"Get back here you munchkin!" I call at Poppen, chasing him around the Mana Village. Everyone who sees us can tell that we're just playing by how much we're both smiling.

Poppen yells back, "You can't catch me! You're too slow, Sharina!"

"Slow, huh? I'll show you who's slow!"

His laughter gets louder as we get near the creek. He jumps over it to the other side.

I grin and jump, too, but my timing's a little off, since I kick off right when my foot lands on a wet stone. This sends me tumbling into the shallow, yet extremely cold water, "AH!"

*SPLASH*

"Cold! Cold!" I shriek, practically leaping out of the water and hugging myself, shivering a little.

Poppen falls to the ground clutching his sides while he laughs uncontrollably.

I wring out my brown and blonde layered hair, forcing the water off in droplets at the red tips, "You think that's funny, huh?"

He can't even speak in full sentences he's laughing so hard, so he just nods, "Yes! Ha-ha, Yes, I do!"

I smirk and jump at him, "BONZAI!!"

He squeals and tries to scramble away, but he's too late.

I grab him in a hug and lift him off the ground, "Got'cha! You little monster..."

He continues to giggle and laugh, "You're all wet!"

I laugh too and spin around, holding him tightly, "Yeah, well now we're both wet! We match!" I carry him back towards the main square of the village, still cradling him like a child. Well, I guess he is a child; he is only nine after all.

"Let's go see Tamber and Ferrik, Sharina!" Poppen cheers.

I grin, "Alright, off we go!" I break into a run towards the small forest behind where Mayor Moti's house is.

The small boy squeals again and clings to me, obviously enjoying the ride.

I jump over a felled tree, eventually coming to a spot where the trees leave a clear space, but still shade it from most of the sun. There are big rocks and a few stumps here and there, and upon one such rock is Tamber, watching Ferrik swing his sword around.

"Hey, guys!" I call, entering the clearing.

Tamber looks over and smiles, "Hey, Sharina, Poppen!"

I wave, then call to Ferrik, "Stop swinging that thing and get over here!"

He turns around and grins, "Hey, Shii!"

I have no idea where he pulled that nickname from, but he's been calling me that since the day after the first time I met him. Not like I mind.
I set the little one down and grin back, then glomp him as he walks over, "Hiiiiiiiii!"

He laughs at my greeting, even though it's pretty usual for us. "Why are you both soaking wet?" he asks, hugging me back anyway.

Poppen points at me, giggling, "Sharina did it!"

Not letting go of Ferrik, I turn my head and narrow my eyes at him, "Thanks, Poppen, thanks a lot."

He only laughs from his spot next to Tamber.

I move to go after him again, but Ferrik holds onto me, "I'm not done yet."

I laugh at that and hug him tightly, "Sorry!"

Tamber rolls her eyes, "You two are such goofs..."

"Thanks!" I say cheerfully.

She shakes her head.

Poppen looks up at her, "I don't blame him; Sharina's hugs are amazing!"

I grin, "And don't you forget it!"

Tamber eyes me slyly, "So, Sharina, Seamoon tells me you're going to sing at the Silver Mermaid tonight."

I narrow my eyes at her, "Shut it, Tamber..."

Ferrik looks down at me, "You're gonna sing? Why didn't you tell us?"

Poppen pipes up, "Yeah! We wanna come listen!"

I sigh, "Because I didn't want you to be there in case I totally embarrass myself..."

Ferrik smiles, putting a hand on my head, "You won't, you're better than that, Shii."

I blush, "So, I guess that means...?"

"We'll be there," Tamber says happily, grinning.

I groan and hide my face in Ferrik's chest, "Whyyyyyyyyy?"

He laughs, "Because we like hearing you sing. You're talented."

"Yeah!" Poppen agrees. "And we wanna be there to support you!"

I sigh, "...Fine."

Ferrik picks me up off the ground, causing me to squeak loudly. "You couldn't have stopped us, anyway!"

"Nooooooooo! Put me down! I'll pull your ponytail, don't think I won't!" I threaten.

He laughs, "Fine, fine. Jeez, you're such a spaz."

Once I'm back on the ground, I tug that one lock of tri-colored hair of his, "Then stop picking me up like that!"

Tamber glances up at the treetops, where the sun shines through between the leaves, "You'd better get going, Sharina." She smirks at me, "You need to get ready."

Sighing, I stalk off, "Yeah, yeah."

I hear them laugh at me as I go, and then-

*GLOMP*

Poppen attempts to tackle me from behind, "Rawr!"

I laugh, "What're you supposed to be, a Rabite?"

He latches onto my right leg, sitting on my foot, "YES!"

