Usagi linked her arm through Ami's and kept her paper hidden behind her back, refusing to let her curious friend see the score she had earned on the social studies test. The lunch bell had rung, and students poured out into the hallways, eager for the midday break from scholastic servitude. Heading out to eat, Ami and Usagi met up with Minako and Makoto, who were angling for one of the student-free areas under a shady tree. Somewhat cooler there than under the blazing sunlight, the three faced Usagi, lunches at their knees.

"Okay, Usagi-chan," Makoto said, folding her arms. "Out with it."

Usagi hesitated, pretending as though she had to choke back tears. She took a deep breath, then whipped out the test paper, which was marked with a big, fat red ninety percent at the top. Makoto and Minako screamed at once, while Usagi laughed hysterically. It seemed a miracle had occurred in Juuban that day. Usagi had not only passed, but had aced it. Ami laughed at her friends, who were congratulating Usagi, even going so far as to tell her that Rei would just die when she saw it.

"This calls for a celebration!" Makoto decided, producing her lunchbox. She opened it, and pulled out her homemade rice balls. "Rice balls for everyone!" There were four in the box, and Ami suspected that she would have been sharing anyway. But if anything, Usagi's surprise and happiness made it all taste even better.

Still laughing quietly, Ami settled in to listen to the usual chatter of the Inner senshi on lunch break, which was periodically broken by Usagi talking with her mouth full.

Out of her bookbag, Ami slipped 'The Tale of Genji.' With the worries of the last few days, or rather nights, she had not had as much time to read as she had wished. 'Genji' was a long book, and she wanted to get it back to Setsuna over the weekend. Opening it as she shook her head at a bad joke told by Minako, her hand brushed aside the bookmark of folded paper. Hesitating, she unfolded it, hearing the way the paper crackled as she did so. Seeing it, she read,

'Yo no naka wo nani nagekamashi yamazakura hana miru hodo no kokoro narisheba'

Written in her own hand. Ami had placed the quote there, thinking it apt since she read a book by the same author. Below it, she had scribbled the translation Setsuna had given her last week.

'Why do we suffer so in the world? Just regard life as the short bloom of the mountain cherry.'

Kami told me that day was not a day to write sad things. And at first, I did believe this poem to be very sad. A poem about the shortness of life. And maybe it is short. But even at the same time, it is very beautiful, blooming. It was my own fears that held me back, and that was what made me weak. It was the same for Kami, not being able to fulfill her dream. She didn't want me to give up mine, simply because I had lost sight of my dream, and lost confidence in myself. I look up at my friends now, Usagi-chan, Mako-chan, Minako-chan, and I know that Rei-chan and the others are out there as well. I look at them, and I know I am strong, not because of them, but for them. And that is where my strength must lie. Arigatou, Kami-chan, whoever you are. The source of my sorrow was myself.

Well…how was it? ^^; Like it? Hate it? I suppose I should say, that much of the knowledge in this story is from a book called 'The Tale of Murasaki' by Liza Dalby. All the translations, Japanese and English, of the waka are from this book. If you've liked this fic, I highly recommend it. I wouldn't have been able to write 'Bloom' without it.

Also, I refer to the book 'The Tale of Genji' throughout the fic…. 'The Tale of Genji' (or, in Japanese, 'Genji Monogatari' ) is an 11th century novel, written by Lady Murasaki Shikibu. It is believed to be the first of its genre. So yes, it's a real book, and a classic of prose literature. ^_~

One last thing. After having written 'Bloom' I'm going back to it…I feel the need to 'rescue' Kami…I just like her too much to let her story end like that! (I hope you agree with me ^^;) So, keep an eye out for another fic by me, called 'The Weaver of Dreams' which I'm writing right now.

And thank you so much to everyone who's reviewed. It really means a lot to me, and keeps me writing. Arigatou. If you have any questions or comments, you're always free to email.

So, ja ne until next storytime.