It’s so dark… I can’t see anything.
A rasping voice whispered, “Run, my Cherry Blossom. Run away from us. But you can’t hide, you can’t escape.”
A stitch formed on Sakura’s side as she continued to run. I can’t breathe…
Something slashed down at her. She screamed as tearing pain etched through her body. She tried to block it with her hands, yet her hands were slashed to. Unable to escape, she curled into a tight ball, trying not to scream out in agony. It’ll be all right. It’s not gonna get worse, she told herself. She tried to wet her cracking dry lips and gulp down the lump in her throat.
“You’re wrong. This is just the beginning of the nightmare,” the cruel voice told her. “Look.”
I don’t wanna look. Sakura clenched her eyes.
“You can’t run from it. LOOK!” The owner of the voice grabbed her head and forced it up. Sakura’s emerald eyes opened in horror to see Syaoran collapsed on the floor, a pool of blood surrounding him. He didn’t even stir as the ground around them trembled. Cracks began to form on the floor, and a great canyon formed right in front of her, swallowing Syaoran’s body.
A hallucinating swirl of the black gulf overwhelmed her. “SYAORAN! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
“No! Syaoran!” Sakura screamed. Someone was shaking her.
“Sakura. Kinomoto Sakura! Wake up!”
She continued to toss and turn in her bed. Someone took a firm grip of her arm with one hand and patted her face extra hard with the other.
Returning to her own room in the Li apartment, Sakura bolted awake. She was safe in her bed; nothing bad had happened.
“Are you all right?” Syaoran asked, stooping over her bed and placing a reassuring hand on her shaking shoulder. “Was it a nightmare?”
Nodding, Sakura drew her blankets closer around her. She had been shivering so bad. It had been her most vivid nightmare, ever. She could still see the limp body covered with blood.
No, it was all a dream. Then scowling, Sakura jumped away from Syaoran and asked accusingly, “What are you doing in a lady’s room in the middle of the night?”
“Are you calling yourself a lady?” he mumbled. Then he stated, “I was just trying to wake you because I thought you’re having a bad dream, but if you feel that way, I'll go.” Syaoran turned around.
“No, wait.” Sakura grabbed his pajama sleeve. “I didn’t know…” She gazed down at her bed covers. “Thanks. I appreciate it. I was having the most awful dream. But it was only a dream. That’s what matters.” Suspiciously she asked, “Wait, but how did you know I was having a nightmare?”
Winking, he tweaked her nose with two fingers. “I just did.”
Rubbing her nose, Sakura gazed up at him thoughtfully. She hardly knew anything about him. Yet, what didn’t he know about her? Something in her heart stirred… Did he get up in the middle of the night to wake her, because he knew she was suffering?
Then, grinning Syaoran stated, “But of course, you were also screaming my name so loud that the whole neighborhood probably could hear it. I woke up from my blissful sleeping thinking there was a fire or a burglar or something.”
“I was screaming for you?” Sakura blushed a deep tomato red. Ohmygosh! I remember I was shouting for Syaoran in my dream. Don’t tell me I was doing that real life! This is so humiliating~ “Ugh! I’ll get you for this, Li Syaoran!” Sakura angrily threw her pillow at Syaoran, who caught it with one hand.
“Well, g’nite and sweet dreams. Let’s have peaceful sleep for the rest of the night.” Syaoran walked out of Sakura’s room still holding her pillow and in a teasing tone said, “I’m not gonna come wake you up twice even if you scream for me again.”
“Give me back my pillow!” Sakura shouted out as the door shut. “I’M REALLY GONNA GET YOU FOR THIS!”
At school, they were preparing for the musical rehearsals as usual.
“I finished typing up the Best Couple Contest applications,” Tomoyo informed Sakura. “I had to err… modify some things, if you don’t mind.”
“Grr… I won’t forgive Syaoran for saying all those insulting things about my personality,” Sakura fumed. “Nor about last night…”
“Oh ho ho. But you said some nasty things to him,” Tomoyo reminded.
“But they’re all true though!”
“Hmm… But living with him let’s you see more of his good points, doesn’t it?”
“NO!” Sakura quickly retorted. Then, thinking of the previous night, she blushed. Still, he had come to wake her from her nightmare. It was decent of him, even though he made fun of her for shouting his name.
“Are you remembering something *special*? Hmm? Did anything happen last night?” Tomoyo goaded. “You’re blushing. You said you won’t forgive him for last night. Forgive what?”
“It’s nothing… Just something that happened when he woke me up from a nightmare yesterday.”
“He was in your bedroom to wake you in the middle of the night?!” Tomoyo squealed, heading in the wrong trail.
Changing the subject cleverly, Sakura exclaimed “Oh yeah! Tomoyo-chan! I heard that some of the costumes for the production are ready.”
“Yeah. See, I’ll show them to you.” Tomoyo entered the costume room. Then they gasped.
The backstage costume was a mess, with boxes and props over turned everywhere. Plus, the colorful, carefully made costumes were lashed into pieced and were completely ruined.
“Why would anyone do this?! I’m so sorry, Tomoyo-chan. I know how hard you worked to prepare this.” Sakura said as she knelt down to pick up the torn clothes.
“It’s okay. I’ll just have to make them
over again,” Tomoyo said, trying to keep the dismay out of her voice.
“Come on, let’s do Act 1 over again. Li, Kinomoto, look more into it,” the directing teacher announced during the “Star-Crossed” practice. “Okay, Juliet, Romeo, fighting scene.”
