Author's Note: PLEASE READ!! I would like to make an announcement before you start reading my story, please. Whenever you see something in the author's note that is bold, I'd like it if you'd please read it. It's probably important, so please don't skip it. If there's anything in the author's note that's not bold, you can go ahead and skip it; it's probably just me rambling. I mean, you don't have to skip it, by all means read it, but I know some of you out there probably would rather skip my ramblings. For right now, that is all. Thank you.

WARNING: I would rather not spoil the story, so I will just make a small warning that you might find a certain part of this story uncomfortable or disturbing, though I'm not graphic, some might still get the thought. You have been warned.

And again, sorry to disturb you, but this story is dedicated to my dear friend Jamesters, who has read my chapters before I post them, giving me confidence to even do this. Though sometimes my chapters have come to her at a busy time, she still reads them. Thanks Jamesters, I really appreciate it. :)

DISCLAIMER: All Shaman King characters are belong to Hiroyuki Takei. Everything/one else is mine.

Okay, without any further adieu, please enjoy!


Italics: Yoh's narration


Kyoyama Anna. My best friend back when I was little. We were like two opposites: she was tough, smart, and headstrong, while I was lazy, an idiot, and laidback. Though we were like opposites, we were still the best of friends. Kindergarten is when it all had started. My twin brother was like Anna, he wasn't shy or intimidated by others easily, so on the first day he had already knew the whole class, while I stood back and waited for someone to catch my interest…the first person to do that was her.

Yoh looked around. It was the first day of kindergarten and he didn't know anyone except for his twin brother Hao who had already been around the classroom making friends. Yoh looked at his brother and thought to himself; he could never do what Hao was doing. He couldn't just go up to people and start talking about who-knows-what. Yoh had a look of discouragement on his face and sadly looked down, staring at his new black school shoes. They were shiny and clean. Yoh winced, what was he doing? He didn't want to stand here and stare at his shoes all day. He took a deep breath and looked up. He looked around the classroom and his eyes stopped at one particular person. It stopped on a girl with shoulder-length blonde hair that was leaning against the pretty autumn decorated walls. Yoh smiled, there was someone standing alone like him! He figured that it probably wouldn't be so scary to talk to someone who was scared like him.

As Yoh walked toward the girl, he tried to remember his manners. He reviewed them in his head. To be nice and give compliments while still being very honest was what Yoh's father had told him to be when he talked to a girl. Yoh was still very nervous because he hadn't talked to a girl his age before, but it was time for him to be brave. He took a deep breath as he approached her. He stopped in front of her and opened his mouth,

"Hi! You're cute!"

This took the girl by surprise, her dark brown eyes widened for a bit, but then quickly narrowed; it was her turn to speak: "Drop dead."

Yoh was completely taken aback by the girl's response. 'Drop dead'? Was that all the girl had to say? Yoh's eyebrows furrowed, his eyes started to water, and he pouted his lips. This was the first time he had ever talked to a girl…were all girls this mean?

The girl saw that the boy's feeling were hurt and her eyes became softer as she sighed. She didn't mean what she said; she was just caught off guard. She out-stretched her arm and her hand was a few centimeters away from Yoh's chest, "I'm Kyoyama Anna."

Yoh smiled and the threatening tears went away as he shook her hand, "I'm Asakura Yoh!"

Anna smiled, "Asakura……I like that name."

From then on, Anna and I were inseparable. We somehow complemented each other and got along great. We knew almost everything about each other. She used to wear this lotion that smelled very good. One day I asked her what was it that made her smell so good, she replied while taking out a bottle with a pink substance inside. She said it was her lotion and it was called: "Strawberries and Champagne." I remember asking her if I could wear some, but she laughed at me and said, "Only if you want to smell like a girl."

Due to Anna's tough and headstrong attitude, everyone in the class "respected" her. They knew that if they messed with her, they'd be in for it. And she was actually a genius in her own right. She had the chance to skip a couple of grades, but she refused to go, saying that she'd rather stay with her friends.

While I had a mother, father, and twin brother, Anna only had her mother. I actually don't know what happened to her biological father. Whether he died, left, or was ever even married to Anna's mother is unknown to me. I only knew that he wasn't there by the time I met Anna in kindergarten. I also knew that Anna was half-American, but I don't think her father was American. If he was, he was only half. That explains why she had an American name and blonde hair. Her mom, though, had blonde hair too. And they were always considered a "rare beauty", so her mother did tend to go off on a lot of dates. While Anna's mother was out, Anna stayed under my family's care at least until her mother came home. Anna's mother was nice and pretty, though I could tell where Anna got her attitude from. But there was this one guy Anna's mother started dating (when we were in about the beginning of second grade) named Haijime. Although it seemed Anna's mother liked Haijime a lot, she still seemed sad. I remember I used to ask:

"What's wrong, Mrs. Kyoyama?"

And she used to give me that same old sad smile, "Why, nothing, Yoh-kun."

Haijime had 2 sons, Kyosuke (elder) and Kosuke (younger). While I can't really remember their age, I'd say they Kyosuke was somewhere around 15 to 17 and Kosuke was around 13 to 15. If Kyosuke was 15 or 16 then Kosuke had to be 13, but I can't really say for sure. I did remember, though, that neither Anna nor I liked them. They were mean to me and teased Anna. Anna would sometimes go to school in a bad mood because her mother would be in a bad mood too. I remember one time asking why her mother stayed with Haijime, and Anna answered saying that her mother doesn't even know.

By the end of second grade, Anna's mother had married Haijime. Why? Anna and I had no idea. But now Anna was in a worse mood than before. She'd now have to live with those two brothers and father that she didn't like. Often times, Anna would run away to my house at night. She'd come and tap on my window and I'd let her in. I shared a room with Hao and he wasn't too fond of the idea of Anna sneaking in the house, but he'd let her do it anyway. Then later on that night we'd get a knock on the door from Anna's mom and step-father. My parents would be furious at Hao and me for not telling them that Anna had run away here. Anna's mother would give a poor excuse for a smile and say that Anna just probably missed hanging out with me every night. Anna would just stare at the ground; like she was afraid to say something out-of-line. I remember looking up at Anna's step-father and being frightened by his dark glaring eyes. They were scarier than my own father's. Then her step-father would grab Anna by the wrist (which looked rather painful) and tell her to say her goodbyes. Anna said goodbye without making eye contact and her step-father would yank her out of the front door to be on their way home. Anna's mother looked apologetically to my parents and said sorry. Even though it was dark, I was still able to tell how pale Anna's mother's face was. She'd look at me, and I'd be shocked for a little bit, but then she'd close her eyes and turn around to follow her husband and daughter who were already out the door.

Things just never seemed to look up for Anna. At the end of third grade Anna's mother had died. I remember not really knowing her name until then. To me, she was always just Auntie. Anna's mother's name was Annabelle. I also remember going to her funeral and crying my eyes out. I looked over at Anna, who was just standing there emotionless with her step-father's hand tightly clenched on Anna's shoulders. After the burial our family walked over to her new "step" family. As my parents talked to her step-father, I walked over to her.

"Anna, aren't you sad?" Yoh asked wiping his tears.

"Of course I am you idiot," she said not blinking as she stared at her mother's burial site. Her eyes seemed pale, even though they were a dark shade of brown. They just seemed so……blank.

"Then…then how come you're not crying?"

