The fire burnt higher and higher above the angry girl’s head.
The next morning, New York City…
“WHAT?! WHAT DO YOU MEAN THAT HE/SHE IS SUPPOSED TO BE MY MODELING PARTNER?” Syaoran and Sakura shouted at the same time to Mike Kant and pointed accusingly at each other the next morning at the modeling studio. The famous young photographer, Mike Kant sweat-dropped, as they continued in unison, “NO WAY I’M NOT GOING TO BE IN THE SAME PICTURE AS HIM/HER. FORGET THE CONTRACT!”
“Gee, what’s wrong with them?” asked Miho, her clear gray eyes filled with mirth.
“Same as usual, I guess,” Meirin replied in a bored tone, flipping back her jet-black pigtails. “I would give up my new wardrobe to model with Syaoran, though.”
“Naturally, I don’t blame Syaoran-kun for not desiring to be in the same picture as Sakura. His great features would be degraded, you know,” Erika drawled, examining her perfectly manicured fingernails. Eron glared at his twin sister.
“Of course if you’re too scared to take a few pictures, we can always ask Eron-kun to take your place,” Tomoyo commented innocently to Syaoran.
“Who says I’m scared. I’ll do it!” Syaoran crossed his arms defiantly.
Miho added, “Dear Sakura, I always thought that Erika was prettier—“
“Who says I’m backing out now?” Sakura asked stubbornly.
“That’s the spirit!” Mike exclaimed.
“Eriol’s Action Plan #8. With the right words, they are so gullible.” Tomoyo smiled. Now for some major clicking.
“I don’t think I need all these make-up,” Sakura tried to say politely.
The make-up woman clucked, “Nonsense! I’ve been at this for 10 years. I know what I’m doing. You need this to look good in a picture.”
Choking on the powder, Sakura sighed.
“Just stick with the natural look, Mavis,” Mike said, observing her critically.
“Exactly what I’m doing,” the woman replied, dabbing some more light pink gloss on Sakura’s lips.
From the other room, Syaoran was protesting, “Great, my hair feels like rock.” For the first time, every single hair was perfectly in place.
“The gel is necessary to bring out the right color highlights and gloss,” the hairdresser replied. “Plus, it’s gonna be windy up there.”
“Where?” Syaoran glared back at his reflection.
Empire State Building…
“Hoe-e! I think I’m getting dizzy.” Sakura gazed down from the roof of the hundred story tall Empire State Building. The first part of their contract was pretty simple. Just standing and posing in different clothes for an hour or two in the studio. Plus, it was hopelessly boring and tiring. Now…
“Who’s idea was it to do this up here?” asked Syaoran. He swallowed a deep breath of air to steady himself.
“Actually, I suggested it to Mr. Kant,” Tomoyo said, her violet hair braided down her back to keep it from blowing into her face as she videotaped the scenario. Sakura and Syaoran: Angelic Models in New York! That’s what she’d call the scene. Ecstatically, she thought that Sakura looked beautiful in the fluttering silken white dress, with her glossy light brown hair threaded loosely with dozens of thin satin ribbons. Meanwhile, Syaoran was also dressed in a magnificent dove white, and if he weren’t scowling, they would both look like angels of some sort.
“I thought it was a pretty good idea,” Mike added. “Okay. Ready? Now smile and look less like you’re being stalked or murdered.” Sakura shivered at this comment, while Syaoran almost tripped over the fancy cords and wires of the high-tech equipment set up on the roof.
“This is now for the real advertisement, and it is important we get this right, okay?” Mike adjusted the lens.
“How come no one else is up here?” Sakura asked. It was only Syaoran, Mike, Tomoyo, and herself.
“As an internationally renowned photographer,” Mike flicked back his blond hair with a confident air. “I think it’s a distraction to have other people bustling around, annoying me.”
And also he is a dreadful conceited person, Sakura mentally added. “First one to mess up has to buy meals for the rest of our trip,” Sakura proposed nervously to Syaoran.
“I hope you don’t mind going broke then, ‘cause I won’t blow it first,” Syaoran answered. Wryly, he noted that Sakura gulped as she stared down from the 100th story. All the people and the cars on the streets looked like microscopic ants.
“W-who says I’m nervous?” Sakura tried to steady herself.
“I thought you have no problems with heights when you use the fly card.”
“This is different.” Trying to take a deep gulp of air, Sakura stood straighter.
“Okay, positions!” Mike angled the lighting
Trying to relax, Syaoran stepped back. Then he blinked. Had he seen something? Suddenly, an unseen force seemed to waver in front of him. Instinctively, he took an attacking stance, clenching his fists into a punching position. And he took one step back, stepping onto one of the snarling chords of the lighting equipment.
He heard Sakura shout in a distance, “Watch out!”
His left foot slipped off the edge of building as they tangled with the cables, and he stumbled backwards off the roof of the 100 floor Empire State, hurling headfirst as the figure radiating Clow Reed’s power disappeared in front of his eyes.
Just like my dream, Sakura thought. Months ago, she had a dream, where Syaoran fell of the edge, and she called out his name, stretching out for him. But he was gone, gone to a place she could not go. “SYAORAN!” Her voice echoed down the building. She would follow him till the end, as long as she was able to.
“Sakura! What are you doing?” shouted Mike Kant, aghast. Yet, he still held out his camera all the while. He would still click away at his camera if the world were falling apart.
Clenching her eyes with the wind slashing at her body, Sakura hoped that it wouldn’t hurt too much when her body reached the concrete floor, a hundred stories below. What was worse was that she was used to falling. Never mind. She wouldn’t reach the bottom. She tried to wrestle out her key. The Fly card is all I need. Then we will both be all right.
Then Syaoran realized that Sakura had jumped off after him. Instinctively, his hand reached out for her. This is crazy… How could I be stupid enough to slip off the roof, just because of some illusion? Stranger, he was sure that he felt Clow Reed’s power now that he thought about it. Wind whipped at his face and his heart sank too his toes. Or was it rising to his toes? He was falling headfirst, so his toe was above his head. Forget it. But had there been some kind of trick? One of those tricks that the bastard Eriol found so amusing? Other than those worries, it just felt like the Free-fall ride at an amusement park. Which he happened to hate.
“Oh dear.” Watching from the 99th floor of the Empire State Building, Eriol sweat-dropped as the pair fall. Eriol’s Action Plan #9, they would go to any extent for each other, whether practical or not.
“I guess you didn’t realize that Syaoran would slip off the roof when you set that illusion in front of him. I love him, but… jeez.” Miho shook her head. “Or that Sakura would be stupid enough to jump after him,” Miho commented as she stood beside Eriol on the 99th floor.
“Stupid… or courageous?” Holding out something in front of him, Eriol commanded, “Key that hides forces of darkness. Show your true self to me. I Eriol, command you under contract. Release!” Flicking his staff towards the descending pair, Eriol sent out a beam of power to prevent them from plunging to the concrete sidewalk way down below.
From Syaoran’s back a bright aura glowed and tickled, and then sprouted immense white feather wings, which graduated his free-fall. When Syaoran found that he could fly with the steady wings, he immediately straightened out. Sweeping below Sakura, he caught her in his arms with a soft thud.
“Don’t you ever get tired of falling?” he asked, scolding, yet with a gentle overtone as Sakura’s eyes spun round and round.
Calming her heart as she stared down at the far off sidewalk, she breathed in relief and answered, “Yes. But look who’s talking. You fell off first, which was very stupid. How could you trip over the lighting chords?” Though Syaoran blushed a dull red at his clumsiness, his grip on her was iron tight.