//POW// “Oops! I’m sorry Syaoran. Didn’t really mean to hit you,” Sakura apologized as they practiced Romeo and Juliet’s fighting scene in the beginning of the plot. Well, the teacher had told them to look more “into” it. Maybe she was a bit too aggressive? Still, she was stressed. They hadn’t spoken to each other since last night, since Syaoran left early for a morning soccer practice.
“It’s all right. Don’t mind me,” Syaoran replied, resuming his stage directions and going into a fighting position. “Let’s see how much you improved in fighting over the past few months.”
“Hoe?” Sakura remembered that Syaoran had been giving her fighting lessons before. Was he challenging her? Well, she’ll prove that she had been practicing. “Hayaa!” She threw a side kick. He flipped over to the other side of the stage.
“Wow! How do they do that?” Naoko awed as watched the two fighting on stage. “The Theater Ghost will be scared of them probably.”
Ghost? Sakura’s ears pricked. I remember. The Phantom is in the basement of this theater. I couldn’t seal it into a card last time. The Phantom couldn’t escape from the basement, right? A shiver ran down Sakura’s spine and her attention thwarted to the basement door, which was locked. Syaoran took this diversion to lunge forward. Instead of leaping back as Syaoran had expected her to, Sakura was still as a rock. This resulted in him colliding straight into her, knocking her backwards with him on top of her.
Everyone watched the two on stage, nudging and giggling.
“What a clumsy girl,” Erika said loudly.
“Get off. You’re heavy,” Sakura grumbled from the floor. What an awkward position. Yet, why is my heart beating faster? It’s only a silly accident.
“Sorry,” Syaoran replied. His head was adjacent to hers. Quietly, he asked, “Hey, you know I don’t mean it when I say mean stuff to you right?” Slowly, he stood up.
Sakura still sat on the floor, dazed. Was he referring to all the insults he shot at her as they wrote the Best Couple Contest applications? Was he offering a reconciliation of some sort between them?
Then he pointed out in a lighter tone, “You’re supposed to move when someone attacks, not just stand there.”
“I know!” Sakura placed her hands on her
Wringing her school uniform tie, Erika said with venom, “She did that on purpose, I know she did. She just wanted Syaoran to throw himself at her, I know she did…”
“Ha! Do you think she’s you? It doesn’t do for girls to show their jealousy so plainly,” Aki preached.
//SLAP// “I’m not jealous, you idiot!” Erika retorted, after slapping Akagi Aki.
“Ow! You hit my beautiful face!” Aki said. Then he grinned. “Do you feel chemistry between those two?”
“NO!!!” Erika stamped her foot.
“Just stop it, both of you,” Eron snapped. Things weren’t going to his plan
“Oh no!” Rika screamed, pointing to the class 3-2 art exhibit, specifically to Sakura’s art piece during break. It was shredded into pieces, completely ruined. “Who could have done such a cruel thing?”
Sakura stared at her ruined art work in horror. She had worked so hard on it and had felt proud of the results. She had wanted to show it to her father, when he came back.
“I’m so sorry, Sakura-chan. It was a mean thing to do,” Tomoyo reassured. “You’re beautiful art work is ruined.”
“First the costumes, next my art piece,” Sakura said as she fingered the torn shreds of paper. “Someone’s really out there to get my friends and me.”
After school, Sakura started walking out the gates alone. Syaoran had after school soccer practice that day. She sighed. In ways, she enjoyed his company while going to and from school.
“Hey, Sakura! Wait!” Syaoran called out, running with a sports bag slung over one shoulder.
“Don’t you have soccer practice?” she asked.
“It got canceled. Someone slashed all the balls, so we can’t practice,” he said.
“Who would do that?” Sakura asked. Then she groaned; she wasn’t that stupid. “Well, who else? The enemies, duh.”
They walked back to the apartment in silence.
“Hey, you’re not mad because I said those insults about your personality last time, right?” Syaoran questioned frankly.
“I’m not mad,” Sakura answered briefly.
“Yes you are. I can see it in your face,” Syaoran replied.
“I’m not! I said mean things to you, too, anyway.”
“Am I really self-centered, hot-tempered, reserved, aloof, indifferent, cold-hearted jerk?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
How sweet! He’s still worrying about that incident! Slightly grinning, Sakura replied, “Just as much as I’m a stubborn, dense, cry-baby scaredy-cat.” He doesn’t get really mad that easily, but… “Are you mad now?”
“I am.” Syaoran replied, keeping a straight face and crossing his arm in a huffy sort of manner. Meekly, Sakura stared up at him. Had she really offended him this time? Then he grinned widely, saying, “NOT!”
“What?!” Sakura laughed. “You scared me for a second. Told you I’ll get you!” Acting very childishly she started chasing him around the park. Then he stopped. Swerving around with a scary expression on his face, the chasing reversed, and Sakura shrieked as she ran away from Syaoran, grabbing on her school bag to keep her books from spilling out. Never had she known of imagined there was this kind of playful side to Syaoran. One thing for certain was that Syaoran had many faces to him, which she didn’t know about. Yet, knowing him and living with him brought them out, little by little.
Suddenly she halted, standing completely still, her emerald eyes widened.
“What’s the matter?” Syaoran asked, panting as he caught up. “Tired already?”
“Strange. Something brushed past me,” she said. Then she gazed down. Her school tie was slashed off, along with the top button of her school blouse.
