“WE’RE LATE FOR SCHOOL!!!” Sakura shouted,
as Syaoran and she ran out of the apartment complex the next morning. After
hearing Moonstone, the bunny stuffed animal’s warning, they had decided
to live together for the time being, since Sakura’s brother and father
were both away, and they knew that it would be best to stay together, in
case of an attack. That wasn't important though... Being late for school
for several consecutive days was a major problem.
Later on that day, after school, Sakura asked, “Don’t you get tired of running a marathon to school everyday?”
“Eh? Of course I do!” Syaoran replied.
“Right?!” Sakura smiled, grabbing his arms and dragging him to the bus stop. “I have a great idea!”
“Wait, where are you taking me?” Syaoran
“What are these?” Syaoran asked suspiciously as they returned home, peering into the shopping bag.
Clapping her hands together, Sakura exclaimed, “The perfect solution to solve running and being late to school every day is…”
Taking out the shiny metallic black with dark teal green trimmings, he stated, “Rollerblades? That’s stupid.”
Crestfallen, Sakura replied, “Well, I used to go to school everyday in rollerblades, and I always made it just on time… I thought rollerblading to school might be better and faster than running… Won’t you just try it? For me?” Sakura looked up appealingly with round emerald eyes.
Turning red, Syaoran consented, “Oh, fine.”
“Really! You won’t regret it, Syaoran-kun!”
Well, the truth turned out to be that Syaoran
did not think rollerblading was stupid. Actually…
“Whoa~” CRASH KABOOM! BANG! THUMP!
“Oh my gosh, are you all right, Syaoran-kun?” Gracefully, Sakura rollerbladed over to Syaoran, who had crashed right into the lamp post in their neighborhood. “You should have told me that you didn’t know how to rollerblade.”
Embarrassed, Syaoran muttered, “Well, I can’t help it… Rollerblading is not one of the Li clan training skills.”
“Here, take my hand, and we’ll do it step by step. There, glide smoothly like this.” Sakura took Syaoran’s hand and helped him balance. Slowly, they got the rhythm of it. “You’re doing great!” Sakura exclaimed as they made a trip safely around the block. His ears turned red, and he tripped over, landing on the sidewalk. Painfully, he tried to stand up, instead flipping right over because of the wheels. Still, Sakura had to stifle laughter.
“It’s not a laughing matter!” Syaoran grumbled.
By the next morning, both Sakura and Syaoran smoothly rollerbladed off to school.
“Hey, I think you got the hang of it!” Sakura called, out, her skirt and hair blowing back from the spring breeze. “Oh no! Watch out for the slope!”
“Wha—AAAAAAHHHHHH!” Syaoran crashed down at the bottom of the sloped hill.
“Oh no!” Sakura slapped her forehead in
“Li-kun, what happened to your head?” Takashi asked during class.
“Don’t ask about it,” Syaoran muttered.
“Oooh, that must hurt so much,” Erika clucked. “It’s okay, the bandage makes you look even more handsome!”
“I’m so sorry, Syaoran-kun,” Sakura said, sweat-dropping.
“I’ll make it heal faster!” Keeping one golden eye on Sakura, Erika bent over and lightly kissed his bandaged forehead.
“What!” Syaoran’s face turned red, as Sakura glared at him. Eron sweat-dropped.
Then they turned their attention back to the lesson. Sakura really enjoyed learning about animals.
Their teacher continued with their lesson,
“We have studied Anna Sewell’s novel, Black Beauty, which is also vital
in capturing the right and mistreatment of animals in that time. We will
also view the movie today, for a treat.” The students cheered.
After school, Sakura commented, “Did you like being kissed by Erika?”
“Hey, it’s not like that! She just did it, and I could do nothing about it… I—“
Switching the subject cleverly, Sakura stated, “I’m so glad that it’s a happy ending in that movie. Black Beauty deserves it after all the hardships he encountered. I think I really would love meeting horses.”
“Have you ever rode one before?” Syaoran asked, an idea dawning in his head.
“No… I would like to, though,” Sakura replied, tilting her head.
Slowly, Syaoran smiled. “Would you like to, then?”
“Where are we going?” Sakura asked eagerly, gazing out at the country landscape for the fifteen-minute bus ride. It was the first time Syaoran had taken her somewhere, just for the sake of it. They were both dressed casually, and the day was beautiful and sunny.