“At least I don’t go jumping off the Empire State building on purpose.”
It was Sakura’s turn to turn red. Quickly, she mumbled, “I wasn’t thinking. But still, it’s your fault for being so clumsy. ”
“Don’t forget we’re still in the air,” Syaoran threatened jokingly. “If you make me mad, I can…” Without warning, he let go of Sakura’s waist for a second, taking advantage of the fact that he had wings, while Sakura didn’t.
“HOE-E!!!” Sakura shrieked as her stomach lurched, even as Syaoran immediately caught her again. “I HATE you, Li Syaoran!”
“You do?” Syaoran raised an eyebrow, pretending to drop her again, though he was holding Sakura firmly in his strong supple arms.
“N-no…” Giddily, Sakura gazed down at the far off New York street, and gulped. “Strange conversation to have in the middle of the air.” Then, she released her staff and used the “Fly” card, giving her a set of wings also, declaring, “I don’t trust you to keep me from falling anymore.” On a side note, she added, “I hope people down there think that we’re birds or something.”
Syaoran sweat-dropped at the thought of viewers seeing two humans with wings. At least they were so high up, most people wouldn’t be able to see them carefully. Then, he commented dryly, “That Eriol…”
“Hoe-e? What about Eriol-kun?” Sakura tilted her head, letting her glossy hair tumble across her face.
“You haven’t figured out? And where’d’you think I got these silly wings from?” Syaoran asked, pointedly flapping them. “He set an illusion in front of me—that’s why I slipped.”
“But why would he do that?” Slyly, she said poking his side, “Excuses, excuses. Don’t bother to act like you didn’t slip because of clumsiness.”
“I’m not making excuses!” But his retorts were lost in the air as they flew back to the top of the roof.
“I believe you!” shouted Sakura, over the roaring gust of wind.
At the top, they faced each other for a moment, without words of bickering or consolidation. Not for the first time, Syaoran realized how bright and soulful Sakura’s eyes were. Tomoyo, of course videotaping added that Sakura should notice how Syaoran’s luxurious chestnut locks made his amber eyes warm and deep. No incident or mishap really surprised her any more after all they’ve been through, and Tomoyo realized that she liked videotaping Syaoran almost as well as lovely Sakura-chan.
Meanwhile, Mike Kant had clicked away with his camera, nonstop. Sighing in relief when his models were safe, he said, “I don’t care what happened—“
“Look, I can explain, about the flying,” Syaoran interjected.
Mike interrupted, “It doesn’t matter to me, as long as you two are safe—I don’t know what the heck you did to fly, or jump of 100 story buildings, as long as things turn out all right.” Turning starry eyed, not unlike Tomoyo, he added, “But that was marvelous! Just imagine the sensation! Flying! Wings! It would make the most perfect Valentine’s Day advertisement! What should I call the masterpiece picture? Kissed By An Angel? No that’s a cliché. Guardian Angel? Hold You for Eternity? Anywhere for You? Reach for the Sky? Of course, I’ll just say that the flying stuff was invisible thread. Ohmygosh. This is fabulous!"
Sakura and Syaoran sweat-dropped. All the same, Eriol looked pleased, as he left the Empire State Building, long before Syaoran could blow up on him.
“Why do you even bother?” Miho asked rather vexed, after the crisis was resolved.
For the first time, the composed Eriol looked rather baffled. “I don’t know. Strange, I really don’t know Miho.”
Fingering her chin length thick auburn hair, Miho sighed, “I really should hate Sakura.” Eriol raised his eyebrow. On a different note, she added softly, “You know why I began to like him?”
“Li-san? I thought you saw him in the video in that won the contest that your uncle, Tanaka-san sponsored.”
“No,” Miho paused, as if hesitant to continue. “When I was still living in Japan, before Kaho-san brought me to England, there was an unseen force attacking everyone in the streets. I didn’t know what it was at that time, but because of my special powers, I knew something was amiss. As the force was about to attack me, a striking brown-haired boy jumped in front of me with the speed of lightening and he slashed it away with his flashing sword. I guess I was hysterically crying at that time, and though he immediately vanished, I caught a glimpse of his eyes through my blurred sight. They were an understanding golden amber, full of depth and sympathy. As if he could understand my sorrows. And he said quietly, ‘Don’t stay here, it’s dangerous.’ I felt as if I could rely on him and felt sheltered and safe. Of course he won’t be able to remember me now, but I always remembered him.”
Sympathetically, Eriol lay a reassuring hand on Miho’s shoulder, his midnight blue eyes softening.
“Hoe-e! What now?” Sakura asked, looking picturesque in a white coat trimmed with snowy fur and her hair pulled into pigtails at each side of her head, adorned with fluffy pompom hair-ties that looked like snowballs fastened onto her glossy hair.
Scowling in his winter apparel of a blue ski jacket, accented with red stripes, and matching pants, Syaoran said, “I thought that the modeling contract was just take one picture, and it’s over.”
“Wrong!” exclaimed Mike Kant, adjusting his photography equipment. “I need a variety of pictures to use in the advertisement collection. “Plus, this is so fun! Except for the moment that I thought I had lost my models off the top of a building. Anyway, you two look great in your winter clothes. It’s a good thing that Central Park’s frosted with fresh white snow. Now, I want you to play in the snow and act like you’re having fun. Right?”
Both Syaoran and Sakura stared back stonily at the overly enthusiastic Mike.
“W-what? You know. Snow fights, laughter, enjoying the winter day…” Mike perspired more as his model’s stare grew even more hostile. “C’mon. Please?” Mike blinked at them prettily with a hurt puppy expression.
Automatically Sakura threw up a ball of snow. “Wow, this is so fun, Syaoran-kun, isn’t it?”
“Yes. I love winter,” he replied in the exact same bored, sarcastic tone.
“Smile!” Mike prompted.
A fake smile pasted over Sakura’s lips, while Syaoran’s hard efforts to smile (something he rarely did) ended up being between a snarl and a grimace, giving a sort of fierce wolfish expression.
Slapping his hand onto his forehead, Mike gave up in despair with a shudder.
“Time for Miho-chan to take action!” Miho murmured from a tree branch above the scene in Central Park. Taking a bucketful of icy snow, she dumped the entire content over Sakura’s head, who was standing below.
As the slivery, slimy snow poured down her head, Sakura swerved around, and glared at Syaoran. “How dare you—“
“I-I didn’t—“ Before he could protest, Sakura started gathering a big handful of snow.
Giggling from her hiding position in the tree, Miho dumped another bucket of slush over Syaoran’s head. Immediately, Syaoran scowled accusingly at Sakura. “What the—“ he started. Yet, Sakura had already slammed a large snowball into his mouth, and the rest of his sentence came out in garbles. Well, he had to admit that she had a good arm in that area.
“Revenge,” Sakura exclaimed, slipping a handful of snow down Syaoran’s jacket. In return, he started throwing consecutive snowballs, missing every time since Sakura expertly dodged. Meanwhile, he grew miserably drenched in the icy slush, his damp brown hair dripping water onto his equally wet jacket. Gleefully laughing, Sakura was aiming another attack at his head. Before she could, Syaoran knocked her to the ground. She exclaimed in surprise as the coldness seeped through her bottom. Simultaneously, Sakura pulled down Syaoran as well, grabbing down his jacket. A RRIPP sounded, and a part of his sleeve ripped.
“Ooops…” Sakura giggled, as Syaoran awkwardly toppled over backwards. Both of them lay on their backs in the cushioning snow and heaved a sigh, letting out steamy puffs into the air, too tired to continue the fight.
