He knew it was impolite to stare, but he couldn't help continuously stealing glances. He was awed—baffled even. It had only been a few years. It seemed like only yesterday that he had let her go, watching her walk off and into the dangerous reality of society. She had claimed that she was ready to support herself.

Maybe she had been right all along.

Still, he could barely believe his eyes. This couldn't be the little girl he had helped and taken custody of. This couldn't be the one he had spent day after day with, having meals, taking walks. This couldn't be Lili… right?

"You're a lovely dancer," the beauty in his arms complimented, causing his doubts to fade. No matter how much more elegant and refined it had gotten, it was still the same soft, sweet voice that had called him "brother" so many times.

"Thanks… As are you," he mumbled, trying to keep himself from fumbling. He was awkward next to her, having his world suddenly tipped off balance.

She smiled graciously. In truth, she knew he had been staring all along. She knew she had changed. Most importantly, she knew he was seeing her in a different light. Her pale hair, grown long again, sashays in time with her hips, her flowing gown tailing close behind.

She was different now, the young maiden realized. And with this revelation came a newfound confidence. After so long, she felt that now was the time to finally say to him what she had never been able to say before. Now was the time that she could speak on the same level, without the burden of uncertainty or impropriety.

Slowly, she pulled herself closer to his face, her words fluttering into his unsuspecting ear.

"Vash… I love you."