“You’ll see.” Syaoran replied mysteriously.
They got off, Sakura spun around in wonder at the vast grassy green fields, with wooden fences and stables around them. It was like a story book country-side setting. She shaded her eyes from the dazzling golden sunlight with her hand. In the distance, there were all types of horses of different breeds, sizes, and colors, brisking around with various people. Grabbing Syaoran’s jacket sleeve, she exclaimed, “Wow, you never told me you knew a place like this!”
“Do you like it? So do I.” Syaoran ran up to a young man around twenty, with brown hair tousled from the wind and a friendly smile. “Tamemura-san!”
The young man, who was stroking a beautiful black stallion turned around, then with a bright smile, greeted, “Li Syaoran!” Walking over to him, he asked, “So, how are you doing these days? I didn’t know you came back to Japan. It’s been ages since I saw you.” Tamemura clapped over Syaoran’s back. “Hey, is this your girlfriend? She’s cute. Introduce us.”
“S-sakura’s not my girlfriend—she’s just a friend. She never saw a real horse before, so I brought her over. Uh… Sakura, this is Tamemura Asuma-san. His father is the head of a large stable, horse breeding, and horse-racing organization in Japan. He currently attends Seijou University. We first met long ago, in Hong Kong. And Tamemura-san, this is Kinomoto Sakura. She attends Seijou Junior High with me.”
Shaking hands warmly with her, Asuma said, “Good to meet you, Kinomoto-san. I know your brother from university. We were classmates since high school. He’s a cool guy. Used to be soccer captain. Hey, this little boy must like you a lot. Never saw him socialize before.” He laughed kindly as Sakura and Syaoran turned red. “So, you’ve never ridden a horse before?”
“No, Tamemura-san,” Sakura replied, shyly stroking the ebony black stallion’s head. “Wow, he’s beautiful.”
“Midnight Star’s Li’s favorite ever since he was a kid,” Tamemura Asuma replied. “You can ride him, if you want to.”
“Really? Actually, I’ll like to watch first…” Sakura said. In the distance, she saw a young woman racing on a beautiful white horse, her sun bleached hair blowing back in the wind. Wow, wish I can ride like that.
“Okay. Hey, do you wanna race me?” Asuma asked Syaoran.
“You know I always lose, Tamemura-san. You’re a professional,” he replied.
“Aw, just for fun. You can ride Midnight Star. I’ll take my horse.” Asuma mounted a magnificent chestnut brown racing stallion. For a moment, Sakura gazed in wonder at the grace of the rider and horse, as Asuma raced across the field, shortly followed by Syaoran. To her surprise, Syaoran was pretty good also.
Sakura clapped in rapture as the two returned, of course with Asuma winning. “You’re turn,” he winked, helping her mount Midnight Star.
Quivering at being on the graceful beast, Sakura said, “I can’t balance!”
“It’s okay. Li will help you, won’t you?” Asuma said. “The skill is, stay on the horse by applying pressure to your knees to the horse’s side, not by grabbing onto the rein. And keep a straight back and a firm posture. Plus, relax, let the horse become a part of you.”
Following these instruction, Sakura slowly relaxed, and let Asuma lead Midnight Star around the ring. Then, as she grew used to it, Syaoran, who was riding another stallion, and she rode out into the field.
“Hey, this is fun!” Sakura shouted, letting the horse canter, feeling the cool spring breeze blow back her sandy golden hair in the wind, and a powerful spirit surge through her as she felt herself soar over the evergreen fields with the midnight black stallion.
Gazing at Sakura, Syaoran’s amber brown eyes softened, then he galloped his horse to catch up.
Just then, Sakura felt the horse shift, and became aware that she was loosing balance as Midnight Star reared up and galloped faster. The wind lashed at her face, tearing her hair away from its ribbon, and the speed made her heart drop to her toes. An alert shiver ran through her, like it did when she felt a power. Was there an enemy around them? A dreadful quiver ran through her as she started slipping off of the saddle, hardly aware that she was. Desperately, she tried to hold onto the rein, yet the horse was out of control. The clopping of Midnight’s hooves vibrated through her hooves, and she clenched her eyes shut.
With full force, Syaoran came galloping up on his silvery stallion. “You’re gonna fall off! Hang on!” His horse inched closer to Midnight Star. Just a little faster!
