Today's gonna be different, Max Parasite thought as she sat by the large oak tree. Today, I'm finally going to win this. She stretched her legs out in front of her in a relaxed position, staring hard at the pieces on the long chess board before her. She found it much easier to concentrate now, at the quiet spot by the tree. She enjoyed the shade that the rustling green canopy gave herself and her boyfriend as they sat together, breathing the fresh and sweet air.

Max was a lively girl with light brown hair and tan eyes. In this generation, there were very few kids with super powers, and she was one of them. A year had passed since she rescued her best friends LaCienega and Kenji from a fiendish sorceress named Otu. She had made two more friends, Wisdom Gladiator and Chocomuro C-Mastur, who lived in a golden C-shaped tower across from the high school that Max and the others attended. Max, Kenji, and LaCienega were now seniors at the school, nearly ready to graduate. They, like Max, possessed special powers and weapons of their own.

Max was sitting in front of the large tree, in the shade of the wide green canopy. She sighed and leaned against her boyfriend Kenji's shoulder. They had just recently started their new relationship, and they were both growing accustomed to sticking together often now. He glanced down at her silently as she thought of a move. Slowly, Max pulled herself away and picked up a knight. She grudgingly moved it forward one space. She was losing rather badly, but didn't admit it in front of Kenji (who was probably too nice to mention that she was, in fact, a lousy player).

"Uh...okay..." she mumbled under her breath. "You've only got five pieces left...and yet I'm still losing..." She sat back, her face growing pale with disbelief as Kenji wound up taking her piece. "Sorry, Max..." he said. "You might want to look at the board next time, though."

Max felt like ripping out her hair, but she gave a small laugh. It was all anger management, anyway. She paid too much attention in psychology class...even though she absolutely retched at the thought of sitting and listening to your "inner self."

"Don't worry about it, I hate this game anyway. I'm not going to win to save my life." Kenji crossed his arms, trying to keep from smiling. Max sensed something about her friend's expression, and moved closer to him. "What?" she asked. "What's so funny?"

Kenji thought for a moment, then casually laid back against the tree. "LaCienega told me that you only hate it because...well, because you always lose." Max opened her mouth in fake shock, then shook her head.

"Hey, I haven't lost yet! Look, I've got two pieces of yours!" she said. "That's a real improvement in the life of Max Parasite, you know!" That made Kenji laugh. Max smiled and leaned against his shoulder once more. He smelled like tangerines...Max always liked that about him. She seemed to know his scent rather than his own personality...but she knew him so well that it didn't seem likely his personality would change.

The sound of his laugh always made her tingle inside...it made her happy. Just the sound of his laugh made her calm down somewhat. "Do you want me to give you a break?" he asked, and Max waved her hands reassuringly.

"No, don't!" she said. "It's all cool. No, hit me with all you got. This is a game, not a let's-go-easy match!" Kenji laughed again, then moved someplace where Max could get him easily. Her expression brightened, but she was still rather surprised by his move.

"Hey, you said you wouldn't hold back!" she said smoothly, lying down beside the board now. She watched Kenji lean over to count the pieces on the long wooden board.

"Okay, there. You have three of mine and I have six of yours. I'll let you have three more, to catch up with, then you can go back to losing." Max then realized that Kenji was teasing her, and they both laughed.

"We'll see about that," Max said, lifting a hand. She loved playing games with Kenji. They always got her in a good mood for the rest of the day. She moved another knight one space to the left. She always had a habit of keeping her knights close to her bishops, even if it made her lose. "I like the way they look together on the board," she'd always say.

Kenji made another move and let her take him. Then he tried moving someplace where Max couldn't get him, but she did anyway. "It's a tie," Max said. "You have to check my king, Kenji, or you lose." The two had a very close match, but Kenji won again.

LaCienega approached casually from around the corner, a black bag slung over her slender shoulder. "Kenji won again? That's the third time this week you've beaten her," she said, eyeing the chess board with interest. Max stood up. "You want to try winning? Go ahead and try, with Kenji it's impossible." He laughed, and walked over to them.

"You make it sound like it takes a rocket scientist," he said, and Max pushed him lightly to the side. "It does! It takes patience...something I don't have a lot of," she said, making her friends laugh.

The three of them walked to Max's house, where they all went roller blading down the steepest hill in the village. LaCienega had to go to the library for extra credit schoolwork, leaving Max and Kenji alone for two more hours. They headed to the pier, where everything was quiet at that time of the evening.