seem like a strong, healthy human. Why do you want to find the pool? What could you possible want to wish for?"

Tezuka thought the bear was a bit rude, as it had yet to introduce himself. He decided that he would only trust the small creature with only a bit of the truth. He looked away from the bear, towards the woods, a far away look in his eye.

"I may be strong and I may be healthy. But, there is one thing that I want more than anything in the world." He said no more and the bear gazed studied at him for a long moment. After a while, it nodded before bending its front legs and returning his bow.

"I see, little human, that you have a sincere heart. My name is Tensai and I will help you find the Wishing Pool."

With a smile and a twitch of its ears, the bear walked towards Tezuka and waited patiently at his side. Surprised at the bear's cordiality and very glad that he finally had some company, he reached out and petted the cub on its back. Though thick, its fur was very soft and little bear seemed to wiggle happily under his hand as he rubbed the fluffy pelt.

With their friendship newly formed, Tezuka and Tensai set out without further ado, heading out to find the first object that would allow the boy to make his wish.

The first object, Tezuka knew from the story, was a pair of magical, white shoes. Not only were they needed for the Wishing Pool, but, the shoes were also fabled to grant to their wearer super speed and lightening quick agility. Those two powers would surely be of help to him on the remainder of his quest.

Tensai informed his chibi companion that, not only did the shoes really exist, they were, in fact, not too far away. They were, according to the cub, in the possession of a sprightly, mischievous wood nymph. The nymph lived in the forest near a small village named Seigaku. And, as the pair neared the village after two days of travel, there they found a chibi who had shockingly vivid red hair and was dressed in a sleeveless tunic of woodland green. The boy was peering wistfully through the trees, spying on the sleepy little town. On his small feet was a pair of sparkling, white shoes.

A silent nod from the cub reassured Tezuka that this was, indeed, the nymph he sought. The chibi approached the small sprite cautiously, not wanting to alarm him. However, all of the plump, little nymph's attention was completely fixed upon whatever it was that he was watching and he didn't notice Tezuka until a short finger tapped him politely on the shoulder.

"Nyah?!?" the red-headed boy shouted in surprise. He spun around and hopped backwards a step on one foot. The sprite moved easily and more quickly than Tezuka had ever seen anyone do. 'It must be the shoes,' he realized.

The nymph's grey eyes were large in his round face and his cheeks, one of which sported a mysterious white bandage, were flushed with pink. His gaze shifted ceaselessly as he glanced from Tezuka to village and back again. The boy wondered why the sprite was so nervous. Behind him, Tensai ambled to the spot where the nymph had been spying. As he peered through the trees, a smirk stretched across his tiny muzzle.

"Wh-What do you want?" the nymph asked.

"My name is Tezuka and I am on a journey to find the Wishing Pool," he explained. "I was wondering if you would help me by giving me your shoes as I need them to make my wish."

The nymph returned Tezuka's steady gaze with a stubborn, though not unkindly, glare. His pudgy features arranged themselves into an adorable pout and the tips of the sprite's ears wiggled in consternation beneath the flipped edges of his bright, red hair.

"My shoes? Nyo way!" the nymph refused, making Tezuka wonder at his strange way of speaking. "I love these shoes! They make me bouncy." The sprite proceeded to execute two, perfect backflips before landing several yards away from where the human boy stood. "And," he continued with a cheery shout, "they let me run really fast!" Before Tezuka could blink, the red-head was in front of him, mere inches away.

"Truly, those shoes are amazing. I understand why you want to keep them." Tezuka looked the chibi nymph in the eye with a resolute gaze. "But, I need the shoes to make my wish. Isn't there any way you might give them to me?" he asked. The red-head crossed his chubby arms and tapped a finger against his bottom lip as he considered the request.

"Well," he hedged, "I might be willing to give them to you. But, first," he explained, "you'll have to beat me in a race! What do you say?"

'A race?' Tezuka thought. How could he possible win a foot race with the other boy while he wore the magical shoes? It seemed an impossible task. But, before Tezuka could become discouraged, a warm pressure nudged him in the middle of his back. He turned around and saw that Tensai was studying the nymph with clever, smiling eyes.

"Ne, Tezuka," the cub began, "I think the race is a very good idea. I'm sure you will win." Tezuka frowned at the bear's encouragement.

"Win?" he echoed, brown eyes puzzled behind his glasses. "How can I win against him while he has the white shoes?" The cub favored him with a friendly, though, somehow, calculating expression.

"Let him choose the path of the race," Tensai elaborated, "and I guarantee that you will win. Trust me," the cub urged when Tezuka favored him with a skeptical glance. The boy and the bear stared at each other for a long moment, but, finally, the chibi nodded.

