* Disclaimer: Standard disclaimer applies.

In Search of the Lost Sapphire
Prologue: It All Begins with….

Washington D.C., June 2077

It was a very sunny day. It's summer and more importantly, it's VACATION! You can do all things you wanted to do. After all, you deserved a very nice vacation after a year of hard working, didn't you?

Now what do you think other people would do? Well, the ones who got a lot of money could go far away from USA, taking a nice and long vacation. Tour around Europe, one month lazily sun-bathing under Hawaiian sun, exploring the wilderness of Africa? Just pick one….

Alas, not all people were that fortunate. However, that doesn't mean they couldn't get a nice vacation. The ones who weren't blessed with overwhelming fortune might choose one of the following options: going to the beach, spending time with your family, visiting relatives at a city far away from where you lived, hanging around somewhere with old friends, or thousands of another activities, even just sitting at home doing nothing. Just be creative, and you would enjoy your vacation as much as those rich guys enjoyed their vacation….

But for photographers – amateurs or professional – that summer was special. A special photo exhibition was held during the whole summer in Washington D.C. Hope Foundation was the main sponsor. The exhibition was held to commemorate the 100th birthday of Himura Kenshin.

Now you might ask, who the hell is Himura Kenshin? What's so great about him that people would hold a special exhibition to commemorate his 100th birthday? Well, nowadays his name was only famous in the photography world. But decades ago, he was one of the few photographers whose name was not familiar only to photographers, but to 'common' people as well.

Himura Kenshin was a photographer known not only just because of his keen senses in capturing human's expression and freezing such memorable and touching moments, but he was also known for his compassion for humanity, especially children. In fact, he was among the ones who had established Hope Foundation, an organization whose sole mission was to help children in need, wherever and whoever they were….

At the opening of the exhibition….

A couple was standing before a large photograph. The photo was separated from the other photos; it was put in an exclusive space. It pictured a pretty Japanese young girl with blue sapphire eyes. "Now, now… look at this, Jake… Japanese Girl…" The woman read the title. "Isn't she so cute?"

"Yeah…" Jake Brown nodded his head slowly. "Her smile is so… innocent. But I found her eyes are so breathtaking, don't you think so, Linda?"

"Now that you mentioned it, Dear…."

"It's strange..." Jake said wistfully. "You could clearly notice the sadness in her eyes, but at the same time you could notice a sparkle of hope too her eyes…."

"It's a wonderful photo, isn't it?" Another couple had come to stand before the photo as well. "Haven't you ever seen it before?"

"Nope." Linda shook her head. "We're not really photographers, just interested in it. So we don't really know who's who in photography."

"I see…" The other man nodded his head slowly. Then he held out his hand. "By the way, I'm Bryan Welch, and this is my wife, Lisa."

Jake and Linda shook their hands. "Nice to meet you, Bryan and Lisa. I'm Jake Brown and this is Linda."

"Nice to meet you too…" Lisa Welch smiled to their new acquaintances. After the brief introduction the four of them continued to observe the photo. "Did you know that this photo has ever been chosen as the World Press Photo of the year…." Lisa browsed through the booklet in her hands. "… 2005?"

"You didn't mean it!!" Both Jake and Linda exclaimed in unison. Though they weren't professionals, they both knew what the meaning of being chosen as the WPP of the year. "Wow…. But then again, it was a very nice shot…"

Bryan laughed a little bit. "I bet you'd be more surprised and awed if you knew the real story behind this photo."

"Young man, are you sure you know the true story behind this photo?" Another person had joined them. This time it was an old man in his mid 60's. His hair had turned gray, leaving only a few strands of red hair. They could tell that he wasn't a native American, but his English was flawless. He was already old, but one could still feel the energy he radiated.

"Excuse me, Sir?" Bryan was a little bit confused.

The old man smiled warmly and repeated his question, "I ask, are you sure you know the real story behind this photo?"

"Oh, yes I do, Sir." Bryan replied confidently. "This photo was taken right after the great Kobe earthquake in Japan in 1995. But it was 10 years after that Kenshin Himura sent it to the World Press Photo…"

"You're kidding, aren't you?" Jake was astonished as he heard this. "This photo was taken after that terrible earthquake? Man, it was one of the most terrible earthquakes that ever hit Japan! Yet this girl smiled…. How could that be?"

"Yup, you're right." Lisa nodded. "She was one of the many victims of that disaster. And it was indeed amazing that she still managed to smile…"

"Anyway…" Bryan continued again. "Her smile is the one thing that earned Mr. Himura that prestigious award. She must have been a very spirited girl to be able to smile in times like that…."

The room fell silent. Then the old man broke the deafening silence. "Well, what else do you know about it?"

Bryan was taken aback by his question. "I'm afraid that's all I know about it, but you couldn't expect more, could you? This photo was my favorite. I did some research on the Internet and that's all I could find about it…. I think that it's the only known fact about it that there is."

"And you claimed to know the real story behind it?" The old man raised his eyebrows, but then he smiled. "Let me tell you this: you only know one percent of the whole story behind this photo, Young Man." He took a deep breath. "Have you ever wondered why she was given such a special space?"

Everyone shook his or her heads. "No…"

The old man gazed at the photo for a while. For a second they thought his eyes tinged with sadness. Maybe it's just my imagination… Each of them had the same thought.

"She was the reason this foundation exists. It was because of her that this organization was ever established, though her name never came to light. Officially her name was unknown, but in our hearts her name will be forever memorized…."

Lisa was the one who started it. Intrigued by the old man's admiration for the little girl, she then asked, "Sir… would you mind telling us the story about this little girl? We'd love to hear about it, wouldn't we, Bryan?" She elbowed her husband.

"Yeah, of course we would!" Bryan responded enthusiastically, followed by the other two shortly after.

The old man gazed at the photo for a while, and as he kept his eyes on her face he finally said, "Very well… Then I shall tell you the true story behind her smile. The smile that had changed one man's life…, the smile that had touched the lives of people around her and healed the heartache of many souls…." He took a deep breath and then began his story. "It all begins with a break up in an evening in the winter time…."

- End of Prologue: It All Begins with… -

Author's Note:

* Not much to say here, except that this is the prologue I've told you about. I hope it was decent enough. Tell me what you think about it…