"Helloooooo…"

"Helloooooo…"

With customary vim and vigor, Usagi bounced through the door of the Osa-P jewelry store one bright morning, waving wildly at her friend, Osaka Naru, who sat on a tall stool behind the display counter checking inventory sheets.

The petite redhead glanced up and grinned. Between one thing and another she hadn't been out socializing with her old friend in a while and it was good to see her. Still, this was most likely a business matter. She wagged a reproving finger in Usagi's direction. "Silly rabbit. Your order's for the bridal party is still not done. Mama's craftsman, Suzu-san, is still working on it, but it'll be another couple weeks at least."

Usagi, who had ordered custom-designed gemstone necklaces from Naru's mother for all of her bridesmaids, contrived to look hurt. "It would have been nice to get a sneak peek, but that's not why I'm here."

"Oh?" Naru asked, surprised. Then she grinned. "Wait. Don't tell me. Did you decide to buy a new necklace to wear with your wedding gown? Because we've got some gorgeous new ones in."

"Certainly not," Usagi retorted primly, tossing one of her silvery pigtails over her shoulder. "I'm wearing my old locket, just like I promised Mamo-chan I would. I'm sentimental that way."

"Well then what are you doing here? Is it purely a social call?" asked Naru, propping her chin on her fist. "Much as I'd like to, I can't go out for breakfast or shopping, 'cause I'm watching the store today. Mama's off on a buying trip."

"Can't I just come and see my good friends anymore?" tisked Usagi, clucking her tongue. "So tell me, how's your little sis, Naruru? And your mom?"

"Mom's good. Like I said, she's off on a buying trip. Naruru, on the other hand, is loving every minute of high school now that she's there, and grateful as heck that she passed her entrance exams." Naru grinned wryly and scrunched her nose as she continued, "But then we all remember how much fun that period was. Talk about stress."

She got a return nose-scrunching from Usagi, who could practically still hear Ami's lectures on study habits and Rei's on responsibility. "Oh yeah. Back then, I thought I was going to suffer death by nagging from Rei-chan over entrance exams. Frankly, it always struck me as a little unfair, since she wasn't actually going to have to take them. Her school was an elevator school, you know."

Naru tapped a pencil thoughtfully on the counter. She wasn't well acquainted with the priestess from the Hikawa Shrine, but she knew of her. "Well, I'm sure she was just looking out for your best interests, like any good friend." She paused for a moment, then cleared her throat, looking wary. "I hope she's well…and the rest of your friends."

The fact was this conversational turn was dicey territory. Having been thick as thieves with Usagi throughout the preschool and elementary years, Naru had been unprepared when, during Junior High, her bubbly best friend had acquired a whole new circle of friends, including the raven-haired priestess, who had, at least to Naru's mind, cut her out and taken over.

At the time her nose had been more than a little out of joint, jealous thoughts tormenting her. She just couldn't understand what an introverted bookworm, an aggressive Amazon of a tomboy, a rich snooty private school snob, and a blonde-brained, idol-crazed, next-best-thing-to-a bimbo could possibly have in common with her sweet, bubbly former best-friend. And Usagi, suddenly, was never around to ask. The whole situation had left Naru quietly hurting…and seething.

Of course it was only when, during their last year of Junior High, she'd realized just what it was Usagi was doing at night that covered her with bruises and made her so tired in the morning that she fell asleep in Haruna-sensei's class, that Naru's unspoken questions had been answered. Suddenly it all made perfect sense to her why girls of such disparate backgrounds and temperaments had been drawn together. Since the newspapers at the time had been full of accounts of how the Sailor Senshi were risking life and limb saving one another and Tokyo from certain destruction, she, Naru, could hardly be ungracious enough bear a grudge against them. Without their help she might not have even been around to have a best friend to fret over.

And somehow, once she'd come to that realization, the enmity she'd nursed against the four newcomers had faded away. She'd gradually come to understand that no matter how much Usagi loved the other girls (and there was no question that she did), her heart was large and giving enough to still care for her oldest friend just as much as ever. The other girls moved in one orbit, Naru in another, and Usagi traveled between them. It wasn't the same as before, but Naru could be content with what it was.

