Ash couldn't help but notice how crowded Phantom Isle was getting. Not even a month ago it had just been Marona and him. Now, however, there were several other phantoms living there. Of course, this was bound to happen eventually. Marona was a very charming girl. It was hard not to like her. Well, for phantoms, at least. Humans, on the other hand…

Ash shook his head. Now was not the time to think about that. It was their day off, after all. Ash just wanted to enjoy the sunny day as much as he could. Currently he was sitting on a large rock in the yard, watching some of the other phantoms play games. Marona was playing tag with the various scrabbits, and it seemed like she was winning. Ash smiled. It was nice that she got to have fun every now and then.

One of the fighter phantoms came over to Ash and asked if he wanted to train with them. Ash thought about it for a moment, then said, "I suppose I should. You never know when a tough job might come up, and Marona will need us to be in top shape then."

The fighter nodded. "Yeah. But you know, she could take care of herself if she needed to. She has more skills than being able to use us, you know."

Ash raised an eyebrow. "That may be true," he said as he looked over at Marona, "But she's still a kid. She has a lot of growing to do before she can take care of herself."

The fighter laughed. "I think she's been doing a pretty good job of that already," he said.

Ash was about to say something, but he stopped. The phantom had a point. Marona may have only been thirteen, but she was more responsible than some adults. She worked for a living, took care of her own bills, cooked her own food, cleaned her own clothes, and took care of more than two dozen phantoms in-between. She was, in some ways, already an adult.

Marona isn't a child anymore…that thought startled Ash. He had always just seen her as his best friends' daughter, or even a little sister of sorts. He had forgotten that she would grow up. No, that's not right. He knew that she would grow up someday. But that's what it had always been: someday. He thought that he had all the time in the world to watch her grow up. In just a couple years, though, she would be the same age he had been when he died. She wouldn't stop there, either. She would grow older and older, while he would always remain the same. And he knew that he would eventually have to watch her die.

That thought scared Ash more than anything else. He didn't want to watch Marona die. He had watched his best friends, Haze and Jasmine, die. To some extent he had been aware of what was happening when he died. It hurt. Not just physically, either. He had wept for days after that. He saw it as unfair. Why did they have to die? And why was he stuck here, somewhere between the living and the dead, while Marona's parents had passed on? Shouldn't they have been the ones in his place, watching their daughter grow and change? Why did things never turn out as they were supposed to? And, most importantly, what was he going to do when Marona was gone?

It was painful to think about, but Ash was glad that he had remained here after death. If nothing else he could watch over Marona and keep her out of harm's way. He owed his friends that much, at least. He owed it to Marona, too. For a long time he had been the only one there for her. Most living people feared and hated her, choosing to overlook her bright and bubbly attitude and only see her as a monster. There were many phantoms out there that would hurt her if they were given the chance. It was a dangerous world, and Ash had to be there for her when she needed him.

Yes…that was it. It may be less often as she grew older, but there would always be times when Marona would need him. Being ready for that time was something he could do. He could be happy with that job.

The fighter phantom looked to his friends, then back to Ash. "Are you gonna come train then?"

Ash nodded. He hopped off the rock he was sitting on as he said, "Yeah, let's go."