.All Japanese word translations is at the end of this story.


Love is a white rose
When clutched too tightly
But if kissed softly
And touched ever lightly

.Paper Wishes.
* * * * * * *

What is a flame without heat? What is a dream without hope? What is a
life without breath? What is a man without comrades? What is a heart
without love?

"Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden
the gate to eternity.
And you would watch with serenity
through the winters of your grief."

--Kahlil Gibran
("The Prophet")

You always believed that I was the strong one, that I would survive, I
doubt that now. A part of me hates you for believing in me, and a part
of me will always love you for it. Today, I got up, and it was the first
snowfall on the eve of Christmas, and you are not here. School's out
because they are praying to a familiar God, happy and rejoicing. I have
never been a part of that, and I never will be. The weeks of mourning
have passed, I should put it behind me now and rejoice, be happy, live
on. It is what you would've wanted me to feel, to be.

But love is selfish.

That is why I have comrades, and everyone else at arm's length.


I close my eyes at that name, given to me without a choice. A
gift, a curse; everything that is me, and everything I wish I'm not.
He's calling to me now, and he thinks I don't hear him, that I know
nothing of his existence. Maybe that was true once, but I know he's
there now because I know that he's the only one who'll hear me calling.
He's the only one I know who would hear me crying in the night and let
me be, knowing I would wish for no one else to know. He's the only one
who speaks nothing of my inability to move on at this moment, and in a
way, I see the strength that I had always been ignoring within him,
until now. He's the only one who knows my weakness other than my
comrades, the only one who will be silent when I need silence. A silence
that I've been living with all my life, and now he's taking a part of
that burden for me.

It's Christmas, a day of rebirth, a day of happiness, and I don't
feel a thing... All of this because of you, because you are gone, just
like everyone else that I've ever loved.

I don't want to notice him, but I can't stop myself from leaning
on him just a little within my soul. Even if he'll never know how much
strength he's giving me in this moment, even if he is not touching me,
even if he's just out of reach of my hand and my heart and my tears.
Love is mortal and eternal to me, and the silence is just as much the
sea that drowned my youth as it drowns my heart once more in sorrow that
cannot be taken away with a smile or a hug.

I let the first tear fall with the drifting snow, splashing onto
the cold ground, into the whiteness of it all. All the while he watches.
My head in my hands, I feel his eyes on my back.

* * *

My father was not a bad man. I think it's one of the many things I
needed to say but never got around to. In not saying it, I may have hurt
more people and caused more confusion than anything else in my life. My
father was a Man. That was all. He had his good points and his bad
points. For a while, I did despise him for being but a man, but now, as
I stand here with the years behind me and a new future before me, I can
finally forgive him.

Otou-san was certainly no youma or cardian or daihmon or lemur or
animate or any of the things I've fought to save the world from. He was
no demon. He never intentionally hurt the ones he loved, that is what we
humans never deliberately do, even if we think we meant the blow. After
all, when all is said and done, we'd look back on it with regret if we
realized the true weight of a single word we said or the way a gesture
could break another's heart. Some of us are lucky and live in blissful
ignorance of it all, though most of us either reap the consequences of a
sigh in the wrong moment, a smile at the wrong time, or live a lifetime
with the guilt of it. He was still my otou-san and though he was not
there to be my papa or "tou-chan" as Usagi calls her father, there was a
time when he had been such a man to me. Many times, in a single moment,
you might find yourself looking in and seeing how you never really know
someone and turn them into a stranger, that was what had happened with

One single moment.

That's all it takes to ruin a lifetime of happiness, to bring
regret. Life is funny that way, how it can change the people you love
into strangers. It does not make them inhuman, it does not necessarily
mean you stop loving them or the other way around, it just means that
things will never be the same again. Life is a funny thing, don't you

It takes getting used to not having them there. When I cry out at
night for my otou-san or my okaa-san to comfort me, they won't be there.
It's a little lonely there in your heart where your love for your
parents grows and resides and always will be ignored, never returned.
It's a little lonely here when the years pass and they aren't there to
witness the things that are special to you in your life and you're not
there to witness theirs. It's hard to learn of their mortality when you
have yet to deal with your own. But most of all, it's the sound of their
voices and the sweetness of their smiles that I miss, it's when
"family" still means something to all of my friends that I remember and
long for and will always regret how short a time it took for those
moments to flee and disappear into the distant past. It is not my fault
that things have gone wrong in my family, I learned that the hard way
and remind myself of it everyday of my existence, but the regret is
still there. That is another thing about being human, the regret. It
never really leaves you, even if you know for sure that the blame does
not lie with you. And regret leaves such bitterness to live with and
such sadness to understand and linger in its wake.

Did I get angry?


I have been bitter. Sometimes, when I see the joy in others' faces
when they speak of their families, when I see children laughing with
their parents, I feel an ache grow inside me. The envy is always going
to be there with that ache, and it makes me bitter, but my otou-san was
not a monster, nor will I demonize him. He grieved and he was never able
to move on from that loss that my mother brought to his life and mine.
He was never able to get past the day we stood upon the docks of Tokyo
Bay with the paper boats floating in the sea and the salt in the air. He
could never look at a temple without tears in his eyes, and he
vehemently refused to go near anything resembling a fire room, the place
where he first fell in love. And never again would he take up a piece of
paper and tie it to a tree with a wish in his heart, because he no
longer believed in miracles. He became a different man, a broken man who
remained in hiding, who refused to face his broken heart. Yet, I can
never blame him for a pain he lived with every single day of his life.

Love is selfish that way.

It tests the strength of our souls with the hardship it brings.
Some people never pass the tests it throws at us while others do. I look
back now and remember the day I lost something to Love, something of
myself. I remember that day, the day I learned of the mortality of my
mother from the words of my father, and the truth of it from the tears
that the wind mingled with and swept away. Salt for salt, drop for drop.
I don't think I'll ever forget that day as I stood there, comprehending
the difference between pain and sorrow and how closely those two tie
together in a knot of silence. The day I lost a bit of my youth and
gained a bit of eternity.