As Midnight Star neighed and hurdled back, Sakura made a desperate grasp around the horse’s neck to stay on. Syaoran saw the right timing. Deftly, he shifted on his saddle, then swung his leg over the Midnight Star’s saddle and leaped from his horse onto the black stallion’s back. Under the weight of two people, the stallion returned to balance on four legs. Stroking the horse’s glossy mane, Syaoran murmured, “Good boy. It’s all right. You can calm down.”
Hearing the familiar voice, the stallion quieted. Syaoran supported his arms behind Sakura to prevent her from slipping off the horse. She gained her balance just in time as Midnight Star regained composure. Her head turned towards him, buried in Syaoran’s shirt, she could feel the shifting of Midnight Star beneath them. Her heart beat rapidly. “Thanks…” she said, looking up into his bright amber eyes. His arms were protectively around her waist. For a second, she felt the strange power again, then she brushed it aside. She could hear him panting, as he steered the horse to around. His breath tickled the nape of her neck. “Another close call… I really thought I’ll fall off. Well, Midnight Star seems to like you a lot,” she commented.
“I knew him for a long time. I like riding. It makes me feel free, full of spirit, lighthearted… I don’t know. Midnight Star understands me.” Syaoran fondly stroked the stallion’s mane.
Turning her head back to face Syaoran, Sakura asked, “Do you think I can’t understand you?”
Silently, Syaoran gazed at Sakura. Her face was just a breath away from his. As a gust of warm wind brushed by, Sakura’s silky long hair blew into his face, smelling of sweet spring blossoms. His face was so near hers, he felt himself being drawn to her. Midnight Star shuffled under them, and the bond broke. “No,” Syaoran replied, shaking his head.
A little hurt, Sakura commented, “If that’s what you think… Well at least Eriol-kun understood me.”
“Do you have to talk of him, today?” Syaoran asked, frowning again.
“No…” Then out of impulse, Sakura blurted out, “But I’m just curious about one thing. Why were you mad when Eron-kun and I went to the movies?”
Instead of answering the question directly, he replied lightly, “Isn’t it the same as when Erika or Miho hangs around me?”
Startled, Sakura widened her emerald eyes. “You still didn’t answer my question. If I do something with Eron…”
“If Eron takes one step too near you, I’ll
take him out and beat the light out of him. Here, let’s go back now.”
This startled Sakura even more than when Midnight Star bolted up. Was there a significance to Syaoran’s words? Yet, a pleasant shiver ran down her spine.
Tamemura Asuma ran up to them. “What happened over there? Are you all right? Midnight Star has a rebellious spirit, but I never saw his gallop in that way before. Anyway, you catch on riding pretty fast,” Asuma complimented to Sakura. “Better than Li, over here. The first day he learned to ride in Hong Kong, it was on Midnight Black, who was huge compared to his body size. Midnight’s really old, and has known him forever. Anyway, Li fell off the horse 21 times in one day. But he was so stubborn, he kept on trying, even if bruises formed all over his little body and he almost broke his neck. And he hated loosing, no matter what. He would ask to race with me a hundred times, even if he would lose a hundred times. You know, those kinda people would fall a thousand times and still get up. At least Syaoran got the hang of it under a month.”
“Hey, I was only a kid at that time,” Syaoran declared, ears turning red.
The young woman that Sakura saw previously came riding up to them on a snow white horse. Seeing them, she exclaimed, “How cute! Who are these two?” Grinning she stated, “Asuma-kun, I’m gonna beat you one and for all at the race tomorrow. You’ll finally admit I’m better than you.”
“Arima, I’m glad to see you so confident,” Asuma replied in the same tone of icy voice, then introduced, “Arima, my friends are Li Syaoran, and Kinomoto Sakura. And this is Akagi Arima. Her father and my father are co-directors of the stable and horse races, the Tamemura/Akagi Purebred Horse Stables and Racing Organization, International.”
“You mean Akagi Arima, the talented, beautiful actress?!” Sakura exclaimed.
Reddening, Arima replied, “Ah, well, I like horses, since I was brought up with them, and I like acting as well. My producers would freak out if they know how much time I’m spending out in the sun. Bad for complexion or something. Still, I love racing. Hey, you two are in Seijou Junior High, right? You must know my little brother, Akagi Tomaki…”
“You mean Aki-kun?” Sakura exclaimed. No wonder Arima had always looked familiar on screen. That silvery blond hair and smile was similar to Tomaki’s, as well as the bold confidence.