"Alright, I'll trust you." The cub grinned brightly at the boy. Tezuka returned the smile a bit hesitantly, slightly unnerved by the display of small, sharp teeth. He turned back towards the nymph and accepted the challenge.

"I will race you," Tezuka replied, "so long as you choose the course that we should take." The sprite blinked, seemingly surprised that the boy had actually accepted his challenge. But, he was bound by his word. Unseen by either the boy or the nymph, the bear cub snuck of quietly towards the village.

"Nyah!" the red-head exclaimed. "Then listen carefully and I'll tell you which way we'll go." The sprite proceeded to show the boy where they would run, drawing a hasty, though detailed, map in the dirt.

"By the way," the sprite gushed once Tezuka had memorized the route, "my name is Eiji. I think it's only fair that you know the name of the person who will beat you. Nyah?!" Amused by the little nymph's confidence, Tezuka hid a smile. After taking a few minutes to stretch, the boy and the sprite lined up side-by-side next to a large tree.

"Ready?" Eiji asked. At Tezuka's solemn nod, the nymph beamed happily. "Okay! And, may the best chibi win!"

As agreed, Tezuka gave the command to start and they were off at his shout of "GO!" The nymph bolted away with an incredible burst of magical speed and, soon, had disappeared amongst the trees. Unperturbed and trusting in his new friend, Tezuka ran on as fast as his stubby legs would carry him.

Meanwhile, in the village, a boy whistled contentedly to himself as he removed a tray of fresh baked Moon pies from the oven of his mother's bakery shop. His forest green eyes gazed proudly at the perfectly shaped sweets and a smile of accomplishment lent his already kindly face an even friendlier aspect. Because the bakery could get quite warm, his black hair was cut very short, save for the mop on the top of his head and two curling licks that fell fetchingly into his eyes. At his mother's insistence, a snug, black cap kept what little hair he had from getting into any of the bread.

Oishi looked up when the bell of the bakery rang, announcing a customer. He smiled at the small figure that stood in the doorway, hidden from view by contrast between the bright sunshine and the dim interior of the shop.

"Welcome!" he greeted.

"Thank you," came the soft reply. The figure moved further into the shop and the shadowy shape resolved itself into the smiling features of a brown-haired chibi. The boy's eyes were closed and Oishi wondered for a moment how he could see where he was going. As though reading his thoughts, the newcomer flashed the young baker a probing, blue-eyed glance, before long lashes came back down, once again, to innocuously shutter the boy's eyes.

"H-how may I help you?" Oishi asked, his ingrained manners overcoming the disquiet he'd felt at the brief, sharp-eyed stare.

"I need to buy several sacks of flour for my mother," the boy explained. "Do you have any for sale?"

"Certainly!" Oishi showed the boy what the store had to offer and, after a short haggle over price, was handed ten copper pieces in exchange for the flour. The brown-haired chibi thanked him but frowned as he looked at the heavy sacks.

"Do you need help carrying them?" Oishi asked, guessing the small boy's dilemma. A smile and a nod answered his question and together, they hefted the sacks out to the side of the road. The boy said that his mother would be along shortly to pick up both him and the flour, so, Oishi said goodbye and turned to go back to the bakery. Before he got very far, however, a ruckus up the street caught his attention. He returned to where his recent customer stood and joined him in attempting to see the cause of the commotion.

Eiji looked quickly over his shoulder as he reached the outskirts of the village. He was surprised that he could still see Tezuka running along after him, even though he remained clearly in the lead.

"Good thing I have these shoes," the nymph huffed to himself, impressed by the human boy's speed. However, with the white shoes, he was incredibly fast, and had no doubts that he would win. And, it was his justifiable self-confidence that had caused him to pick the path that he'd chosen for the race. It just so happened that the course would take them past a certain bakery where a certain dark-haired, green-eyed boy would be sure to see just how astoundingly swift he was. He hoped that, as he ran past the bakery, the boy would catch a glimpse of him as he streaked by and be impressed at his quickness.

So, Eiji was rather surprised, though pleasantly so, when the boy was, in fact, standing at the edge the road beside another brown-haired human. And, even better, the boy was staring straight at him as he approached. Eiji had been watching the handsome chibi for a long time, but, this was the first time that the boy had ever seen him. The red-headed sprite was happy, but, also, a little embarrassed as the object of his secret affection watched him with amazed, green eyes.

'He's so cute, nyah,' Eiji mused as he passed by mere feet from the young baker. Then, suddenly, the boy smiled at him and the nymph felt his heart skip in his chest. In fact, so distracted was he by the attractive grin, that Eiji abruptly found himself flat on his face, having tripped over his own swift feet. The gravel from the road stung his unprotected cheek as he slid, coming to a halt several yards beyond the young baker's feet.