"I can't," her eyes winced, "There are no tears left. Even if I want to, I can't. They're all gone. It's like my mama says:

'Kyoyama Anna does not cry.'"

"But, Anna…"

"My life's over," she said calmly.

"What do you mean?" Yoh asked.

"I hate Haijime. And Kyosuke. And Kosuke."

"That doesn't mean your life is over," Yoh put his hands in his suit's pockets.

Anna stayed silent as squatted down to get closer to her mother's grave. She sighed and slowly blinked.

"Anna?" Yoh squatted next to her.

"It smells like rain," her eyes seemed blank again.

"C'mon, Anna," Yoh stretched his hand out to help her up, "You'll get your dress dirty."

Once he helped her up, Anna clung to him. She smelt of her lotion, Strawberries and Champagne, "A-Anna?"

It started to rain. Her blonde hair started to get wet and turned a little darker than usual. Her bangs fell over her eyes. She whispered to him.

"C-come again?" Yoh asked as he didn't quite hear what she had said.

Anna shook her head; it looked like she was nuzzling against his arm and chest. She didn't want to repeat what she had whispered. She was still clinging to him. Her bangs were still in her eyes and the rain ran along her face like tears.

"Anna, are you crying?" Yoh asked trying to move the bangs away from Anna's eyes.

"Stupid," she said backing away and removing her bangs herself, "I told you:

'Kyoyama Anna does not cry.' It's just the rain making it look like I was crying."

I remember debating on whether to believe her or not, but I had never seen Anna cry, so I decided to believe her. Though, I think back now, and I think she was really crying. After she told me that she doesn't cry I remember looking at her sadly while she had a somehow angry look on her face and her arms were crossed. After that Hao came and tapped my shoulder and told me that it was time to go. I looked at her, and she no longer had an angry expression but this time a sad one. While Hao pulled my arm to make me leave (because I didn't seem to be budging) I kept my eyes on Anna. My legs were moving, but my head was turned towards her. As I got further away I saw her expression turn sadder and her arms slowly uncrossed themselves and fall to her side as her hair started to fall in front of her eyes again. I felt so sad, like I wasn't going to see her again. As her sweet scent started to fade away, my dark hair started to fall over my eyes. My mother waved goodbye to her while saying that she could come over anytime that she wanted. My brother started to push me into the car. I suddenly wanted to know what Anna whispered in my ear. I looked at her sadly. She looked alone as she stood there in the rain. But she was all alone, and that made things all the worse.

After the funeral, it was summer vacation. We lived in a little town that everyone nick-named "Hick Town" and that's what everyone called it. I admit that I don't even remember its real name. And so, since it was called "Hick Town", it wasn't unusual for people to have farmland. So sometimes during the summer the kids would help out with the families who did have farmland. And so usually when I'm done helping out my neighbor, I would go over to Anna's house to see if she could play. At first, my mother told me that I should give Anna some time before I asked to play. I understood that she was going through a hard time, so I was very patient and waited. But after about a month and a half into summer, my mom finally let me go over there. But whenever I did, her step-father would answer the door. I would ask if Anna could play and quickly after I finished asking he'd say: "No. She's too busy to be playing with a filthy little boy like you."

So, me being the idiot that I used to be went home and washed up. Every time, before I went to her house, made sure that I was clean and ask if she could play (adding a little "and now I'm clean, sir, I'm not filthy,") but his answer was always the same: "No."

School started in September and fourth grade was by far the worst year of my entire life. When we returned to school, Anna was quiet and cold. She hardly spoke but when she did, it felt like ice was coming straight from her lips. By now everyone feared her, forget the whole respect thing. I decided to be patient with her, though. I decided to give her more time. I knew that if my mother had died, I'd be like this too, but what I didn't know was that that wasn't the only reason Anna was sad and moody.

It had been about a 4 months and a half since school started. So that means it was about mid-February and Anna still hadn't really been talking. It seemed like 5 words were her limit. It was a miracle if she spoke 6. Yoh and Anna had been walking home and there was an uncomfortable silence that hung heavily in the air. It had been like that since school started. They would walk down the dirt road, Anna had that cold stare and Yoh looked down at his shoes. He seemed to look at his shoes a lot lately. He would watch how dirt slowly gathered on them, turning the black on his shoes to a faded color. He hated this. His shoes weren't amazing, and they weren't ever going to be amazing; they were just faded black, ugly, old shoes. He took a breath; he decided that he'd at least try to talk to Anna. Hopefully, he thought, that she wouldn't cut their conversation short.

"So, Anna," he tried to think of what he could say, "My…uh, my 11th birthday is gunna come up soon……"

"Kudos," was all she said without any emotion in her words at all.

Yoh could feel his jaw drop. That's all she had to say? Well, maybe he should've picked a better topic, but still, he was getting tired of her cutting the conversation short. He opened his mouth again; it was time to be brave, "How come you don't smile any more?"

"What's there to smile about?" There, 5 words.

"Wanna talk about what's been botherin' you?"

"No." She said flat out and walked ahead.

Yoh opened his mouth to protest, but Anna cut him short. They reached her house.

"Bye Yoh, see you tomorrow," She waved goodbye without even looking at him. Again. That was exactly 5 words. She didn't say anything more. Yoh used to walk Anna to her door, but now she says her goodbyes before they reach the driveway to her house. He'd stand there and wait for her to enter her door. He'd wave and she'd glance at him for a moment, give a quick wave, and enter the house. Yoh stood there for a while and pouted, what happened to his best friend? These last couple of months had been very lonely, even though she was standing right there. She was like a different person. Yoh and Anna no longer had races, played tag, hide-and-go-seek, or any activities like that. Yoh really missed that. He sadly looked down at his ugly faded black shoes, "Shoes, I wish you were amazing." He turned and slowly walked home.

Another month quickly passed by and Yoh wasn't gunna stand for this anymore. He was tired of this. He wanted his friend back and he was gunna find out what was wrong! Yoh and Anna started to walk home. It wasn't as easy as Yoh thought it was going to be. He opened his mouth and then took a deep breath, but then he saw her blank eyes and her emotionless expression. He'd quickly exhale the breath he was holding and it sounded like an exasperated sigh. He did that several times, until finally Anna said, "If you have something to say then say it."

Yoh's eyes widened. He counted, that was 9 words. 9 words!! It was a miracle! That was almost 5 more words than he had expected! Yoh's mouth opened with glee, but then quickly closed when Anna looked at him from the corner of her eye, "What?"

Yoh jumped a little, "W-well, it's just that you don't smile anymore. And I'm worried about you."


"Why wouldn't I, Anna? You're my best friend." Yoh asked, "What's wrong?"

"I'm going through a hard time, that's all."

"Wanna talk about it?"

Anna stopped. She turned her head opposite of Yoh (to her left). She stared at the scene that was now in front of her. There was a lake, surrounded by tall grass and a tree with many branches. Anna gave a small, half smile, "Remember when we used to stop here on our way home and swim here in the summers?"

Yoh smiled, "Yeah."

"Let's stop here for a while," she said as she walked forward and laid her backpack on the floor, which made an indent on the tall grass. Yoh came and placed his backpack down next to hers and made his way to the tree. He climbed up to a long, low branch and then turned to help Anna climb up. It was hard to climb up a tree in a skirt. Lately, Anna had been wearing sweaters (which where unusual for her) and her skirt seemed a little longer. Even her socks, which she usually wore knee-high, where now about thigh-high. When Yoh helped Anna up, her sock got caught on the bark and pulled it down a bit. When Anna was settled on the tree branch, Yoh noticed that her sock had moved down and he noticed the big bruise that was on her leg, "Anna, where'd you get that?"