Meanwhile, Syaoran exclaimed, “That jerk—oops, I didn’t mean it…”
“It’s all right. My little brother is a brat. But better than some people.” Arima gazed coolly at Asuma, who looked away. “Oh yeah!” Turning to Sakura, she asked, “You don’t happen to be Touya-kun’s little sister do you?” Sakura nodded.
In an overly smooth voice, Asuma stated, “Oh yeah! Your big time crush who rejected you how many times?
“Humph. That was in high school. And look at you. Rejected by all four Li sisters in Hong Kong, not to mention having a crush on that Nakuru girl only because you thought she was pretty!”
“I guess we’re not getting anywhere,” Asuma stated, crossing his arms.
“Like we ever do. Well, see you around.” Arima’s horse flitted its silvery tail and trotted off.
As Sakura and Syaoran glanced curiously at Asuka, he replied sighing, “Arima has always been my childhood friend and rival. We’ve always been this way. Ever since elementary, if we didn’t tie in a race, it was always first and second. We went to school together, then straight to the stables after school. And we are next door neighbors since our parent’s share the same firm. We’re always in things together.”
“Is she your girlfriend?” Sakura asked, swinging her legs from the fence.
“Nah. We fight too much. When I went to Hong Kong for several years, we kinda grew distant. But, then we returned to as fierce rivals as before. I learned new skills while I was away, while she also practiced different techniques. Then, when we graduated high school, a producer scouted her and she drew into acting, her second interest. This upcoming race will be her last one. Then, she’ll quit racing and become a popular actress. We fought about it. I told her that she was abandoning everything, all her life worth of training. Sure she’s a great actress, she was born to be in the spotlight. Still, ever since she became an actress, she didn’t win any races. However, this last time, she’s been practicing hard. I plan on letting her win, since it’s the last time.”
“Wow…” Sakura suspected that there was more behind Asuma and Arima than she had assumed. And she was pretty sure that Tamemura Asuma was in love with Akagi Arima.
“Oh yeah. Can you take this to her?” Asuma handed something to Syaoran. Bashfully, he said, “I’d do it myself, but we’re not exactly on speaking terms right now. It’s just an umbrella. The news said it’s gonna rain a lot tonight. Obviously, she’ll stay late at the stables, and it won’t do if she catches a cold from getting wet.” Turning red, Asuma said, “Well, it won’t do if my rival gets sick for the race tomorrow.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll give it to her.” Taking
the umbrella, Syaoran quickly walked after the young actress, Akagi Arima.
Tamemura Asuma remembered years ago, when Syaoran came to Japan.
Asuma had asked casually, “Hey, have worries?”
Eleven year old Syaoran had replied, “I don’t know. There’s this girl. I just can’t take her out of my mind. It’s not like any other feeling I’ve had before. I mean, we were supposed to be rivals and all, yet… I help her, and I want to protect her. What’s happening to me?”
Raising an eyebrow, Asuma, who was in high school had said, “Admit it. You’re in love with that girl. There’s no need to run away from love. Face it like a man.” Playfully, he had slapped Syaoran’s back.
“What’s with you and Yue and Meirin, and Tomoyo? Why should I like her? Out of all people, why Sakura?” Syaoran asked in dismay.
Quietly, Asuma thought that it would have helped Syaoran if he had male relatives at times like this. “The thing is, you can’t help it. It came naturally and unexpectedly, sudden like a thundercloud… that’s love. I can’t see what’s good at all about Arima. Yeah, she’s pretty, popular, and talented. But, I always told myself all these years that she’s not by type. Yet, I know that life without Arima will be so different and empty. And I can see that girl has made all the difference in your life. You have changed a lot since you came to Japan.”
“You’re right about that, Tamemura-san.” Syaoran looked up slowly. “She has made all the difference in my life. Seeing her everyday makes all the difference for me. Just knowing that she’s happy makes me happy. When she cries, I feel so helpless. So, I don’t want to see her cry. I don’t know what I like about her… but if this feeling is called love… Maybe I really did change...”
After Syaoran left to give the umbrella, Asuma asked, “So, Kinomoto-san, are you close friends with Li Syaoran?”
“Umm… We’ve been through a lot together, I guess,” Sakura replied to Asuma’s question, blushing.
“He’s changed a lot, you know. I think you made a real difference in his life. He looks more like a normal teenage boy now, when he relaxes and puts down his guards and forgets about being the Chosen One with powers and all,” he said, recalling the past.