There was a cracking sound and something slashed past again, quick as a lightening, making it impossible to see what it was.
Blinking Sakura felt something cold and damp on her right cheek. Simultaneously, she touched her cheek with her fingers, then stared down at her hand. It was covered with blood.
Concerned, Syaoran walked over to Sakura, and gently touched her cut cheek. “Where’d’you get this wound from? It wasn’t there a second ago. Does it hurt?”
“I don’t know what happened. It’s as if something’s lashing down at me,” Sakura said in confusion, dabbing her face with a handkerchief.
As another cracking sound was heard to their left, Syaoran was prepared this time, and pushed Sakura away as the unseen thing lashed down again. This time, it only sliced off Sakura’s blue hair ribbon, and her hair tumbled down from the ponytail.
Carefully feeling for the force and then dodging worked a while. Yet, Sakura and Syaoran both grew exhausted in a short period of time.
Along with the cracking sound, the mystery object lashed down once more, tearing through a part of Sakura’s blouse sleeve and leaving a long gash in her upper arm. Wincing in pain, Sakura tried to stay more alert, tightly grasping her staff.
“You’re getting hurt,” Syaoran said, frowning gravely. “I don’t get it.” His sword appeared in one hand and he slammed out an ofuda. “Unseen force, appear!”
Immediately, they saw what the invisible lashing force was. It was a long, leather whip, which had torn apart Tomoyo’s costumes, slashed Sakura’s art piece, ruined all the soccer balls, and was now lashing out at them. The Whip.
That’s the same force which cut off Li Ryuuren’s long hair, Sakura remembered. She also read about it in the Five Force Scroll. It’s so ruthless and unpredictable.
The Whip then became animated and it sliced one of the thin tree trunks, which came crashing down. Then, it began to lash out at Sakura, who dodged in all directions. Parts of her skirts and blouse became shredded. Her tangled hair kept poking into her eyes.
Syaoran frowned. Why was it only attacking Sakura?
“Ahh!” The Whip had snaked itself around Sakura’s wrist, forcing her to drop her staff. She tried to kick out her foot, the Whip wrapped itself around her ankle, as well.
“Let go of her!” Syaoran shouted, forcefully, bringing his sword down, proceeding to cut the Whip into small pieced. The different parts of the long, narrow whip fell uselessly to the ground. Picking up the staff, Syaoran handed it to her.
“Is it over?” Sakura asked. Her mouth dropped as she saw that the fallen pieces of the Whip had begun to reassemble, each of the parts becoming new, long whips. Now they had several whips chasing them.
“Woody!” She called, trying to keep the persistent whips again. But the Woody’s long vines were sliced away into pieces.
Desperately, she called “Fiery!” Yet, the whips wiped out the burning flames also.
One of the whips that had approached her lashed down at her side. She winced in pain as a new cut formed. Desperately, she held the staff over her head and crouched. “Shield!” Immediately, the whips broke through the Shield.
Bending down with her arms over her head,
Sakura clenched her eyes and prepared for the biting pain of the lash striking
down on her body. Like her dream. She heard a loud crack as it slammed
down. Yet, she felt no pain. Another cracking sound of the impact of the
Whip on flesh was heard, yet still no pain.
Peering through half opened eyes, Sakura gasped when she saw that Syaoran was blocking her from the force. As the Whip slashed down at Sakura, Syaoran obstructed the impact with his body. “Syaoran!”
The Whip came with more venom than before, and Syaoran bent over the crouching Sakura, covering her with his body. “I can’t watch you getting hurt anymore,” he whispered in her ear, holding back a moan as the whip lashed his back again.
“Don’t do this,” Sakura murmured into his sweat soaked white shirt. She was completely enveloped by his strong arms, her head buried into his chest. They were so close, she could feel him shudder with another biting lash on his back. Without mercy or any of sign of tiring, the Whip continued to slash down.
“I won’t… let that Dark Force… draw blood from you or… hurt you in any way,” Syaoran insisted, trembling uncontrollably as his back ignited with fiery pain, his word chopped every time the Whip struck him. The Whip had completely torn through his school uniform shirt and now ferociously slashed on his bare flesh, opening fresh cuts over the already formed long gashes with blood oozing out.
Each time Sakura heard the cracking of the Whip on Syaoran’s skin, she winced. The salty smell of blood and burned leather was in the air. “No. Stop this, please,” Sakura whispered as she saw Syaoran clench his eyes, trying not to make a sound despite the pain.
By this time, Syaoran felt nauseous, as if he was swimming in a river of black blood. His bare back felt openly on burning fire, the stinging etching chills through all of his body. One, two, three more lashes came down on the already formed long red welts across his back. The only sense of reality was his arms around Sakura, and her head pressed against his chest. He couldn’t let the force get her. Yet, he couldn’t bear it much longer. His stomach lurched at the thought of enduring another single lash. Yet, another lash came. And another. No! If he wavered, Sakura would get hurt.
A single tear dripped down Sakura’s cheek. With great determination, she shouted, “NO! I WON’T ALLOW THIS!” A glowing light blazed around Sakura.
The Whip came down one too may time. Syaoran’s grip around Sakura grew limp.
“I won’t forgive you for this, Dark Force!” Sakura shouted, her icy emerald eyes blazing with fury. Gently, setting Syaoran to the ground, Sakura stood up, holding out her staff and a card.
As the Whip came down at her, she held out her hand, stopping it from lashing down. She ignored the biting pain on her palm as she continued to grip the Whip, which squirmed like a large black serpent.