Anna's eyes widened and then quickly narrowed as she pulled up her sock. "Don't worry about it," she said quickly, "I was just a little careless at home. It'll go away soon. Anyway, let's just enjoy the view."

"O-okay," Yoh smiled as he looked towards the lake.

After a while of silence, Anna decided to speak, ever-so-softly, "I don't think I'll be able to spend my summers here anymore, Yoh."

"Why not?" Yoh looked sadly towards Anna.

Anna sadly looked down and stared at the plaid patterns on her skirt, "Because Yoh…I can't."

"Anna, are you moving away?"

"I wish I was, Yoh……I wish…"

I didn't know what she meant by that. Did she want to move away from me? Was she tired of me? I remember being sad and not understanding why she wanted to leave. I was so confused; she seemed so distant with me now.

"I don't want to go home, Yoh," She leaned her head on Yoh's shoulder, "I don't want to, so……so let's just stay here for a little while."

"Okay," Yoh didn't understand, but he agreed because he did want to be with Anna. She had changed so much and he wanted to know why, he wanted to know what was wrong. He started to fear that he had lost her. After a while of solitude, Yoh finally spoke up, "Anna? Why won't you tell me what's wrong?"

"Argh!" Anna lifted her head up and glared at Yoh, "Ruin the moment why don't you!"

"Anna, I just wanna know," Yoh looked at her with sad eyes.

"Well it's none of your business!"

"But, Anna, if you move it is my business!"

"I'm not moving!" Anna fired back, full of frustration.

"Then why? Why are you so distant? Why have you changed so much?" Yoh looked at her sadly, "Practically everything's changed. Even your outfit's changed! You wear sweaters and high-socks when it's scorching hot outside!" She hardly showed any skin.

"Since when do you care what I wear? Pervert!"

"No—Anna!" Yoh was getting frustrated too.

"Geez…Leave me alone, Yoh!" She was about ready to climb down from the tree.

"Anna, just please tell me!"

"LEAVE ME ALONE!" She shouted as she jumped off the branch. She landed on the grass, she didn't exactly land gracefully. She landed on her feet, but then fell back on her butt. She quickly recovered though; she grabbed her bag and ran off.

"Anna!" Yoh said and jumped down. He was in such hurry that he didn't land correctly. He got up and grabbed his bag, but stumbled and then fell over. His legs were weak because of his poor landing. Usually Yoh would be much faster than Anna, but at this rate, with Yoh's weak legs at the moment would never catch up to Anna. Yoh pouted and sat on the floor for a while, "Anna……please…"

The next day, Anna was absent. I was relieved, yet I wasn't. I knew that if she had shown up to school that it would've been very awkward. But I wanted to clear things up quickly. I knew that Anna would still be mad. It was really killing me that I didn't know what was going on. I so badly wanted to know that I would actually try to stand up against Anna. It didn't matter if I got a black eye out of the deal, as long as I knew what was bothering her. I believed that I had the right to know. And I was going to find out. I believed that I could help her……somehow.

The day after that, Anna came back to school. As I thought, it was very awkward. She started to ignore me. I felt bad, I knew it was my fault that she was mad at me, but I wasn't going to apologize and then forget that it ever happened. If anything I was going to apologize because I was going to keep bugging her about the problem. The other students had taken notice that we weren't talking, because to them it was unusual, but I didn't care what the other kids thought.

Anna sat on the opposite side of the room from Yoh. Yoh pouted, he knew this wasn't going to be easy. He had avoided eye contact with Anna for fear of her glaring eyes. But he had to face the fact that nothing will ever be solved if he just cowered away all the time. He looked up from his desk and looked across the room toward Anna's desk. Her arm was propped up on the desk, holding up her head; she was obviously bored. But there was something under her left eye. Yoh looked closer to see that it was a bandage. He instantly got worried like he always had whenever Anna got hurt. He felt like asking what was wrong, but now, in the middle of class, wasn't the time. So he had decided to wait until lunch.

When lunch had finally come, Anna went and sat under a tree. Yoh came up to her and she decided to ignore his presence. Yoh sat next to her, "What happened?"

Anna got up while rolling her eyes, "How many times do I have to say it: It's none of your business!" Anna started to walk angrily away.

Now Yoh was frustrated too. Why couldn't she understand that it was his business too, they were best friends! But it seemed she didn't see it that way as she kept walking away. They were both so frustrated that they weren't paying attention to where they were headed.

"WATCH OUT!!" Came a cry from the kickball field, but Anna and Yoh were too preoccupied with being angry at each other. Neither of them would've guess that the people who had to "watch out" would be them, nonetheless Anna. The ball had come flying full forced and hit Anna. The ball had struck Anna's stomach area and she was on the ground holding it in seconds.

"Anna! Anna!" Yoh bent down to see if she was OK. Usually by now she'd be on her feet beating the crap out of whoever hit her…but this time she wasn't. Instead she was grunting in pain. This worried Yoh; Anna hadn't really ever showed pain. "Anna are you okay? Here, let me take you to the nurse's office." He gently tried to grab her wrist to help her up.

She whimpered in pain. Yoh stopped; his eyes widened. Anna never, everwhimpered in pain. He imagined that even if she did, it wouldn't sound like that. He was in complete and utter shock. Anna looked and sounded horrible. That wasn't like her at all!

"Anna?!" Yoh looked at her carefully. She had a pitiful expression on her face and then suddenly passed out, "Anna!"

By now a crowd of students surrounded them. Some were gasping, some were even asking, "Is she dead?" or even one kid said, "Wow, I didn't think I kicked it that hard!"

Yoh looked around; obviously no one else was going to offer their help, so he decided to pick her up himself. He carefully picked her up piggyback style and carried her to the nurse's office. The bell rang, but the students were still standing there, not knowing what to do. They felt bad, but they never thought that Anna would react like that. They too, now, knew something was up.

Once Yoh reached the nurse's office with Anna safely secured on his back, the nurse took Anna and then told Yoh to leave back to class. He refused.

"Don't worry, Anna-chan will alright," the nurse tried to sound reassuring, "I'll call her father to come pick her up."

"No! Her father won't pick her up!" Yoh argued. He knew very well that that man Haijime wouldn't take time out of his day to pick up his step-daughter. And if he were to see Anna now, he'd only say, "Tough it out little girl!"

"Yoh-kun! What makes you say that?"

"Just trust me I know!" Yoh said a little frantically, "I'll take her home!"

The nurse lifted an eyebrow, "Are you just trying to get out of class?"

"Why would I do that? Anna's hurt!" He said sincerely, "Just let me take her home!"

"No Yoh-kun let her father pick her up."

"But he's not gunna—"

"Asakura Yoh!" She was tired of him talking back, "To class now!"

Yoh sadly looked down, "Yes, ma'am." He exited out, but looked at Anna once again before leaving. How was he going to be able to concentrate in class when his best friend had passed out and was now in the nurse's office?

It was very hard to pay attention through the rest of the day, but somehow Yoh got through it. The final bell had rung and Yoh walked up to Hao, "Hey, Hao, I'm gunna check up on Anna."

"She's still here?" Hao asked.