It was a day of blue skies edged in grey from the lingering storm.
The docks no longer had the strong fish-gut smell that would assault
one's senses, but the winter sea and the scent of salt was in the air --
though that would not last long since the fishermen would soon return
home from the vast ocean with their new piles of fishes -- and it was
that smell that would bring tears in my eyes whenever I look back to
yesterdays. Papa stood on the docks, his hands in his slacks and his
eyes to the horizon, pensive and far away. I must say that at the time I
was not paying too much attention to my father; I was still young and
naive. To a child, the moods of parents are only interesting if they
are angry with you or willing to give you something. At the moment, all
I could think of was how fascinating the docks were, how pretty the
boats with their paper sails, and how glorious the vast ocean stretched.
I watched fascinated at the flight of sea gulls in the sky, their
squawking cries did not deter me from seeing their beauty and their
freedom. I did not mind the slipperiness of the filthy wood beneath my
feet and the warm waft of noodles from a nearby noodle-shop enticed me
to take refuge from the chilly air.

"Papa, can we go eat?"

Papa was silent. I think that's what made me look at him, what
made me study him and remember how he had looked that day, before he
collapsed my world. The last moment I saw him as a god, and a pillar in
my life.

His back was straight. His blond hair was cut short, his onyx eyes
searching the sea for answers a seven year old child could never give
him. A tailored suit adorned his tall figure and made him stand out even
more than his hair and his height. His father, my grandfather, was a
European and had married a Japanese woman during the war. It was from
the former he had inherited the hair and the height, and it was from my
grand-mama that he had inherited the slanted onyx eyes, though there was
a touch of the outside world with their deeply set seriousness. Most
people would not have guessed that my father was a Japanese at heart and
a native, not from his looks anyway. But the moment he opened his mouth
or stood or knelt to receive the tea-ceremony held in his household once
every month, the difference was obvious. His dignity was that of a
Japanese man, his pride that of a European father, and his heart split
down the middle between sacrifice and preservation, reserve and passion,
peace and rebellious chaos. My father was unique that way and it was one
of the many things that okaa-san used to laughingly say "made her fall
in love with him," though it was not all too far from the truth.

The dock rocked beneath my feet as the wind blew by like a wave
from the sea and his words knocked me down, succeeding where the wind
failed. An act he was able to accomplish through mere words to tear
apart my childhood. "Rei-chan," his soft voice echoes still in my
dreams, "your okaa-san has cancer, the doctor says that she will die in
a two months, four if we're lucky."

I blinked. I think at first I thought it was a joke! I didn't know
whether he expected me to laugh, but when I looked up at his tears
falling like tiny crystals in the emerging sun, I knew. I stood there
silent, in indecision. At the time I did not know what cancer meant, the
disease that was my enemy, but I had already learned the general meaning
of death even though I had never concerned myself with it, as at that
age we still believe in eternity and the god-hood of our parents. "Will
Mama be an angel then?" I finally asked in a small voice. Maybe she will
visit us, maybe she won't leave her only daughter behind.

Mama would not be cruel like that.

Papa looked startled for a moment at my naive question, at my
desperate attempt to hold on to the reality I had taken for granted for
over seven years of my short life. He laughed and the laughter shattered
my world in its harsh tone, like the squawk of a sea gull overhead. As I
have said before, he did not intentionally hurt me in that moment. No,
Papa was too lost in his own sorrow and anger to notice mine, to care
about the despair in his laugh. That is an aspect of love that made me
bitter to it until I met Usagi: the selfishness, the inability to let go
that could foster resentment and blindness to others' feelings. My
father, at the time was blind and blinded by his bitterness, by his love
for my okaa-san. *My* okaa-san. Already, he was trying desperately to
get a grip on his own world, by distancing his world from mine, from
ours. He was trying so hard, he couldn't even see this small papa's girl
standing in the storm with him anymore. He was not holding onto me or I
to him, and in that, for a while, I was lost in the storm with him. For
many years I stayed lost, even with ojii-san trying desperately to pull
me out of it, to pull me out of that bitterness and that isolated shell
I have created for myself, that Papa had taught me to create on that
decaying dock on the side of the sea as I lay drowning in my own

That was the day my Papa died and Otou-san took over.

It could be said that I had only lost a mother to the disease of
life, to the things of fate and destiny. But in reality, I had lost both
Papa and Mama in a single day and from then on, from the bitter laughter
that escaped from my Papa's lips, I had learned the safety of silence
and reserve. I had learned how to protect my heart and pride from
mockery, from defeat by the undisturbed sound of nothingness.

Two months, Papa had said, four if we were lucky. Two months and I
would be an orphan, and at that moment I realized that Mama would not
live to see me turn eight. My seventh birthday would be my last. Later
on, I would think of all the things she would never be able to witness
or attend. Moments like my wedding day, like the ones that they showed
on the old fashioned TV shows; the ones that the old ladies gossiped
about along their crooked and narrow streets, an event that would be
missed by the most important woman in my life. Okaa-san would never be
able to judge the man I fall in love with. Okaa-san would never be there
to see me grow up, fall in love and have kids, nor would okaa-san be
able to become "obaa-san" to my children. These dreams out of a million
dreams died that day. Yet, I was focused on things closer than the
distant future at the time. For then, I was still remembering the way
kaa-san had brushed my hair that very morning and how the ritual would
end soon. I remembered the laughter in her voice while buttoning my
mismatched clothing. I remembered the smile on her face as she cooks and
cleans and--

I stopped thinking then and I looked at the sea that had all the
answers my grownup father could never give me. And then he said
something to me that closed the door to ever getting back into youth.
"Rei-chan, I want you to know the truth," he said in a voice that did
not sound like my Papa's anymore. It was a stranger's voice to me now.
"Your okaa-san doesn't know that she only has two more months left to
live and I don't want her to live the last days of her life knowing that
she's going to die. Do you understand, Rei-chan?" He turned to me and
his eyes were no longer filled with tears. For a moment I think I caught
a glimpse of the Papa I knew, as the pain lingered there and the
openness of his eyes returned. Too soon, the onyx turned hard and cold,
reserved and unforgiving, and he was a stranger once more.

I think loss blinded me as well that day, the last day of my

"Can you keep a secret, Rei-chan?"

I nodded, not trusting my own voice.

There was nothing I could say to this stranger. He scared me a
little, only this time it was not because Papa's angry, but because
Papa's gone and I don't know the man in Papa's clothes with Papa's hair
and Papa's eyes that weren't really his anymore. I was confused and
dizzy, but I did not faint or fall or stagger. I just stood there in
silent obedience, in fear, frozen for all times as that little girl that
was 'Rei-chan', that had once been Papa's little girl and Mama's
princess. She was gone now, taken by the wind that rocked the dock I was
standing on, drowning in the vast ocean with all its mysteries and
answers that a human being can never have nor ever give.