“Sword!” With quick sword moves, Sakura slashed the Whip into pieces. Then before it could reassemble into more whips, she used a combination of the Fiery and the Freeze. “Do you think you’ll get away with doing this to Syaoran? No I won't forgive you. For me, for Syaoran, I’m not gonna let you escape.” Extra power radiated from her as the Whip blasted into pieces from the strange mixture of several cards, fueled by her anger. She barely knew what she was doing, only that she was going to destroy the force. And she had succeeded.
Holding her staff high in the air, Sakura shouted, “Spirit of the dark forces. I, Sakura command you. Return to a new shape under contract. SAKURA CARD!”
Through squinting eyes Syaoran saw Sakura take hold of a new card, the Whip. Yet, her icy emerald eyes raged with anger under furrowed eyebrows, and her mouth was set in a firm, determined line. Her glossy golden brown hair clouded around her, and though she was furious, she looked all the more beautiful in his eyes. He groaned as he tried to move, for his back felt stiff. No, that wasn’t the right word. If felt as if someone was stabbing steel knives into him. He could hardly breath because of the pain, let alone move. He could hardly think, nor keep his eyes open, as his head swirled round and round. All he cared was that Sakura was safe.
“Syaoran, I’m so sorry, so sorry,” Sakura said in a cracked voice, bending down next to him. “It’s all my fault. If you haven’t been trying to protect me…”
“Don’t even think of it. I didn’t even do anything,” he replied weekly, trying to reach out a hand to touch her. The effort exhausted him. “Ha. I bet I can skip that awful test in school tomorrow.”
“How can you joke when you’re in this state?” Sakura asked through blurred ocean green eyes, stroking his clammy brows. It won’t just be skipping school tomorrow, at this rate.
Syaoran tried to force out a laugh, then moaned as his back strained. In a bare whisper, he said, “Don’t worry. Just gotta… get back… home…” He crumpled to the ground.
Tell me this is another nightmare. I can’t believe such a thing can happen. There were so many bad things that happened to me. But this is worse than all of them. Tears streamed down Sakura’s face as she sat by Syaoran’s bedside. It was her fault. She made Syaoran like this.
Syaoran lay flat on his stomach because it was impossible to lie on his back because of the wounds. His eyes were clenched shut and he was in a half delirious state, sweating and shivering at the same time; he buried his face into his pillow to muffle his pain.
Carefully, Sakura removed the remains of his school uniform shirt from his back. Some scraps of cloth had clung onto the oozing cuts. A wringing pain shot through her heart as she saw dozens of long, open gashes covering Syaoran’s smooth back. Gently, she pressed a wet towel on the cuts, trying to cease the bleeding from the welts.
Syaoran shifted, groaning. It felt as if a million sharp razors were stabbing him. He felt something cool drip onto his neck. Barely, he turned his head in Sakura’s direction and flitted opened his eyes.
Grasping his hand with both of hers, Sakura
murmured with her head bowed down, “I’m so sorry, Syaoran. If it weren’t
Every word cost him energy, with his lungs feeling clamped, yet Syaoran asked in a whisper, “When will you ever get over that nasty habit of blaming yourself for everything, Sakura?”
“But…” Sakura’s tears continued to stream out. Quickly, she tried to wipe them away before they dropped onto Syaoran. It had been ages since she last cried, yet this time, the sorrow inside her was unexplainable. She didn’t want to show this weak, helpless side to him, but she couldn’t help it.
“Silly. Why are you crying? You didn’t cry when I was mean to you, nor when you were being chased by the Stalker in New York, not even when you yourself were hurt. You didn’t cry when the worst things happened to you. Yet, why are you crying now?” Syaoran managed a weak, reassuring grin from his lying position on his bed. With trembling hands, he reached up for her face and flicked away a teardrop with his finger. “You said yourself you wouldn’t cry any more.”
Wiping away her tears with her sleeves, Sakura said, “Sorry.”
“Stop apologizing!” Syaoran closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them intently with fervent passionate amberish brown eyes, which puzzled Sakura. “Though it kinda hurts a bit right now, (Sakura though: which is a great understatement) when I think, if I hadn’t blocked you from that force, then you would have been lashed instead and be in terrible pain now. And I wouldn’t allow that.” Saying this, he grinned forcefully.
Something inside her fluttered, as she heard the sincerity in Syaoran’s voice and his earnest eyes. “I would have preferred that,” Sakura said softly. “Don’t think I’m ungrateful. I respect you with all my heart.” She gently stroked his lean back, now scarred with ugly red welts. Carefully, she helped him sit up and began bandaging him with white gauze. After she smoothed the bandage out, she continued, “But I’d rather take pain myself, then have you like this.”
He grimaced as the pressure from the image throbbed his wounds, yet gazed intently into Sakura’s tear brimmed eyes from his sitting position. “Wrong. If you had been hurt or injured in any way, I’ll be in thousand times more pain than I am now,” Syaoran told her in a light, cheerful voice, which all the same had a ring of fierceness behind them. “So stop putting blame on yourself!”
Then a ripple of burning pain shot through his flesh. God, why was the pillow so hot? The heat was unbearable. Yet, he mustn’t show that to Sakura. She would worry. This time, he couldn’t stifle a groan in time as the blackness engulfed him.
