Author's note: Be forewarned, this chapter has major spoilers in it for the last two OAV2 episodes. Read and enjoy!

Chapter 4:

"Ah, Chichiri! Let me go outside, kudasai!" Marissa was leaning across the table, her palms stretched out as far as they would go, looking up pleadingly at Chichiri. It had been a week since Marissa had come to be with Chichiri and he had managed to keep her inside and off of her feet the entire time. Now Marissa was no longer content with looking out the windows, and she wanted to go outside; now!

Chichiri only shook his head. "No no da. You're not healed up enough to be out walking no da."

"Argh," Marissa moaned, her head falling heavily to the table, arms still stretched out in front of her. She looked up at Chichiri and put on the saddest eyes she could muster up. Her lower lip started to tremble and Chichiri straightened up a little, knowing that he would eventually have to give in to the large brown eyes that were staring at him so pitifully.

"Alright no da," he said quietly, giving in.

Marissa's eyes immediately cleared and she pumped her fist up in the air. "Yosh!"

Chichiri couldn't help but emit a small chuckle as he stood up from the table, then glanced out the window behind him. It was late morning, and he had been planning on going fishing today anyway. Why not take her along? Walking over to the chair in the corner by the hearth, he began pulling on his kesa, then slipped his kasa over his head and lastly grabbed the fishing pole that stood against the wall next to his staff. He'd have to leave his staff behind, but he'd never worried over it before. It was protected from use by any one other than himself by one of his more powerful spells. Turning back towards Marissa he could see that her eyes were sparkling with patient anticipation.

"Ready to go no da?"

"Yup!" she replied. "I'm even already dressed." She ended with a smile.

Looking over the table Chichiri could see that she was wearing her usual outfit, his old shirt and a pair of shorts that had come out of her ripped pants. She rolled up the long sleeves on his shirt, then moved to get up from the table.

"I don't think so, no da," Chichiri said, stopping her midway.

"Huh? What?" Marissa asked puzzled, looking up at him. Chichiri walked over to her and now standing beside her.

"I told you that you're not going walking, no matter what no da." Handing her his fishing pole he then bent down and picked her up, holding her gently in his arms against his chest. Marissa was only slightly caught off guard by the action. It had happened everyday now, even if it was only for short trips between the bedroom and the main room. Her heart jumped a little every time, but she tried to push the feelings away whenever it happened. Putting her left arm slowly around his neck she held tightly onto the fishing pole with her right hand, trying to calm the feelings in her stomach.

Chichiri began walking towards the door when it automatically swung open before them. Marissa immediately clutched harder around his neck, then giggled softly when she remembered that she had seen Chichiri open doors using his mind before. Chichiri looked down at her, only to see her smiling back up at him. He wondered silently why she wasn't more surprised at seeing him use his magic, considering that most people often were, but then he reminded himself that Marissa knew more than the average person did. He had never pursued asking Marissa about what was to come in the future. He felt that whatever was to happen should come without prior knowledge, and Marissa seemed to understand his lack of curiosity.

Chichiri stepped out the door and it swung silently closed behind them. Walking briskly across the road, he stepped into the woods and began following his familiar path towards the pond he fished at. About halfway through the walk, Marissa began to squirm in Chichiri's arms, not frequently, but enough to be noticed. Looking down at her after a moment, Chichiri began to wonder what was wrong. She only looked back up at him innocently, as though nothing was the matter. Chichiri walked a little farther, when Marissa began to squirm again. This time he stopped, looking down at her questioningly. She didn't look up at him though, and just sat in his arms biting her lower lip. Chichiri knew this meant she had something on her mind and he wasn't going to move until she said it.

Finally after a minute she spoke up. "Um, Chichiri... aren't you getting tired of carrying me? We've been walking for at least 10 minutes and I know I'm not that light..." her voice quietly trailed off and Chichiri only smiled in relief at such a quaint question.

"It's alright, you're not heavy no da." Marissa blushed slightly at the compliment, and she could feel Chichiri's arms tightening around her, showing no sign of fatigue at all. She nodded her head with understanding and they continued on.

In about 5 minutes they emerged upon a small pond situated in the middle of the wood, with grassy banks on all sides and a flat boulder at one end. Marissa let out a small gasp when she recognized the pond as being the same one she had fallen into when she'd first come here.