"Yeah, well the nurse said that she'd call Anna's father to come pick her up," Yoh sighed, "But you know how Anna's father is."

"Yeah," Hao rolled his eyes, "The scariest man on earth."

"So I won't be home right away."

"When are you ever?" Hao grabbed his stuff, "You always walk Anna home."

"But I wanna make sure Anna is okay before I go home."

"Okay, I'll tell mom," Hao said as he and Yoh headed out the door.

"Thanks Hao!" Yoh said as he turned in the opposite direction of Hao as he headed towards the nurse's office.

"Oi, Yoh," Hao called and Yoh looked back, "Um…just…see what's wrong with Anna, okay?"

"Uh…sure," Yoh smiled as Hao turned to go on his way.

It was pretty easy to say that just about everyone was worried about Anna. If Hao, the one who always argues with Anna, was worried, then something must've been wrong. I just didn't know what.

Yoh made it to the nurse's office in almost no time at all. It was the moment of truth: time to see if Anna's father picked her up or not. Yoh was not surprised to find that her step-father indeed did not pick her up. He looked at the nurse with an "I told'ya so!" face. "Can I take her home now?"

The nurse looked at him sadly, "Yoh……have you met Anna's father?"

"Tch, yeah! 'The scariest man on earth'!" Yoh quoted Hao, "He's really mean!"


"Huh?" He asked as he walked over the sleeping Anna.

"Has…" she struggled for a moment, "Has he ever…hurt her?"

"Hurt her?" Yoh repeated it with an unbelievable tone. He half-laughed, "Why would he do that?"

"I…" her eyebrows furrowed, "Just…never mind. Make sure she gets home safely, Yoh-kun. Can I trust you to do that?"

"Uh-huh, yes ma'am!" Yoh said happily as he tried to gently to pick Anna up piggyback style. Once he got her on his back comfortably and safely, he went on his way. He got onto the dirt road and it wasn't long until Anna awoke from so much movement.

"Yoh?" Anna lifted her head up, "What are you doing?"

"I'm taking you home," he felt Anna trying to escape, so he held her tighter.

"Yoh put me down! I can get home by myself!"

"No, you're hurt, and besides," he turned his head towards her, "We always used to walk home together."

Anna sighed, "Yoh…?"


"I wanna stop by our tree," she whispered.

"Okay," he smiled and started his way to their spot. As they walked, Anna leaned her head back on Yoh's shoulder. She relaxed and wrapped her arms a little tighter around him; almost like she was giving him a hug. His foot steps created a pattern that soon somehow rocked her back to sleep. Yoh felt her soft breaths on his neck. He blushed slightly, but smiled that Anna was getting good rest.

Once they reached their spot, Yoh gently put Anna on the floor; somehow she managed not to wake up. Yoh smiled as he looked at her. "She must be having a good dream," he stated quietly. He knew that usually when Anna had a bad dream, she'd talk in her sleep. When she did, she's spill out all her feeling and emotions. She hated it. Whenever she slept over his house, she'd warn him not to tell her if she talked in her sleep.

Yoh's eyebrows furrowed, what was wrong? He thought of what the nurse said, "Has he hurt her?" he whispered. He wanted so badly to know. But he didn't know how to ask her. What if he was wrong? Anna would surely beat the crap out of him for even asking. But right now…he didn't really care. He just wanted to know.

I'd never even thought if it before……but why? Why would Anna's step-father hurt her? It didn't make sense; Anna wasn't a bad child. No, not in the least bit. She was a genius, pretty, headstrong, tough, and sure she had a temper, but that was a sign of a good leader. Anna was not a bad child.

I remembered this next moment perfectly. This next moment was one that I'd never forget; the moment I learned the truth about Anna.

Yoh was tempted to find out why Anna screamed in pain when he touched her wrist. Her sweater was in the way though. It wasn't exactly winter anymore and still she wore all these excess clothes. He hadn't really noticed before, but Anna also had not let anyone touch her. He wanted to know why. If only he could remove her sweater. His eyes narrowed; he was going to look at her arms and he was going to find out why Anna was acting so weird. He tired to remove her sweater, but she woke up screaming, "NO!!"

Anna pulled on her sweater and back away into the tree trunk, "Stop!!" But then she realized that she was just yelling at Yoh, "Yoh?! What the hell do you think you're doing?!"

"I just," Yoh was hurt by her harsh tone. He tried to calm her down, "I just wanted to see what happened to your arm!"

"How is that any of your business?!" Anna yelled at him.

Yoh thought about what the nurse had said. He swallowed hard. It was now or never, "Has your father ever hurt you?"

"What?!" Anna was shocked, but angry at the same time, "Why do you say that?!"

"Well the nurse said……"

"And you believed that?" Anna put her hands on her hips.

Yoh noticed that Anna did not answer his question. He put on a serious face, "Anna, tell me."

She looked away and clutched onto her sweater tightly.

"Anna, please tell me!"

"I-it's none of your—"

"It IS my business!" For the first time in his life, Yoh had cut Anna off and argued with her. And he gave her that serious-angry face.


Anna slapped Yoh in the cheek, hard, "How? How is it your business! You know nothing!! How dare you get forceful with me!!"

Yoh, whose dark bangs were in his eyes, had turned to look at her. His hand was on his burning cheek. His expression startled her. His eyes had determination in them…but they also had tears in him.

"How is it my business?" he repeated, "Anna! I care about you! Isn't that reason enough!! Please, Anna, I'm worried, and I care about you…!"

Anna's face softened a bit. She sighed as he took of her sweater and showed him her arms. Her arms were black, blue, purple and red. They had cuts and bruises all over them. Yoh's eyes widened.

"Anna…" He couldn't believe what he saw. Anna started to unbutton her bottom buttons on her blouse. She showed him her stomach. It was bluish-purple. He moved his finger to gently touch it, but she gave out a sharp gasp. He looked up at her, "Anna…who did this to you?"

"Daddy," her voice was full of hate.

So it was true. Her step-father this whole time had been abusing her, but for how long? Could this have been going on since Anna's mother was alive? No, it couldn't, could it have?

"A-and hitting me is not all he does…" Anna said shakily.

"W-what do you mean?" Yoh asked and she turned away.

"Now you know, Yoh," Anna looked down and her bangs fell into her face. Her eyes were watery, "Now you know why I won't let anyone touch me, let alone near me. Now you know why I'm always in a bad mood. Now you know why I want to move. Now you know why I don't want to go home……"

Anna started to sniffle, "I-it's gunna rain."

Yoh looked up to the sky; perfectly clear, "What are you talking about Anna?"

She looked at Yoh and the tears slowly started to come out. She started to do something Yoh had never seen her do before: cry, "See? It's raining."

"Anna…you're crying…." Yoh said slowly.

"No! Kyoyama Anna does not cry!" she threw herself into Yoh's arms and sobbed loudly, "Oh, Yoh…I don't wanna be there anymore! I don't want to get hurt anymore! I'd rather die than go back there!"

Strawberries and Champagne. Every time I smell that scent, I am reminded of this moment that I would never forget. Anna cried hard and long. The untouchable, headstrong Anna, was crying. It hurt me to see her like that. I didn't want to see her like that anymore. I felt like crying, but I had to be strong for Anna. All this was just so horrible. 4th grade, 10 years old, and she wanted to die. She was crying hard yelling, "I don't want to go home!" I wish I could've done something to stop it, but what could I have done? I was only 10 going on 11 at that time……what could I have done?

