She knew that he loved her, in his own way.

He was holding her hand. They were walking together under the cherry blossom trees. It was a perfect day for a walk with their little daughter. She should be happy.

Yet she couldn't force herself to smile.

His smile- sweet and kind and beautiful- was sad. The way he walked, talked and lived spoke volumes of his deep sadness. But she couldn't ask him to talk about it. No, she couldn't.

They've been married for almost five years. Their daughter was three and a half. The union was blessed and sanctioned; it was strong and secure. In the surface they presented a warm and happy family but only she knew the troubles beneath.

Her grip tightened. She turned to him with eyes sparkling with unshed tears.

His brown eyes turned to her but she felt that he wasn't seeing her. But he didn't remove his hand. "What is it?"

"Do you love me?" she asked, flinging her dark brown hair back. Her voice rose just a little. "Do you love me for who I am?"

She watched his brows knit and his lips press together. His fingers caressed every inch of her hand's soft skin. Her tears threatened to fall but she bit her lip to stop it. She didn't want their daughter to see.

"I do," he murmured. "I love you…"

"But it's not enough." She said loudly. Her heartbeats were on her ears. She had enough! "I'm not her, Negi-kun. I can't be her."

He shook his head.

"You can't ask me to be someone else," she said, her voice breaking "but I can be myself. I love you, Negi, all I ask is that you love me too."

Negi Springfield stared at the ground. She couldn't see the handsome 28-year-old man but in his place was the small ten-year-old boy he was. He was still so young, so innocent. He would always need her. "I-I can…"

"When you're done grieving," she shot as she withdrew her hand. His hand went limply back to his side. "I don't think I can wait."


They stopped talking. Both of them stared at each other before turning to look at the small brown-haired little girl with a pair of green and blue eyes.

Their hearts stilled.

"Why are you crying?" the little girl asked.

"I-It's because I'm sad," she answered, guilty and heartbroken. "I'm telling your dad…"

"Don't cry," her daughter murmured. "Papa, make it stop."

Negi looked away.

She knelt down and took the little girl into her arms. Their marriage was not perfect; it was not the heaven she imagined. The man that she loved would always love someone else. She would always care in turn for the daughter that was never hers.

"I love you…" he murmured as he reached forward and touched her cheek. It was the first gesture of affection that she got all afternoon. "I'll ask you to understand that I love her too…"

The wind blew.

Oh, how could she forget? Negi loved her classmate a lot. They were in love on those sunny summer days; they made a child without the blessing of marriage. But she watched on with hurt in every breath while they adjusted to their roles as parents.

Then everything changed when she died.

Negi couldn't be comforted. She stepped forward, cared for him and supported him through the hard times. In a moment of weakness, he asked her to marry him which she readily accepted. In a moment she became wife and mother.

Though she had already known that she could never hope to fill another woman's place, she accepted it. She wanted to live it.

She stared down at the pretty little girl with Negi's brown hair and beautiful eyes. There was nothing that could stop her from loving them. Though it hurt every day to know that he can never give her children of her own, she was willing to put up with it. As long as she knew that he loved her she was happy.

Nodoka Springfield blinked rapidly to stop the tears from falling anyway.

Asuna's green and blue eyes stared on.


A/N: Hi! I was writing this thinking of Konoka before I realized that it suited Nodoka more… It's sad but sweet at the same time.