I laugh again, "I guess I'm taking my new pet with me." I look back at Tamber and Ferrik, "See you guys later!"

They wave, both laughing at Poppen and me.

So, with little difficulty, I make my way back to my house with a lump of giggling boy on my ankle, successfully drawing the stares of people in the village, as well as more than a few laughs from those same people. Once I get through my door, I pry Poppen off my leg and set him on the small couch, "I'm gonna take a quick shower, and pick an outfit for tonight after that. You gonna hang out here?"

He nods, "Can I help you pick out your clothes?"

I laugh, "Sure thing. I need all the help I can get."

He hugs me, "Yay!"

I hug him back, then head upstairs for my shower. It doesn't take long for me to wash up and dry off, then I skip into my room and call Poppen up. My robe clinging to me, I dance over to the closet and lay a few things out on my bed. Once I've laid out three or four nice outfits, I look at Poppen, "I have a half-hour before I have to head down to the Silver Mermaid to set up. This leaves us some time to decide."

Poppen looks them all over, "Hmm... I like the blue, but can you try it on? I wanna see what it looks like on you!"

I giggle, "Sure thing."

I grab the first one, a blue dress with beaded patterns around the hem and silver sewn in streaks and swirls around the middle, plus a slit to the hip at the right side, with a pair of black shorts to go under it.

I hurry behind my folding screen and change, then saunter out and do a little spin, "Well?"

Poppen gasps, "You look SO pretty! Wear that one!"

I laugh, "Okay, okay, I will." I put the other clothes away, grinning. "That didn't take long; I didn't even have to try the other ones on..."

"That one looks really nice on you, so why bother?" Poppen says, looking at me upside down from his spot on my bed.

I shrug, "True." Then, I scoop him up, "And now, I have some time to play with my favorite Rabite!"

He laughs, "Yay!"

I giggle and hurry downstairs, dropping him on the couch.

He's still laughing when someone knocks on my door.

'Wonder who that is,' I muse. "Be right back," I tell Poppen, poking his nose. I make my way to the door and pull it open, revealing Tamber standing there.

Her eyes widen a little, "Wow... You look great, Sharina."

I chuckle, "Yeah, well, let's hope my singing's as 'great' as my outfit tonight..."

She smiles, "Seamoon sent me up. She says they want you down there early; the crowd's getting antsy."

I sigh, "Figures..." I turn and look at the little boy, "Sorry, Poppen. Looks like I've gotta head in ahead of schedule."

He jumps up, "You're gonna go sing now? Let's go, Let's go!" He grabs my hand and tries to pull me out the door.

Tamber laughs, "He doesn't seem too upset."

I shake my head and, after locking my door, go with the two of them over to the Silver Mermaid's back door. "I have to go in this way, okay? I'll see you when I get out there."

They nod, and Tamber gives me a sisterly kind of hug, "You'll knock 'em dead."

"Thanks," I whisper, needing the confidence boost.

Poppen then reaches his arms up, signaling for me to pick him up because he wants to hug me too. "Tamber's right, you'll be great!"

I smile, "I hope so."

He grins at me as I put him back down, "Good luck, Sharina!" Then he's off to go inside with Tamber.

I take a deep breath and go on through the door to the upper level, 'Here goes everything...'

~.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.~

'Of course, she leaves out that Seamoon asked her to play the piano,' I think, eyeing Tamber as she sits down on the bench.

Already knowing what songs I'm going to sing, she looks up at me and, at my OK, winks, and plays the opening keys.

The crowd quiets down at the sound of the piano's melody, and all eyes are on me.
I take a breath and start:

There's a song that's inside of my soul
It's the one that I've tried to write over and over again
I'm awake in the infinite cold
But You sing to me over and over and over again

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands
And pray to be only Yours
I pray to be only Yours
I know now you're my only hope

Sing to me the song of the stars
Of Your galaxy dancing and laughing
And laughing again
When it feels like my dreams are so far
Sing to me of the plans that You have for me over again

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands and pray
To be only yours
I pray to be only yours
I know now you're my only hope

I give You my destiny
I'm giving You all of me
I want Your symphony
Singing in all that I am
At the top of my lungs I'm giving it back

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands and pray
To be only yours
I pray to be only yours
I pray to be only yours
I know now you're my only hope

When the song ends, there's applause from the crowd, and I think there's one person cheering; loudly.
I look for where it's coming from and spot Ferrik, grinning insanely. I blush and give a slight bow, then cue for Tamber to start the next song.

