Chapter 43: Not a Perfect World
I had made up my mind that I would leave Japan without telling him. Some things are better unsaid. I know that the other members in the Li Clan would be disappointed in me, but I do not care. Maybe alone, I truly wish happiness for Syaoran. That¡¯s why, after two weeks, I decided to return to Hong Kong and not spoil his current happiness.
I think I fell into a trap. I don¡¯t know how much time has passed nor where I am. All I know is I¡¯m still somewhere in Japan,
but nobody knows that. The last thing I remember is running and running, the
sound of a snap and a sharp pain in my right ankle, and a cold, silvery,
unearthly pair of eyes leering down on me as a ripping pain reverberated
through my body. It¡¯s cold and dark in here. It¡¯s
okay, Syaoran would find me. He¡¯ll come find me. He always has¡¦
¡°Meilin? Where are you? Answer me!¡± Kai called
out. His voice echoed down the dark alley. He gripped Meilin¡¯s silver bracelet
tightly in his hands, until the intricate engravings decorating the narrow
bracelet embedded into his palm. Wrapped up in his thoughts, Kai was unaware
that someone had been creeping behind his back until a cold hand on his throat
in a tight, strangler¡¯s grip. Never had he been so completely foolish as to let
his mind slip while in such ghetto districts of the city during nighttime.
Yet, he did not panic. Years in the streets taught him how to handle people who attacked from behind. Slamming his elbow into the assaulter¡¯s stomach easily loosened him from the grip. The attacker grasped Kai¡¯s black shirt, readying to punch him. With speed and agility, Kai leaped up onto a stack of boxes with speed which he had always reserved for emergencies. He even ignored the ripping sound of his shirt as the assaulter made a desperate grab at him.
my, who is this,¡± drawled the attacker, who was joined by three more masked
men. ¡°Isn¡¯t it our favorite six-oh-three?¡±
0603. My criminal
number. How did these people recognize me? I¡¯m in disguise. Massaging his throat
to get rid of the choking feeling, Kai stared down at the gangsters from his
advantageous position on top of the piled wooden cartons. They could be any of
the number of criminals he had encountered in his days. Despite Kai¡¯s excellent
night vision, the buildings on either side of him cast ghastly shadows making
it impossible to decipher the features of the man who had tried to strangle
him, especially since a tight black mask stretched over the man¡¯s face.
Quickly, Kai calculated a plan of escape. That, he was an expert at. He prayed that Meilin was safe—somehow, her safety felt like his responsibility because he had been the last one to see her off. Had he been a little more persistent and a little less daunted by Meilin¡¯s hostile attitude towards him, he could have safely escorted her to the airport. Despite his senses warning him last Friday that Meilin might get into trouble if he let her go off on her own, he had ignored it.
Observing his surroundings, he frowned. What had Meilin been doing in such a dangerous district, anyway, when she should have been heading to the airport? I knew I should have driven her, myself. Still, how can I be thinking about her when I¡¯m probably in the worse scrape I¡¯ve been since the police were chasing me this summer?
¡°Don¡¯t tell me you¡¯re scared,¡± the masked man said. ¡°Come down and fight us.¡±
of habit, Kai reached for his knives that he always kept handy. Then he remembered
that he had foolishly removed all weapons from his body, including his
pocketknives. Because Meilin told him to. Of course,
had it been a few months ago, he would have had no problem beating the living
daylight out of his foes without a guilty conscious. Yet, just last week, he
had promised Meilin not to fight anymore. He meant to keep it. What did it
matter if he didn¡¯t have his knives? He had his wits.
Regaining his composure, Kai stated suavely, ¡°You must be mistaking me for someone else.¡±
¡°Nah. I can¡¯t mistake you,¡± the man with the mask replied. He pointed a leather-gloved hand to Kai. ¡°No one has that magician¡¯s cunning as you do, Son of Lucifer. You are under my hands now.¡±
a bored expression, Kai asked, ¡°Really?¡±
glad I found you; it¡¯s time you settled your debt,¡± the man continued. Slowly,
he peeled off a corner of the mask, to reveal a deep, ugly scar down his cheek.
