Please refer to Prologue for the Standard Disclaimer

AUTHOR'S NOTES:

Yokata, minna-san! Our exams are over and done with! Wave your white handkerchiefs in the air. I HAVE SURVIVED!!! MWAHAHAHAHA!!!

Ahem… as I was saying… It's been quite a while, ne? Well, now that I am free from the obligations imposed by school, I could finally get down to finish the numerous series of fanfics I have started, this one being no exception…

I did this story with the main characters telling the story alternately. I hope you don't get confused.

By the way, thanks to Fala for pointing out to me the difference between a mage and a sorcerer in one of the reviews for my story Fate and I quite agree that Marron falls under the former classification. I shall be using that term in reference to him from this point onward.

SHARDS

By: Ryuuen

Chapter Two

Their Secret Haven

            The early morning breeze blows, caressing sparkling auburn tresses. I close my eyes, relishing the calm serenity of the early Saturday morning. Lolling on the protruding tree branch of a sakura tree, I sigh contentedly. I was in my haven, my sanctuary, my abode. No one knew of this place and if they did, they just stayed clear of this area because of my reputation. I would never let anyone know about this place for it is in this place of great solitude that I usually lay down and think, reminisce on the events of my life.

            I have barely lived eight years yet a lot of things have happened to me. At a tender age of four years, I lost my mother. Tira was too young then to have any recollection of what happened but I… I remember it very clearly… the thunder, the rain, clutching a sleeping Tira in my arms, not daring to breath lest we be discovered, okaasama protecting us till the end, the dagger flash, the cry of anguish… I blink back a tear. Memories rush through me in a wave… Okaasama, why did you have to leave us?

"Ohayo gozaimasu, Chocolate-san," a soft, almost timid voice greets me, stirring me from my reverie. I open my eyes tentatively, hoping that it was only an illusion.

It wasn't.

I find myself staring once again into beautiful golden orbs that have captivated me ever since I saved their owner from the bullies weeks ago. I look away snobbishly in an attempt to conceal the blush spreading across my face. "Oh it's you. What do you want?"

"It's such a wonderful morning, isn't it Chocolate-san?" he said, placidly taking a seat under the tree's shade.

I watch his every movement, marveling at his grace unusual for any person let alone a child. He takes a book from under his tunic and begins to read. The book had queer writings and sketches that I couldn't help but wonder what this strange child was reading. Swinging myself off the branch, I peer over the edge of the book and asked, "Whatcha reading?"

Too late was I to realize that this was a mistake for I found myself once again staring into his eyes. There was something vaguely familiar about those eyes that I just couldn't place. It's as though I have seen them somewhere else, in another time, in another place… And then he smiles, enhancing the delicate beauty of his face. I blush at our closeness and draw away. "Gomen if I'm bothering you. I'd better be going now."

Had it been any other person under any other circumstance, I would have given any person who disturbs my peace and barges into my special place a piece of my mind and here I am apologizing to someone who did just that!

"Oh, don't go, Chocolate-san. I don't mind your company at all."

I look back and blink. Oh well. Cautiously, I sit beside him, trying my best to decipher what was written in the book he was holding. He seemed to notice.

"These are ancient manuscripts on different techniques of Eastern Magic, Chocolate-san," he explained.

"Oh I see. But what for?"

"It has always been my dream to become a mage, Chocolate-san."

"Will you please stop calling me Chocolate-san. It makes me feel queasy."

"But what will I call you?"

"Plain Chocolate will be fine."

"Oh."

"So, you're studying to be a mage, huh?" Just like HIM…

"Hai, Chocolate-s… Chocolate."

"Well, good luck. By the way, what are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be with Tira and Carrot-chan at home?"

"Well, I guess but I just can't concentrate with Tira-chan yelling her head off at oniisan. Gomen if I intruded into your private space."

"It's okay, I guess, as long as you keep it a secret."

"Even from our siblings?"

"Yes, even from them."

"Why?"

"I have my reasons."

"Oh."

A rather uncomfortable silence followed during which I tried my best not to look at the child beside me. We were almost of the same age but something about him made me feel inferior. Then, as if remembering something, I spring up and walk towards the hollow of the tree where I stash an emergency food supply.

"Here," I say, tossing him an apple while biting into mine. "These are still good."

He catches it effortlessly and takes a bite. "Scrumptious. Arigato, Chocolate-s…"

I smirk as he stutters, finding it quite… new… to say my name in that manner. I resume my earlier position, looking out into the horizon.