“That was the most fun I had in quite a while,” Syaoran said, the heavy frown that had been carved into his smooth forehead for the past days, completely disappearing.
“I haven’t been in a snow fight since elementary. And I’ve never had an opponent who lost so much, either!” she replied, her cheeks rosy from the cold.
Sitting up before Syaoran could protest, she asked, “Truce?”
Slowly gripping her gloved hand with his, he replied doubtfully, “Truce.”
“NEVER!” With the hand that she was hiding behind her back, Sakura slammed the snowball onto his head. “You won’t get away with dumping a bucketful of slush onto me!”
“What about you?” Syaoran took defense.
Suddenly, there was a shrill, “GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” Before another hot fight could arise, Miho had slipped from her the tree above them with a shriek.
“Eh/Hoe-e?” Syaoran and Sakura stood puzzled.
Thud! Miho landed heavily on the snow with her bucket, sheepishly staring up at the shocked faces. Luckily, the thick blanket of snow on the ground prevented any major injuries.
“What exactly are you doing here?” Sakura demanded.
“Just relaxing.” Miho tried to cover the bucket and laughed weakly.
“You dumped the bucket of snow at me!” Sakura exclaimed angrily.
“Eh? He he he…” Miho looked desperately for an escape, sweat-dropping heavily.
Catching Syaoran’s eye, Sakura nodded. Together, they counted, “One. Two. THREE!” Grabbing a handful of snow each, they both slammed it at Miho in one motion.
“WAI!!!!!” Everyone laughed at Miho’s childish squeals as the gray slush dripped over her designer coat, and her stylish hair clotted into a lump. What surprised them, however was when she started laughing along with them after a while. Well, Miho knew she had deserved it.
Then Sakura and Syaoran’s attentions diverted. Guiltily, they hung their heads in front of Mike. “Sorry!” They exclaimed at once. Then they glared at each other, for they had a nasty habit of doing and saying the same thing at the same time. (Eriol’s Action Plan #10, they are more similar than they would like to admit.) Sakura was pretty certain that Mike Kant would fire them on the spot for disturbing his plan, bickering, fighting, ruining the clothes, and overall being horrible models when the famous photographer could hire much more experience, well-known stars.
At first, Mike stared at the mess solemnly.
Everyone else winced. Then slowly grinning, Mike said, “Not at all! That
was wonderful. Thank you! You two captured the spirit and fun of youth.”
Scanning through the film, he marveled the lively twosome, lobbing snowballs
at each other with fierce rivalry and movement. Each gesture and expression
captured spirit, their eyes full of merry laughter and life. He couldn’t
have put it any better. Who cared if their hairs were limp and stringy,
their clothes wet and wrinkled, or their faces smudged with crystal droplets?
From the pictures that he would develop in his photography studio, people
would be able to look at them and remember their teen days, the energy
and animation of their unforgettable youth, as well as the closeness of
friendship never to diminish. Not so long ago, he had been a carefree teen.
Spoilt and rich, he used to know how to have fun. Somehow, in his new fancy
and elegant career in photography, he had been missing out on something.
Those two people reminded him of the natural joy and sincerity of life.
“Okay that’s it!” Mike Kant said, after they finished. “Thank you for all you’ve shown me. Let me tell you one thing. You two are the fussiest, most contrary, stubborn, strong willed models I’ve ever had.” Syaoran and Sakura looked down in remorse. “But,” he continued. “You two are the very best. The headache is worth it. If you ever want jobs in this career, contact me any time! Your payment will be deposited into your private banking accounts. Anyway, we’ll see each other in the Final Dinner Party tomorrow.” On a last note he added, “Good luck!” Knowing that it would sound corny if he said, ‘good luck with each other,’ he left them to ponder what he meant. And Mike hoped to be able to meet them again, in the future. But, they’re different from Kinomoto Nadeshiko and Li Ryuuren. They are different individuals.
That evening, the whole crew went to the Broadway to watch the musical “Phantom of the Opera.” The tragic and touching love story of the young opera singer Christine Daae, the extent that the deformed and haunted Phantom’s would go for his undying, doomed love for her, and Christine’s faithful lover Raoul, Viscount de Chagny, sprang before them in the hauntingly beautiful music of the genius Andrew Lloyd Webber.
“Is it that sad?” Syaoran asked doubtfully, passing his handkerchief to Meirin, who blew her nose loudly into it at the end. Rather than being emotionally touched, he was wondering if he could play the intricate opening piece on his violin.
“Yes!” Meirin sobbed. “Look at poor Phantom, denied of his love because of the cruel, harsh world which made his face that way, so that he has to hide behind a mask.”
“Stupid Raoul!” Erika stated, dabbing the corner of her eyes.
“But he loved Christine, too,” Eron commented, shaking his head at his emotional twin sister.
“Stupid Christine,” Sakura concluded lightly. The lyrics of the song echoed in her head, as Raoul sang, ‘No more talk of darkness, let daylight dry your tears. I’m here, nothing can harm you. My words will warm and calm you…’ Would anyone ever say something like that to me, like Raoul did to Christine? ‘Say you love me…’
“But is it anyone’s fault that things were so twisted?” Eriol asked. “Or was it destiny?”
“Yet, why did the Fates choose such a horrible destiny for the suffering Phantom, disfiguring his face and leaving him only his hauntingly beautiful voice? How can the world be so cruel to some, denying them of love and compassion and turning them into a ghost, a monster? Why is life so unfair?” Miho said in a spookily gloomy tone, which made Touya and Sakura narrow their eyes.
“Let’s go eat!” stated Yukito, breaking the somber tone. Evidently, Yue drew his appetite more than ever.
Last full day in New York…
“As you all know, today’s our last day in New York City. Tonight, we have a dinner party, with all the important people related to CompTech,” Touya announced, sighing with relief that he would only have to put up with Syaoran only one more night.
As if knowing the contempt in Touya’s eyes, Syaoran said, “I’m glad too. I don’t have to put up with you snoring every night.”
“What, you little brat! I don’t snore, you little…” Touya was ready to strangle Syaoran.
“So, what will you all do on the last day?” asked Yukito brightly.
Everyone echoed, “SHOPPING!”
“So, what are you going to do? Aunt Ieran would be angry to find you did nothing that she assigned you to do in New York,” Meirin commented as everyone prepared for their last fully day in New York City.
“It’s okay. I have enough money from the modeling contract to pay back the credit card bills that I blew during Christmas,” Syaoran replied, thinking of the tidy sum of dollars in his banking account and the faxes he had received from Hong Kong that he didn’t even glance over at.
“Still, she’ll be mad.” Meirin just wondered how much money Syaoran had spent… and why.
“Then I’ll buy her an extra nice present from New York, along with my four extravagant sisters.”
“Aww, how nice. Your family must adore you,” Erika chided.
Solemnly, Meirin added, “Dutiful son and sweet brother. Syaoran is the pet of the family.”
Keeping a straight face, Eron said, “No wonder everyone idolizes him.”
Before Syaoran could cut them off, Sakura shouted, “Hoe-e! I didn’t buy a present for otou-san yet!”
Exactly how did she end up with Syaoran? Tomoyo had said something about “you can help each other choose presents for your parents,” and somehow everyone had hastened off their own way. Clasping her hands tight, Sakura felt stifled. Not Syaoran out of all people. When ever I want to avoid him, he’s always there.
“So, I was thinking about buying my father a necktie,” Sakura said.