“It’s all right… I…” His head swirled round and round and he was swimming through a river of crimson red. His lungs were on fire; his whole body was being burned on a blazing pyre. As his body crumpled back onto the bed, Syaoran dropped into another void, delirious state. The side effects of the Whip were taking place.
With bleary eyes, Sakura gazed at the clock beside Syaoran’s bedside. It was early morning, 4:00 AM. Carefully, Sakura wiped away the sweat on Syaoran’s brows with a cool cloth. Her whole body ached and her eyes felt sore and bloodshot. She had stayed by his bedside through the whole night without sleep. Yet…
Syaoran was running a high fever, and had been possessed by nightmares as he slept. In ways, Sakura learned more details about Syaoran’s childhood in his sleep talking than he ever told her in a conscious state.
Sometimes she learned details about Syaoran’s
father, or the Li Clan elder. It was mostly about his childhood in Hong
Kong. Once in a while, it was about school and social life in Hong Kong.
And she learned about how the girls chased him there, also. Yet, most often,
he shouted for Li Leiyun, his cousin with the despair of a forlorn child,
which roused yearning in her heart.
In an unconscious state, Syaoran called out, “Leiyun! Come back! What am I supposed to do? Nobody believes I can accomplish anything except for you. I feel so powerless and incapable. I’ll never live up to my family’s expectations. You promised to help me become stronger! You lied to me!”
Sakura gripped Syaoran’s damp hand. He must be remembering when he was nine… It must be more painful than anything… More than six years passed since then, and he still remembers so vividly.
She bit her lips as she gazed down at Syaoran’s
bandaged back, now soaked through with blood. This can’t continue much
Stop crying, Sakura! she scolded herself. Didn’t Syaoran always tell you that crying wouldn’t get you anywhere?
I have to stop the bleeding. Sakura stared at Syaoran’s disheveled form on the bed. All she could see was bloodstain everywhere, on the sheets, on the bandage, and on her school uniform, which she still hadn’t changed out of.
My stomach must have gotten stronger. I don’t feel that queasy, though I’m going through a nightmare also. It’s a thousand times worse to see someone you care for suffer than to face hardships yourself. I’ve never hurt like this before. Not even when Yukito-san rejected me. This strange feeling for Syaoran. Why?
Softly, she touched Syaoran’s forehead with her palm. His fever was rising higher because the wounds were still open and turning for the worse. She could see that even sleep was pain for Syaoran, since he tossed and turned constantly throughout the night, and a deep frown was carved upon his smooth forehead. His breathing was uneven and his face deathly pale.
God, why didn’t her school health class teach her anything useful? Sakura racked her brains for treating lash cuts. She remembered treatments for burns, fractures, sprains… use the ice, compression, and elevation (ICE). Yet what was she supposed to do when someone’s back was slashed with a merciless whip?
Everything’s blank. I can’t see anything. Who’s blindfolding me? Syaoran thought, as he walked through a haze.
Burning iron is being pressed to my back. It’s pain like nothing I felt before. Even worse than when I was pelted by rocks, frozen, beaten during training, and when I endured the Ordeal of the Li Clan to be accepted by the Elders.
Now, it’s freezing cold. I’m shivering. My body’s being bitten by the iciness, as if sharp needles are penetrating through me. He folded his arms around himself and tilted his head back. I want to surrender, and give in. I can’t bear this torment anymore.
Finally, Syaoran saw someone through the cloudy fog, someone tall and lean, with dark hair. The young man turned around. He had startling turquoise blue eyes, and the steady presence of firmness and dependability.
Syaoran finally croaked, “Leiyun!” I can never forget my cousin, though I only saw him as a kid.
“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.” I still remember his words, his voice, his tone distinctly.
Leiyun’s azure blue eyes pierces through me. “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.”
“What is my true self, tell me!” Syaoran demanded to Leiyun.
He only said three words. “Only you know.”
Then, Leiyun disappeared into the mist. But I don’t know!
Something cool is pressed against my forehead now. It’s someone’s hand. Reassuring and steady.
“Sakura…” Syaoran murmured, not opening his eyes. “You’re here beside me. I’m so glad.”
Sakura’s eyes misted. Even in a delirious state, he knew she was there, right by him. She would do anything for Syaoran.
Syaoran could feel a pale rose color aura
surround him, enveloping him in a gentle, warm mist. The power trickled
into him with a cool, refreshing feeling. For the first time, he felt just
the right temperature; not too hot and sweaty, not too freezing. And the
incredible piercing in his back had seized. It still throbbed, yet it was
endurable. Now, he just felt lazily tired and relaxed.
Abruptly, Sakura broke contact with Syaoran, taking her hand away from his burning forehead. She was panting heavily and her head felt fuzzily clouded. Her whole body felt drained of all powers. All around her was a glowing light, which slowly started to fade away.
Sakura glanced at the clock. It was 8:00 AM now. She had spent the whole night trying to heal him.
What had happened? She saw something drift down from the air, and caught it with one hand.
It was a Sakura Card. Carefully, she turned it over to see the front.
“The Heal,” she said, staring at it hard for one moment.
Quickly, she glanced at Syaoran again. Miraculously, he was sleeping peacefully now. The painful expression was gone, and now his face was calm and the color was starting to return to it. His fever had disappeared. How?
Then she realized. All that power around her a moment ago, and her strong desire to heal Syaoran had created a new card out of scratch.
Her head felt awfully heavy and her whole body felt drained as her eyelids drooped.
“I thought something was heavy, “ Syaoran remarked dryly, sitting up on the bed. It was dark outside.