"What is it no da?" Chichiri asked, looking down at her.

"This is where I was when I first came here. I fell into this pond."

Chichiri gave a small nod. "I thought so when you mentioned falling into a pond no da."

Walking over to one of the larger trees directly behind the boulder, he gently set Marissa down on the ground beneath it. Then, removing his cloak and unclasping one end from the ring, Chichiri spread it out on the ground next to her. Picking her up again, he scooted her over onto the cloak, making her a blanket to rest on top of.

"Arigatou, Chichiri," Marissa said, running her hand over the cloak beneath her.

"No problem no da. I'll be over there, you just sit here and enjoy the sun no da." With that Chichiri strolled over to the large rock, sat down at the boulder's edge, and dropped his fishing line into the pond.

Marissa leaned her head back against the tree and looked up at the early afternoon sky. The sky was a beautiful cloudless blue, and the day was warming rapidly. No matter where I go I can't seem to escape summer, she thought with amused gloom.

She looked over at Chichiri and saw him hunched over the fishing pole, legs crossed, his bangs blowing lazily in the warm breeze. Marissa couldn't help but smile as her eyes gazed fondly over him. She shook her head though and leaned back once more against the tree, tucking her arms behind her head and letting her mind wander with lazy thoughts.

It's been a year, ne? I wonder if I'll still be here when the fighting with Tenkou begins? I remember watching the OAVIIs, I was so distraught over them for the longest time. It's such a hard fight when he comes. Maybe I'll be able to help them. But how could I? I have no special talents, and they're all Suzaku seishi with inhuman abilities. I'd probably only get in the way.

And poor Chichiri, she thought sadly, looking back over at the man who had been so good and kind to her the past week.

Should I tell him what happens in the future? I cried so much when I saw the end of the fifth episode. Could I bear seeing him go through that again, this time for real?

Marissa shook her head, trying to forget the pain she had felt while watching Chichiri mourn over his friend that died a second time in front of him. Even then I cried, and it was only an anime. How could I take it this time, when it's reality?

Suddenly an overwhelming feeling of protectiveness surged through her. She could feel that it was for Chichiri, the man she had come to care for so much over the past several months.

I couldn't take it! I know I wouldn't be able to... She thought fearfully, realizing just what would happen.

I'd stand there, wanting to protect him so badly, to shelter him from what was to come. I 'd have to become strong. I can't tell him what happens, but I can fight for him! If I become stronger maybe it won't be so painful for him, maybe I can even try to prevent Tenkou's plans from working. But only if I become stronger. I can't do anything right now. I have to find a way to be stronger!

Pushing herself up from the ground, her mind set in this new resolution, Marissa balanced herself carefully on her left foot, bracing herself against the tree with her right hand. Right now, with this strange, determined feeling inside of her she wanted to be as close to Chichiri as she possibly could, to protect him in any way. Seeing him sitting so far away from her wasn't helping to dispel the feeling of dread that had fallen over her heart.

Marissa pushed herself away from the tree, hopping awkwardly towards where Chichiri was sitting. Chichiri turned around at the sound, and seeing Marissa hopping towards him, he quickly arose and was at her side instantly.

"What are you doing no da?" he asked, his left arm around her shoulder and his right hand holding her own.

"I... I just wanted to come sit by you," she replied quietly, looking up into his eyes.

Chichiri was stunned when he saw the strong emotions deep in Marissa's eyes, reflecting a burning fire of determination, and oddly enough, directed at him. He nodded his head, wondering silently what had caused her to feel this way. Her picked her up in his arms and walked back to the boulder, setting her down on the flat surface and letting her bare feet dangle over the edge. He walked back to the tree and retrieved his kesa, then sat down next to Marissa on the boulder and resumed his fishing. He glanced over at her after a minute of silence, only to see her unfocused eyes gazing sternly over the pond while methodically chewing her lower lip.

Marissa's mind was all jumbled as she bit her lower lip impatiently, trying desperately to sort everything out. How can I do it? There must be some way I can learn to fight and protect, but how? Once I'm better, do I have to leave Chichiri behind so I can come back later and try to protect him? Will he even want me to come back? Her eyes fell at the thought, and her situation seemed utterly hopeless at the moment.