"Oh, Rei-chan's crazy busy right now," burbled Usagi eagerly. "Her grandpa took sick a while back and she had to take over for him at the temple, but he's recovering at home now. Pinching the pretty nurses and driving Rei-chan buggy, since she's still running things and keeps having to hire new nurses when the old ones quit. Last I heard, she'd threatened to get him a big, hulky Sven of a guy-nurse to keep him in line. Unfortunately Rei's SO objected. Vigorously."

Usagi paused to take a much needed breath and spotted the question in Naru's eyes. Hastily, she explained. "Oh yeah, I forgot to mention it. You'd never believe it in a million years, but man-hating Rei-chan actually fall in love. Jinsei-kun showed up and they were constantly squabbling, but one day they just up and eloped without telling anyone. You should have seen the ring he gave her. A lily carved from white jade and then in the center a single blood red ruby. It was sooooo romantic."

Naru blinked in disbelief at the news. Usagi had once, in confidence, explained to her why Rei seemed so aloof. The rigid, man-hating priestess had serious father issues. Naru could see why Usagi was so shocked. "Wow. Still waters must run deep there. I didn't think she was the romantic type."

Usagi nodded. "I know. But it's kind of going around…romance, I mean. Even shy little Ami's found a guy. Or, I should say, he found her. They met at the library, but even though he's smart, he's really outgoing and keeps her from burying herself in her books. Zen's constantly complaining that she spends too much time at the hospital and not enough with him, but I think he does it because then he can pout and he knows Ami thinks he looks all dreamy and adorable when he pouts.

"I suppose that other boy-crazy friend of yours…Aino Minako, wasn't it? She's still happily playing the field, right?"

Naru remembered the giddy blonde, who whose appearance, save for a different shade of blonde hair, was so scarily similar to Usagi's that they could have been twins. The girl had, one day during High School, apropos of nothing, proclaimed herself the Love Goddess and started a matchmaking club. Such chaos, cat fighting and tears had ensued that the administration had threatened to separate the students into single-sex classes. The matchmaking club had folded due to popular displeasure.

"We-ell…" temporized Usagi, "not exactly. She's taking a full slate of acting classes and doing the rounds of auditions and such, and that keeps her schedule pretty full. Too full, she says, to date. She's got a guy, though, who's after her…an old friend of Mamo-chan's. To be honest, I'm not sure what's going on there, though. Sometimes I think she hates him and other times I wonder if she's just playing hard to get. With Minako you can never tell."

That, Naru privately thought, was the understatement of the world. Out of politeness, she figured she'd better ask after the last member of Usagi's other group of friends. "What about Makoto? Did she ever start that floral shop she wanted…or was it a cake shop." Naru tapped her finger against her lip. "I can't remember which one."

Usagi suddenly looked extremely ill at ease. "Er…she's actually training hard to become a chef now. She hopes to open her own gourmet restaurant some day."

"Well that makes sense," concluded Naru, thinking that, for a known violent tomboy, it actually did make a certain odd kind of sense. "As I recall, she always made the rest of us look bad in Home-Ec, because she knew what she was doing while the rest of us were just in it for the easy grade…not that it turned out to be so easy. I suppose she's too busy working to date too."

"Actually…" Usagi's voice cracked, "that's kind of why I'm here. To talk to you."

"Huh?" Naru looked puzzled. "What do you mean?" What could she possibly have to do with the other woman who'd spent her high school years mooning over a lost sempai and randomly crushing on any boy she in which she perceived a resemblance to the same?

"Makoto met someone recently. An old…um…boyfriend, sort of. Someone to spend her Sundays off with and share with her the sweets she makes…like parfaits. He loves those." She paused for a heartbeat. "I know they're in love. It's pretty serious."

"That's nice for them. But I don't see…"

"He's someone you know," squeaked Usagi, sounding like a balloon leaking air.

Naru sat upright at that. "Really? Was he someone from high school? You can't mean Umino-kun. He went off to study engineering in the States."

The redhead frowned as the unpalatable notion played through her mind. It was an unkind, dog-in-the-manger-ish attitude, she knew, but although she and Umino had split up by mutual consent so that he could go off to school and fulfill the potential they both knew he had, and even though she hadn't heard from him since, she hated to think of him with anyone else.

"Noooo…it's not Umino." Around and around, Usagi twisted her pigtails as she tried to figure out how to ease into the subject. There was no good way.