It was two weeks to Christmas, a celebration of thanks that my
Grand-papa brought with him from across the sea, a belief that
transcended beyond his times and into mine, ours. And Mama would be dead
a little over a month from that day. I had no wish to rejoice, but I had
promised, I had agreed. Two months to the last I would see of my
father's laughter, his own pretense that life can go on. Adults are so
much better at pretending, perhaps because they had more practice at it.
Still, it was the first time I was asked to act the opposite of what I
felt. To repress the pain into a tiny point that would only prick me if
I thought about it. And I'd do anything to not think about it!

I stood there silently, contemplating how I was going to play a
lie during the last two months of my Mama's life and hated myself for

* * *

I remember the first day I met my ojii-san on the steps of the
Hikawa Jinja -- the Fire River Temple. He was of an average height for a
Japanese man, only he had the same gold hair as my father, and in place
of onyx eyes, he had blue ones instead. He smiled down at me as if I was
still that little girl who was Papa's girl and Mama's princess, only I
was no longer her. She had gone, dead with her parents, sleeping in her
Mama's grave, alongside the dreaming goddess. Pillowed by the dark
strands of her Mama's hair, hair like her own, only darker without any
highlights of purple laced within. She was gone and dead, lying in her
Papa's arms as he enfolded both of them in his own forgotten warmth. Her
eyes were closed, like her father's eyes, the onyx faded away to

That whole family was buried now, deep under ground and no more,
because there was a stranger standing behind me on the steps, handing me
over like a discarded jacket for another to pick up. And after two
months of lies, I don't think I minded. I didn't think I could ever
learn to forgive him or even begin to forgive myself for what I had

Mama was gone.

No more visits to the nearby temple, clapping to gain the
attention of the gods. No more whispered wishes behind closed eyes, palm
to palm, and heart to heart. No more ice cream at the near-by vendor,
with Papa carrying me on his shoulder and Mama scolding him for spoiling
me. No more laughter in the empty house that was now a shell that I left
behind, a house that reflected the people that now had moved away from
it. A house with only memories.

Too many memories.

Ojii-san never approved of Papa, he always said that Otou-san
broke Mama's heart, that he did not treat her well enough -- but that
was the opinion of a loving father who had lost his own daughter, and
he, too, was now alone. He needed someone to blame, other than himself,
and Papa died with Mama, and Otou-san was so easy to put to the light as
the villain. Otou-san who disrespected Mama's final wishes and Ojii-
san's plea to bury Mama in the traditional Japanese way. Otou-san who
now buried himself under work and nothing else.

In fact, I think, that he did the best for me when he took me to
Ojii-san. My Papa's last gift to his little princess who he could no
longer look at without remembering Mama's hair and Mama's smile. The
temple, this temple...

The last gift of my Papa to me, to set me free, to give me a
chance to be free of the grief that buried him and made him a prisoner
within himself. His last farewell kiss was left on my cheek before Papa
turned, before Otou-san turned, and left. Walking away from my life,
knowing that it was the best thing to do.

At the time, I was confused and I hated him for it. But I was
ready for this, ready to be free of the lies, and the memories, and the
silence. Ready to be free and far away from the man that gave me the
chance to take my first step into becoming what I had become.


I can still feel the last time he pressed his lips to my cheek and
his last farewell to me as he walked out of my life and became the
phantom of my dreams and memories. The phantom of my past that
disappeared into the fogs of yesterdays.

I don't think I've ever told anyone exactly how much I loved my
Papa, and still love the memories of that man that died with his wife,
devoted to her from the depths of his soul. I will now. I will now speak
those words that I have never admitted to anyone, not even myself,
except those nights when I left my tears on my pillow in silent sobs and
shaking shoulders, when the words were forced out of me in a whisper
that didn't reach past my own ears.

"Mama, Papa, daijoubu desu ka? You won't leave me behind, will
you? Because we love each other, because you love me... don't you?"

In those moments of weakness, I hated myself. Yet I clutched the
necklace, my Mama's necklace, tightly as it hung around my neck, and
wished I was with her, even in her grave. I'm not afraid of the dark,
Mama, not if I'm with you! I'm not afraid of the cold, because I'm
already cold and dead inside, gone without your warmth, without Papa's

I lay there shivering and alone in the dark.

* * *

Otou-san transformed into Papa again the moment we stepped from
the outside and into the door. It was hard to keep track of reality in
those last two months. I remember it like a dream because I was torn
between a lie and the reality that made living with this lie hidden
beneath it all both harder and easier.

I remember my last Christmas with Mama. I recall the tree that
Papa had found with rough bark and shedding needles. It was not a
perfect tree, since this is Tokyo. We don't have these trees growing in
our backyard -- if we're even lucky enough to have a backyard. But it
was perfect to us! And every time I smell the pine at Christmas, I
remember that tree that filled our rooms with the smell of spicy wood,
the memories of the last Christmas I ever celebrated with my family, my
Mama and Papa.

Papa and I decorated the tree with sparkling ornaments, glass
angels, and gold beads. Mama helped me tie paper wishes on the branches.
She always had a funny way of mixing the two cultures of Papa's world
and her own. And I was glad, I made so many wishes that day that I
couldn't possibly count all of them. But many were the same. The wish
for happiness and peace and Mama. I wished that the lie would end. That
I could cry, instead of holding it all in till it was a prickling thorn
that stabbed at me in the night, when the laughter was gone and I could
no longer pretend that everything's alright.

I found no solace in the darkness that would not let me rest. I
found no haven in the silence knowing that maybe tomorrow Mama's sheets
would be cold and her bed empty and she would be gone--


It was the first time I contended with real fear. Not the fear of
the unknown, but the fear of loss and the known. I would bite at my
knuckles, contemplating whether or not I could rock myself to sleep or
lie there silently staring wide-eyed at the ceiling till the sky fell
down on me. I would try to think of everything but what was happening
beneath all the pretense, behind all these walls. It was the first time
I learned to start building walls around my heart, when my laughter
became less infectious and more subdued, when I learned to listen more
than I spoke. It was on days like these that I learned to be silent for
hours on end, bidding my heart to slow from the terrifying race it went
through as I'd woken from a nightmare with my hand reaching out for my
Mama and a silent cry on my lips.

It was the first time I stopped asking Papa for advice or Mama for
comfort. The first time I dug a hole for myself on the inside and tried
to burrow deep down into it to hide from the pain. If Papa noticed, he
said nothing of it; if Mama knew, she never confronted me. I was solemn
while I smiled, crying while I laughed. It was my first brush with real
deceit and I wanted to die. I wanted the nightmare to end and I wanted
to disappear into the darkness, leaving my own darkness behind me like a
shadow swallowed in the night.