"Maybe," Yoh tried to think of a way for her not to go home, "You can sleep over my house?"

"My step-dad won't let me sleep over a boy's house," Anna sniffed; it seemed as though she calmed down a bit. Her head was on his chest, "But maybe…" she looked directly up at him, "You can come over. We have a group project due soon, don't we?"

Yoh smiled, "Yeah! That might work!"

Anna glared at him.

"W-what?" Yoh was confused.

"If you tell anyone about me crying," her eyes narrowed, "I'll beat the crap outta you!"

"A-ah, don't worry, I won't tell!" Yoh looked worried.

Anna gave a gentle smile; that was definitely something Yoh hadn't seen Anna do in long time. Then she put her head on his chest again; it was wet with her tears. She wrapped her arms around him and cuddled closer, "Let's just stay here for a little bit longer……"

"Sure," Yoh said softly as he looked at the lake and smiled. Yoh leaned against the tree trunk. He had a feeling Anna would fall asleep again. But before she did, he asked, "Say, Anna? What did you whisper to me on your mother's funeral?"

"I asked you not to leave me," she closed her eyes, "Don't give up on me."

Yoh's eyes widened, "I wouldn't do that, Anna."

"I'm happy," she said as she drifted off to sleep. Soon, Yoh did the same.

An annoying light suddenly hit Anna's eyes as she woke up. She moved a hand in front of her to block out the sun. She looked at the lake and jumped. The sky was a red-orange-ish-purple and the lake reflected it, "Yoh! Wake up!" Anna sat up, "It's sunset! I'm going to get in trouble!"

Yoh's eyes twitched and opened very slowly, "Agh," he said as the sun was in his eyes. Anna moved so that she was blocking the sun.

"I gotta go," she frowned.

"I'll take you home," he said as he got up. They grabbed their things and Anna put her sweater back on. Yoh had to admit that he felt better now that he knew what was wrong, but at the same time he felt worse because he didn't know what to do about it. He tried really hard to think of some way to help Anna. But he still had no idea of what he could do for her.

Once they reached Anna's house, he walked her to her door, something he also hadn't done in a long time. Anna knocked on the door and hoped her father wasn't home. Her brother Kosuke answered the door and said, "You're late."

"I know. Is dad home?"

"No, no yet," he smirked, "Lucky you. And maybe if you do my chores, I won't tell him you're late."

Anna glared.

"Don't give me that look, " he said glaring back at her, "What is this boy doing here?" He pointed to Yoh.

"He's my partner for a group project. And he needs to come over tomorrow."

"Peh…" he sighed and thought for a second, "Well if you do all of my chores, I could put in a good word for you……"

"Kosuke!" Anna yelled full of frustration.

"If you want him to come over and not get in trouble for being late, I suggest you start!" Kosuke said with a smug grin that Anna hated so much.

"See you tomorrow, Yoh," she looked sadly at him.

"Bye, Anna!" Yoh waved and Kosuke grabbed a hold of Anna's shoulder and pulled her into the house.

It was clear that Anna was unhappy. Yoh hoped that tomorrow things might change. He thought that if he was over, her father wouldn't beat her and everything would be alright. He walked home in deep thought and contemplated on whether or not he should tell anyone about what Anna's step-father was doing to her. Then he thought back to when Anna made him promise not to tell anyone, but was she just talking about not telling anyone she was crying, or was she talking about the whole thing in general? He didn't know what to do, and he hoped that he was making the right choice.

Now I look back and I try to imagine what it would be like if I told someone about her father? Would things be different from right now? If I had told my mother or father, could they have done something to help? Or just make things worse? I still think back……should I have told someone?

Yoh was doing his homework in his room with his twin Hao. Yoh was on the bed, trying to do his homework, but was distracted. Hao was on the floor, frustrated with his math homework.


"Ssh!" Hao was into his math homework, "8 x 8 is…"

"But, Hao…"


"I need to ask you something!"

"Geez…!" Hao threw his pencil in the air in frustration, "What is it?"

"I need to ask you a question…"

"Well it better be about homework because if I don't turn this in, mom'll ground me!"

"N-no, it's not about homework, but it is important!"

Hao sighed, "Then hurry up and spit it out already!"

"I-if a friend is being," he struggled for a word to say without giving it away, "bullied, what do you do?"

"What kind of question is that?" he sat up to look at his brother, "Look if it's about earlier today with Anna, Taro didn't mean to hit Anna. We both know that that was an accident."

"W-who said I was talking about Anna?"

"Anna's your best friend. Who else are you talking about?"

"I just wanted to know just in case."

"Trust me, Yoh, Anna won't get bullied. Practically everyone's afraid of her."

"I know! I never said I was talking about Anna!"

"Oh? Did you guys get in a fight? Are you going to find another friend?" Hao looked at little happy.

"No! Hao!" Yoh was getting frustrated, "Just answer the question!"

"Hey," Hao's eyes narrowed, "Are you getting this attitude from Anna? Maybe you should find a new friend!"

"Hao," Yoh's eyes softened, "Can you please just answer the question?"

Hao crossed his arms, "What was it again?"

"What do you do if a friend is being bullied?" Yoh asked a little impatiently.

"Well," Hao thought for a second, "I guess I'd stick up for my friend."

"What if they're bigger and stronger?"

"I wouldn't care," Hao turned back to his homework, "If it's for my friends, I'd do almost anything."

Those words stuck in my head. Hao probably had no idea how much those words would affect me. But even now, I try to live by those words. I figured out that friends were the most important things I've got right now, and they deserved my full attention and support.

"Thanks, Hao."

"Whatever," he said a little annoyed, "Now leave me alone."

The next day was one that I'd never ever forget. I'm sure Anna would never forget it either. This was just about the worst day in our entire 10 years of life; no, it was the worst day in our entire lives. I never expected things to turn out the way it did.

I came to school to see Anna there waiting for me. She smiled, "You can come over."

"Really? He said yes?"

"Yeah, it just took a little convincing," Then I noticed a new bandage on her cheek.


"Don't worry," she said, "I'm fine."

The rest of the school day was uneventful. It was boring and we couldn't wait until school got out. Though, I did have a nervous feeling that itched in the back of my head. And as much as I wanted to, I couldn't scratch it away. I think that Anna maybe had that same annoying itch.

Soon school ended and I reminded Hao that I was going to Anna's house for the school project. He nodded and said he'd remind my parents. Anna and I walked to her house, we decided not to stop at our spot and continued to go. We were both excited and nervous at the same time. When we reached her house, I entered it; something I hadn't done in what felt like years.

"Dad's friends are coming over tonight," Kosuke said indifferently.

"What?" Anna looked up in fear. Then she looked over back at Yoh then her step-brother, "He knows that Yoh's over, right?"

"You know how dad is. He doesn't care."

"C-come on," Anna grabbed Yoh's hand a little shakily as she lead him to her room.

"What's wrong, Anna?" Yoh asked as Anna opened the door to her room.

It smelled like Strawberries and Champagne. And I was reminded of that time.

"Well, when my dad's friends come over, they tend to get drunk and they're crazy drunks," Anna looked down to her feet.

She was scared, and Yoh had never seen her like this before. He realized then and there that Anna was sensitive too and that if Yoh would cower away, then Anna wouldn't have any support. He decided that he would be brave, and instead of Anna protecting him, he'd step up and be a man; he'd protect her, "Don't worry Anna. It'll be okay."