“Hmm?” Blinking, Sakura gazed around through half open eyes. Wait! She had fallen asleep while nursing Syaoran by the bedside.
Sakura bolted up on her chair by the bedside. She had fallen asleep, leaning right over Syaoran’s bed!
“I had a dream that a bear was sitting on my stomach,” Syaoran continued.
Now she remembered. Syaoran had tried to save her from the Whip, and had gotten lashed. She glanced at the clock. It was 10:00 PM. A whole day passed by! Plus, they missed school. Yet, what was important was Syaoran. Was Syaoran going to be all right again? He looked much better now. Out of mere relief, Sakura’s eyes watered again.
As he looked at her with half open eyes Syaoran commented dryly, “Don’t tell me you’re crying again.” He propped his body up on the pillows.
“Hoe?” Embarrassed, Sakura brushed away her tears and tried to tidy her tangled hair. She was in an awful state. “Are you… are you okay now?”
“No. Everything aches like crazy. Yeah, but if you’re asking if I’m alive, I think I am.” Syaoran smiled slowly. He picked up the new card. “The Heal. You made it? For me?”
Because I didn’t want to see you hurt anymore… Sakura stared at Syaoran. He had stopped bleeding and his wounds were starting to heal. Yet, he wasn’t completely recovered. It was because her powers were still too weak. “You must be hungry now. We haven’t eaten anything since yesterday lunch, at school.”
“Talking about school, we skipped it today, “ Syaoran commented. “We missed a math test.”
“Yeah. Wait, I’ll go to the kitchen and
make something to eat.” For the first time since the previous day, Sakura
left her seat and went to the kitchen.
As Sakura was stirring porridge with a spoon, the phone rang. She answered, “Hello?”
“Sakura-chan! It’s me, Tomoyo. I just called because I was worried. Neither you, nor Syaoran-kun came to school today. Did something happen?” Tomoyo asked.
“Yeah. Kind of.” Sakura explained briefly what had happened since yesterday afternoon.
“Really? That’s awful! But you made a whole
new card out of scratch? That’s amazing! But anything for Syaoran-kun,
right? Well, I guess your busy right now. I’ll hang up now. Bye!” Tomoyo
hung up the phone.
Carrying a tray of food, Sakura reentered Syaoran’s room.
“Here’s food,” Sakura said, placing the
tray on Syaoran’s lap.
He gazed at it with a puzzled expression, and simply asked, “Porridge?”
“Yes. When you’re sick, you eat porridge. Now eat. Here, let me feed you.” Purposefully, she took the spoon and dipped up a large spoonful of steaming hot porridge. “Say ‘ah.’”
Embarrassed, Syaoran protested, “Hey I can feed myself!” Yet, he was still too weak to do much more than obey. He gulped down the spoonful, savoring the thick, smooth porridge, which melted in his mouth, then exclaimed, “Hey, this is pretty good!”
“Right?” Sakura smiled. Obediently, Syaoran relented to being fed by Sakura, though he grumbled that he wasn’t a child all the while.
“I know you like it, so shut up,” Sakura simply commanded, stuffing another spoonful in his open mouth.
“Umngph!” Syaoran replied.
Humming a little tune, Erika swung her handbag off to one side and collapsed onto the couch after coming back into the house.
“You just sat on my art project,” Eron stated. “So, you had another date? Do you know what time it is?”
“Don’t be a grandpa,” Erika said, teasingly pulling her twin’s ponytail. “I don’t say anything when you have fun.”
“So, who was it this time? That guy in class 3-1 who’s the heir to a great family business? Or that basketball captain guy who you’re entering that silly Best Couple Contest with?” Eron asked while observing his crumpled piece of work.
“Hah. It’s that first year high schooler. You know. That gorgeous part-time model.” Erika squealed happily.
“Aren’t you even wondering how the Whip turned out?”
“Oh yeah. Sakura and Syaoran didn’t come to school today, huh? I wonder if they’ll come tomorrow.” Picking up Eron’s artwork, which she sat on, she burst out laughing. “Ha ha! Is this supposed be a self portrait? You look like a cow in this! You really can’t draw, can you? Speaking of artwork, did you see the expression on Sakura’s face when she saw that her pastel art project was ruined?” Propping her feet up on the table, Erika commented, “It’s a pity Syaoran blocked Sakura from the Whip. His gorgeous body bloody and slashed! I wonder if Sakura is taking care for him right now? But she’s such a ninny, she probably will freak out at the sight of blood. Poor Syaoran-kun.”
“Yeah yeah,” Eron said in a bored tone.
“I know! I’ll call Syaoran’s house and see if he’s all right,” Erika exclaimed.
//Ring ring.//// Ring ring//
“Hmm… Lotsa telephone calls today. I’ll get it. You rest.” Sakura commented, setting down the food tray. She picked up Syaoran’s house phone. “Hello?”
“H-hello?” A female voice asked, as if taken back. “Is this Li Syaoran’s residence?”
Putting the phone to the side, Sakura exclaimed to Syaoran, “Oh my gosh! It’s Erika! What am I going to do?” Sakura could imagine Erika spreading rumors that she was at Syaoran’s house late at night around the whole school and began to panic, running in all directions.
Syaoran’s eyes popped out, thinking the same thing. “Gimme the phone,” he mouthed. Taking the phone, he said, “Hello? Erika?”