“Necktie?” Syaoran frowned slightly then scolded, “Now, how imaginative and meaningful is that? Anyone can get a necktie, anywhere. But you’re his daughter and this is New York!”
“Think. What is his job?”
“He teaches archeology at the Seijou University.”
“The study of the people, customs, and life of ancient times.”
“And, what is New York famous for?” Before she could answer, he replied, “The rich, diverse culture! From the colonial days till the new age of technology, New York flourished from the elegant buildings, diverse people from all over the world, and different customs joined under one city.”
With admiration brimming in her ocean green
eyes, Sakura said, “You’re right.” That’s what she liked about Syaoran.
His earnest sincerity and clear headed, level way of thinking. He was right.
New York was all about archeology. The possibility of presents that her
father would love, ranging from books, pictures, to artifacts were limitless.
So much for boring neckties. And so much for thinking that walking thought
the bustling Manhattan streets with Syaoran would be a torture.
Lunch was at a fancy Italian restaurant with a delicious meal of fettucine alfredo and angel hair pasta with shrimp, topped with a desert of tiramisu, with the thick chocolate cream dusted lightly with coffee powder, and rich, creamy raspberry cheesecake topped with sweet whipped cream. Ruefully, Sakura knew that Kero-chan would die if he found out. Syaoran was obliged to pay, though he protested, “Why?”
“Remember our deal? First to mess up in the modeling contract pays the rest of the meals. You blew it by falling off the building,” Sakura told him in a matter of fact way, smiling.
“Fine, your way,” he muttered. As if having something important to say, his shoulders slightly tensed, and Syaoran began, “Sakura—“ Then, his amber eyes turned round as he gazed out the restaurant window. “Oh no! Duck.” Quickly, he hid his face behind a menu.
“Why?” Sakura tried to look out before Syaoran thrust another huge menu into her face. Her brother was walking past, looking harried by Nakuru, while Yukito was trying to act as peacekeeper. Along with them were Eriol, Miho, Eron, and Erika, followed by Tomoyo and Meirin, giggling about something.
“What are you two doing?” A loud voice asked. Erika tucked her reddish violet hair behind an ear, then crossed her arms as she entered the restaurant behind their booth.
“Oooh! Are you two on a date?” Miho asked shrilly, her grayish eyes greatly amused.
“NO!” They answered in unison.
Without an invitation, Miho sat down and proceeded into digging into the cheesecake. “Mmm. Deeeeelicious! Hope you don’t mind us.”
“You’ll get fat if you eat like that,” Erika declared prudently, however couldn’t resist in trying a bite of the chocolatey tiramisu.
“Did you buy your father’s present, Sakura-chan?” Tomoyo asked.
“Yup. I hope otousan would like it.”
“I bet Syaoran was no help,” Meirin declared.
Burying his head into his hand, Syaoran sighed. He never got to finish his sentence before being interrupted.
“I bet Sakura was no help,” Miho corrected. For the hundredth time on that trip, Sakura took a deep breath and let it out slowly, controlling the fueling anger inside her.
“Congratulations to Miss Tomoyo Daidouji, Grand Prize Winner of the Talented Young Director Contest.” Mr. Tanaka handed a certificate and a bouquet of roses to Tomoyo at the final dinner party that night after viewing a short segment of “Card Captor Sakura and Friends,” Tomoyo’s debut movie. Tomoyo smiled, looking radiant in a soft lavender dress, accenting her luminous violet eyes and long glossy hair.
A round of applause rang around the grand room, where various members of the CompTech organizations, different company officials, their successors, and all of Tomoyo’s friend attended.
Mr. Tanaka then continued, “I would also
like to give an honorary mention to Miss Sakura Kinomoto, and Mr. Syaoran
Li and other cast members in the video present tonight, for their outstanding
performance.” Another round of applause rang out. “I hope all of you will
enjoy the rest of the evening.”
“Look, look!” Mike Kant, dressed elegantly in a white tuxedo came running up to them, looking like a little boy excited about a new toy. “See these photos? Aren’t they marvelous?”
Tomoyo flipped through the photos of Syaoran and Sakura falling off the Empire State Building, with wings, facing each other at the top, snow fighting, and so on. “Wonderful!” she exclaimed, finally examining the last two enlarged photos. One was Syaoran with feathery white wings deftly sweeping beneath the falling Sakura and catching her in his arms. Their glossy hairs were tousled in the wind, and their eyes were bright. However odd it sounded, it really was a sweeping, touching picture. The other was a carefree, fun picture, with Syaoran and Sakura both laughing, fiercely pelting each other with snow balls. It made Tomoyo smile.
Meirin, who’s glossy black hair for a change
was gathered into a half bun at the center of her head adorned with pearl
pins and had let the rest of her dark hair fall onto her red silk sleeveless
Chinese cut dress exclaimed, “Wow, these are cool!”
“Doesn’t it rival with the artist Shing’s Warrior and Angel series? All I need to do it graphically edit these and create the advertisements,” Mike said, proudly tossing back his wavy blond hair.
“Still showing off, aren’t you, Mike,” an elder man asked jokingly.
“Father, I don’t show off. It’s my natural skill,” Mike replied.
Sakura was surprised to see Mike Kant’s father there. But Tomoyo told her that all the important so and so were present at the dinner party.
“Oh yes, Sakura, you look lovely in that dress,” Mike added. She blushed. Her ice-blue chiffon dress accented her slim young body perfectly, while Tomoyo had spent an hour curling her golden brown, which was held by a single light blue satin ribbon, and cascaded onto her smooth shoulders. The dress had been a present from Mike (since his father was the head of a famous modeling agency,) and was one of the finest she owned.
Cuttingly, Miho stated, “You only got picked as a model because some stupid artist painted your so called beautiful mother. I bet he just made her look beautiful in the ‘Smiling Angel’ and flattered her.”
At this, Sakura’s emerald eyes flashed angrily, the anger that had been piling for a week finally bursting. “Don’t say such things about my mother! I don’t care if you insult me and call me plain and ugly. Who cares if I am? I don’t. But my mother was really was beautiful, inside and outside! She was a really special person, so don’t insult her when you don’t know anything about her and all the hardships that she had to face!”
Surprisingly, Miho’s gray eyes clouded and brimmed with tears. Shouting, “What would you know? Okay, I know you had a perfect life. Nice school friends, a perfect, sweet best friend, caring brother, loving father, beautiful mother, dead or not, she loved you also, rival turned protector, supporting teachers, even enemies who tried to help you—you’re so dependent on everyone around you! So innocent and liked by everyone! Just like Nadeshiko-san! You don’t know anything!” Miho ran out of the room, her dandelion colored dress tangling in her legs.
Blinking, Sakura felt remorseful. But what did she say? I really don’t know anything about Miho, I guess. Just that I don’t really like her that much because of the first time I met her. But she really has something against me. What did I ever do? What did Mother do? I just know that Miho is the niece of Tanaka-san, the president of CompTech, and is Kaho Mizuki-sensei’s cousin. But is she someone else beneath that exterior?
Softly, Eriol walked behind her and said, “Don’t judge Miho-san too harshly, Sakura-san. She has suffered a lot, also. She feels insecure, but doesn’t mean any harm. You are a beautiful person, Sakura-san, inside and outside.”
Stubbornly, Sakura said, “She insulted my mother.”
“Miho shouldn’t have, but please understand.” Standing by a corner, Eriol continued sadly, “She’s not what she seems on the outside.”
“What do you mean? She has plenty of friends, wealth, and anything she asks for. Why does she hate me so much? What did I ever do to her?”