It seemed to be the result of a nasty knife cut, pretty recent. ¡°You did this,
his head, Kai said, ¡°I don¡¯t remember, all right? Now move it, I¡¯m busy.¡± How
could he remember? It wasn¡¯t like he had only been in one or two fights, though
he didn¡¯t particularly remember drawing an unnecessary blood, especially
recently. In fact, now that he thought about it, he hadn¡¯t fought at all
recently. ¡°Just tell me, did you see a girl around here, last Friday? She has
long black hair, amber eyes, flashy temper—¡°
may or we may not have,¡± the man replied to aggravate Kai, clearly revealing
that he did know. ¡°We¡¯ll tell you after you face us.¡±
don¡¯t want to fight,¡± Kai stated. ¡°Just tell me where she is!¡±
him,¡± the masked man commanded. Immediately, his cronies lunged forward.
I don¡¯t want to dirty my hands!¡± Kai reiterated. He had made a contract, and he meant to keep it this time. I promised Meilin not to fight. So I won¡¯t.
I promised to become an admirable person. Meilin¡¯s sorrowful words were yet
vivid in his mind. ¡°Well, you always say
big words and do little to back them up. I don¡¯t have much reason to believe
you, after being disappointed so many times.¡± He couldn¡¯t disappoint her, Sakura,
Syaoran, nor any of those people who trusted him
anymore. He still had that much honor and integrity left in him. What could he
do? Fight back? Or get beaten¡¦
rough hand dragged him down to the ground. Though Kaitou Magician¡¯s instinct
was to fight back, Kai pictured Meilin shaking her head reproachfully and
saying, ¡°I didn¡¯t expect anything from
you I the first place, but I knew never to trust your words, Kaitou Magician.¡±
He grimaced as he felt a blow on his stomach, another, then another and yet
another. Yet, he did not attempt to punch back. Though he knew that he could
easily win them though he was alone—he had faced many more menacing, stronger
¡°Bastard, why aren¡¯t you fighting back? Are you a wimp?¡± the man with the mask chided.
¡°Maybe I am,¡± Kai replied, wiping a streak of blood from his forehead and struggling to stand up. He hadn¡¯t been beaten this badly since—since when? At least, not since he took the title of Kaitou Magician.
¡°That¡¯s no fun then. Well, hand over your valuables then, and we¡¯ll spare you,¡± the man said, beckoning the others to step back.
me where the girl is,¡± Kai demanded.
will, after you hand over your valuables, since you refuse to fight.¡±
Ha, imagine the most
skillful thief of the world being robbed by a couple of street pick-pockets, Kai thought, seeing
the irony of things. Disgusted, he stripped himself of his watch, rings,
earrings, cellular phone, MP3 Player, pocket computer, sunglasses, and even his
motorcycle keys, throwing them on the ground. After all, it was better to give
up his possessions than give up his last trace of honor. Or so he should think.
All the while, he kept repeating to himself to keep his temper. Once he lost,
he didn¡¯t know what he would do.
the chain around your neck,¡± the man reminded.
Kai clenched the oval locket in his hands. ¡°There, I gave you everything else.
Now tell me where the girl is.¡±
until you hand over everything,¡± the gang leader replied, holding out his
me where she is before I really loose my temper,¡± Kai repeated, testily.
don¡¯t seem to understand plain words,¡± the masked man sneered, leaping to Kai
with a knife in one hand and groped Kai¡¯s locket with the other and yanked,
snapping the chain. ¡°Ha! You¡¯re nothing but a pushover. Why should I tell you
where that brat is, even if I knew? Fool.
the notorious Thief of the Night is nothing but a coward,¡± his comrades chided.
¡°Probably just a second-rate thief blown up by the media,¡± the first man added saucily. ¡°A good-for-nothing troublemaker.¡±
with cold fury, Kai thought, Enough is enough. Forget about any silly promises to Meilin.
I can¡¯t help being what I am. With the venom he was holding back, Kai
lashed out his iron fist, punching the masked man square on his cheek. The man
let out a painful yelp as he collapsed onto the ground. Then, Kai reached over
and tried to loosen the man¡¯s grip on his locket to retrieve it. Together, they
toppled over to the ground, and the man dangerously waved the knife near Kai¡¯s
head. With his free hand, Kai gripped the man¡¯s right wrist, and with a quick
flick of his hands, the knife was now in Kai¡¯s hold. In a matter of seconds,
Kai had the advantage, pinning his attacker down to the ground, knife pointed
to the man¡¯s throat.
what you said before,¡± Kai said through gritted teeth. It was hard keeping his
knife point steadily pressed against the man¡¯s throat without actually
puncturing the skin when one part of him was screaming that what he was doing
was wrong, that he shouldn¡¯t be threatening this masked man, while the other
part was outraged at being insulted, challenged, and beaten.