Suddenly, though, the matter was taken out of her hands. The bell on the store's front door clanged, and the little redheaded shopkeeper glanced up as a male voice rumbled, "Is it okay to come in here yet? Did you explain things, Usagi-san?"

Even though she was seated, the ground seemed to tilt unsteadily beneath Naru at what she saw, a familiar face, ruggedly handsome and framed by a dark russet leonine mane, the strands of which she'd once run through her fingers. Deep sapphire eyes, bright with life, glittered at her. But there was no possible way he could be there in the flesh. And yet…

"N…Nephrite?" Naru whispered weakly, her expressive turquoise eyes widening until they seemed to take up her entire face. "Oh Kami-sama, it can't be."

"Hello Naru-chan. It's been a long time."

He looked awfully discomfited for a ghost, Naru thought hysterically before shock overwhelmed her system and, with a breathy gasp, she passed out cold, slumping forward.

Usagi let out a cry, grabbing Naru just in the nick of time, before the little redhead could messily splash face first through the glass countertop of the display case.

Nephrite scowled. "You know, I'm getting pretty sick and tired of women passing out at the very sight of me. Contrary to what they say about women falling at one's feet, it's not doing anything good for my ego."

Usagi, who was struggling to keep her insensate friend, who was, as dead weight, heavier than she looked, from toppling off her stool, slit an annoyed look in his direction. "Well what do you expect when you insist on coming back from the dead with no warning whatsoever? People probably fainted on Lazarus too, when he pulled off his little resurrection stunt."

Blowing a tuft of bangs out of her eyes, she huffed pointedly, "A little help here, please."

"Give her to me. We can lay her out on the carpet." Nephrite hurried behind the counter, scooping up the redhead as if she weighed nothing at all.

Usagi, relieved to be free of the burden, hopped up and darted through the bead curtain that separated the Osa-P's showroom from the offices, vault, private washroom, and storage areas. A minute later she returned, a damp paper towel in hand.

Good as his word, Nephrite had placed Naru down on the rug, and he had even propped up her feet on a fat binder filled with sales receipts, the better to bring the blood flow back to her head. Dropping to her knees, Usagi pressed the cool compress to her friend's forehead and then began chafing at her wrists and patting her hands. "Come on. Wake up Naru-chan."

Naru let out a groggy moan, her eyelashes fluttering.

"I think she's coming around," said Usagi, glancing up at Nephrite's face and noting the anxiety there. Another faint moan from Naru, though, had her turning her attention back to her friend.

"That's it," urged the blonde, "Open your eyes and talk to us."

"Wha…? What happened to me?" The eyes which Naru finally managed to force open were rounded in confusion.

"You fainted," Nephrite informed her grimly, reaching down to check her pulse. "Are you alright now?"

For a second or two, Naru thought about fainting again. Fact: Nephrite, her first youthful love, was dead. She had watched, horror-stricken as he'd been attacked, and he'd actually taken his last breath in her arms. She'd grieved his murder. Yet somehow here he was before her. It was too fantastic to be real, simply not possible. But his touch was so warm and alive…

"You're alive," murmured Naru wonderingly, curling her hand around his fingers. "But how? I saw you die. That evil blond man's creatures killed you…"

Nephrite grimaced, pulling his hand free and rubbing at his shoulder. "Yeah. It wasn't fun, dying, but since Zoi went through it too, he apologized for that and we decided to let bygones be bygones. All I can say is, he wasn't himself at the time. And he's not evil now…neither of us is."

A bewildered Naru looked over at Usagi for answers, but the future queen was at a loss. She shrugged helplessly, tugging on the trailing silver tails of her hair. Finally she managed an explanation of sorts, though it seemed slightly lame even to her ears. "We wanted to break the news to you so you didn't freak out or panic when you saw the four of them at the wedding or on the street or something."

"Four?" asked Naru, looking blank.

"Uh…Usagi-san, why don't you step outside for a moment and let me see if I can't explain all this."

Even though she knew it was the coward's way out, Usagi took the opportunity to flee the tense scene. As she slipped out the door, she flipped the boutique's Open sign to Closed. Some things required privacy.

Nephrite helped Naru to sit upright, then took a few steps back only to drop down on his haunches so he could be eye to eye with her. "You feeling better?" When Naru nodded dumbly and blushed, he flashed a wry grin. "Good. Don't be embarrassed. Makoto fainted on me too. Must be my native charm."