A low cough came from beside her and she looked up to see Chichiri looking at her with concern. She forced a smile, trying to assure him that there was nothing wrong. Chichiri didn't seem satisfied though, and finally he spoke to her.

"Mari-chan, how old are you no da?"

"Eh!" The question had caught her off guard, she was expecting something more serious than how old she was. "Um, I'm 18."

Chichiri nodded his head, then continued. "I think that's a perfect age for learning magic, don't you think no da?"

Marissa didn't think she had heard him right, so she only stared at him in silent shock. She shook her head after a moment. "Wh...what did you say?"

Chichiri smiled, amused at her reaction. "I said, 'do you want to learn magic no da'?"

Marissa just kept staring at him, completely blown away by what he had just said. Did he read my mind?? Or is he just really good at reading my feelings?

Who cares! she thought with a mental kick. Go for it!

Marissa broke into a huge smile, his words finally getting through to her. "Yes! Yes, oh please, yes I do!" she cried, clasping her hands onto his arm.

Chichiri returned her smile. "Then lets get to it no da."

* * * * * * *

"Like this?"

"Iie, no da. You're not concentrating hard enough no da."

Marissa and Chichiri sat facing each other beneath the large tree by the pond. Both had their legs crossed and their fingers placed in front of their mouths. Chichiri's kesa had once again been spread out like a blanket and evening was quickly approaching from the east.

"Remember what I told you no da. Focus your mind on the object, then release your chi no da."

For the past several hours Chichiri had been patiently trying to teach Marissa how to build up and throw her chi. His efforts had been unsuccessful so far though, but he was persistent, and reminded himself how long it had taken him under Taiitsukun's teachings.

Marissa dropped her fingers from her face in frustration. "I can't do it. I think people from my world can't do this kind of stuff."

Chichiri dropped his fingers from his face as well, looking seriously at Marissa. "Try again no da. This time, fully concentrate on focusing your energy. Remove everything from around you except for the object no da."

Marissa gave a small sigh of defeat and raised her fingers to her lips again. She shut her eyes and visualized the object she had been focusing on for the past hour, a small tree about thirty feet away from where they were sitting. Focus, focus... Marissa was happy that she could feel Chichiri's training so far within herself. She could now actually sense the energy within her body, something she would have never thought possible on her own world. Now her only problem seemed to be focusing it to a point and releasing it. She knew she wasn't concentrating hard enough, and she admired Chichiri for his ability to sense that this was true.

She began to build up her energy, trying desperately to picture only the tree in her mind. A few seconds more and she would have enough energy built up, but she needed to focus more on the object. She could tell deep in her mind that something was missing, and she was blaming herself for not having the ability to accomplish such a supposedly easy feat.

Marissa was about to give up again when she seemed to suddenly lose her focus on the tree, but it was replaced by something different. Images of Chichiri battling his best friend flashed through her mind. Chichiri as a young man, trying to rescue Hikou by the river, all the pain that Chichiri felt seemed to come upon her at once.

Suddenly the conviction and need to protect she had felt earlier came back to her in a rush and she knew she had found what she was missing. The images faded to the back of her mind and she focused once more on the tree. Instantly everything was gone except for her energy and the tree, she knew she had it. Marissa released her energy and her eyes shot open as the sound of an explosion came from behind her.

She turned quickly to see the tree that she had focused on was completely blown to bits. Leaves, splinters, and dust fell from the air, the only things left of the small tree. She smiled happily, feeling herself alive with a new power.


Marissa turned to see Chichiri staring open mouthed at where the tree used to stand.

That was amazing! Even I hadn't mastered that strength of chi by the time I was under Taiitsukun for a whole year. There is something special...

"Alright!! Chichiri, did you see that?! I did it! I really did it!!" She jumped to her feet still filled with giddy energy, but immediately fell, straight down into Chichiri's arms.

Marissa looked up, blushing. "Opps, I forgot..."

Chichiri bent his face to look down at her, his arms still holding her tightly. Time seemed to stop for each of them, and their two faces remained inches from each other, neither one breathing or saying a word.

No, I wanted this feeling to go away! Marissa desperately thought, but found that she couldn't pull her eyes away from Chichiri's face.

Chichiri continued looking down at her, equally surprised at his response. What is this?

