Frame: Pieces of Her Soul
     There are two things I have known since before I can remember.

     Firstly, that I loved Kinomoto Sakura.

     And secondly, that she would never care for me the way I did for her.

     One can grow accustomed to anything when one is a child, I hear, no matter how odd, no matter how painful.

    And truly, it doesn't hurt that much, not now. Knowing that someday she will go to someone, probably some man, in whose arms she fits, whose house she graces, whose life she completes -- she deserves this, if it will make her happy. She deserves a wedding out of fairytales and a house out of dreams and a husband out of a maiden's longings, and a place in which her soul may fly as fast and as far as I know it can go.

    (He had best be worthy of her, he had best make her happy, or -- he shall answer to me.)

    Maybe when my body changes and blossoms, and strange elixirs sing in my blood, it will be harder to remember this, as it was hard for my mother to understand it.

    Mother... you never did understand, did you? You never forgave your cousin Nadeshiko for wedding a kind man and bearing *him* two children in whom there is a perfection.

    Yes, two.

    It... fits, doesn't it, that as Sonomi loved Nadeshiko, Sonomi's child should love Nadeshiko's children?

    Yet, even beyond their differences, my feelings for the one are nowhere near as strong as for the other; even though there are reflections, each in each, there is just no comparison.

    It is nothing to Touya's detriment. He is... earth, distilled and refined to all that earth is, a mingling of all five, protecting, guarding, warm under the sun, cool with the night, fertile ground for small lives, endlessly renewing itself even as it is endlessly worn away, enduring for long years harsh and soft by turns.

    Earth, inexorably drawn to the moon by the forces of gravity, even as the moon is drawn to it and it is drawn to the sun...

    It is no fault of earth that I chose to look up instead of down, and gave my heart to a distant star.

    Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the star, just by burning as brightly and as gaily as it did, called my heart out of me.

    It would have been... easier, had I wanted the earth. I might even have had it, if not all to myself.

    But Sakura-chan is -- *Sakura*. There is nothing more beautiful or interesting to me, nothing that I would rather see. For just a moment of her in motion, limbs full of their own grace as she runs towards the goal... I would sell the whole earth for that to hold in my hands and call forth those feelings from my heart each time I gazed upon her, and count it well spent in the bargain.

    And I have that, and a thousand others besides.

    I love my mother dearly, but she can act foolish beyond measure. She loved Nadeshiko, perhaps even as I love Sakura-chan, and wanted nothing more than to be with her forever.

    If Sakura-chan were to dwell in my house, eat at my board, sleep in my bed, then no one in all the world would be happier than I am.

    But even now, I am happy.

    When Nadeshiko married Kinomoto-san, my mother was hurt and jealous; I don't think she had ever thought that Nadeshiko might want someone else.

    And because she was angry, she went away and never saw her again. Where is there sense in that? Where is there reason?

    I like o-sushi. It is good to taste and filling to eat. But just because I cannot have o-sushi, shall I refuse to eat o-musubi? Shall I turn down chazuke? They, too, are filling to eat, and their taste is not bad.

    Sakura-chan will offer the greater part of her soul into the keeping of some lucky other person, to hold and to nurture.

    But that's all right. The sun is bright. Water is wet. Rocks are hard. I love Kinomoto Sakura. She will love someone else and be happy.

    And I will be happy that she is happy.

    I don't think Mother ever quite understood that. We were vacationing once, on an island. I woke up very early one morning and went down to the beach as the sun was rising through the clouds. The water shone for a moment like silver and steel, and the clouds were all shot with pink and orange and mauve and gold, and the rocks curved down into the water as the gulls arced out beyond them and the breeze came salt-laden into my face -- that moment, just then, was perfect and eternal, and I was happy.

    (I tried to take a picture, but it couldn't hold it all and didn't come out that well anyway -- I wasn't as good then as I am now. It's all right; I can still remember most of it, and there have been other sunrises, even if they weren't the same.)

    Much later, when my mother woke up, I told her how much I liked it there.

    She offered to buy the house and probably the island as well, so I could keep the thing that made me so happy and come there whenever I really wanted to.

    But you can't do that. You can't own a sunrise, or gulls in flight. Even if you lay claim to the place where they are. Even if you put a collar or something on the gulls -- even if you put them in a cage, you can't have the beauty of their soaring unless they give it to you (and I can't see how they could if they were in a cage, anyway).

    So I thanked her, politely, and told her I would rather have a nicer camera and maybe some lessons in how to take better pictures.

    Many people, when they first encountered a camera, thought that it would steal someone's soul if it took a picture of them.

    You can't do that, of course. Just one photograph, one frame of film, or even the entire strip cannot be enough for all of a person, in their good times and their bad times, with all their quirks and all their inconsistencies.

    But you can, in one picture, capture a *facet* of them. Not all. Not everything. But a little piece, one solitary moment of what they are.

    The more pieces, the more you can assemble something vaguely like a picture of the person they are.

    And it isn't even stealing, any more than my blurry picture on the island stole the sun out of the sky. It's a record of a gift -- the gift that that person gave to the outside world, of what they were at that moment.

    I have a picture, of Sakura-chan running, limbs full of their own grace as she runs towards the goal. A crystallized memory of how she looked as she was doing her best, for me and for all of us and especially for herself, that I can look at even when Sakura-chan is not around.

    It's one of my favorites; I have many favorites, among all the pictures and movies I have taken of Sakura-chan.

    Someone else will be the recipient of most of her soul, and she in turn will be given that person's soul to have in her keeping.

    (I'm doing my best to help make sure that that person is someone who deserves that very great honor, and will make Sakura-chan happy.)

    And when that happens... she won't have as much time to spend with me. I know that. I'm expecting it.

    Love is infinite.

    A soul is infinite.

    Time in a day has a limit of 8, 6400 seconds, according to my calculator. And every one of those seconds is precious, and every one is no longer than it takes to say four syllables (five if you're quick).

    So time is something you have to divide up. If you have to give time to your family, it needs to come from somewhere else... including your friends.

    And even... even if she took the time from somewhere that wasn't me, my time with her will always be a gift, not a right.

    But I'm not unhappy. I'm content -- after all, how many other people are there who don't know Sakura-chan at all? How many other people are there whose closest contact with her is to see her skate by once, on her way to wherever she's going?

    I, however... I have a treasury of every piece of her soul that she has chosen to give me. Whether she's happy, whether she's angry, whether she is overtaken by surprise or sorrow; all of them are Sakura-chan, and thus all of them are beautiful.

    And each image, a tiny facet in itself, brings back the memories and the feelings, and the way it was before and after and during -- sometimes, a moment so beautiful it hurt.

    And even that other person... they won't have all of her. They won't share in many of these, any more than I'll share in many of their images, or either of us will share in most of Touya's pieces of Sakura-chan. Even beyond that, there are parts of Kinomoto Sakura that none other than herself shall ever see.

    Any more than anyone ever saw some parts of Daidouji or Kinomoto Nadeshiko, as much as my mother wanted to. No one else can own all of a person.

    So why should I be jealous of the person whom Sakura-chan will choose to love?

    I, too, have pieces of her soul.

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