A tiny hiccup of laughter welled up from Naru at that wise crack. Yet even as she laughed, she could feel the tears welling up in her eyes.

"What's the matter?" asked Nephrite, with a look of concern, snatching up the soggy, discarded paper towel to brush away one of the crystalline drops that overflowed and trickled down her cheek.

Naru sniffled, waving her hands. "Sorry…I don't mean to be a waterworks. It's j…just that I'm s…so happy." Naru sniffled, waving her hands. "I can't b…believe it. YOU'RE ALIVE!"

The brunette man froze as she suddenly she threw herself at him, twining her arms around his chest like a pair of clinging vines as she hugged him fiercely and buried her red head against his chest. Nephrite bit back an urge to groan. If Makoto ever heard of this, she would kill him.

Awkwardly he patted Naru on the shoulder, but when she only tightened her grip on him, he gently but firmly tugged her hands away and gave her a gentle shove backward. Naru gazed at him wide-eyed, looking wounded.

"Why? Why, after you came back to me, did you push me away, Nephrite? I was crushed when you died. I thought it was my fault. Don't you care about that?"

He raked a hand through his hair agitatedly, leaving it raked in a wild, unruly tangle. "I do…it's just that…well…I didn't mean to give you the wrong impression. And then when you hugged me, I didn't know what to say."

Naru's luminous teal orbs blinked uncomprehending. "What IS it that you're trying to tell me?"

His throat worked hard for a moment before he grated out the words. "I'm in love with someone, Osaka Naru." Nephrite saw the giddy light building in her eyes and cursed himself that he would have to be the one to snuff it out. But there was no other choice. Quietly he added. "Someone else."

For Naru, his words were like something spoken through a bad drive-through speaker box. They were slow and garbled and made no sense at first. Finally, however, the yen coin dropped for her. Jealousy of a sort she hadn't felt since middle school welled up hot and burning like acid in Naru's breast.

"Oh sweet kami," she muttered. "Usagi-chan was talking about you, wasn't she? About you and…and…"

She couldn't bring herself to say the man-thieving, auburn-haired, green-eyed hussy's name.

"Yes," said Nephrite after a moment, nodding his head as he let out the breath he'd been holding. "I'm in love with Makoto."

"Bwrhen?"

"What?"

Naru had slumped forward, putting her head down. Her burning cheeks were buried, hidden in her palms, so her question had been muffled. She shifted her hands slightly, but kept her face shadowed, hidden from view.

"When? When did you meet her? When did you fall in love with her?" Her heart's cries went unspoken. How could you love that ill-tempered, violent, man-trap of a tomboy? What can she have that I don't that draws you to her? I was willing to give you everything. So how could you love HER and not ME?!

"A long time ago," answered Nephrite shakily, after a long, tense pause. "A lifetime ago. Forever maybe."

"Then why did you…?" the question, begun on a wail trailed off despairingly. He'd said he'd been with a wicked group of people, done wicked things, but she didn't understand how he could have been so cruel as to toy with her heart so. For the first time, Naru felt like she could truly come to hate Nephrite. But she hated Makoto more. It was always easier to hate the other woman.

Nephrite's face fell. "It's…kind of a long story."

Naru's red head came up, eyes blazing as she glared accusingly at the 'Open' side of the sign. "I think we've got the time. I think you owe me an explanation."

Her words drew a weary sigh of resignation from Nephrite. "You're right, of course. I do owe you that much. I'll tell you." He rose and held out his hand for her to take. "It will take some time, though, so please get up and take a seat, Naru…"

"Osaka-san." The stiff, icy formality made Nephrite wince, but he understood its source.

"Osaka-san," he agreed.

Pointedly ignoring his hand, she clawed her own way back up and flounced back to her seat behind the counter from him. She began rhythmically drumming her fingertips on the glass so hard he worried she'd crack the tempered surface. "You may begin."

"Alright…but first, let me say, Osaka-san, that I'm so very sorry I hurt you. I know I caused terrible harm to everyone I touched when we first met, but I'm not the same man now. I just hope that someday you can forgive me."

She stared at him stonily, neither agreeing nor refusing, and continued her drumming.