"Rei-chan, tell your father to stop stealing those cookies I
baked!" Mama winked at me before turning to scold my sheepish Papa.

He laughed, and I thought I heard an echo of sadness in his
laughter. "You're just unhappy that I took some pictures of you in the
kitchen today," he replied with a grin.

"You forgot the part where you dumped flour all over me before you
grabbed that camera and started snapping!" Mama answered him darkly,
though her smile did not leave her face.

I giggled at the memory of it, stopping myself when I realized
that in a little while she wouldn't be with us anymore. And that thought
scared me so much, because I could not imagine my world without her in
it, without Papa's laughter and Mama's teasing. No more tumbles in the
leaves that we gather when we go visit the park in the fall. No more
chases around the pond, or feeding the ducks with crumbled bread. No
more late nights past bedtime, watching the stars from the roof-top of
our house, trying to see past the city smog. No more iced-tea in the
summer and swims at the local pools to cool down from the heat. No more
burnt cookies -- since Mama swears she'll never get used to the oven --
and noodle soup while the rain runs in little patterned rivers down the
window pane. No more Mama, no more smiles, no more secrets told in the
dark and hugs given when I'm scared in the night.

All gone.

She looked at me and I smiled as I broke off the black, charred
sides of the cookies and ate the middle where it's soft and sweet,
pretending that this is not my last Christmas with her. Pretending that
this is not my last laugh given, but that happiness goes on and on like
the rivers and the sea. Pretending to dream old dreams like I used to
have as the snow fell unendingly outside my window, covering the world
in white.


With the candles glowing, and the soft music on the radio playing,
with the white fluff gathering outside, I could almost believe that my
own little fairytale would come true, that my wishes would be answered
against all odds. I needed to believe that my days of joy would be as
uncountable as the flakes drifting to the ground outside. The snow, for
a while, hid the truth of what the cold claws of Winter had done to the
world, just like the lies I lived with hid what Death had done to mine.

And for a while, it was beautiful.

* * *

I did not take Yuuichiro seriously the first time I saw him. He
was, after all, drunk at the time he first took to the steps of Hikawa
Jinja and he stank to high heaven of sake! His clothes were rumpled and
dirty, not to mention he was a stranger, and I have always had trouble
with trusting strangers these days, especially male strangers. He was
handsome, even if he was a bit tipsy at the time, and that put me on my
guard. He was sincere, but a bit too clumsy to catch any respect from my
direction on his physical prowess. Above all, however, he was hiding
something from me. I sensed that, and it made me automatically distrust

Yuuichiro is endearing in his own right, and over the years I've
learned to admit that his presence meant something to me. At least,
something that is worth fighting for. It is as far as I will go, as far
as I will ever admit, anyway. But he was hiding something from me, and
though many might think it harsh for me to call him so, he was a liar in
my eyes. Someone weak, someone running away from old pains and
confrontations with the past; someone who reminded me of myself.

On the surface, we had almost nothing in common except our love of
music. He was clumsy, I was not; he couldn't carry a tune for more than
a minute, while I wrote whole songs. He never said the right thing at
the right time, and he definitely needed to polish up on his manners.
There were so many things I complained about when he first got to the
temple, for he was an intruder and I despised him for it. I used to yell
at him for holding the broom in a certain fashion, or made him do extra
chores when ojii-san wasn't watching. Yet, slowly, ever so slowly, I
began to see how hard Yuuichiro was trying to impress both ojii-san and
me, despite my little cruelties.

There had been many males who tried to impress me. They flashed
their smiles and their flowers and their gifts, but for the first time,
I met someone who tried to show me his heart through his sweat and his
actions. Yuuichiro, who got down on his hands and knees and polished the
wooden boards of our temple. Yuuichiro, who would get up earlier than
even me sometimes to haul the water from the icy stream so that there
would be water for cooking breakfast in the morning and bathing in the
afternoon, even if it was freezing cold outside in the middle of winter.
He would even stand in the rain to make sure that the young sakura-
sprouts wouldn't drown. Yuuichiro did so much that he stopped being the
intruder and became apart of my haven, our haven. Because his heart did
not pretend to me, because he loved this place as much as I, did I began
to allow him slowly into my life and my routines.

It could be said that Yuuichiro and I had much in common beneath
it all, both of us running from the past. Both of us trying to rebuild
the future by finding safety in the little haven that was the Hikawa
Jinja -- my Fire River Temple. Both of us having no wish to remember the
bygones nor looking for comfort in the future. We both had the same
dreams of being singers, of finding a place for ourselves in the world
that we couldn't find within. We were, after all, both trying to run
away from something neither of us could truly get away from but
unwilling to face, ourselves. The truth is we were alike not just
because of those trivial things that strangers find themselves having in
common. Instead we shared a common love for the haven we created for
ourselves here at the Hikawa Jinja, and most importantly, we shared the
same hopes and dreams for the uncertain future, rising in the horizon.

We both hoped for the power and strength to change and rise above
the memories of yesterdays.

* * *

"Rei-chan, when is your Papa coming home?" Mama asked worriedly as
she wrung at her handkerchief. Her dark eyes wide with worry.

I blinked.

With Christmas gone, otou-san began to work overtime. There were
days when he didn't come home till midnight, sometimes even later. Mama
would worriedly sit up in the night, eyes wide with sadness and they'd
argue. He, angry at everything, and she, frustrated and uncertain. I
don't know what was worse, the arguments or the morning with the tension
filled silence. Breakfast, where no words were passed. Then there'd be
days when they would smile and life was right again.

I was so confused.

"He'll come home soon, Mama," I lied. When did I get so good at
telling lies like these? When did I learn to lie to my own Mama?

Life's funny that way, isn't it?

I wanted to cry; instead, I smiled.

"Everything's going to be alright, Mama." What was I saying?

Mama smiled in return, and I don't know why it hurt so much to see
her so pale. Papa, where are you? I wanted to scream at him. I wanted
him for once to stay and watch Mama get paler everyday, thinner
everyday, sicker everyday. Does he know what it's like to clean the
kitchen floor where she's thrown up? Does he know what it's like to
clean Mama's face because she's unconscious on the smooth tiles? Does he
know how it feels to try to catch her body with my small one, only to
end up crashing onto the ground? How many bruises has he seen on her
arms and legs because of the falls? How much pain does he see her in
without him by her side while the sickness ate away her life? Does he
even remember that he has a family?