“Syaoran?” Erika asked suspiciously. “Didn’t a girl answer just a moment ago?”
“A g-girl? Ha ha ha…” Syaoran sweat-dropped. “Ah! It’s my little cousin! She’s a girl. She’s visiting from Hong Kong. With my aunt.”
“Oh!” Erika exclaimed. “For a second, I thought it was Sakura-chan! Ho ho. Of course, you wouldn’t have her at your house, so late at night, would you?”
“Of course not. How funny! He he…”
Listening, Sakura noted how phony Syaoran sounded.
In a sweet tone, Erika commented, “You didn’t come to school today. I was worried. Are you all right?”
“Yeah! I mean… no… I’m sick,” Syaoran stated.
“Really? You don’t sound sick to me,” Erika said, innocently.
“NO! I mean, I’m very sick! I—uh… I have a cold! Cough cough.”
“Aww… Hope you feel better than. Did you know that Sakura didn’t come to school today? Do you know about her?”
“Why would I know about her?!” Syaoran exclaimed. “Err… I mean no. I don’t. I rested at home. The whole day.”
“Oh. Well, bye. Sleep well, and feel better!”
After she hung up, Syaoran sighed in relief.
“It would have been awful is she found that I’m staying here,” Sakura commented.
“Okay! Now sit here. I’m gonna use the
Heal one more time to speed up the recovery process,” Sakura stated. She
stared at the card with wonder, ignoring the weary throbbing in her head.
With this card, she could have prevented her mother and Syaoran’s father
from dying. With this card, she may be able to heal Miho’s mother, Mizuki
Miara, who was sick from the same disease that caused her mother and Ryuuren-san
to die. With this, she can prevent all sickness in hospitals and…
“Sakura,” Syaoran said in a quiet tone.
“Don’t go beyond your powers. This card, the Heal draws the power from your own body to heal someone else. A little amount is okay, since you do have the ability. Yet, if you aren’t careful, you can go beyond your limit and the results can be catastrophic.”
“What do you mean? This card will help me heal sick people and prevent suffering and misery!”
Taking a tight grasp of her wrist, Syaoran
said dead serious, “Promise me that you’ll never use this card further
than your limit. I know very well that you know what your limit is. And
you’ve reached it. This card isn’t a little toy or a crutch you can rely
on. It’s a dangerous tool which depends on energy drawn from your very
own body and life source.”
“I don’t understand what you’re saying! You use healing powers to, don’t you?”
“But I know my own limit. Now, look at me,” Syaoran said, still in that silent but grave tone. Reluctantly, Sakura looked up to see the most serious and grim expression she had ever seen on his face. “If something goes wrong with this card, and you misuse it, you can die! Get it? Now promise me.”
“O-okay,” Sakura stammered, compelled by his forcefulness. Why was he so somber all of a sudden? The card would be useful for her. Yet, Syaoran was right. She had reached her limit. For the moment. But she will continue to grow stronger. “But I’ll use the card right now. Believe me, I do know my limit.”
Using the Heal, she placed her palm on
Syaoran’s back, slowly letting her aura flow out. She didn’t have enough
power to heal him completely, she had to admit. Yet, she wanted to carry
it out as far as possible. The major cuts on Syaoran’s back closed up and
began to form new tissues. As she took her hands off, though the wounds
were far better than the previous day, Sakura had to admit he must have
born through many lashes because still, he wasn’t completely healed.
Her eyes felt heavy. She had used far too much power, all the same and reached her limit. Syaoran was right. The Heal was a very demanding card. Then, she dozed off.
The next day…
Stretching, Sakura blinked. The bright sunlight was flooding into the room. She was in her own room, in her own bed, at Syaoran’s house. Wierd. I thought I fell a sleep while healing Syaoran by his bedside.
Then, she gazed at the clock again. “Oh no! It’s already noon!” She groaned. There was no point in going to school, now. Missing two days of school in a row… And tomorrow would be Sunday, anyway.
Well, she could make the most of the day. First of all, she did the laundry of all the soiled clothes and sheets, which she had piled off on the corner for the past days, and also did a major house cleaning. Then, she realized she looked awful. Maybe a nice, long bath would fix the problem.
Afterwards, she felt refreshed. Sure, she was drained for the moment since she had used absolutely all her power in creating the Heal and using it on Syaoran, yet she felt good. Her stomach grumbled. Food!
In the middle of frying the omelet rice, Syaoran walked out of his room, yawning. He had just waken. “What’s this good smell?”
“Syaoran! You shouldn’t be walking around yet!” Sakura exclaimed.
“But I feel okay now!” he protested.
“No, no, back to bed.” Sakura led him back to the bed. “Wait, I’ll wrap you with new bandage.”
As she unwrapped the old one, she examined Syaoran’s back with satisfaction. “Good, you healed a lot.” Deftly, she tightly wrapped the new gauze around Syaoran’s body, and tucked the end in. “There. Finished!”
“Yes Nurse Sakura!” Syaoran said, grinning teasingly. “You know, there’s good sides to being injured.”
“I rather like this VIP treatment. Taken care of through the whole night, bandaged, hand fed in bed. I feel special.”
“Humph! Don’t expect this every day! It’s only because you were hurt. It’s an exception,” Sakura stated defiantly, yet blushed.