Hesitantly, Eriol began, “For the earlier part of her life, Miho lived the life of a happy, regular girl with her mother, father, and older brother in Japan. Quite like you, Sakura-san… Then one fatal day, Miho’s father passed away in a car accident. That was when things started to fall apart for her. Miho’s older brother ran away from home, soon after, never to be heard of again. This left a lasting impact on her, for she always counted on and relied on her brother, who was supposed to support and help her through the crisis. Meanwhile, her mother grew fatally ill.”
Briefly, Sakura closed her eyes. She could picture a young girl with her auburn hair flying wildly around her, with tears streaming down her queer grayish eyes.
“Onii-channnn! Onii-channnnnnnnnn! Come baaackk!” Her desperate voice cracked as she shouted into the empty road. Trudging onto the sidewalk, she whispered, “Come back, onii-chan. Otou-san, why? Why is this happening to me! Why is life so unfair, mother?” The salty tears trickling down her face soon dried, leaving dirty streaky stain marks on her round cheeks.
“Who are you? Don’t come near me!” Mizuki Miara, Miho’s mother screamed, her gray eyes wild and unfocused as her daughter approached her bed.
“It’s me, mother, Miho. Your daughter. Mother! Don’t leave me too!”
“Where’s Tanaka-san? Where’s my husband and son?”
“They’re gone, mother, gone.”
“Don’t lie to me, you little brat! Don’t call me mother! Get away from me!”
“MOTHER!!! Listen to me! I’m your
daughter! Don’t leave me, too!” Her charcoal gray eyes burned with a fiery
glow as her anger, hurt, and confusion rebelled inside her, growing and
growing. Till it blew out of her control.
In an even voice, Eriol continued, “And
their house burned. Burned to ashes, not leaving a single trace of Miho’s
long gone carefree childhood. All her belongings, her brother’s room, father’s
cherished books and study, her mother’s beautiful furniture and ornaments,
were nothing but ashes. At that time, she did not know about her special
powers. People were scared of that queer, uncontrollable girl, with the
look of hatred in her deep eyes.”
The heat of the burning, roaring fire scorched
the angry girl’s skin. It rose higher and higher above her head, devouring
her large, once beautiful white Victorian style house as she stood defiantly
in front of it. Radiating deep reddish, orange light, it continued to crackle
and burnt till nothing was left. The girl continued to stare into the fire,
her gray eyes reflecting the golden flames. Not even the firemen or her
relatives could move her away from it. It raged for days, until only black
dusts remained. The ends of the girl’s glossy auburn hair were singed.
And to everyone’s horror, she laughed a cruel, lifeless laugh when nothing
Someone murmured, “Thank goodness her mother’s at the hospital and didn’t see this.”
“What will we do with that girl?”
“She finally went insane.”
“Not that I blame her, after losing her whole family.”
“But she still has her mother.”
“Who’s as good as dead at this state. Tanaka Miara-san will either die soon or remain in the delirious hospital for the rest of her life.”
“The poor girl has good relatives at least.”
“But, will they take her? Her uncle’s a prominent businessman. What will he do with her?”
“STOP IT! Stop talking about me as if I am nothing! Doesn’t anyone care what I think!” The girl shouted.
“See, she’s impossible to handle,” concluded the last person.
The girl’s eyes blazed with hatred at the clucking observers. “I’m not a thing! I’m not impossible! Just go away, all of you and leave me alone!” However, with exhaustion, everything blacked out before she could shout anymore.
A week later she awoke from a coma. She blinked at the unfamiliar surroundings and then gazed into beautiful, gentle eyes, and long soft auburn hair framing the woman’s lovely heart-shaped face. “Mother?” she whispered. No it wasn’t her mother.
“Did you wake up, Miho-san. You slept for a week. No wonder, after going without food or sleep for days. Plus, your body would be exhausted after using all that magic power.”
“Magic power? What do you mean? Who are you? Where am I? Am I… dead?”
“Oh sorry! I forgot to introduce myself. How like me. My name is Kaho Mizuki. I’m your cousin, and we’re in London.” Kindly, Kaho said, “Poor cousin. It must have been startling to know what your power can do. No wonder you are so tired now. It’s okay. You have plenty of time and rest to replenish your body. And you can start learning how to use your powers correctly. Maybe from Clow Reed’s very own reincarnation, himself. Eriol.”
“Clow Reed? Eriol? Who’s that? And I have special powers? I’m not going crazy? The house—everything burned. I was so angry. I hated the world.”
“And you used your raw power, fueled by your anger and hatred to cause that fire. You get special powers from your mother’s side of the family, the Mizukis. I have such strengths, too. And so do others. And you can learn how to use them. You can leave behind the past, the confused, hurt girl that you used to be.”
“How about mother? Is she dead?”
Kaho replied, “She’s in the hospital, and
she’s very ill and you won’t be able to visit her. But she’s not going
to die yet, and you can try to contact her, and she may get better someday.”
She stroked Miho’s ruffled auburn hair. “Miho-san, are you ready and willing
to enter the new world of the legend of the Five Forces, Clow Reed’s legacy
and the new generation of the Card Captors?” Jokingly, she added, “And
Eriol’s twisted, complicated mind.” (Somewhere, Eriol sneezed.)
“Yes.” Miho smiled for the first time since her father’s death. “I am ready.”
“I never knew,” Sakura murmured as Eriol finished. “I wish… I knew earlier.”
“Don’t fret over it, Sakura-san. Miho overcame her past by standing strong and firm. She will never forget it, but that doesn’t mean she can’t get over it. I didn’t tell this to you to make you worry, but because I thought you might like to know. And you might also want to know about Miara Mizuki, before she married Tanaka-san, younger brother to the president of CompTech. Miara-san used to live in Tomoeda.”
“Miara-san used to be in love with Li Ryuuren. And you can imagine. She hated Amamiya Nadeshiko very much.”
“Oh.” Sakura swallowed nervously. Miho’s mother… and Syaoran’s father? “How is she now?”
“She is still in a hospital in Japan. Her disease is incurable and she can’t get out of bed. She’s delirious most of the time or in a coma.”
“Her disease does not originate from normal means. It was caused by the Dark Ones who haunted Li-san and Amamiya-san’s school days. When they were most powerful. Miara Mizuki had some special powers, being of the Mizuki line. The Dark Ones affected her, also. However, while she was healthy and held her powers she could resist the Dark Ones. But when her husband died and her son disappeared, her mental control slipped. She could no longer resist the disease that had been ailing her for years. And she collapsed. Naturally, she blamed it on your mother.”
“My mother? What did she ever do?” Sakura felt confused. “And did you always know about the legendary Dark Ones? Did I have to change the Clow Cards into Sakura Cards because I had to face new evil, as well? Did you know that I could make new cards?”
“I can’t say much more, Sakura-san. You must remember, it is no longer my generation of power. It’s time for me to step aside, and my knowledge is limited. But I’ll always help.” Eriol’s bluish-black hair gleamed in the chandelier light.
“Maybe Shing-san would know more,” commented Tomoyo, who had been listening silently.
“That’s right! He knew my mother during the school days,” Sakura exclaimed, ready to leave.
“Wait! This is the middle of a party!” Tomoyo called.
“Mizuki Miara?” Shing asked, arching his bushy eyebrow. A goofy expression spread over his wise face as he said, “Man, she was another pretty girl. Had the most beautiful long auburn hair. She was a little younger than your mother. You came all the way here to ask about her, Sakura-san?”
“Why did she hate Mother?” Sakura asked, panting. She forgot that her brother forbade her to travel alone in the city, especially in nighttime.