Everything I wanted to ask him and never did.

I lived with the silence.

Silence is safer.

The silence in the morning, with my eyes on the table.

"Rei-chan, you should go to bed now." Mama sighed as she petted my
head, "It's past your bed time." She wrapped her arms around my waist,
but I didn't want her to lift me. She was getting so weak these days
that she had trouble getting up in the morning to make breakfast. She
was dying before my eyes and I couldn't get away from this room, this
house, this place, because my otou-san was doing all the running for me.
He didn't have to see a thing.

I think I hated him in that moment.

"Alright Mama, but you promise you will go to bed soon too?"

Mama laughed before her eyes clouded over, "Gomen ne, Rei-chan,
but I have to wait for your Papa to come home."

Papa's gone, I wanted to say. I open my mouth, and exhale, "Hai."

I climbed up the stairs, leaving a lonely, fragile woman behind
me, her eyes looking at the front door. A woman whose tears stopped
falling a long time ago. I could hear her heart breaking, I could see
the shadows of darkness closing around her. I closed me eyes and shut
the door, lean my back against the wood and looked at the empty ceiling
in this empty house.

So many memories, so many phantoms haunting my nights.

I rested my head against my leg and remained with the silence for
a long time. In the dark, I dreamed of an angel coming forth, white and
shining against a black night, illuminating my dark world. Healing me.
In the dark, behind my eyes I felt safe.

Yet I stayed awake listening for the sound of Papa coming home,
unwilling to admit to myself that I still loved him and needed him.
Unwilling to admit that just because I'm not downstairs with Mama,
watching that door opening, waiting for him to step through smiling like
he used to, that I cared.

I ran out of tears as well, I told myself, but it did not stop
them from falling down and shattering like my broken family.

Mama stayed up after midnight. Mama kept dinner on the table
waiting for Papa to come home. She did that till she couldn't get out of
bed anymore. Even then, she'd lie there waiting for him to return to
her. I never knew why she loved him so, why she forgave him even though
he caused her so much pain.

Somehow, she forgave him everything for Love.

* * *


There had been so many cakes that year that we were all sick of it
by the end of the night. Even Usagi couldn't take another bite, and
we're talking about bottomless-pit-for-a-stomach-Usagi here!

"Ah, I'm so stuffed!" Usagi yawned, stretching, before leaning
forward onto the table.

"No kidding, Usagi," I sighed. "You ate so many pastries today, I
don't think I could've counted the boxes!"

She blushed at that as I pointed to the piles of empty pastry
boxes on either side of her. "Hey," she began. "I'm not the only one!"
And pointed to the burping Minako.

"Nani?" The blonde asked surprised as she covered her mouth with a
blush spreading across her cheeks.

"Well, it's been a great Christmas night so far," Makoto smiled

"Sugoi, Mako-chan! Those were the best Christmas cakes I've ever
had!" Usagi beamed.

Everyone cheered in agreement at the embarrassed but contented
brunette. "Hai, Mako-chan, it was wonderful!" I nodded before I leaned
on my hand, "Though I have to ask, how did you make so many?"

"Well--" Makoto began.

"Because she's an amazing cook!" Usagi cut in excitedly.

"Hai, hai!" Minako quickly agreed.

Makoto and Ami both blinked in surprise as I sighed, exasperated
at the two bouncy blondes. We shouldn't have allowed either of them to
have so much sugar. "Well, thanks guys," Makoto finally said, her voice
uncertain. "Really, it's because Shinozaki-kun came over today and
helped me with cooking." Makoto's smile turned soft at the memory, "It's
been a while since we talked, and it was very nice of him to come over
to help."

Usagi's lips formed an 'o' as her eyes sparkled with stars, "How
romantic!" The blonde commented dreamily. "I wish Mamo-chan would do
that with me."

I laughed at that, "Mamoru-san wouldn't let you near an oven with
a ten-foot pole!" I told her, unable to stop my giggles as the others
joined me.

"What do you mean by that, Rei-chan?" Usagi demanded.

"Well, he wouldn't if he was smart enough," I told her grinning.
"Not after what happened last time when he let you try baking at his

"Hey! I am not a bad cook," Usagi said, tearing at her
handkerchief as her eyes watered.

"Get over it Usagi-chan, you're just not meant to cook." Minako
responded. "Anyway, Mamoru-san still loves you, even after what happened
that time!"

Usagi brightened at that with a nod, "Hai! And he said he has a
special surprise for me tonight! I can't wait to see it..." she trailed
off as she saw the sly glances passed around. "Nani?"

"What kind of a surprise, Usagi-chan?" Makoto implored.

Usagi began to blush at that, realizing what she let slip. "Well,
I'm not the one who had a boy over at my apartment, *alone*." Usagi

"Shinozaki-kun is just a friend," Makoto defended herself. But a
smile crept back onto her face at the mention of his name, "I've missed

"You guys must have been great friends," Ami commented with a

Everyone blinked at the blue-haired girl, "What?" Ami asked with a

"What do you mean by that, Ami-chan?" Minako asked slyly.

"Here we go again," I muttered as I put my head in my hand.

"Rei-chan?" I looked up, startled, as the room fell to silence.

"What are your dreams for the future?" Usagi looked to me with her
big blue eyes, "Yuuichiro-san's been here for years, and even after all
that you guys have been through together, you're still just friends?"

I smile at her, "Well, not everyone finds love like you did,

"Sometimes, friendship's enough," Makoto agreed.

"It's safer," Ami added shyly. The room fell silent once more.

"Still, it would be nice to be in love again." Minako sighed
dreamily as the rest of the room looked at her in exasperation.

"Minako-chan! Is that all you can think about?" I chided her.

The blonde stuck her tongue out at me, "Of course! Since this is
the most romantic night of the year!"

Makoto sighed, "Isn't that Valentines?"

I grinned slyly at this, "Not for our Minako-chan," I winked.
"After all, have you tasted her chocolates, yet?"

"Rei-chan!" Minako protested defensively, "What about the
chocolates you make?"

"They're better than yours!"

"Oh yeah?"


"I've always been more of a fan of White Day!" Usagi piped up
helpfully, though it didn't stop the glaring contest between Minako and

"Min'na," Ami sighed, "Let's not fight!"

"By the way, where are Luna and Artemis?" Makoto asked startled as
she looked around.