His hand snaked around her waist. She gasped as he pulled her close to him. Into her ear, he murmured, “Thanks Sakura. For caring for me. You don’t know how special I feel. You never left my bedside through the whole night while I was delirious with a fever. I felt relieved just by presence beside me, your cool hand on my forehead. You drained all your powers, just to heal me. I would have gotten better, eventually, anyway. What if another enemy turned up now? You’ll be helpless against it. Still, you did all this for my sake.”
As he hugged her, he tightened is arms around her. Sakura’s emerald eyes widened. “W-what are you doing?” She pushed him away, accidentally pressing his back.
“OWWWWWWWWWW!!!” Syaoran dropped down on his bed. “I’m still injured, you know!” He looked over his bare shoulders to try to see his back with a hurt puppy expression
“Sorry,” Sakura apologized meekly. Her stomach fluttered giddily. Syaoran… He looked so nice, sitting there on his bed in just his pajama pants, his upper body bandaged with white gauze and his tousled brown hair.
Syaoran stretched. Sakura stared at his firm muscles. The girls in my class were right. They said that Syaoran had the best looks and the best body in the whole Seijou Junior High. Strange. I never noticed before.
“What are you staring at?” Syaoran asked, raising an eyebrow.
“It’s not at you!” Sakura blushed. What am I thinking? “It’s past noon now. It seems like you’re okay now, so get up and put some decent clothes on! And you can help me with some of the house chores.” Reaching her hand into the closet, Sakura threw some clothes at Syaoran who stared at her blankly, gawking.
“House chores? Me? What happened to the special treatment? I’m injured!”
Suddenly, Sakura sniffed the air. “What’s
this horrible burning smell? HOE-E! My omelet rice! I forgot to turn off
The next day… (Sunday)
Stretching, Sakura commented, “It’s so hot. I can’t believe it’s practically summer now. Seemed only like yesterday when I was freezing to death in the cold.”
She was sitting on the living room floor, leaning against the couch, studying for the math test. Syaoran was sitting on the couch behind her, reading a book for history class. His body was still sore, yet he was up and moving now.
Without looking up from his book, Syaoran advised, “Study the next section in the math book. Pay attention to question 15. It’s dealing with logarithms.”
Sighing, Sakura said, “Yes tutor. But to tell the truth, it’s too hot to do anything. Why don’t you install an air conditioner in your apartment?” She tried to fan herself. At the moment, she was wearing an oversized blue basketball jersey and loose shorts. Taking her golden brown hair, she then braided it into two long pigtails that hung down her back to keep it from sticking to her neck.
“I told you. Before I went back to Hong Kong, the air conditioner broke. I need to get a new one, but didn’t have time.” Then he raised an eyebrow, looking away from his book. “Hey, isn’t that my jersey?”
“Oh!” Sakura turned red. “Well, I didn’t bring that many summer clothes from home. Didn’t know it will get hot this fast. I need to pick more up next time. So, I borrowed it. Hope you don’t mind.”
Absentmindedly, Syaoran picked up one of Sakura’s braids and toyed with it.
Without looking behind, Sakura asked, “What are you doing? Stop it. I can’t concentrate on my math problem.”
“You’re not even solving it anyway,” Syaoran pointed out. He was more observant than he looked.
Blushing, Sakura realized that she had been just doodling on her paper. It was a sketch of Kero-chan.
“Do you miss the stuffed animal?” he asked.
“Yeah. I’m used to Kero-chan. But I’ll see him again, anyway, along with onii-chan, otou-san, and Yukito-san, anyway. So I don’t really mind. It’s not that bad parting from someone, as long as you know you’ll meet again, soon.”
“Oh.” Syaoran stared pensively for a while, then said, “When did you grow your hair? ”
“I’ve been growing it for a long time now, if you hadn’t noticed.”
“You used to wear it short,” Syaoran commented, fiddling with the green ribbons tying her plaited glossy hair.
“I decided to grow it for a change. Plus, onii-chan teased me saying I always cut my hair because I was too impatient to grow it. Why, do you have a problem with it?”
“No. No, it’s nice.”
“?” Sakura leaned her head back, placing it on Syaoran’s lap and looked up at his face. Something between us has changed. Nothing dramatic, nor big. There’s not much difference on the outside. It’s something more subtle and minor, more on the inner level. It’s hard to explain, hardly noticeable at all. But something feels slightly different from before.
“Maybe if you don’t wear jewelry, your neck will feel cooler,” Syaoran commented, looking down at his lap and gazing at Sakura’s upside down face as he leaned back against the couch. He picked up the diamond crystal necklace from its chain. “You’re still wearing this?”
“That’s none of your business,” Sakura retorted, offensively. Still leaning her head against Syaoran’s lap, she closed her eyes and toyed with the jewel hanging from her neck. “Actually, having it around my neck gives me comfort and security when I face hardships. Psychologically, I guess.”
“It’s gonna be harder from now on. Even harder than this, even harder than anything we’ve dealt with so far,” Syaoran said, gazing out the window at the town.
“But do you think things will turn out all right, eventually?” Sakura asked, opening her emerald green eyes to gaze up at Syaoran.
Gently pulling on one of her braids, he replied, “Of course I do.”
Sitting up again, Sakura smiled. “Then
I do, too.”
Wish-chan: S+S are growing closer, ne? ^_^. Sakura created a new card to heal Syaoran. It's different from before, because previously, she's just been sealing forces into card form.
Visit my webside at www.geocities.com/wishluv. Comments cherished at firstname.lastname@example.org. The longer the e-mails, the better!!!
Look forward to next chapter. ^_^. Action to come during S+S's summer vacation!!!