A/N: Something not Raphael/Cassandra? From me? What?

Heh. Experimenting with another of my favorite couples for a change of pace. This is the first time I've really written for Kilik/Xianghua, so any and all concrit will be warmly accepted.

"Ah—it's so pretty!"

She twirls gaily through the lush meadow, all verdant greens and soft pastels against a brilliant blue sky. A light breeze threads through the branches of the nearby blossoming cherry trees, sending a shower of pale petals across their path, catching in black-brown hair, on reaching fingertips.

He watches, silent, as her eyes alight with joy, her soft pink lips turn up into an ever-wider smile. A dusting of white-pink petals have caught in her hair; it would likely give her a near-comical appearance, should, but somehow all he can see is her jubilance, her innocence, the light in her eyes and the gentle smile upon her lips even as they journey, weary and scarred, from yet another battle hard-won.

It's moments like these when his respect for her is once more heightened: small and slight, yet quick, light on her feet, strong, determined, and given to extraordinarily swift recovery. He can't help but admire the warrior she has become.

He glances sidelong at his companion, smiles lightly until he once more begins to take note of her soft features, her full lips, the warm smile she grants him as her brown eyes meet his. "Don't you think so, Kilik?" she asks lightly, gesturing to the picturesque tableau before them.

It's moments like these, he admits silently, turning his gaze from her, when he feels a familiarly sharp pang in his chest, all longing warmth and nameless want. Moments like these when the gnawing emptiness he's felt since the loss of Xianglian retreats, if only slightly, if only for a moment, at the sight of her smile.

She turns curious eyes to him now, faint worry evident in the light crease upon her brow. "Kilik?"

So many reasons to distance himself from her—the quest, the curse, the danger of it all. And maybe, once upon a time, he would have. Not now.

Not now, when he reaches one hand to pluck a soft petal from her hair, eyes meeting hers, shining with some inscrutable emotion.

"Yes," he says finally. "I do."