were holding back, after all,¡± the man said tauntingly in gasps, trying to bide
time. ¡°I thought so. Well, kill me now. You told me that first offense was scar
for life, and the second would be my life.¡±
a thief, not a murderer,¡± Kai replied grimly. ¡°Now, just give me back my
locket, and show me where the Chinese girl is. Then I¡¯ll let you all go.¡±
masked man stared up when Kai didn¡¯t press the knife blade any closer to his
neck, stunned, then grimaced. Desperately, he flung the locket, which he
figured to be quite valuable, to his comrades and shouted, ¡°Run with it!¡±
Catching the silver locket, his followers ran off docilely.
the opportunity to distract Kai, the masked man knocked the knife out of Kai¡¯s
hand and escaped from his reach.
not what you used to be, Magician of the Night,¡± the man commented dryly,
cracking his neck. ¡°I believe you won¡¯t even hurt a fly. Well, I guess I¡¯ll
consider my revenge is paid by your precious little trinket. Someone shall be
very pleased to have it. That and seeing you beaten up for good satisfies my hunger. The girl should be around here,
somewhere. We¡¯ll meet again, six-oh-three. Us,
criminals¡¯ roads cross often.¡±
Glaring furiously at the masked man who quickly fled, Kai restrained himself from doing anything he might regret later on. He didn¡¯t even chase after them; it was not worth the consequences. It was more important to find Meilin first. I promised Meilin, I promised her I won¡¯t fight anymore. Yet I did. I fought again. I would have killed that man, I really would have. No, I wouldn¡¯t have. I¡¯ve always fought for self-defense, never for the sake of blood.
he picked up his possessions and dusted them. Stupid low-class thieves; they forgot to take my other stuff when they
ran off with my locket. After figuring that wiping his dusty sunglasses on
his grimy, sweat-soaked shirt would be useless, he readjusted them on the
bridge of his nose, piffled at the bleary vision. Absentmindedly, he toyed with
the ring on his finger. Then wearily, he leaned against his motorcycle, gazing
up at the grimy buildings shielding him on both sides. If I knew it was this hard to reform, I wouldn¡¯t have attempted to in
the first place. Later, I¡¯ll have to think of a way to take back my locket. I
didn¡¯t want to meddle with that sort of business anymore. But I guess retrieving something that
rightfully belongs to me is less offensive than beating someone up. That masked
man said ¡°someone shall be very pleased.¡± That gang seems to be working for
someone bossing them around. I wonder who hates me so much to send his cronies
body was bruised, his skull ached, his stomach felt nauseous, and overall, he
felt wretched for allowing the assaulters to get away with his possession. It
was something that had never been heard of before. Yet that indicated how much
he changed; had it been only a month ago, he wouldn¡¯t have allowed such a thing
to happen. Firstly, he wouldn¡¯t have allowed someone to creep up from behind
him, secondly, he would have fought back gladly, and thirdly, he would never
have hesitated or gotten distracted. Furiously, Kai kicked the trashcan,
leaving a dent. Then, he calmed himself by repeating, ¡°I need to find Meilin.¡±
then, the wind howled and he felt the presence of a dark force. Keep an eye on
it, he told his parrot, who appeared seemingly out of nowhere.
Kai eyed the run-down cement buildings lined up around the alley. Breathing in
deeply, he shut his eyes and listened to the wailing night gust blowing down
the street. Intuitively, he walked to the building vertical from him and
followed the crumbling, creaking stairs to the basement. It was natural for him
to walk in pitch black without tripping over. Finally, he came to a single,
rusty metal door. Debating whether to pick the lock or kick the door open, he
chose the latter; it would relieve some stress. The door opened with relative
ease in one kick, and Kai walked in. ¡°Meilin?¡±
single, bare light-bulb screwed in the center of the filthy room dimly lit it
with orange light. A small, barred window, too high up to reach was the only
source of ventilation. In the far corner were a bundle of rags, on which a
young girl crouched. Tentatively, Kai walked up. ¡°Meilin?¡±
Carefully, he bent over the girl, ten or so, with her jet black hair half
unraveled from its buns. She was swaddled in clothes rather large for her, and
her round face was streaked with dirt. Her right leg was skewed awkwardly. ¡°Meilin? Wake up.¡± Had he been in a different situation, he
would have laughed. It seemed as if Meilin had also been attacked by the same
force that attacked Sakura. That explained why he had found the silver bracelet
on the ground; it must have slipped off her wrist, once she was made younger
and therefore smaller. Leaning closer, he could hear that Meilin¡¯s breathing
was ragged. Gently, he reached out for her.