“Wait—Tamemura-san, you know all about—“
“Not all. Just what my friend, Li Leiyun had told me long ago,” Asuma replied.
“Li Leiyun?” The name stuck a chord through her, as if she should know him. “I’m sorry to ask you this, but… how exactly did you get to know Syaoran?” Sakura asked with her evergreen eyes sincere. Finally someone who could tell her about Syaoran’s past, someone with unbiased views!
“Well… Around for some time I moved back
and forth from Hong Kong, because my mother had business there, mostly
during middle school. Father stayed back in Japan to maintain the stables.
My mother had some associations with the Li’s, a very prominent family
there. And somehow, I grew to know Li Leiyun. I don’t know how to describe
him. He was straightforward, responsible, and sincere. More mature than
any another boy that age. He had keen, sharp blue eyes which always warily
observed around him, under dark eyebrows and dark hair. Yet, he had the
most caring warmest heart, and a spirit like a horse, always with a bright
smile on his face, no matter what. He was the best friend I’ve ever had,
and he took care of Syaoran like an older brother. Syaoran looked up to
him, and though he was quiet and serious most of the time, being with Leiyun
brought laughter and a more boyish side out of him. At that time, Syaoran
was too young, so Li Leiyun was the most promising to be the chosen one
of the Li’s.”
Just then, Sakura remember what Meirin had told her ages ago. ‘Syaoran has changed mostly during 3 parts of his life. The first time was when he was three, and his father died. I don’t exactly remember him at that point, since I was only a baby, but then I do hear that he was more cheerful, sociable and bright, more like ordinary boys…The next time he changed was when he was around 9 years old, before he moved to Japan. That’s when our cousin, the one who looked after him the most, as an older brother, died. He took care of Syaoran’s training, discipline, and life, and was as close to him as an older brother. Syaoran was never the sociable, amiable type, yet after the death, he closed up even more. His face took a mask, with the deep frown and cold, defying eyes. He never smiled or laughed, and his voice was cool and short. The kind, caring side that I knew he possessed was hidden more than ever. But then, he came to Japan, and he changed again. He changed back more to someone that he might be, if he did not have to face so much tragedy. His hurt was starting to get healed again. He finally learned to open up his heart and love again.'
Taking a deep breath, Sakura asked, “Was Li Leiyun…”
“Yes. Li Leiyun was Syaoran’s cousin. I was shocked after I returned to Japan, and I heard… I heard…” Asuma’s voice broke off.
Staring at the grassy field, Sakura clenched her fists. “Syaoran-kun… What kind of childhood did you face…”
While cleaning up dinner that evening Syaoran asked, “So, do you want to go see the horse race tomorrow? Tamemura-san and Akagi-san will be competing in it. It’s Sunday so we can watch it.”
“Really? Sakura jumped excitedly. “I’d
love to! Today was so fun! Hmm… I worry though. It’s starting to rain outside.”
The soft pattering and drizzling of spring rain sounded in the pitch black
KRASH-KABOOOOOOOOM! Trying to cover her ears with her blanket, Sakura snuggled tighter into bed, curled up in a ball. It was literally pouring outside, and thunder boomed as if though the building was about to collapse. I’m not afraid of thunder. It’s just that… It’s just that…. “Hoe-e!” KABOOOOOM DUM KRASH! “I don’t care if he think’s I’m a coward! I can’t stand this anymore!”
Grabbing her pillow, with the flash of phenomenal lightening, she ran over to the next door room and burst in. “I’M NOT SCARED OR ANYTHING!”
To her surprise, Syaoran was sitting up in bed, gazing outside his window with an extremely wistful, almost sad expression. She almost felt as if she had invaded his silent thought. He didn’t flinch as she walked into his room. “Grab my nightgown over there. It’s cold,” he said quietly.
“Thanks.” Gratefully, Sakura wrapped the flannel gown over her pajamas and snuggled in the warmth, hugging her pillow tight to her chest. Rubbing her cold bare foot against her ankle, she shuffled uncomfortably.
Shifting over on his bed, Syaoran said, “Sit here if you want to. You’re legs will hurt if you want to wait for the storm to end.”
Hesitantly, Sakura sat at the opposite end of the bed from Syaoran. She stated, “I’m not scared, all right?”
“I never said you are.” KRASH KA BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!