Anna gave a slight nod, "Let's just stay in the room."

After a few hours, Anna's step-father came home. He invited his friends over, and it wasn't long until they brought out the alcohol. Then, you can guess what came next: they got drunk. But it wasn't too bad because they weren't bothering us. Anna thought that things were going pretty well; we didn't bother them, and we weren't bothered by them. Everything was fine until Anna's oldest-step brother, Kyosuke, called Anna to get more beer.

"Oi, Anna," Kosuke said, standing outside of Anna's door, "Kyosuke's calling you."

"What is it?" She asked, still looking at her homework.

"He wants you to serve them more beer."

"Why can't you do it? I'm doing homework," Anna got sat up and glared at the door.

"Geez, Anna, quit being such a selfish little brat!" Kosuke opened the door, "Just do it!"

Anna gave a frustrated sigh as she got up, "I'll be right back Yoh."

Anna walked out of the door and Yoh looked worried. He looked at Kosuke who just had that ugly grin of his on his face and he slowly closed the door. Yoh worried. He didn't know whether he should've gone with her or not. But he decided to wait and see if she needed help.

I should've gone after her. But Kosuke closed the door. I didn't know if Kosuke was holding the door closed or not, but I didn't want to bust the door down or make a big deal. I tried to make myself believe that Anna was doing something that was quick and she'll be back in no time, but I had this awful feeling in my stomach. Then I heard glass breaking and I swear I felt my heart in my throat. I got up; I had to see what was going on!

"You little……" Anna's step-father slapped Anna and she fell on the floor, "You spilled the beer!"

"I-I didn't mean t—"

"Shut up!" He slapped her again, "Apologize to Ginji!"

"I-I'm sorry Ginji," she whispered.

"Louder!" he yelled, threatening to slap her again.

"I'm sorry!!"

"It's ok, Haijime," said the drunken Ginji, "As an apology she should come and sit on my lap. She might bring me good luck in our next poker game."

Anna slowly shook her head and backed up against the wall. Haijime inched closer to Anna, "C'mon, Anna. It's the least you could do for spilling beer all over him."

"No," she shook her head. She tried to back up, but she could back up no further, "He'll touch me again!"

"Are you disagreeing with your father? Brat!"

I ran in the room to see Anna's father beating her and calling her bad names. I started to shake, wasn't anyone going to help her? I looked at Kosuke. He looked away from the scene and leaned against the frame of the doorway. Then I looked at Kyosuke and he was just looking his cards and attempting to cheat, while taking several sips of his father's alcohol. It was obvious that I couldn't rely on them.

My hands formed into a fist and I clenched them hard. I gritted my teeth, I couldn't take it. Then I heard Anna scream, "Stoppit daddy! Yoh's here!" My eyes widened; she didn't want me to see. Anna's father, no, he didn't have the right to be called father, Haijime kept beating her. She cried for him to stop, but he only beat harder. Tears were about to form in my eyes, what should I do? Then my brother's words echoed in my head:

"If it's for my friends, I'd do almost anything for them."

That was it. I had to protect Anna. I didn't want to see Anna hurt anymore. I couldn't stand idly by. It was time to be brave.

I ran in front of Anna, "STOP!"

"Move boy," Haijime spat out with a hard glare.

"Yoh…" Anna cried out. Her bangs were spread out all over her face. She was in the fetal position and her eyes were wide. Her cheeks were red and her lips might've been slightly swollen.

"No…" Yoh stood firmly.

"What?" Haijime gritted his teeth.


"How dare you, you little bastard!" Haijime punched Yoh in the face, "You don't talk to me like that!"

Yoh fell back a bit and Haijime pushed Yoh against the wall. Yoh slid down and was now next to Anna. Haijime then slapped Anna, "You little slut! 'Group project' my ass! How long have you two been in the room? Since before I got home!"

Then Haijime kicked her and she squeaked. Anna was pretty much rolled up in a ball, hoping that it would hurt less. She looked down and attempted to protect her head. Soon Anna felt warm hands around her and body heat. She shakily looked up, "Yoh!" There Yoh was, acting pretty much as a whole body shield.

Then Haijime started beating me, but I tried to take the pain. I thought it was impossible for someone to hit harder than Anna, but this man did. It hurt like hell, but it was for Anna, so I would take it. I wouldn't complain. As long as Anna was okay, I would take this beating for her. I looked down at her; she looked at me and cried, "Yoh…" Tears were flowing freely down her cheeks. Her eyes were starting to turn red. She just wanted this to stop; I did too, but deep down we knew it wouldn't.

"Yoh…please…stop." No, she wasn't crying because of the pain; she was crying for me. Her pained voice and tears just made me want to protect her more. I gave her a smile and said, "I'm gunna protect you. Don't worry. I'll take care of you."

Anna started to cry more, "Yoh! You idiot! Stop! I'm not worth all this pain!"

Then I remember my vision getting blurry. I leaned my forehead on top of her head and said, "Remember what you whispered?"

Anna cried, "No…Yoh, forget it…"

"I won't give up on you," I could hardy see anymore, "I'm not leaving you."

"Why?" she cried.

"Because you are worth it……" my voice started to slur and soon everything went black.

"Yoh?" Anna cried, "Yoh?? Yoh!!" Then she felt Yoh's body go limp, "YOH!!"

I had passed out. I don't know what happened to Anna after that. I woke up on the side of the dirt road. It was dark when I opened my eyes. And since it was Hick Town there were hardly any street lights.

Yoh opened his eyes and tired to sit up, but screamed in pain instead. It seemed like every inch in his body was in pain. It took a couple of tries, but Yoh finally was able to sit up. He looked around. He had to squint to see since it was so dark. From far away he saw a house, it was Anna's. He was surprised to find out that he was far away from it. All the lights in her house were off. He then wondered how long he'd been out for. He also wondered if Anna was okay, but there was no way he could go back there at this time of night. He figured that the best thing to do would be to go home. He was glad that he didn't live too far away from Anna.

Every step was pure agony for Yoh, but he was determined to make it. He was willing to bet that he didn't look too good, and that it was waaaay past his expected time to be home. Finally Yoh saw the shape of his house and the house lights on. He smiled, "Almost there!"

"YOH!" He could hear his brother yelling for him, "WHERE THE HECK ARE YOU?!"

"H-here!" Yoh's voice was caught in his throat. Hao was outside with a flashlight looking for him. Just how late was it? Yoh moved as fast as his sore legs could take him until Hao's flashlight reached him.

"Yoh?" Hao was a little unsure.

"Y-yeah," Yoh stepped slightly forward. How was he going to explain all his bruises?

"Where the heck have you been……?" Hao trailed off when he saw Yoh clearly, "What the heck happened to you?!"

"Do I really look that bad?" Yoh sheepishly laughed, "If I look as much as it hurts then I must look terrible!"

"Yoh! Why are you laughing? You look awful!"

"R-really?" Yoh was really bad at lying and he wasn't sure he could pull this off.

"Geez…what happened?" Hao touched Yoh's face and he jumped back, "C'mon let's tell mom you're home. She's been worried sick!"

"W-where's dad?" That's who Yoh was most afraid of. Yoh figured that shouldn't tell of Anna's father, at least not yet, not until he knew that Anna was okay. He feared that if he told he might make things worse. But the only thing is that Yoh wasn't good at lying. He usually always told the truth, especially to his father. If he ever lied, he'd end up cracking and telling the truth later on. So he tried thinking of it like he was covering up for Anna and then later on telling the truth.