Suddenly the cry of a lone wolf howling in the distance cut through the silence, causing them both to pull away from each other. Marissa sat back, abruptly turning her head to look up at the sky, and saw that the sunset's orange glow was quickly disappearing in the west.

Chichiri got to his feet, brushing what had just happened to the back of mind, and reached out his hand to help Marissa to her feet.

Marissa stood balancing on one foot while Chichiri picked up his kesa and wrapped it back around himself. Looking over briefly at Marissa, he saw her shiver slightly in the cool night air, her arms tightly wrapped around herself. He shrugged off his kesa, handing it out towards her.

Marissa stared somewhat puzzled at the offering, then took it carefully in her hands. "Um, thanks, Chichiri," she said quietly, trying to ignore the uncomfortable feeling that had come over both of them. She wrapped his cloak around her shoulders, and glanced up once more towards the night sky. A single bright star had appeared close to the western horizon, and she could barely make out fainter stars appearing against the darker blue backdrop. She wanted to stand their longer and see the night sky for the first time, when a light hand placed itself on her shoulder and caused her to look down. Marissa gave a small nod of her head and Chichiri picked Marissa up once more, heading back into the woods.

Marissa wrapped Chichiri's cloak tightly around herself, keeping her eyes on the ground, or on the bubble pattern on Chichiri's kesa. She found herself liking the way it smelled, but she quickly shook her head, trying to rid herself of thoughts like that.

Chichiri was looking straight ahead, however he saw Marissa give a small shake of her head, and he wondered if there was anything wrong. However after a minute she still said nothing, so he let his curiosity fall, continuing to walk towards the house.

Night had fallen around them and Marissa glanced up at the sky, unable to resist the chance to catch a glimpse of the stars through the treetops. However the woods were too thick and she gave a small sigh of disappointment when her eyes met nothing but a dark green canopy.

Emerging upon the road in another minute, Chichiri paused as he felt Marissa squirm around, attempting to get a better view of the sky. She finally tilted her head straight back, looking up at the star lit sky above them.

Chichiri watched her movement, then followed her gave up to the heavens. He stood there for a moment admiring the sky, realizing that he never really took the time to stop and look at it before.


Chichiri looked down and saw Marissa looking at him with a somewhat amused expression.

"Is there anywhere around here where you can get a really good view of the sky?"

"I'm not sure. But I do know of a hill a little walk from here that might be good for that no da."

"Could we go there, please? I haven't had a chance to see the night sky here yet."

Chichiri watched as an almost desperate look took over in Marissa's eyes and he realized just how important this was to her.

"Very well, no da. But only for a little while, it gets cold very quickly no da."

Marissa smiled and nodded her head and Chichiri began heading towards a small hill that stood between the house and the river.

After a couple of minutes they came to the top of the hill. Chichiri set Marissa down gently on the grass with his kesa still wrapped closely around her. She sat down on the cool grass, her legs sticking straight out in front of her, and leaned back to look up at the sky. Chichiri heard her let out a small gasp at the sight of the brightly lit sky, each star glittering like a diamond against the black curtain of night.

"It's beautiful, and so much darker here than it is in my world, or at least where I live."

Glancing down at Marissa, Chichiri could see her eyes glittering with the starlight reflected in them, and he found himself beginning to understand just how special this was to her. He smiled and sat down next to her, thinking that he might as well figure out why she loved the stars so much.

"Oh look! That's Sagittarius, now I'm sure it's still summer. But look how far to the west it is, and its only early evening! Fall's coming soon," she ended with a frown.

Chichiri turned his head to look at her, surprised at her knowledge of how to read the stars and their movements.

"So, Mari-chan, why do you like the stars so much no da?"

Marissa shrugged her shoulders slightly, her eyes remaining focused on the sky.

"Ever since I was 8 I've wanted to study the stars. On my world its called being an Astronomer. What I wouldn't give to have my telescope right now, with such dark skies..."

"Telescope, no da?"

"Eh... oh, whoops," Marissa giggled. "It's something that lets you see really far, far enough so that you can see things in between the stars that you can't see with your eyes."

"Da..." Chichiri commented softly. "You have amazing things on your world no da."