"They're having their own celebration at central control." Minako

Makoto laughed at that as Ami blushed crimson, "Well, at least
someone's finding love tonight!" The brunette smiled. "I never realized
until today," she paused hesitantly. "How much I've missed Shinozaki-

I blink surprised at the admission, "Maybe that's good," I
answered before either Minako or Usagi could start their matchmaking
plans again.

"Maybe it is," Makoto shrugged. "I almost forgot what it was
like just spending an afternoon with him. He was my best friend for so
long that when we drifted apart, I almost forgot how nice it was--" she
sighed as she looked down at the tea before her. "I guess that since I
was so busy--" she paused once more and the twinkle in Minako and
Usagi's eyes faded. Everyone was silent now in remembering what they
have given up for so long, "My tea's getting cold."

Makoto started to rise.

"No, Mako-chan, let me get that for you." I smiled as I turned to
the kettle and handed it to her. "After all, I don't want you to trip
over all those packages on the floor." I turned to Usagi with a
frown, "Why are you always such a slob, Usagi?"

Usagi stuck out her tongue, "Christmas certainly didn't put you in
better spirits, Rei-chan!"

"And it certainly didn't improve you anymore, either. You're just
giving yourself more work, especially with Oomisoka coming up, not to
mention I know what condition your room is in!" I grinned at her frown,
"Well, at least you won't be as annoying now that your have you own
Rayearth manga." I told her, "So I can sleep in peace, knowing that my
manga's safe."

"Arigato, Rei-chan!" Usagi nodded. The blonde already forgetting
the earlier argument as she hugged her gift to her chest. "I don't know
how you'll come up with an oseibo better than this!"

"And I hope you'd crack open the Math book I gave you," Ami
reprimanded Usagi. "I hope they help you out with your homework, they
did for me."

Usagi made a face, but her smile broke through in the end, "Hai,

"By the way, Minako-chan," Makoto grinned. "Thanks for the

Minako smiled sheepishly, "It's nothing!"

A comfortable silence fell between us after many thanks were
given. "I guess, we've all been neglecting some aspects of our lives
while fighting evil." I said at last with a soft smile as I placed my
cup down onto the table.

"Well, it looks like evil has finally passed us for a while." Ami
agreed, "Maybe it's time to remember the people who love us and who
we've been ignoring for so long."

"Being a super-heroine isn't all it's cut out to be now, is it?"
Usagi asked dejectedly.

"Iie!" Minako shook her head firmly at that. Her fierce expression
and her commanding tone surprised everyone! "Else, how would I have been
able to meet all of you?" Minako's smile softened her determined
expression, "Friends to the end, ne?" she raised her tea-cup

"Friends!" We chorused in agreement. And though the echo of it did
not go beyond the wood and paper doors, it was a promise kept forever in
our hearts.

"For the coming Oomisoka!"

A chorus of "hai"s filled the room with a comfortable warmth that
no flame could match.

* * *


He groaned as he rolled over and got up, "Hai, Rei-chan?"

"Did I wake you?" I asked uncertain, ready to leave and already

"No, no," I could tell he was smiling in the dark. "What's wrong,

"Nothing's the matter," I answered quickly from the other side of
the sliding door. "I just wanted to wish you a merry Christmas."

He chuckles, "You could always give me a present of a new helper
around here!"

"Preferably female?" I asked him wearily.

"Hai! Nothing like a pretty girl to attract more customers!"

I sighed in exasperation, glad that he couldn't see the smile of
amusement on my face. "Well, you should go back to sleep, ojii-san."

"Hai, or my old bones will get another scolding from my hot-
tempered granddaughter." He answered teasingly.

"Ojii-san!" I put my hands on my hips as if he could see me, but I
couldn't hide the smile on my lips behind the scolding.

"Already riled," he muttered before falling silent.

"Goodnight, ojii-san." I put my hand on the wood and closed my
eyes happily. Hearing his soft snore on the other side, assured me that
the world was alright. Life was alright and that peace is mine to keep
for awhile.

I love you, ojii-san.

* * *

Leave me in the dark with you, Mama. I don't want to leave your

I sat, legs swinging, as the hard benches were so high above the
ground. I felt no longer earthed with my feet dangling above the wooden
floors. I did not remember where my dreams began and my world ended.

It was an empty chapel, a tapestry of white with golden crosses.
No sakura trees near, the trees Mama loved so much and would tie wishes
too. Papa stood and walked over to view the sleeping face of the woman
he pledged his love to for eternity and walked away in silence, his
expression blank.

He broke so many promises.

I stood up and walked to the casket. They left one single stool
for me to stand upon to see your face for the last time, for one last
memory to be held with you so close, and yet so far. I wanted to tell
you how I brushed my hair this morning by myself, and how I picked the
dress I wore now. I wanted to tell you the breakfast we had at the
noodle shop near here since Papa wouldn't cook in our kitchen, and how
Papa wouldn't step into the house. I wanted to tell you that I miss you
already and bury my face in your hair. But most importantly, I wanted to
say hello instead of goodbye.

One step--

Mama's sleeping.

One glance--

Don't wake Mama up!

I reached out--

She's so peaceful.

Laying down the single sakura branch with a white paper wish tied
to it--

She's far away from the pain now, no one can harm her.

I leaned forward--

All my heart on that small paper tied to the dead branch.

Kissing her cheek--

All my dreams to be buried in sleep with you, Mama.

"I love you, Mama."

Can I sleep in your coffin with you? Can I give you the warmth you
no longer have on those cold cheeks? Why can't I wake you from your
dreams? Why can't I join you in your sleep?

"Rei-chan, let's go."

I could've stood there for eternity, but the firm hand on my
shoulder turned me away. I grasped my otou-san's hand, walking in
silence out the door, leaving Mama behind. She had no need to drift
away, I was already too far to see her face. I had already laid down my
heart with hers within that coffin.

Goodbye, Mama.

* * *

You promised never to make me cry.

You lied.

I'm crying now because your firm hand isn't on my shoulder
anymore, reassuring me with your silent strength when I could not allow
myself to comfort my silent weakness. You were the one who reached out
for me when I had fallen, numb with pain suppressed within my heart. You
were the one who gave me another direction, another path. And though you
could not take away my sorrow, you gave me a haven against the storm.

I would have been so much more lost without you.

The branches of the sakura trees are bare and the world looks dead
outside now without the colors of autumn, the sweet scent of spring, or
the warmth of summer. They're all gone now, with you. Into that place
where the fires go when their ashes turns to dust, to where Mama went
when I drowned hers in the sea with its forever sorrows. Where the
ancient ancestors cherished their dreams forgotten and joined it in
their last breath of life.