* * *

Playful sunlight filters through the boughs of the sakura tree caressing my skin. Closing my book, I stifle a yawn and look up at my companion. Lying on a branch suspended not far from the ground was a figure of an eight-year old girl with deep brown hair, totally oblivious to the things around her. Upon closer inspection, I find that her oblivion is caused by her slumber. Not knowing what to do, I just stare at her enchanting face, memorizing every detail of it. In that state, she looked like a sleeping angel. I have not yet understood how she is able to mesmerize me so. People often consider her to be quite boyish considering the fact that she had a reputation as a troublemaker but I can easily see through that façade. Deep inside, I know she is kind of heart and pure of spirit… Is this the reason why I am drawn to her? I don't know what it was about this girl that made her affect me so. Though it was only a few weeks back since I've known her, I feel as though I have known her for quite some time. There's some inexplicable force pulling me to her, which I cannot explain. Magic? You may call it that. Yeah, it had to be just that but…

A slight rustle draws me back to reality. I look up instinctively in time to see her move in her sleep. She was close to falling off the branch of the tree so I decided to rouse her from her sleep.  Reaching out to touch her arm, I gently shake her awake.

"Chocolate-san, I think we should be returning home now."

"Mmmh, Apricot-san. It's Saturday. Can't I…"

She was cut in mid-sentence as her sightless effort to get up ended with her falling off the branch and onto me, toppling me over.

"Chocolate-san!"

"Itai… what the heck did you do that for, Marron?" she said, rubbing her head. "You know, you should really…"

A simultaneous blush stained both of our faces as we realized how close we were to each other. Averting her gaze, she picked herself and fell silent. I watched her with astonished eyes, marveling at how the pale tint of roses that stained her cheeks further enhanced her innocent beauty. Regaining my composure, I stand up and approach her.

"Chocolate-san, daijoubu ka?"

"Daijoubu…" she said in flat, almost cold tone. "And for the last time, stop calling me 'Chocolate-san.' It isn't as if I'm not your surrogate sister. By the way, don't ever do that again. People hate to be disturbed when they are sleeping, you know."

I looked down and blushed. "Gomen, Chocolate-s… Chocolate. It's nearing noon and okaasama must be waiting for us and…"

She turned around and approached me. "It's okay, Marron. I was just kidding. Jeez, I didn't know you'd take me seriously. Am I THAT good an actress?"

"Maybe…"

"Oh well, let's go. Apricot-san must be waiting for us."

"Hai…"

"And by the way…"

"Nani?" I blush as she takes my hand in hers.

"I want you to promise me something, Marron."

"Hai. What is it, Chocolate-s…"

"I want you to swear by this sakuranbo (cherry tree) that you shall keep this place a secret for as long as you live and even after that. Now repeat after me…"

 Feeling quite foolish but obliging nonetheless, I close my eyes and reiterate her words.

"I…"

"I…"

"State your name…"

"Marron Glace…"

"Do solemnly swear…"

"Do solemnly swear…"

"To keep this place and whatever transpires in it…"

"To keep this place and whatever transpires in it…"

"A secret till the end of my days."

"A secret till the end of my days."

I open my eyes instinctively to find her beaming at me.

"There now. I trust you with this one, Marron. You may come here as often as you want as long as you're sure no one's following you."

"Hai. Demo, Chocolate…"

"Nani?"

"Can you promise me something, too?"

* * *

            "Nani?"

            I look up into intense golden orbs filled with sincerity and nod.

            "Hai. What do you want me to promise?"

            "Anou… Chocolate-san, I… I want you to promise me that you shall stay with me forever."

            Hesitation. Doubt.

            I notice the crimson streak across his face and smile.

            "Sure. I'll promise you that if you tell me why," I answer, not even bothering to correct his usage of my name.

            "Umm… I… I don't want to lose you."

            "Nani?"

            "I shall be training to be a mage in two years' time and I'd be leaving so…"

            "But, why do you want me to promise you that when we barely have known each other for barely a month."

            "Demo… I… I… don't know."

            Uncertainty. Innocence. Truth? Maybe…

            "I just do."

            I look up at him with astonished eyes as he says these words and blush just the same as the realization of what was implied in "staying with him forever" hit.

            "Well, okay. I, Chocolate Misu, promise to stay by your side no matter what and be your friend until the end of time."

            I look him in the eye as I say these words, meaning to express my honesty, but as I look into their depth I… There was something about his eyes that reminds me of something… someone… the problem was, I just couldn't remember. Was that also his reason why he asked me to promise him this?

            "Chocolate… daijoubu desu ka?"

            His voice draws me from my reverie. "Anou… gomen ne. What were you saying?"

            "I said we must be going now. We mustn't keep the others waiting."

            Whether it was out of whim or habit, he takes my hand in his and together, we walk towards the place we have come to know as home.

* * *

            Meanwhile, a figure clad in armor stepped from behind the tree and vanished, dissipating into thin air.

* * *

            Okay… some of you may argue why Chocolate and Marron seem to be mature even at the tender age of eight and my answer would be Chocolate, because of the tragedies she experienced when she was young, which I shall be willing to tell in the next chaps, she has developed a wider perspective in life. Marron is mature simply because he is… ; )

            Thanks a bunch for the reviews… More of them will be appreciated…

            Ja ne…