“Hoe-e! Can we turn on the lights?” Sakura asked, tightening her grasp on her pillow.
“There was a power failure, hours ago. I guess it’s the worst thunder storm in a while.”
“Oh. How come you’re not sleeping?”
Sweat-dropping, Syaoran questioned, “Do you think it’s possible to sleep through this terrible racket?”
“He he… Some people can. I used to be able to. But I can’t anymore. Especially because of nightmares.”
“The same ones again?”
“Yeah…” They quietly listened to the rainstorm and distant thunder outside. “Syaoran? What was your cousin like? Sorry… I didn’t mean to be nosy…”
At first, Syaoran was taken back. Then, he leaned against his pillow, staring at the flash of light etching through the stark black sky outside, and the turbulent dark gray thunderclouds forming and twisting. “No, it’s all right. I think I can talk about him now… I want to talk about him to someone else.”
“Li Leiyun…” Sakura whispered.
“You know his name?” Syaoran asked, arching his eyebrows. “Li Leiyun. His name meant thundercloud. I guess it suited him, as well. Bright and sunny most of the time, always with a helpful smiling face. Yet, when he was angry, beware, he can be your worst enemy. Maybe he was a thundercloud because he appeared… then disappeared just like that…” Syaoran glanced away.
“I’m sorry. You don’t have to talk about him if it’s painful.”
“Leiyun was like a real brother to me. After my father died, he always looked after me, even if he was only seven years older than me. He was practically the only male that I could turn to. My elders just were to stiff and strict. Though Wei was caring, Leiyun provided brotherly companionship. Even as I underwent the hardest and most trying obstacles in my training, he helped me through, always with a bright smile. He was optimistic, talented, and kind-hearted. Everyone admired him.”
“I can tell you cared for him very much.”
“Yeah… Then… when I was nine…” Syaoran’s voice strained, as if he couldn’t continue.
“It was a typical sunny day, as I was training. Li Leiyun swung out his sword, knocking mine aside. Even though Leiyun was only sixteen, he had passed the Ordeal of the Li’s, which admitted him to the Li Council of Elders. Most of my other cousins had failed it at that age, while others didn’t even venture near the Ordeal. My father, Li Ryuuren was the only other person who passed it so young, completing the martial arts, sword fighting, and powers training, and passing the test. Leiyun was rumored to be the best swordsman in Hong Kong. Giving a sigh, I picked up my sword for the hundredth time, wiping the sweat off my brows. I was only an elementary schooler, after all.
Smiling, Leiyun said, “It’s all right, keep on trying Syaoran. You’ll get it if you continue to practice. You really improved a lot. You couldn’t even hold a sword up two years ago! Watch me one more time.”
Admiringly, I gazed at Leiyun’s complex sword moves, with his firm, smooth actions. He was tall and strong, in many ways resembling father, especially with the sapphire blue eyes. Except, Leiyun’s were always a warm sky blue, except when he was angry, then it turned a stormy grayish blue. His almost black, brownish hair was windblown, while a friendly smile lingered in his lips. He was the type of person who would climb up a branchless tree to retrieve a little boy’s paper airplane. All the little children of our family adored him.
One time, I had near given up, being miserable and hopeless. Then, he gripped my shoulder’s and said dead seriously, looking right into my eyes, “Syaoran, don’t you ever give up and waste your opportunity. You’ve got to keep on going and overcome your struggles. Or else, if you become passive and give in to your troubles, and give in to your enemies, you’ll just become a puppet of the Fates. Be strong, and listen to your true self. Your true self’s not the person you see in the mirror. Your true self will only come out when you learn to open your mind and heart.”
When I looked into his ocean blue eyes, I felt something strange stirring behind. Though he was smiling encouragingly, his eyes looked sad, and pained. As if I was never going to see him again.
“Continue practicing the Dragon and the Tai-feng sword drill. You’re meant for the Li Five Force Sword. Work hard to earn it.” Leiyun said, smiling in his usual self.
“I thought that you were going to inherit it,” I replied cautiously.
“Nah. It used to be your father’s anyway.”
“I’m too young for it. Everyone says the Elder’s would give it to you.”
“I will just need it once in my lifetime,” Leiyun replied, almost somberly. “Syaoran. Don’t fall in the trap I did. You’re good inside. I know it. Don’t ever give in…”
Carelessly, I asked, “Why are you talking
like that? It sounds like you’re going off someplace or something.” Little
did I know I was right.