You taught me to love what I had, instead of looking back with
infinite darkness, hooding my eyes with sorrow. You gave me the cloth to
wipe away the tears that were blinding my heart. You're the one who made
it possible for me to look in the mirror and not hate the color of my
eyes; the one who made it possible for me to brush my hair without
regret. You taught me so much what I didn't know I had inside me until
now, until this moment, when you are gone.

For you taught me how to move on.

How to move on by myself.

Now that I set you free into the world of all those who passed me
by, I learn that I am stronger than who I used to be. That I can move
on. Thanks to you, to Usagi and Minako, Makoto and Ami. I have Haruka
and Michiru and Hotaru and Setsuna, each giving me a piece of their
strength. I have Yuuichiro, whose staying you insisted upon.

All my friends, all my love, still intact.

All that I am is because of you.

You'd laugh and deny it, I know, telling me that it was inside me
all along. Maybe you're right, but because of you, I was able to grow
that seed of strength within me.

Thank you, Ojii-san, Grandfather who taught me all that I needed
to live and build my own beautiful dreams. Live and dream about the
future, building my own strength and conquering my weaknesses.

Thank you for loving me.

* * *

"What's going to happen to Mama?" I finally asked on our way back
to the house. It had been so silent since we left the place where Mama's
body still lay in quiet waiting.

"They're going to cremate her body, and her spirit will rise into
the heavens," Otou-san paused, "free."

I thought he was angry.

"What's cremate?" Otou-san said nothing, his mouth turning into a
thin line. "Papa, what's cremate?" I asked again.

"Burn," he answered. I looked at him confused, not understanding
him. Yet, I was afraid to ask further so I looked ahead instead.

Years later, when I finally learned what it meant to be cremated,
I learned to despise my father more. But, now, I too can see how much
pain it had caused him. Into the fire my Mama went, into the fire with
my heart and my soul. Ironic how, in the end, I was to possess the
powers of the same thing that freed my Mama from her body in the end.

Otou-san never knew what it was that I wrote on that single piece
of paper wish that I had tied onto the broken sakura branch.

Ashes of the paper wish.

Wrapped away in the heat.

I was consumed in that fire. My name tied on that single piece of
paper, burning with her, with Mama. Into the fires it went, where it
first possessed me completely. Consuming my anger, my pain, my love and
my sorrows. Out of the ashes I rose anew, reborn as a Sailor Senshi.
Still, it was a long while before I could learn to forgive the man who
caused me so much heartache, hated him because I still loved him. Hated
him for never being there for me, just like he was not there during the
last days of my Mama's life, during the last days of my own youth.

I looked out the window, passing the world outside that seemed so
dead to me now. It was cold outside, and gray and desolate. I was afraid
to turn and look at the man beside me that I once called Papa. I was
afraid to ask him what he was going to do now, and most importantly,
what I was going to do now.

Mama was gone.

All through the ride, all through the days and weeks to follow, I
found Papa looking at me and looking away. I found myself looking in the
mirror at the eyes I got from him and asked myself what it was that he
found in me that made him look away. He had no Mama to run away from
now, but he had me. It was February, dark and cold. I didn't know
who I was and who this stranger, this Otou-san was, anymore.

For now, I looked at my reflection in the glass and turned
away, hating myself. Was it because of me that Papa ran away? Was it my
fault that Mama died alone? I didn't know anymore.

Mama died after two months.

Two months... I guess we weren't so lucky after all. For with her
went all of my smiles, my love, my Papa, and all the joys of my youth.

* * *

It's scary to give because you might give more than you ever
imagined possible. It's scary to love, because you might love more than
you ever thought possible. It's scary to reach out, because you might
grasp more than you can handle.

Because it hurts.

Because it can hurt you.

But it's okay. I know it is. I've been there a hundred times,
losing and rising.

"Daijoubu, Rei-chan?" He asks me concerned.

I turn to the man I have spurned a hundred times and loved in the
years we've shared as he constantly bared his heart before me. He who
fears not love is the only one who deserves it. He who needs love and
knows of all its pains, continuing to strive for it, will be able to
keep it. He's everything my father, my otou-san, isn't. I smile softly,

He is startled by my reply as my tears disappear, and I turn to
him on the boardwalk, just outside of the fire room. Out of the snow and
cold, and so close to the warmth, "Ojii-san would've wanted it this way.
The way of the gods." I put my hands to the door, "Even if the old ways
are dying, even if the world keeps on going, I'll remember him." I smile
to Yuuichiro, silently listening. He's everything that burns within my
heart, like a candle that refuses to die out. Even if tomorrow comes,
even if he is to disappear into the dark like all those that I have ever
met and loved, I know he too has changed me, made me stronger.
"Arigatou, Yuuichiro."

I leave him surprised, pondering my words as I open the door to
the haven of all my heartaches. My home. I close the door to the sacred
room of fire and light. It slides shut till Yuuichiro is standing on the
other side, separated by the paper and wood. I feel as if I've stepped
into another world within this ancient room. I reach into my robes and
bring out your favorite osenko, praying while I bring them to the altar
before the fire.

Your face is smiling at me as if you know something about me that
I do not. You always said that I would move on from here, always
believed that I was meant for something greater than this room, this
place. But I never told you that even if I do, Rei-chan will always live
here, and here she'll stay, inside this room with its wooden walls and
fire-pit. In this place where you first gave me a start and I found an
end that was myself. Even if I move on from this place, I will always
return to it to be Rei-chan once again, to remember the past with a
smile on my face because that is what you taught me.

Arigatou Ojii-san.

I touch my forehead to my hands as I kneel before you and bow in
honor to have known you. The man who helped me take the first step to
becoming who I am today. I light a candle for you, for the birthdays
you'll miss, the holidays that will go by, and my wedding day. For all
the days of joys and sorrows and fears, for the day I will step out of
this room, this courtyard, passing the torii that is a gateway to the
past, my past, and move on into the future that will make me the woman
you always imagined I'd become.

"Are you ready, Rei-chan?" Yuuichiro asks as I step out into the
icy cold, but I feel not the deep claws of winter nor remember my tears
as I stand before the bare branches of a sakura tree. I think Yuuichiro
is reaching out to me again, knowing my heart as I know it. I don't know
how, just like I never understood how ojii-san knew the fire was my
salvation, but both understood me.

I turn to smile at him, "Hai, Yuuichiro."