Eiji could hear Tezuka approaching quickly in his wake, taking advantage of his stumble. But, he didn't care in the least, because the dark-haired boy was kneeling beside him, a look of concern in his pretty, green eyes.

"Are you alright?!" Oishi asked the strangely dressed boy who had just fallen in front of him. The boy blinked up at him with wide, grey eyes that turned up intriguingly at the corners. His brilliant red hair was mussed and covered with a coating of gravel and dust. A long scrape marred one round cheek with an angry red gash, making Oishi wonder if a similar injury lay beneath the white bandage on the boy's other cheek. But, though completely disheveled, Oishi was certain that he'd never in his life seen anyone quite as incredible as the red-headed chibi.

Humiliated at tripping in front of the small baker of all people, Eiji tried to spring nimbly to his feet. But, his attempt was thwarted as a stab of pain speared at his left ankle.

"Ouch!" he cried. Instantly, the boy was helping him stand, wrapping a sturdy, supportive arm around his waist. Eiji looked up at his rescuer and saw the worry in the other boy's expressive green eyes. Inexplicably, he suddenly felt just peachy.

"Yep, totally fine!" Eiji cheeped reassuringly and his bright grin was returned with a smile that caused more random stutters in his heartbeat.

Tezuka had continued running on nothing more than guts and faith, refusing to be discouraged as the sprite easily outpaced him. Tensai had assured him that he would win the race, but, his chances seemed slim at best.

He was wondering, yet again, where the missing cub had gotten to, when he saw Eiji stumble. Surprised that the fleet-footed nymph had tripped, Tezuka resolved to stop to see if he was alright. But, a dark-haired chibi preempted him. He might still have stopped if he hadn't seen the other boy waiting patiently on the side of the road. The boy had brown-hair, the same color as Tensai's fur, and, as he neared, Tezuka found himself looking into a pair of bright, blue eyes.

Again, the cub came strangely to mind. The boy gazed pointed at him as he slowed and shook his head in disapproval. The boy flicked his fingers, as though shooing Tezuka on. Without knowing quite why he did so, Tezuka obeyed the silent command and continued on, passing the spot where the red-headed nymph and the dark-haired boy stood gazing into each other's eyes. He kept running until he finally reached the end of the street, where Eiji had announced would denote the finish line.

Amazingly, through persistence and not a little bit of luck, Tezuka had beaten the nymph. He stopped a short distance past the end of the course and walked back to where Eiji waited as he caught his breath.

The sprite seemed oblivious to his presence, his attention fixed completely on the boy who was holding him up. Something about his expression seemed familiar and, suddenly, Tezuka knew what, or rather who, Eiji had been staring at when they'd first met.

Tezuka then realized that the mysterious brown-haired boy had disappeared. However, before he could dwell on the enigmatic blue-eyed chibi, he saw Tensai ambling towards him, sending the few townsfolk who had gathered around rushing away at the sight of the young bear. Tezuka started to ask his friend where he'd been, but, when the cub just looked at him with a pleasant smile on his muzzle, he decided not to pursue the issue.

At the bear's appearance, Eiji finally noticed that he and his new friend had company. He grinned at Tezuka and promptly reached down to remove the white shoes.

"Here," he bubbled, holding them out to his victorious opponent. "You won fair and square, so, the shoes are all yours."

"Hardly, Eiji" Tezuka refused, shaking his head. "If you hadn't tripped, you surely would have won." Red crept into the sprite's round cheeks at the mention of his faux pas, but, he continued to hold out the shoes, he smile never wavering.

"Nyope, you won! I don't think I'll have any need to run fast anymore. Right, Oishi?" The young baker looked down at the nymph in surprise.

"How did you know my name? We've never met, have we?"

Tezuka and Tensai turned away as Eiji's face flamed. They could hear his stammering explanation of how he'd been watching Oishi from the forest and had overheard his name and Oishi's answering laugh as they left the village and headed back into the forest. At the edge of the trees, Tezuka took a moment to put on his new shoes, storing his old ones that his father had cobbled in his pack.

"Congratulations on obtaining the first object," Tensai lauded. Tezuka bowed towards the cub in thanks.

"I couldn't have done it without your help," he said. Tensai chuckled.

"I did nothing, really. Now," the cub continued, interrupting Tezuka who seemed determined to press the point. "Shall we go after the second object?" Tezuka sighed, both annoyed and amused at the bear's clever dodge. He nodded and they set off deeper into the darkening forest.