It was almost time. In a few minutes, the deceptive stillness of the day would be broken. She sighed deeply. It couldn't be helped. It was a foolish dream to begin with. And yet, she was reluctant to end it, even knowing that to prolong it any more than was necessary would be so much more than cruel…

The afternoon was slowly fading into that which was neither day nor night. She watched the intricate dance of light and shadow cast by the cherry tree in their courtyard. It was both beautiful and proud, its matchless grace rivaled only by the man who had given it to her. It seemed as if an eternity had passed since that eventful evening when he had excitedly handed her the slender sapling. Strangely enough, she had understood what he was silently asking of her. Since then, that unspoken plea had been at the center of all her actions. She had done everything in her power to ensure that the dream he had entrusted her with would be realized.

Had it only been three years? It constantly amazed her that so much had happened in such a short span of time. Their lives had significantly been altered by everything they had gone through. And she believed that their untiring effort and relentless strength of will had paved the way in effecting positive changes in the kingdom. After all, was this not what she worked hard for? What she had braved the wrath and fury of all those pompous court officials for? Peace and prosperity for the land and its people. That was all she wanted.

And yet… She shook her head in bemusement. Such wayward thoughts were highly inappropriate, given the circumstances. The matter at hand was far too serious and important for her to waste time on capricious fancies. This time, she knew she had to focus her entire attention to it. She was, at the end of her proverbial rope so to speak, she thought to herself wryly. She could no longer put it off or simply ignore it as she had done several times in the past. She had promised. There was no more backing out, and she could no longer run away.

She sensed his presence even before he spoke. Without bothering to turn around she questioned whimsically, "Have you ever wondered what the cherry blossom thinks as it falls gracefully to the ground, Seiran?"

He smile, unsurprised that she knew it was him. "Ojou-sama, you seem to be in a strange mood. Is something bothering you?" He asked softly.

In a heartbeat he was there by her side, his warm presence soothing the disquiet in her soul. She continued to stare out into the courtyard, trying to put into words the thoughts running through her head. She spoke hesitantly at first, "Do you remember that dreadful time, when the stench of death filled the air and the ragged cries of the suffering drowned out the voice of the wind?" Lost in the memory she continued, "We were so young but I remember, I was afraid to hope." She ended in a whisper.

Seiran stole a glance at her from the corner of his eye. It frustrated him that there was nothing he could do to erase those painful memories from her heart. "Ojou-sama," he murmured.

Eyes closed, she went on. "Back then, I was afraid to trust in a tomorrow that seemed nothing more than a forgotten melody." She turned to him with a smile on her face. Only her eyes showed the deep sadness she kept within.

"But look Seiran," she exclaimed, pointing at the young tree. "This tree is hope itself, and its blossoms are our dreams." She laughed at the confused look on his face and turned to once again look at the cherry tree.

"I used to think that the cherry blossoms were afraid to fall, because falling meant dying." She breathed in the heady scent of the night.

Her thoughts went back to the task before her. Never in her life had she dreaded anything as much as she did this one small thing. She sighed unconsciously. Immediately a strong pair of arms wrapped around her and drew her close.

She simply closed her eyes and let him. No words were spoken she knew they were not needed. Not with him, never with him. She had never questioned the bond they shared; she had always assumed that it stemmed from being raised practically as brother and sister. But now, within the circle of his arms, his heart beating strongly and steadily against her cheek, she wondered.