Nephrite shook his head, looking haunted and, under his tan, pale. "Where to begin? Alright, Osaka-san, since Usagi-san told me in advance that you knew some of this, I'm going to tell you the full story. Some of these things will sound incredible, but I swear to you that every word of it is Gaia's own truth. I lied to you once, but I won't do it again. I just hope you can understand and won't totally hate me when all is said and done. Although, by Zeus, I don't think you could hate me any more than I hate myself…"

In spite of herself, Naru was curious. There was guilt in Nephrite's gaze, and real pain. Deep, heart-scarring pain of a sort that could not be faked. What on earth could have put those there? She coughed into her hand, urging him to get on with it.

"Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was a princess," he began, his voice husky with emotion.

And with that clichéd introduction, he slowly began sketching out the story of the Silver Millennium's rise to glory and its final tragic plummet into history at the hands of a small circle of traitors.

By the time he'd reached the end of the saga, Naru was weeping like a baby. "Oh kami, Nephrite," she sobbed, her shoulders shaking convulsively, "It's so sad. All of you…what that evil witch did to you…to the girls… Horrible. So, so horrible."

Nephrite fished a linen hanky from his pocket, pushing it in to Naru's fist as she sniffled, her nose red and runny. "Take this. And please, don't cry. I'm sorry. After what I did to Lita…Mako-chan, I never meant to make any woman cry again. Cripes!"

Naru, though, dropped the crisp square of linen, grabbing wildly beneath the counter for a box of tissues she knew were there. Grabbing a few out of the box, she blew her nose loudly, then mopped at her brimming turquoise eyes with one hand.

Again Nephrite pressed the handkerchief in her palm. "Please take it, Osaka-san."

Naru hiccupped, muffling the sound as she crammed her fist against her lips. "Ygdrassill…" she mumbled, or something that sounded a lot like it, garnering a helpless, confused blink from Nephrite.

"I beg your pardon?"

"I said…you can call me Naru." Although she still couldn't look him in the eye, she did manage a watery smile. "I understand. And I don't hate you."

A shocked but relieved expression crept onto Nephrite's face. "Truly?"

"Yes. Thank you for telling me the truth."

Naru busied herself, trying to smooth out the hopelessly crumpled and soggy linen of his handkerchief. It was at that moment when she noticed the monogram on it. The intricate woven design, embroidered in jade green floss with the tiniest possible stitches, was almost impossibly complex…far too much so to have been done by a machine.

No, she realized, running a finger over the lines. It had been painstakingly stitched for him by a skilled and loving hand. A hand that didn't mind suffering through such a tedious task when it was for that one's beloved. Naru knew just whose hand had held that needle.

"She sewed this for you, didn't she?" Naru said, retracing the design again. It wasn't really a question. "Makoto…she really loves you. And you her."

"Yes." Nephrite's raspy voice was heavy with emotion. "She's always had my heart, even when my mind was so caught up in Beryl's witch spell that I couldn't have told anyone my own name without checking with her first."

Naru's chin quavered. "W…was it all a lie. Was it just for my energy? Did you have no feelings for me then?"

"I…oh hell…" Nephrite groaned. "Naru, it did start out as a lie. I realized you had a crush on me and did manipulate it for my own ends, I'm sorry to say. I was using you to curry favor with Beryl. Back then I was so lost, but I didn't think I needed anyone or anything other than perhaps the approval of my…queen." He practically spat the last word, screwing up his face in disgust.

"I see." Her voice was soft, resigned.

He reached out a finger, gently tipping her head up until her gaze could meet his. "But you were the first person who began to crack the icy shell Beryl had put in place around my heart, Naru-chan. You cared so much that it confused me. I couldn't understand it. But something in me wanted to try. So even when I realized you couldn't possibly know what I was seeking, I continued to push, trying to figure out what it was you saw in the twisted, cold, shell of a man I knew myself to be."

Lines of had begun to fatigue crease his brow. "What I regret more than anything, though, about that time, is that it put you right in the line of fire. I had no right to do that to you, Naru, and I apologize again."

He rubbed his temples, which were, by this time, throbbing. "For what it's worth, Naru, I think that in you I saw the same sort of light that originally drew my heart to Makoto's. You're both amazing women."

"But I'm not the other half of your soul," Naru whispered, "and she is."

"She's my soulmate. My whole universe. My destiny."

I wish I were someone's soulmate…that I believed I had a destiny...

When only silence met his words, Nephrite looked down at the petite redhead, who had begun wiping at the fingerprints she'd left on the glass surface of the counter earlier. Round and round she went, as if trying to find meaning in the circles.