I reach into my robes again, and this time I take out a small,
white paper. All my dreams and all my heart are on here, only I will not
send them into death like I had tried the last time. This time, I tie
them in hopes that it will bring more life, bring more dreams and
happiness. To all who live, to you on the other side, ojii-san. To
okaa-san, whose face I see everyday in the mirror, staring back at me.

I tie a wish for you, grandfather, for you, mother, and even for
you, father. With my eyes wide opened to the world, taking chances,
believing in dreams, and making choices to lead me through all my
troubles and all my joys. I won't disappoint you, and I will never
forget the faces of those who loved me, those who changed me, and the
reality of my dreams. These are the things wishes are for, things that
are of miracles and reality all at once.

Yuuichiro's hands cover my own as we tie the wish together,
surrounded by the newly fallen snow. Our breaths mingle and cloud the
air ever so slightly with warmth and life. Yuuichiro leans in, warmth to
my warmth against the cold bleakness of the world outside.

I smile at the small fragile paper containing all of our visions
of tomorrow within the warmth of the flames.

Merry Christmas, ojii-san.

* * *
* * *




* * *
* * *

Luna: "I'm cuddly, I'm strict, this cheer just makes me sick!"
Artemis: "I'm fuzzy, no balance, I really have no talents."
Ami: "I'm smart, I'm cute, and I wish I had a lute!"
Yuuichiro: "I'm silent, no broom, I don't take up much room."
Minako: "I'm single, I'm blonde. Boys, call me when I'm on!" ^_~
Rei: "I'm hopeful, I'm straight, no bitchin' ain't that great?
Makoto: "Who am I? Just guess! Guys wanna touch my chest!"
Usagi: "I'm worshiped, adored, though some call me a spore."
Mamoru: "I'm studious, I'm calm, I'm inserted to be dumb."
Haruka: "I'm wild, great hair, the girls all love to stare!"
Michiru: "I'm pretty, likes peach, Haruka's on a leash!"
Setsuna: "I'm timeless, have style, I know you love my smile."
Hotaru: "You hate me cause I'm powerful, while I have news for you--"
Min'na: "We're doomed! All doomed! All buried in a tomb--"
Chibiusa: "Merii kurisumasu!"
Random-person-wearing-a-mask: *Blue's Attempted Greek Tragedy*

Artemis: "What does she mean by 'no talents'?!" ;_;
Rei: "Remind me why I'm doing this again?" -_-;;
Minako: "Only reason why she didn't kill all of us was because of this
stupid deal. Ah, you'll live...for once."
Ami: "And look on the bright side, at least you didn't fall in love
with Usagi-chan, again!" *mumbling to herself* "And didn't end
up sounding like a ditz like me..."
Rei: "Eww! I'd never fall in love with that baka!"
Usagi: "Hey, I heard that!"
Chibiusa: "Really Rei-chan, you got off lightly considering what some of
the others had to say."
Makoto: *muttering* "Guys want to touch my chest? Guys want to touch
MY chest?! Where'd she get that from? I'm going to--"
Haruka, Michiru and Setsuna: *in the background* "NO HOTARU-CHAN!
Don't do it!"
Hotaru: "I must destroy this evil chant! Death Reborn--"
Luna: "Not going to kill all of us, eh?"
Mamoru: "I knew it was too much to hope for." -_-;;

* * * * * * *
.End of Omake.
* * * * * * *


Arigatou/Doomo arigatou - thank you
-chan - a suffix that represent a form of familiarity between/for
girls. (the Japanese class structure is built into the
-kun - a suffix that represent a form of familiarity between/for
-san - a suffix that represent a form of formality for older people.
Christmas Day - Apparently, it's a whole commercial thing in Japan,
where most people don't even know how it came about. Oomisoka is
more important. However, they do eat "Christmas cakes" during
this time of the year and exchange gifts.
Cremation - Most Japanese people are cremated after death. Not
surprising since there is hardly room in some of the more
populated places in Japan for living people to reside, which makes
giving space for dead people one of those "issues"...
Daijoubu/daijoubu yo - Are you alright?/I'm alright (depends on context)
Funerals - the ways of funerals in Japan is changing and often awkward.
If you would like to know more, here's where I got most of my info
for this subject.
Hai - Yes
Iie - No
Gomen/Gomen ne/Gomen nasai - Sorry (different levels of formality)
Min'na - everyone
Nani - what
Ne - seeking confirmation: right?/don't you agree?
Obaa-san - grandmother
Ojii-san - grandfather
Okaa-san - mother
Oomisoka - New Years; Rei made the comment that Usagi's just making more
work for herself because one's supposed to clean one's house for
Oomisoka, just before the decorations are put up. Usagi, in truth
is not a slob, as shown many times in the anime (it's really Minako
who is). However, Usagi did mess up Rei's room in this story, thus
creating more work for her friend. Thus the comment about being a
slob was more of a comment of an annoyed friend than anything else.
Oseibo - the end of the year gift
Osenko - incense sticks used during funerals.
Otou-san/tou-chan - father (different formalities)
Owari - the end
Sakura - Cherry blossoms
Sugoi - wonderful
Valentine's Day - Apparently women give men chocolates on this day. I
thought since in SuperS the girls were saying how cooking will get
you a boyfriend, that the people who are good cooks might actually
make the chocolates themselves on this romantic day. And people
like Rei, Minako, and Usagi might end up either giving badly made
ones or ones they had to buy themselves... and knowing their
allowances... ;)
White day - is a day on March 14th, where Japanese men give candies to
Youma - devil (or in the case of Sailor Moon, it could be any of the
lesser demons they've fought, especially in Season R during their
battles against Beryl).


*HUGE thanks to my editor, A. L. Campo, who is so thorough! I love her
to death!
*Thanks to Cavis-chan who had to listen to me complain through most of
the fic about how he got me started, and all the endless hours I
hounded him for the details of the contest because I was too lazy
to read it. And being there for me to bonk him on the head.
*Thanks to Tanya, who helped me with my fic immensely by informing me that
Tokyo Bay's water was salty and not fresh (hope that this is correct,
he was a little uncertain)
*Thanks to Bev, who was the first to read this fic.
*Thanks to Brent, Steven and Kathy who did the final editing of this
story that took forever to write! And who had to listen to me
continuously IM them about the smallest things that were bothering
me and assure me that it was all just in my head ^_^;;
*And last but not least, my best friend... for putting up with me. ^_^;;

Merry Christmas everyone! Hope you enjoyed reading the story as much
as I enjoyed finishing it! (And YES! The poem at the very beginning of
this fanfic is mine! By me! NO plagerizing!) :p