Marissa smiled and shrugged her shoulders again. "Yeah, but I think I'd give it up to have dark skies like this all the time. See, look over there," she said, pointing towards the east. "You see that bluish fuzzy thing next to the constellation that looks like an upside down V?"

"'V' no da?"

"Argh..." Marissa groaned, dropping her head onto her chest. "Ok!" she said, looking up abruptly. "Do you at least see the bluish thing? It looks like an oval."

"Hai, no da," Chichiri replied, nodding his head.

"Good. That's called Andromeda. Its the closest galaxy to our own, our sister you might say." Leaning back a little farther, Marissa looked up higher into the sky.

"Where I live, the only way to see that is through my telescope. Here, there's nothing but moonlight that might ruin the view. You don't know how lucky you are. Nobody cares about looking at the stars where I come from. It's a lost art you might say."

Chichiri brought his eyes down from the stars and looked over at Marissa. He could see both passion and sadness within her, and the starlight was shimmering across small pools of water that had formed at the corners of her eyes. She brought her hand up though, brushing them away.

"I always get a little misty when I look at the stars," she explained quietly.

Chichiri was considering going back to the house, when he heard Marissa cry out.

"Ah! I found it!"

He looked back at her, and saw her smiling mischievously at him. "Da?"

Marissa let out a small, wicked giggle, and looked skyward. "I found your constellation, Chichiri."

When he didn't say anything she looked back at him surprised. "You do remember don't you?" Leaning forward, she gently tapped his right knee with her fingertip.

"Oh, that. I remember no da."

"Wow," Marissa said, falling back onto the grass, her hand resting dramatically over her forehead. "One of the two remaining Suzaku seishi actually forgot he had his own constellation. If I had one I'd never forget about it. To actually have something permanent in the heavens named after you, or vice versa, that's being fortunate."

Chichiri raised his eyebrows a little, once again surprised at Marissa's knowledge about him.

Looking skyward again, he tried to hold back a smile. I didn't forget, I've just... his mind paused, not sure exactly what he was trying to say. He inwardly wondered where his thoughts had been trying to lead to, when a gentle sigh of contentment beside him roused him back to reality.

Leaning back, he laid himself down on the grass beside Marissa. She jumped slightly at the feeling of his body next to hers, but their closeness only made the night air more tolerable, so she took in a deep breath and decided to bear it for the time being.

"Where is it no da?" Marissa held back another giggle at the fact that he didn't even know where it was, and raised her right arm over her head. She pointed straight up, then drew a line from the zenith down towards the southern horizon. She stopped halfway and drew a small circle against the sky.

"I'm pretty sure that's it," she said. "Do you see that small constellation, it looks like a square with an arm coming out of each side?"

"Iie, I don't see it no da." Marissa let out an exasperated sigh. This is never easy.

She scooted her body closer to Chichiri, their heads touching, and pointed along his line of sight. "You see? It's right there."

Chichiri raised up his left arm and pointed along with Marissa, trying to match her movements. "Right there no da?"

"Um-hum, that small square."

Their two hands brushed against each other softly, their fingertips coming together at the same spot in the sky.

"I see it no da," Chichiri whispered in Marissa's ear, and she realized just how close they were at that moment. Turning her head to the left a little, she found that her face was only inches from his. Unwanted thoughts began to form in her mind as she stared breathlessly at him. He's so cute, I just love his hair. I never thought I'd actually be laying down under the stars with Chichiri...

Marissa sat up abruptly with a start, ending the close contact and warmth between them. Chichiri slowly rose alongside her, wondering why she had decided to get up so suddenly. I was just starting to learn something, he thought disappointedly.

Marissa looked back at him after a moment and forced a weak smile. "Well, I guess we both taught each other something today." She tried pushing herself up on one foot, when Chichiri's strong arm grabbed her own and helped her up the rest of the way. Marissa blushed slightly at his touch, but thanked the darkness for hiding it. She tightened Chichiri's cloak around herself, and waited nervously for his arms to pick her up from behind.

However they didn't and Marissa turned around surprised. Chichiri was looking straight up, a pleased smile across his masked face.

"Thank you, Mari-chan, no da," he said quietly, finally bringing his eyes down to look at her. Marissa hid her surprise and smiled back instead, realizing what she had given him, and also what he had given her.

"No, thank you, Chichiri." You've helped me more than you'll ever know.


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