“Because Nadeshiko was beautiful and liked by everyone.”
“That’s not a reason.”
“Because Ryuuren loved Nadeshiko.”
“But in Li-san’s diary, it said that he never told her—“
“Even if he never told her, it was obvious in everyone else’s eyes. Like you and Li.”
“Never mind. Miara was jealous of Nadeshiko. You know those pettish, girlish things. Whatever.”
Shyly, Sakura asked, “How was the relationship between Li-san and my mother?”
Shing replied, “Hot and cold. When they got in an argument, beware. But when they were together… I would like to tell you everything, dear, but it will break your heart in the end, anyway, so you better not know.”
“But I need to know,” Sakura protested, looking up imploringly.
“You’re worse than your friend. Wait a second. Li Syaoran? Are you finished?”
Syaoran emerged from the back room, then gazed at Sakura in surprise. “What are you doing here?”
From his formal suit and tie, Sakura could tell that Syaoran had also left in the middle of the party.
“How about you?”
“I was just looking at the photos. You know. Studying them. I could find no sign of who the enemy was.” Thoughtfully, Syaoran folded his arms and stared at a painting of his father on the wall. What was behind those sapphire eyes?
Sighing, the artist said, “You two are impossible! You came all the way to New York to find out more about your parents. You two should just have stayed at home, then. Don’t you two know about having fun here? Well, I’ll say, you two need to lighten up and enjoy other things. Don’t try to find out the past. You would wish you hadn’t.”
On a lighter note, Shing said, “Well, good night to both of you. Hope you a pleasant trip back to Japan. We’ll see each other again, I hope.” Then he frowned, “You know, I’m doomed. If you ever find the person who stole my star sapphire ring, give a good beating. Do you know how much it costs? It’s priceless. Actually, rightfully, it belongs to one of you, I guess. Oh yes. Do you two want to see my new painting?”
Sakura and Syaoran gathered around the large canvas, then smiled ruefully. It was when Nadeshiko fell out of an apple tree, into Ryuuren’s arms, the first time they looked at each other face to face in broad daylight. “I heard that you two had some bad luck with falling off high places,” Shing commented. Sakura and Syaoran blushed. “And when I first met you guys, Sakura-san had fallen off a tree, eh?” He laughed.
“My mother also fell off a tree when she
first met my father,” Sakura said.
“What a strange coincidence,” the artist said. Absentmindedly, he was sketching a girl in a pretty sky blue dress, and a scowling boy with dark eyebrows and keen amber eyes. “Remember, I warned you not to try to find out about the past, okay?”
“Okay. Bye!” They called. The two would have been surprised when in Shing’s spring collection a painting of two toddlers sitting on a sakura tree was added. One had spring green eyes, and the other had autumn amber eyes. The little boy had an absurdly large sword on his lap, while the little girl was clumsily tying a green ribbon on its tassel. Many a person laughed when they saw it at the Metropolitan Museum, receiving a warm, fuzzy feeling, especially since it contrasted so vastly from the other dramatic paintings in the Angel and Warrior series. Randomly, it was called, “Another Beginning.”
“Where in the world are we?” Sakura asked, staring down the murky, dark road stretched ahead of her. It could have been past midnight, but she wasn’t wearing a watch.
“How should I know?” Syaoran snapped, kicking a soda can down an alley.
They had caught a taxi to return back to the party after leaving Shing’s mansion, however, after an hour of driving around Manhattan, the taxi driver demanded, “Get off!”
“But this isn’t our stop,” Sakura protested.
“I said, get OFF!” The man shouted. “Gimme all your money. NOW!”
“Hoe-e~ Okay, no need to shout.” With shaking hands, Sakura poured out her money, down to the last few cents.
So, they had been abandoned on an empty street, somewhere in New York, with no money, no transportation, and no idea where they were.
Slowly, they walked in a random direction. “Some how, we’ll get to the Plaza Hotel, in Park Avenue, 51st, street,” Sakura said optimistically.
“Someday, at this rate,” Syaoran answered.
“What do you think Shing-san meant by telling us to not to find out our parent’s past?” Sakura asked, rubbing her numb arms.
“Maybe there is some horrible thing.”
After what seemed like hours of trudging down the streets, Sakura wailed, “I give up! I can’t walk anymore!”
“Let’s rest for a while,” Syaoran suggested, about to sit on a bench.
“Wait!” Whipping out her handkerchief, she used the Big card to enlarge it, and spread it out on the bench. “So we won’t get our clothes dirty.”
Syaoran’s eyes softened, then hardened again. This time, he would get through, no matter what. “Sakura, why did you suspect me?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Don’t give me that innocent, ‘I-don’t-know-what-you-are-talking about crap. When that Stalker card was after you, you suspected me. I should be asking, how could you even think about suspecting me? After all these years.”
Pained at thinking about those nightmarish days, Sakura briefly said, “Let’s not talk about that, all right?”
“Don’t change the subject! I deserve an answer! How would you feel if someone you’ve tried to help all along suddenly turned her back on you and thought you might be the cause of all the problems? Think how helpless and desperate would you feel!”
“Why are you jumping into conclusions? Who said that I suspected you? Why are you so hot tempered and selfish? Do you even know what I was going through? Why are you suddenly bringing this up?”
“I could see it in your eyes! You were scared of me. Whenever I approached to give you my hand against the enemy, you cowered back! Why? I’m just asking, why? Is this really all you count me as? After all we’ve—“ He broke off. “Anyway, I was trying to ask you for two days. A simple question. What am I to you?” Syaoran gripped her shoulders, his hands trembling, as if life and death depended on her answer.
Sakura looked away without answering. Your closest friend may be your worst enemy, someone had said. She had been blinded by her fear. She had unjustly suspected Syaoran. Well, what had he done for her? All that he had meant for her was what he called “silly childhood memories.” So, what was he to her? Only a pretense. Someone who she imagined in her head. Someone who only existed in her silly childhood memories. Someone who she didn’t know anything about in this reality. What was she to him? “Does it matter, Syaoran?” she asked, in a surprisingly uncaring voice.
For a moment, she could see the hurt in Syaoran’s golden flecked amber eyes. Then, he said a cold, cruel voice, “No. It doesn’t matter. Not much matters to me. I just like the knowledge, that’s all.”
“Oh,” she replied softly. Had she been hoping for something else? What? And did she hear the tiniest bit of bitterness or hurt in Syaoran’s tone? Then, his firm grip on her shoulders tightened, till it almost hurt.
“Just answer me once then, Sakura.” Syaoran’s bright eyes sought hers, forcing her to look straight at him. “Why did you jump off a hundred story building after me?”
Her heart thumped. What kind of question was that? Why didn’t he ask her something that she had an answer for? For a moment, she wished that she could laugh it up and reply, ‘Because it seemed fun.’ No. She couldn’t. His head was close to hers. She could see the glimmer in Syaoran’s eyes as if he could see if she was telling the truth. “I don’t know,” she whispered. “Because I had a dream that someone was falling off a cliff, and no matter how much I screamed, I couldn’t reach that person. I didn’t want my nightmare to become reality.” She didn’t bother telling him that the ‘someone’ was him, Li Syaoran. Then she laughed, breaking the tension and stepping back. “Anyway, what’s the deal? I have the Fly card. We wouldn’t have died or anything.”
“Right.” But couldn’t she have used the Fly card, then jump off? Abruptly, he let go of her shoulders. Then he began, “The deal is I li—“
Before he could finish his sentence, Sakura had already relaxed and kicked off her elegant party shoes, sinking down onto the hard wooden bench. “My feet are killing me!” she exclaimed.