Several weeks later there was still no news from Leiyun. The Elders and Mother quietly talked in worried voices together. Then, Wei walked into the room with a stricken expression. Mother gave a startled, strangling cry, and her face turned pale. Leiyun’s mother started sobbing hysterically, as Great-Uncle, Head of the Li clan trembled and tried to soothe her.
Li Ieran, my mother moaned, “No, it can’t be true. Not Leiyun. There must be some mistake. He… Leiyun’s intelligent, talented, extremely well-coordinated… he’s our Chosen One… He’s just like Ryuuren… No…”
Someone glanced at me and then whispered to the group, “Shh… don’t let him hear this. You know how the boy loved Leiyun like a brother.”
“What happened to Leiyun?” I demanded, walking up to the group of grief stricken adults. They refused to answer, all staring at me. Louder, I shouted, “I’m not stupid! Tell me what happened to my cousin! TELL ME!”
“Syaoran, I raised you better than to shout to your Elders,” Ieran scolded, half-heatedly.
Pounding at my mother’s arms, I shouted, “DAMN IT! TELL ME! WHAT HAPPENED TO LEIYUN?!”
Maybe out of sympathy, Mother stroked my matted brown hair, placed a steady hand on my shaking shoulders. Slowly, she whispered, “He’s dead. Li Leiyun is dead.”
The words stuck through me light lightening, and a piercing jolt speared through my heart as the reality slowly sank in. A cold tide washed over me, and I sank to the floor. “No. You’re lying. He’s not dead. He’s my cousin. LEIYUN CAN’T BE DEAD!”
Maybe I went crazy and delirious. The large, airy room of the main Li mansion swirled around me and voices haunted, “He’s dead, your cousin’s dead. Li Leiyun is no longer alive.” Blood splattered onto the wooden floor, along with the shattered glass pieces. I would have broken more windows with my bare fists, had my hands been functioning properly. By then, they were hanging limply, being badly strained and cut. Maybe the bones were broken.
Half blinded with tears, I shouted at the
Elders for being cowards and sending of Leiyun alone to fight off an Evil
Force. They gazed at me with sympathy which made me more furious. My mother
protectively wrapped her arms around me and I sobbed into her silk Chinese
dress. Till this day, no one gave me the specifics of how exactly Leiyun
died, except that he was defeated by an Evil Force.
I couldn’t attend his funeral, since I
was in the hospital, my broken arms and glass cuts being treated. Out of
pure madness and icy fury, I smashed all the windows in the room with my
fist. There was still a shuddering pain with glass pieces embedded in my
hand and red blood dripping out of the gashes, but I was oblivious to it.
By then, I was in a blank, isolated state. It was pouring rain and the
thunderclouds formed ferociously as the service was being held. Then I
remembered Leiyun’s words: “Syaoran, don’t you ever give up and waste your
opportunity. You’ve got to keep on going and overcome your struggles. Or
else, if you become passive and give in to your troubles, and give in to
your enemies, you’ll just become a puppet of the Fates. Be strong, and
listen to your true self. Your true self’s not the person you see in the
mirror. Your true self will only come out when you learn to open your mind
Then I knew, I would not disappoint him. Grieving and mourning for Leiyun wouldn’t bring him back. He wouldn’t want me to be this way. The next week, I unbandaged my arms and resumed practice, though my mother protested that it was too early. Who cared if my hands hurt like a thousand barbs piercing though it? I couldn’t waste a moment. I didn’t talk unless it was necessary, and people often commented I was so cold for showing no expression or emotion, even after my own cousin died.
One day, I overheard my mother talking with Great-Uncle. “The Clow Cards are on the loose, in Tomoeda, Japan, where Clow Reed used to live. We’ve got to retrieve them before destruction can occur.”
“But who’ll go? There’s no one suitable. All the Elders are preoccupied.” Sorrowfuly, Mother added, “If Leiyun was here, he would have been the perfect one, but…”
“I’ll go,” I stated, entering the room, with determination as I furrowed my eyebrows, gazing straight at her. They stared at me in disbelief. “I said, I’ll go. Trust me. Please.”
“Impossible,” Great-Uncle replied. “You’re too young. You didn’t even pass the Ordeal of the Li’s. You’re not a part of the Li Council.”