"Dad's gone out looking for you!" Yoh felt a little relieved, but not entirely. At least he didn't have to lie in front of his father, "He went to Anna's house not to long ago, but he said all the lights were off, so he went to look for you elsewhere. Where were you?"

"Hao" Their mother stuck her head out the front door; her face was stained with tears, "Has Yoh come back yet?"

"Yeah, he's right here!" Hao said bringing Yoh into the light.

"Oh Thank God! Asakura Yoh where have you—" She stopped, "W-what happened?"

Yoh's mother, Keiko, ran and hugged her son, practically crying again, "Tell me, what happened?" She carried him into the house while he gave out little soft cries of pain, "Why are you all beaten up?!"

Now in the light, they saw Yoh better. Yoh's face was beaten and battered. He had a dried blood stain coming from his lip. He had dozens of dried, almost brown looking blood stains all around. He had black eyes and it seemed his lips were swollen. His cheeks were red and purplish. It was hard to tell what his skin color was. All in all, he looked horrible; it was like he was a zombie.

"I…well…you see…" Yoh tried to think of a quick lie, "I was robbed. On the way home from Anna's, a man came up to me and asked for my money, but I refused. So he beat me up until I gave him my money. But he didn't stop, and I passed out."

"Aww…my poor baby," Keiko hugged her son and kissed his head, "It must've horrible! But next time that happens, please, just give him the money, okay?"

It was Yoh's first major lie, and he didn't like the feel of it at all. His stomach felt like it dropped to the floor and he couldn't believe the lie that just came out of his mouth. He sadly looked down; he didn't know how long he would be able to keep it up.

Then Yoh's father, Mikihisa, came home, "Honey, I'm sorry, it's as dark as hell out there and I couldn't find—" Mikihisa's tone changed, "Yoh?! What in the hell happened?! It's past midnight! And why are you all beaten up?!"

"Calm down, Miki," Keiko explained, "It's horrible! I'll tell you what happened…"

Yoh looked guiltily down. He didn't want to hear his lie again, so he tuned it out. After his mother was done he asked, "C-can I go to bed?"

"Oh, sure honey! Hao, can you please help him to bed?"

Hao nodded and helped Yoh walk to his bedroom.

"Oh, wait," Mikihisa said, "One more thing: What did he look like, son?"

Yoh's eyes widened; he didn't think of that part. He so badly wanted to describe Haijime, but he knew he couldn't. He looked down, "…I don't remember. After he beat me, I passed out." Well, it wasn't exactly a lie.

"Oh, I see," said the father, "If you ever remember, please tell us so we can have that man arrested."

"Goodnight, my boys," Keiko kissed her sons' forehead.

"Goodnight, boys," Mikihisa ruffled their hairs, "Yoh, we'll take you to the doctor's tomorrow morning."

Yoh nodded and Hao helped Yoh to their room. Once in their room, Yoh laid on his bed and groaned. His face was buried in the pillow and he was so tired and sore that he just wanted to sleep.

"When did it happen, Yoh? I mean how long were you passed out for?" Hao sat on his own bed.

"I don't wanna talk about it anymore," Yoh turned his head opposite from Hao. He didn't want to lie anymore, "I'm tired."

"C'mon, Yoh, answer my question," Hao sat there on his bed, waiting for the answer.

"I told you though," Yoh turned on his side; his back was facing Hao, "On the way home from Anna's, I don't know how long I was passed out for. I don't remember the time I started walking home. Now I wanna go to bed, Goodnight."

The reason why I wanted to end the conversation so quickly was because I wasn't good at lying and Hao was smart. He could probably see through my lies. Especially since I wasn't very good at telling them. He would figure me out in a second.

"Yoh……did you know this was going to happen?"

I thought "Oh no! He figured me out!" But I guess some of Anna's trickiness rubbed off on me. I didn't respond, but instead I pretended I was asleep.

"I mean 'cuz you were asking me about someone being bullied and now look at you! You're all beaten up! But I don't get it…who was being bullied? Anna can take care herself. Or were you sticking up for someone else?"

Yoh didn't answer; he was "asleep."


Yoh started to breathe hard as if he was asleep.

"Ugh, fine then," Hao laid in his bed, "Be like that. Goodnight Yoh."

Yoh had to catch himself because he almost said "Goodnight" back. If Yoh would've said that, he would've been caught! Then Hao would ask him more questions. Yoh closed his eyes. He wanted to stop worrying about everything. He just wanted to sleep. So that's exactly what he did.

The next day I went to the doctors. But before I went, I asked Hao to see if Anna was there. Even though I hoped that she didn't go to school only because she was as injured as I was, she must be in a pretty bad state. I secretly wished that I would see her at the doctors, but if I did, and she was beaten up too…how would my mom react? I could always tell her that Anna was there with me, but then she'd get suspicious and ask me why I didn't tell her that before. Either way, it seemed like a bad idea to see Anna.

When I arrived at the doctors, I was surprised to find that my left arm was broken and that I had to be careful because my ribs were bruised and on the verge of breaking too. I figured that that was from Haijime's kicking. I also think that after I passed out that Haijime kept beating me, probably not realizing that I passed out.

My mother found it amazing that I had hardy cried. Yes it hurt; it hurt more than anything I had ever experienced before. But it wasn't just physical pain, but emotional too. This whole thing had changed me. I decided to be braver, and not so scared. To not hesitate to do what's right. I was going to help Anna, because she was my friend, and that's what's right.

After the doctors, I went home and rested. I was very bored, but my mom wouldn't let me do anything. I lay on the couch and watched TV until Hao had come home. When he did, I asked if Anna had gone to school.

"Nope, she wasn't there," Hao put in backpack down on the floor and sat next to Yoh on the couch, "Why are you so worried about her anyway? You're the one who's beaten up."

"W-well, I've never been absent from school before," Yoh explained, "She's probably worried about me."

"Yoh," Hao looked at him, "Are you hiding something? You're acting very strange."

"Nothing's wrong! I just have friendly concern!"

"She should be worried about you! Not the other way around!"

"She doesn't know I'm like this!" Yoh shouted back.

"Geez…" Hao rolled his eyes and got off the couch. He started to mumble so Yoh couldn't hear, "You and your stupid crush! Sure she's cute, but she's also mean! Why do you like her?"

Hao just walked away angrily while still mumbling, but Yoh couldn't hear it, so he just stayed on the couch.

I remember staying home from school for the whole rest of the week. Every day I would ask Hao if Anna had gone to school, but still he'd answer no. Finally on Monday I convinced my mother to let me go to school. She disagreed, but I pretended that it hardly hurt anymore and that it would be no problem if I went back. She gave a worried face, but let me go anyway. I was happy because I thought that I would finally be able to see Anna again.

Yoh didn't even think about how people would react to how he looked. When he arrived everyone stared at him and asked him questions. He became nervous; he'd have to lie all over again. Hao had told them about his injuries, but now everyone was asking "What was it like?" or "Did you cry?" or "Where you scared?"

By the end of the day, Yoh had lied more than he ever had before. He felt really bad and what made things worse was that Anna wasn't even there at school. He started to wonder just how injured Anna was. He got scared, what if she was worse off then before? He was exhausted from today's events, but he decided to go to Anna's house anyway.