“You’re probably killing your feet,” Syaoran muttered. I never get to finish my sentence. “I never told you to walk in those little sandal things.”
“But Tomoyo-chan forced me to!” The ice blue strappy sandals were one of her favorite shoes but the heel had broken. Sakura pushed back one of her curls off her face. Too bad they were all messy now. Tomoyo would be horrified to see them. Fascinated, Syaoran grabbed one curl and tugged it gently. It stretched and bounced back to place. “What are you doing?” she asked, slightly amused.
“Your hair’s funny. It looks like macaroni. Kinda like that yellow wig I had to wear for my role in Sleeping Beauty, Princess Aurora. You know. Back in fifth grade.”
“Thanks a lot.”
Grinning wickedly, Syaoran commented, “I can imagine what your brother would say when we get back to the hotel.” Mimicking Touya, Syaoran began, “What have you done to my sister? You little brat! Where were you! It’s past midnight—“
Laughing, Sakura said, “Stop it! I’m already out of breath. Anyway, we don’t even know if we’ll get back tonight. Imagine. Everyone leaves us tomorrow, and we spend the rest of our lives in the streets, completely lost.”
“Nah. We’ll find our way back. Worst things have happened to us.”
At this, Sakura’s emerald eyes clouded. “Did you hear about Miho Tanaka?”
“Yeah,” Syaoran replied quietly. “I never knew. Her father, brother, mother, all gone.”
“Her mother’s still alive.”
“But she’s ill in the hospital. She doesn’t even recognize her own daughter.”
“It’s unfair, isn’t it? When I thought about it, Miho could have been me. Her early life was pretty similar to mine. But what would have happened to me if my father died, brother disappeared, and mother ended in a coma?”
“She was strong. Miho Tanaka was strong
and survived over her past.”
“Miho said that I was too dependent on everyone else. That I was nothing without my friends. She said I was too innocent like my mother. Without my friends… I’ll be nothing.” She tried to keep the pain out of her voice, which Syaoran noted nonetheless.
“I don’t know what you think, but you’re too independent and far from innocent. You’re different from any girl I’ve ever met in my life.”
“Is that a compliment?” Sakura raised an eyebrow.
Turning red, Syaoran said, ”Think what you want to. All you need to do is just need to get a grip on yourself. And learn to distinguish your enemies and allies. What does Miho know about Nadeshiko-san, anyway?”
“Miara Mizuki-san, her mother, hated my mother.” Sakura bit her lips, then burst out, “But why? It’s all the legendary Dark Ones’ fault. Miho’s mother’s sick because the Dark Ones spread a plague of some sort. But why is it mother’s fault? Could she help it? She’s dead now, anyway.”
“You don’t know, Sakura?” Syaoran stared into her eyes. “No one ever told you?”
Shaking her head, Sakura shuddered. Why did Syaoran sound so urgent? “What?” She wished he’d get on with it.
“You didn’t know…” Syaoran looked down. “My father and your mother died because of the same Dark Plague. And it’s the same incurable disease which contaminates Miho’s mother now.”
Turning placid, Sakura murmured, “But—I never knew. Thinking about it, I never knew how mother exactly died. Father, nor onii-chan ever told me.” Then, her eyes blazed. “I won’t forgive them. I’ll never let them get away with this.”
The depth in her voice made Syaoran look at Sakura again. To his surprise, Sakura looked oddly beautiful in the moonlight, the pretty bluish silver dress setting off her determined sea green eyes. She changed slightly from the past, looking more mature and knowing changing from a carefree girl into a steady young adult. He brushed the image away. What was he thinking? All that he had tried to leave behind… Was he stupid? How could he fall under the same trap again? Somehow along his way, his whole motive and intentions twisted and changed. But one thing was sure. He still would stick to the reason why he came back to Japan in the first place: protect Sakura. No matter what happened to him. He’d done enough damage, already. Then darkly, Syaoran drew something out of his coat pocket. “Look what I found.”
Taking the picture, Sakura started, “What—“ In the photo, both Nadeshiko was leaning her head against Ryuuren, smiling and looking very happy. What was strange was that Nadeshiko was dressed in a white, lacy dress looking suspiciously like a wedding dress. A sheer white veil adorned with tiny white flowers was draped over her thick violet hair and she was holding a single white lily, the sapphire on her fourth finger gleaming. Beside her, Ryuuren was looking handsome in a black tuxedo, and in his hand, he held a white mask. “I hope this is not what I think it is. Where’d’you get this?”
“I picked it up in Shing-san’s photo album. I didn’t mean to take it, but somehow…” Syaoran shrugged it off.
“I just wonder why is that ring on her fourth finger? Mere coincidence or something more significant?” Shaking her head, Sakura commented, “Sixteen was an awfully young age to marry my father. And this is even before that.”
“Too bad someone stole the ring. I would have liked to see it.” Then, he stared at the picture again. “Do you really think…”
They shuddered. It was impossible that their parents had ever married, but if, the slightest possibility—the thought was repulsive. “But I thought he never admitted his feelings for her,” Sakura said.
“Yeah. This might just be a costume party or something.” But Syaoran didn’t sound convinced.
“If it happened, does that make us related?”
“No. They married different people and had us, so I don’t think—“
“Anyway, there’s no way it could have happened.” Standing up, Sakura stretched, then said, “Come on. Let’s try to find our way back. I can have this picture, right?” Sakura tucked it inside a pocket, then pushed the dark thoughts out of her mind. The past was becoming more confusing than ever.
Slowly, Syaoran sat up from the bench. As he did, something fell out of his pants with a clatter. When he tried to pick it up, his fingers brushed against Sakura’s. Picking it up, Sakura examined it. It was the gold-hilted pocketknife, which had caused so much suspicion of Syaoran. In awe, she traced the intricate dragon engravings with her finger. The metal felt cool and light on her palm. On a corner, she read the tiny Chinese characters, Li Ryuuren.
“Daddy, daddy! Shaowan wants a big sword too!” A little boy with large amber eyes said, gazing in awe at his fathers large Five Force Sword.
“Not yet, my Little Wolf. You’re too young to even hold one up,” his handsome father replied.
The little boy scowled, furrowing his dark eyebrows down, looking like a small replica of his father when he was displeased. “No! Shaowan wants one now!”
Stroking his son’s ruffled chestnut brown hair, so similar to his own, the man replied, “Someday, when you’re a little older. You can become a strong, brave warrior, my son.”
“Wike Daddy?” The little boy climbed onto his father’s knees eagerly, with round soulful brown eyes.
“Like Daddy. And in the mean time, guess what you can have?” From his pocket, the man drew out a golden pocketknife, resting it on his large, sinuous hands. With difficulty, the child gripped it with chubby little fingers, laughing gleefully.
“Tis wike a widdle(little) sword!” The little toddler clapped, while his father’s blurred face smiled. Since the boy was too young to draw out the blade, the pocketknife was perfectly safe for the while.
“And you can have a big one when you grow older.” The man’s blue eyes were full of warmth.
Clasping the knife tightly, the little boy stated, “Someday, Shaowan will becum a big, stwong(strong) wawwia(warrior) wike Daddy!”
“Like Daddy…” Sakura whispered, gazing down at the beautiful knife, her eyes glistening. Poor little boy…
“Don’t look into other people’s memory without permission,” Syaoran snapped. One of the few precious memories of his father. And he couldn’t even remember Li Ryuuren’s face precisely.