"You found someone else, though, after I was gone, didn't you? Usagi-san vaguely mentioned someone..."

Naru nodded hesitantly, pausing for a split second in her counter cleaning. She really did not want to discuss Umino. "We broke up. He went away."

Abruptly Nephrite began pacing around the small store, looking at the jewelry, carefully perusing each stone. Finally he found what he was looking for.

"May I hold that one for a moment, Naru?" he asked, pointing down at a sapphire pendant with a polished cabochon stone.

"I guess." She unlocked the cabinet and pulled out the piece, dangling it by its gold chain. Her voice was dull, lifeless as she added. "It's a star sapphire."

"Perfect," he replied, accepting it from her with a hint of a grin playing about his lips. His eyes were dancing now, an almost perfect match to the stone. He held it up high, rocking it back and forth in his palm until he caught sight of the distinctive 'star' of reflected light, a phenomenon known as asterism. He stared deeply into the heart of the stone until Naru, who had watched in reluctant fascination, was almost dancing on the edge of her seat, wondering what he was doing.

Finally he placed the pendant back on a black velvet tray that she held out to him. Unable to control herself another second, she blurted out, "What was all that about?"

Rather than answer her question directly, Nephrite just smiled with a vexingly enigmatic twist of his lips and patted Naru on the hand. "Have faith. Your soulmate, Naru…your Umino is counting the days until he returns. He wants to ask for your hand. I think, though, he frets that you'll find someone else before he can. And it seems he's a little uncertain about whether, having grown up amid all these gems, that you'll find the one he can afford enough."

She gasped. "How did you know his name? How do you know any of this?"

If possible, Nephrite's grin grew even larger. "A little star told me."

She would have taken a Crackerjack prize ring from Umino, Naru thought dizzily, her head spinning, if only he had asked her to join him in America, but instead they had calmly and quietly broken up…for the best, they had said. She'd been too scared of being hurt to fight for the relationship she wanted…and had consequently lost it. She'd tried to hide the hurt, claiming she just wasn't cut out for romance. But now Nephrite was saying that wasn't necessarily so. Did she dare to hope?

Before she could do more than blink and attempt to try to digest that information, he leaned over the counter and brushed a whisper soft kiss on her forehead. "Take care of yourself, Naru. Don't give up a chance for true love because you can't let go of the faded memories of a childish crush. The real thing is worth fighting for. Treasure it…each hour is golden, each moment is precious as a diamond. And if you don't believe me, just take the time to look in his eyes and you'll find the truth there."

He was halfway out the door when Naru finally managed to find her tongue.

"Wait!" Naru suddenly called out, pulling out a lined tray from beneath the counter. "If you really love Kino-san, then you're going to have to marry her, you know, Nephrite. Even we amazing women still need the reassurance, the security of knowing you mysterious-minded guys care enough to ask us to make a commitment. So you'll need one of these."

He had turned back to face her and she held out the tray, smiling sweetly as she placed the merchandise before him, pointing to the top-most piece. "We have plenty of others, but I think this one here would suit her best."

Nephrite couldn't help but grin as he surveyed the offering. "Yes. You're absolutely right. And think I will be requiring it. Thank you, Naru."

There in the top center slot of the tray sat a rare Columbian trapiche emerald solitaire, the precious stone cut and faceted in the shape of a perfect heart, which in no way diminished the impact of the unique six point star that lived inside the gem. That center stone was then wreathed in a halo of sparkling, icy white diamonds. It was doubtless the perfect ring for Makoto. And surrounding it, glittering warmly against a background of black velvet were at least two dozen simple yet elegant bands of carved gold as a not so subtle hint.

"Will that be cash, check or charge?"

Her wounded heart soothed, Naru slipped effortlessly back into the role of shopkeeper, securing the engagement ring in a velvet presentation box which she tied with a ribbon, then bagged for him.

Nephrite seemed equally soothed now, his mood bubbly and upbeat even as fished out his gold card and laid it on the counter. But as Naru efficiently rang up the transaction, he couldn't help but ask, "How did you know which one would be perfect for her?"

Now every shopkeeper had a handful of stock responses to queries such as his, but this time the standard line simply would not do. Not in this case. This time was special.

Naru cocked her head to one side and happily chirped, "A little star told me."