I'm so tired of being here
Suppressed by all my childish fears
And if you have to leave
I wish that you would just leave
'Cause your presence still lingers here
And it won't leave me alone

These wounds won't seem to heal
This pain is just too real
There's just too much that time cannot erase

When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears
When you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears
I held your hand through all of these years
But you still have
All of me

You used to captivate me
By your resonating light
Now I'm bound by the life you left behind
Your face it haunts
My once pleasant dreams
Your voice it chased away
All the sanity in me

These wounds won't seem to heal
This pain is just too real
There's just too much that time cannot erase

When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears
When you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears
I held your hand through all of these years
But you still have
All of me

I've tried so hard to tell myself that you're gone
But though you're still with me
I've been alone all along

When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears
When you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears
I held your hand through all of these years
But you still have
All of me

I breathe deeply as the song comes to an end, and the audience claps again.

Seamoon announces that I'll only be singing one more song, which seems to disappoint quite a few people.

I take this as encouragement and nod to my green-haired friend.

She gives a thumbs up and starts playing what is actually one of my favorite songs, only a slower version made for the piano.

I still hear your voice, when you sleep next to me.
I still feel your touch in my dreams.
Forgive me my weakness, but I don't know why
Without you it's hard to survive.

'Cause every time we touch, I get this feeling.
And every time we kiss I swear I could fly.
Can't you feel my heart beat fast, I want this to last.
Need you by my side.
'Cause every time we touch, I feel this static.
And every time we kiss, I reach for the sky.
Can't you hear my heart beat slow...
I can't let you go.
Want you in my life.

Your arms are my castle, your heart is my sky.
They wipe away tears that I cry.
The good and the bad times, we've been through them all.
You make me rise when I fall.

'Cause every time we touch, I get this feeling.
And every time we kiss I swear I could fly.
Can't you feel my heart beat fast, I want this to last.
Need you by my side.
'Cause every time we touch, I feel this static.
And every time we kiss, I reach for the sky.
Can't you hear my heart beat slow...
I can't let you go.
Want you in my life.

'Cause every time we touch, I get this feeling.
And every time we kiss I swear I could fly.
Can't you feel my heart beat fast, I want this to last.
Need you by my side.

A lot of people are cheering when I finish, and I can see Poppen jumping up and down in the front.

I smile brightly and bow, then gesture for Tamber to join me on the upper level.

Though she blushes at the attention, she complies.

We join hands and bow together as the crowd applauds our finale.
It takes a while, but people eventually start to file out, until it's just me and Tamber. Ferrik had gone to take Poppen home, and Tamber's about to leave.

"You were amazing, Sharina. Just like I said, right?" she teases as we head for the door.

I roll my eyes, "Yeah, well, you were great on the piano, you know. It wouldn't have been nearly as great if you hadn't been playing."

She laughs and hugs me good-bye, "I'll see you tomorrow, okay? Get some sleep; you've earned it."

"You too!" I call as I walk away.

While she heads home, I take a little detour to the cliff. The sky's really clear tonight, so I want to stargaze for a little before I go home. I head north of the village a little way, stopping when I reach the cliff at its edge. I lose myself in the beauty of the sky, letting the wonder of all the twinkling stars take over.

"...Sharina?"

I jump slightly, whirling around at the voice. I'm surprised to see Ferrik there, walking towards me.

"What are you doing out here?" He asks.

I shrug, "Stargazing. There are no clouds tonight, so the stars are really bright..."

He smiles and nods, looking up at them from next to me, "You're right. It really is something else, isn't it?"

"Mhmm..." I hum absently, coming close to losing myself again.

"...You were great up there, Shii."

I feel my cheeks start to burn, but I smile anyway and try to ignore it, "Thanks. I was scared to death, though."

He chuckles, "Ah, you had nothing to worry about."

I shake my head, my blush only getting worse.
It's silent for the next few minutes, both of us just staring at the sky, side-by-side. I snap out of my trance, though, when Ferrik takes my hand. I glance down at our hands, then up at him, "Ferrik?"

He looks from the sky to out into the distance, "Sharina... There's something I have to tell you... I'm just not sure how."

I tilt my head, "What is it?"

He sighs, "I just... I can't put it into words..."

I think for a second, "Can you show me?"

He looks into my eyes and, after a second's hesitation, smiles a little nervously, "Alright, but... please don't get mad?"

Confused, I try to figure out what he means, "Why would I get mad?"

He doesn't answer, but takes my other hand and leans forward, lightly pressing his lips to mine. He pulls back about two seconds after and looks at my face; I can tell by his expression that he thinks he's done something wrong.

I un-freeze myself and meet his eyes again. "...I think I get it now," I whisper, being only an inch or so away from him.

His face reddens a bit, but he gives a small smile, "So...?"

Forcing my brain to function again, I smile back, "I think... you went a little too fast." Then I lean in and kiss him, resisting the urge to smile again when he returns it.