“Sorry. I didn’t know. About this knife, I mean. I didn’t know I could look into your mind because of my powers.” If it was any other situation, Sakura would have exclaimed, ‘what a cute boy,’ but somehow the wistful look in Syaoran’s eyes prevented her from saying this. “But I guess it was a very important memory to you.”
Bitterly, Syaoran said, “It’s one of the only I have, anyway.” Become a brave, strong warrior like father… “You’re magic skills must have improved since you can look into other people’s minds now.”
Shrugging it off, Sakura commented, “I guess you got your big sword.” She doubted that she could seen anyone else’s mind except Syaoran’s.
“Yeah. As soon as I was able to hold one up. When I was 7. After my father’s death, I couldn’t wait till I was old enough to start training with his sword. I had already mastered most of the basic martial arts, anyway, by that time. As I said before, I wanted to learn as fast as I could. I passed the Ordeal of Sorcery, then I came to Japan.” Slightly laughing he said, “God, I was so mean to you in the beginning. I don’t know about you, but watching myself over in Tomoyo’s video really was a shock.”
“You’re still mean to me,” Sakura commented jokingly. “Anyway, I don’t blame you or anything. You didn’t mean any harm when you tried to grab the cards away from me by force, or call me ‘baka,’ weak, and unfit for Card Captor, or when you glared at me, or not even when you refused to acknowledge me. Not much changed since then, anyway.”
Wincing, Syaoran muttered, “No need to rub it in.” He tried to walk faster. Then he said, “Strange. Since when were there were forests of trees in Manhattan?”
Pondering over it Sakura exclaimed, “I get it! We’re in Central Park now! If we find the right direction, we’ll end up across the street from the Plaza Hotel.”
“Yup! We’re saved!”
“At last!” (Eriol’s Action Plan #11, they always survive in the end.) Once more Syaoran looked at Sakura. It might be a long time before he would be this close to her again. He sighed, then braced himself once more, letting a cold stiffness creep up his veins.
At John F. Kennedy Airport (New York,) the next morning…
“Good bye Eriol-kun!” Eriol squeezed Sakura into a tight farewell hug, which made a noise like a boiling teapot erupt from Syaoran.
“Take care, Sakura-san,” Eriol said, his dark blue eyes warm.
“I’ll call you every day, Touya-kun!” Nakuru shouted.
“GET OFF ME!” Touya wriggled under Nakuru’s firm arms.
“Are you going to stay in New York?” Tomoyo asked Eriol.
“Just for this winter, till Miho-san’s vacation ends. Then, we’re all going back to London.” Eriol smiled. “Who knows? We might all like to go back to Japan for a visit, some day. I miss my old house, sometimes.”
“Please don’t, for the sake of my sanity,” Touya pleaded. “Or leave that crazy thing behind in England.”
“WHO ME?” Nakuru asked, flipping back her long maroon hair into Touya’s face.
“You’ll keep in touch with how things are going?” Eriol asked.
“Of course! And Eriol’s Secret Action Plan #12, Tomoyo-chan can take action in the meantime!” Tomoyo drew out her video camera.
“You’re one amazing person, Tomoyo-san,”
Eriol commented. He had a habit that whenever he was most amused, he kept
his thoughts to himself, however Tomoyo seemed to always know his deepest,
most crooked thoughts.
A cold had touched Sakura’s arm. She turned around. Smoky gray eyes faced her. “Miho…” Sakura was speechless. Now, she did not know what to say.
Tossing back her short auburn hair which framed her face, Miho stated defiantly, “I’m going to go to Japan someday and beware then. I’ll take Syaoran right from under your nose!”
“Hoe?” Sakura sweat-dropped, then relaxed. “You can try.”
More softly, Miho said, “And maybe I’ll visit Mother at the hospital. Eriol told you, right? She won’t recognize me, but I still would like to see her.”
Understandingly, Sakura reassured, “Inside, she’ll be glad to see you.”
“Do you think so? Strange to say, even if she’s in that condition, I’m glad to have my mother. Or else, I would have no one.” With a strange look of determination on her pale face, Miho said, “I lied.”
“What do you mean?”
“When I said you and Syaoran didn’t match, I lied.”
“Boarding time,” Yukito called.
“Bye Syaoran!” Miho boldly kissed his cheek good-bye. When Syaoran blushed, Sakura glared at him. Meanwhile, Meirin whacked Miho on the head.
For a moment, Eron’s malicious golden eyes met Eriol’s calm, yet deadly sea blue ones. Eron was the first to look away, perspiring heavily.
“Hurry,” Erika persisted, her heart skipping a beat. We’ve rather been neglected on this trip, onii-chan.
It was important to stay low-key, my twin. We couldn’t do anything to look suspicious. Not with Clow Reed’s reincarnation around, Eron replied.
We’re still not as powerful as we used to be?
But we’re getting there.
Throughout the whole airplane flight, Sakura kept murmuring, “I think I’m leaving behind something.’
“What is it, Sakura-chan?” Tomoyo asked, having a dreadful suspicion.
Back in New York…
Tearfully, Kero-chan shouted, “HOW COULD SAKURA-CHAN LEAVE ME BEHIND?”
“Don’t worry, Eriol would use a transition spell to send you back to Tomoeda,” Suppi-chan reassured.
“I’m hurt. Didn’t you like staying with
me?” Eriol smiled, his black hair with bluish highlights glinting under
the lamplight. “Things are going to get interesting.”
“Ryuuren! I can’t see you! Where are you? Don’t leave me!” Nadeshiko shrieked as something crashed over her head. Bits of glass shards sliced into her soft skin. “RYUURENNNN!!!!!!” Complete darkness.
Wish-chan: Finally over with the
New York saga. I can’t wait to get on with the show… You know, everything
in CLAMP’s plot is significant, even the most unimportant detail. In some
ways, this might have been a pointless chapter (with very random, seemingly
unimportant details.) I dunnoe. ^_^. You can decide in the far off future…
He he… We all knew that S+S’s modeling contract would go fine. Or as fine
as I would allow it to get. Mike Kant’s funky… And Shing appeared again.
Hmm, can you imagine CLAMP’s work being up in an art museum. *_*. We’d
all love it, ne? So, part of Miho’s mystery is cleared. Still hate her?
I still think that Eriol is the most powerful magician. But S+S are catching
up. Don’t you wonder what the results of Eriol and Syaoran’s duel would
have been if Sakura didn’t interrupt? How like Eriol to cause problem,
and then solve it out himself. Poor S+S, dumped in the middle of Manhattan
by a taxi driver. It was always one of my fears. Gee, wonder what Syaoran’s
secret is? The mystery of the knife was solved, however. But there are
still many questions left… What really was between N+R? If anyone’s wondering,
when S+S turned up in the hotel room at 2 in the morning, Touya beat up
Syaoran. Or was it the other way around? He he… Anyway, there was hot fire.
Crack crack. Oh. And Sakura never heard the end of it she got back to Japan,
for leaving Kero-chan. (CAN YOU REALLY CALL YOURSELF MY MISTRESS? HOW CAN
YOU FORGET ME? YOU DARED TO LEAVE THE GOLDEN EYED CERBERUS BEHIND?) As
for Syaoran, his mother and sister loved the presents, scolded him for
not finishing a single task, and they were awed by the money he earned.
(OH MY GOSH! CUTE LITTLE BRO IS A MODEL NOW!!!) And the Elders assigned
more things to do (in a fax of more than 200 pages.) And you can say, if
this was on TV, the first season has ended, and the more intriguing second
session/arc, whatever is about to launch.