Yoh was still in pain, but he decided to ignore it as he began his trek to Anna's house. He hoped that Haijime wasn't home. He should be at work, and Kyosuke should be at school or helping his father. And Kosuke he wasn't sure of. Actually, he didn't really care. He had become stronger, or so he believed. If Anna was still in trouble, he'd still help her, even though he was still really injured from last time. He just wanted to see Anna.

Yoh reached the house. He looked at it. It looked empty and unkempt. The grass seemed tall; it practically reached passed the steps to the porch. He got an eerie feeling as the wind blew the grass. It swayed with the wind and made the screen door open and close; making an annoying creaking. Yoh looked up at the sky; it was gloomy and gray, "It smells like rain……" he whispered softly.

He approached the door. By the silence, he suspected that Anna was home alone. Or at least someone had to be home alone. He knocked. There was no answer. He decided to knock again, "Anna?" After no response, he knocked again, but louder and harder. He knocked with so much force that the door opened. The house was dark, and he felt very uncomfortable, "Anna?"

No one. He ran in. No one. He ran to her room. No one. He looked in every room in the house, still: no one. Where was everyone? He expected at least one person to be home! If Anna wasn't at school, then where was she? Yoh started to panic. He started breathing fast. He wanted to see if Haijime's truck was outside. Haijime hardly ever used that old truck of his, he would probably only use it if they moved out.

In a panicked state, Yoh ran outside. He was careless as he jumped off the porch. He landed in the tall grass and tried to get into a position to see his truck. On his way, Yoh tripped over something. He landed on his left side. It hurt like hell. Yoh grunted in pain, what was it he tripped over? He carefully sat up to see what it was. It was a small sign that couldn't be seen through the tall grass. Yoh's eyes widened as he froze. He read the words on the sign: "For Sale."

"F-for sale?" Yoh's eyes started to water as he realized what those words meant, "No!" He ran into the house, "No! No! No! No!!" He ran into Anna's room. It smelled like Strawberries and Champagne, "Anna?!" He looked for any sign that she was still living here; there was none. He ran into the dinning room next; the place where Haijime's friends would come over and play poker. He repeatedly said things like, "No!" or "She can't be gone!"

He sat on the ground; his arm still throbbed from the previous fall. He looked down at the floor. This was the same spot that he was at when he was beaten. There were little spots of dried blood on the floor. He traced his fingers over them and quietly asked if they were his or hers. Then he wondered if there were more spots like this in any other room of the house.

Yoh fell back and lay on the floor. He sniffed; he sniffed again. He sniffed until he couldn't hold it in anymore. He cried. No, it wasn't a soft cry, but a loud, hard cry. A type of cry that leaves you breathless and end up hiccupping for afterwards. This was the first time that Yoh had ever cried this hard. Nothing had really made him cry to the point where sounds were coming out of his mouth and it was hard to breathe.

I was always a happy, kinda laid-back kid and I never cried like this. If I cried, it was soft and tears just ran down my face. Crying like this was unknown to me, and I didn't like it one bit. I was screaming at the top on my lungs and I couldn't control it.

Yoh breathed hard. He couldn't keep up. His breathing was shaky, but the crying didn't stop. He cried because it hurt. Everything hurt. He cried because his injuries hurt; that fall back there did some real damage. He cried because Anna wasn't there. He cried because he would probably never see his best friend again. He was scared to think about it, but it was a possibility…what if…if Anna died? Or what if she was going to? What if that's the reason why Haijime had left so suddenly!

Yoh cried more just thinking about that. Life would definitely not be the same without Anna. But what could he do? Anna was gone. Haijime probably moved because he was afraid that Yoh would tell. But Yoh didn't tell! He wanted to make sure Anna was okay first! "WE'RE ONLY 10!!" Yoh shouted between labored breaths, "We're only 10! Why? Why'd this happen? …we're only 10…" Soon he would turn 11, but Anna wouldn't be there to see it. They were so small, but they were exposed to the dangers of abuse and alcohol. …But they were so young.

"It isn't fair…" Yoh got up and ran outside and yelled at the gloomy gray sky, "IT ISN'T FAIR!"

All any kid could wish for is a happy, normal and innocent childhood. Why? Why were we denied that wish? What did we do wrong?!

"IT'S NOT FAIR!!" Rain started to pour down. The drops hit Yoh and he didn't know which were tears and which were rain. He stood there, yelling at the rain, like all this was the rain's fault.

After all the violent tears were gone, Yoh started to walk home. His face was void of all emotions, but the tears were still slightly streaming down his face. He dragged his feet and the rain just kept coming. Everything hurt; he wanted it to stop, but it wouldn't.

Finally he reached home and there was Keiko waiting for his return, "Yoh, you're late. You know that in your condition you're not allowed to stay out late!"

He looked up at his mom with his expressionless face. His face was stained with tears.

"H-honey," Keiko bent down to look at him, "What's wrong?"

"You're right mom," Yoh walked passed her and lay down on the couch, "I'm not ready to go back."

"Yoh, honey, are you crying?"

"Y-yes," he choked on his words.

"Awww…why?" She went over to comfort him.

Yoh's eyebrows furrowed and his lips started to shake. He started to cry again, "Because it hurts."

Keiko hugged her son gently and whispered words of comfort in his ear like, "It's alright, honey."

No. It wasn't alright.

It was hard for me to get over it. I didn't want to return to school. I didn't want to explain why Anna wasn't there anymore. But I had to go back, and I had to lie again. I slowly found new friends, but there were none like Anna. I eventually told Hao about the real reason Anna wasn't there anymore. He got too smart for me, and I had to spill. But I didn't tell Hao that Anna had cried, so technically I kept my promise.

About a year later, when I turned 12, we moved out of Hick Town. The town was bittersweet. It was the town I met and left Anna. I wanted to remember Anna always, but forget the terrible feelings that I felt when everything unfolded. But I was stupid; I could never forget those things. Every time I smell "Strawberries and Champagne" I think of her, and how I felt. That too, was bittersweet.

It's been nearly 8 years since that time. I am now 18 and living in a town called Funbari. I haven't seen or heard from Anna since. I don't think I ever will. I don't even know if she's alive or not. At that time, I didn't want to live without Anna, but here I am. My so-called "most important years of my teenage life" was lived without her. I never imagined that. I never really imagined that we'd separate; we both thought that we would be best friends forever. I still miss and worry about her. I don't know if she's alive, but I've decided not to jump to conclusions. There's always a chance. I've also decided to keep a close watch over my friends. And if I ever were to see her again, I'd make sure she's happy or at least living a better life than before.

--Anna, wherever you are, I hope you're happy.

Well, that is the end of the prologue, ladies and gents! Whoo, long, huh? Yeah, 30 pages! I really hoped you enjoyed it. Any comments, questions, suggestions, gulp, complaints? Please review, I always feel inspired when you do. I might be able to update faster! I always get so excited and start up right away when you do, so please, review!

PREDICTION FOR THE NEXT UPDATE: hmmm, let's see. A week, more or less. No less then Friday, no more than Wednesday (of next week) does that sound good? I don't think Chapter 1 will be nearly as long, no, no, no, definitely not. So it shouldn't take too long. Bare with me please :)

Oh, and do any of you know how to say "Welcome home" in Japanese? If you do, please let me know what it is. Thank You.

Thanks so much for reading! It means a lot to me!! Stay tuned for chapter 1…!!