“I’ll pass it then. I won’t disappoint you, Great Elder,” I said, kneeling down in front of him. “Please give me a chance.”
After a while, Great-Uncle nodded reluctantly
as he saw the fire in my eyes.
The next six months were absolutely a hell
for me, with nightmarish training schedules and impossible daily routines
with hardly any rest or sleep. Yet, in the end, I overcame the difficult
martial arts moves, the sword training, and crammed all the spells and
special uses of the power as I could. And I passed the Ordeal of the Li’s,
barely. Yet, the Elders were impressed. At ten, I was the youngest one,
ever to pass it. A whole six years younger than father and Leiyun. It was
crazy, yet I had done it with my stubborn determination and perseverance.
Before I left for Japan, nine months after
the cards were released by you, the Head of the Elders, Great Uncle presented
me the Li clan Five Force Sword.
Dressed in my green Chinese style battle outfit, I knelt before him. Great Uncle said slowly, “Li Syaoran, you were chosen to go to Japan, being the most powerful mage of your generation in our clan, and the only one to pass the Ordeal of Sorcery, successfully. Take your mission wisely and thoughtfully. You are to find the collect the release Clow Cards, which has been released by a ten year old girl living in Tomoeda. Once you have found the Clow Cards, bring it back to Hong Kong for our clan to guard, to prevent destruction.”
The Head Elder then drew out a long, shimmering sword and placed the flat of it onto my shoulder. “Take the Sword of the Li clan. It has been handed down for many generations, through your great ancestors. Use it well, to fight off any foes that may prevent your mission. Remember, accomplish your mission faithfully and hold honor to your name. You are a ‘chosen one.’ Take that liberty to excel your powers.”
“I’ll obey, Great-Uncle, head of the Elders.”
I replied, listening to the same words that had been presented to my father,
years ago, and stood up, receiving the glistening blade with two hands,
and slid it into its sheath. A cool, expressionless mask slipping over
And then, I came to Japan, and I met you, Sakura.”
Syaoran related his past in a calm voice, yet it sounded strained in between as he mentioned Li Leiyun. Sakura listened intently, clenching her pillow. Inside her formed a sorrowful ache, as she saw Syaoran’s hands tremble, as if he could feel the impact of glass again. Now, she knew how the frowning boy with the cold expression had came to Japan and demanded for the Clow Cards, becoming her rival. Thinking about it, she had never see him cry. Yet, though there were no tears, she could see a glimmering in Syaoran’s eyes in the darkness as if he had felt pain beyond tears, inexpressible by human emotion.
The dull sound of rain pattering outside drew out the silence.
Slowly, Sakura took Syaoran’s warm hand with both of hers. He looked up. All the while he had been talking, he had gazed outside the window. Abruptly he commented, “It’s all right. It’s the past. I’m over with it. People come and go, and that’s life.”
“It’s okay, Syaoran. It’s okay to show your inner hurts and pains once in a while. You don’t have to be perfect and show no emotions.”
Syaoran stared into Sakura’s eyes, which glowed a deep emerald in the dim room. “I know I’m not perfect. No one is.”
She continued with a wistful smile, “I’m glad you opened up to me. Thanks for telling me about all this. I always wanted to be a good friend to you, someone that you trust enough to share your problems and worries at any time.”
A lightening crashed, and the electric light lit up both their faces for a split moment. A distant thunder boomed outside. Instead of looking away in embarrassment or saying something gruffly as usual, Syaoran gazed directly at her, bearing her through with those penetrating amber eyes. “Is that all you ever want to be to me? Just a good friend?”
A jolting bolt ran through her, forcing her to look directly into Syaoran’s golden brown eyes, trying to search for any hidden meanings. Abruptly, he shifted his hand out of Sakura’s. Her sweating hands dropped onto her lap; she didn’t realize she had continued to hold his. Breathing rapidly, she tried to digest what he had just said. The rain splattered on the window, while the thunder grew more distant. Every time she tried to say something, a gulp formed in her throat. Finally, she began slowly, “Syaoran… I—”
She gazed at Syaoran’s head, propped against his pillow. He was motionless, except for his soft breathing. He was sleeping.
“No,” she whispered hoarsely. “I want to
be more to you than just a friend.”
Err.. Kaitou Magician's just Kaitou Magician. That's not his real name. (Duh.) As you can tell, I didn't finish this chapter yet.
Well... The race is gonna be next chaper...
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