For a second, she shrank back warily, as her feline red-amber eyes adjusted to the dim light. Then she realized that it was Kai kneeling beside her, looking worried. It was the first time she saw such concern from Kai. A sudden flow of relief swept over her. ¡°Kai? Is that you?¡±
is that you?¡± Kai replied, trying to
hide how concerned he had been. ¡°You look like an elementary kid to me.¡±
Kai¡¯s sarcasm, Meilin flung her arms around Kai¡¯s neck. ¡°You don¡¯t know how
glad I am to see you!¡±
course I do,¡± Kai said, heaving a sigh of relief. ¡°Hey, you¡¯re choking me.¡±
you come looking for me?¡± Meilin asked, unable to hold back a sniffle. ¡°How did
you find me? I was so scared—I thought I was trapped in here forever. I¡¯m sorry
Kai, I¡¯m so sorry. I should have listened to you instead of stubbornly insisting
on going to the airport on my own.¡±
¡°There now, it¡¯s all right. You¡¯re safe now. I¡¯m here now, I found you,¡± Kai reassured, stroking Meilin¡¯s head comfortingly.
these words of kindness, Meilin began sobbing out loud. She had expected Kai to
laugh at her or scorn her for her silliness. Hiccupping, she said, ¡°I was so,
so scared. I thought no one would know I was in here. I¡¯ve never been so
terrified in my life.¡±
Who would have
thought that there would come a day when this fiery Chinese girl would fling
herself around his neck, scared and sobbing hysterically? Kai thought wryly.
¡°Even more scared than when I kidnapped you?¡±
wasn¡¯t scared then,¡± Meilin replied flatly. ¡°I knew you were not a bad person.¡±
¡°Haha¡¦ True. I was more scared of you and your rash temper,¡±
¡°Shut up. You don¡¯t know how¡¦ how much I—¡° Meilin gulped.
¡±It¡¯s okay,¡± Kai said, softly. ¡°I understand everything. You don¡¯t have to say it.¡±
you don¡¯t understand,
Meilin thought. But thank you Kai. Thank you for trying to.
¡°Hey, I should feel thrilled that a damsel in distress is sobbing on my shoulders, but truthfully, it feels creepy, like I¡¯m hugging a younger sibling or something,¡± Kai joked. ¡°What happened anyway?¡±
up!¡± Meilin retorted, immediately dropping her arms from Kai¡¯s neck. ¡°I don¡¯t
know myself. I remember that I felt something fishy on the way to the airport
so I got off the bus and found myself walking down a strange street. Then, I felt
a throbbing pain through my body, and I don¡¯t remember anything since Friday
afternoon. When I woke up again, I found myself in this dark basement, in this
shrunken form. I don¡¯t know how many days have passed, I don¡¯t know what time
it is, and I don¡¯t know where I am now.¡±
you with your impatience didn¡¯t try to escape?¡± Kai asked quizzically. ¡°I¡¯m
tried, but¡¦¡± Meilin gazed at her right leg, swollen and discolored.
Kai examined it. From the looks of it, it seemed to be a bad sprain, possibly a
broken bone, concluding from the strange angle that her leg was twisted in. If
it had been left like that untreated for several days, infection could have
spread. Not wanting to alarm Meilin, he kept to himself that the break might be
don¡¯t remember clearly, but I have a faint recollection of jumping off a wall
and landing on it awkwardly, right before I was knocked out,¡± Meilin explained,
letting out a whimper as Kai pressed her knee to test the extent of the injury.
¡°I probably broke it then.¡±
¡°You can¡¯t just leave it like that,¡± Kai said. ¡°I¡¯ll make you a temporary cast. Do you mind if I use this for bandage?¡± He held up a cotton shirt which he had took from Meilin¡¯s duffel bag, lying next to the Meilin¡¯s feet. Meilin nodded.
Deftly, Kai tore the shirt into long strips. Then, he formed some crude, straight stilts shaped from the wooden boxes heaped up inside the basement room.
going to hurt, so just put up with it a few minutes, okay?¡± Kai said. ¡°I¡¯ll try
to make it as fast as possible. I treated my own broken bones back when I was a
criminal, unable to go to the hospital like a regular citizen, so I know what
herself, Meilin nodded. Her leg hurt too much to protest otherwise. Carefully,
Kai held stilts parallel to her leg to straighten the broken bone. Meilin bit
her lips until they bled, holding back a scream. Holding the stilts in place,
Kai tightly wound the bandage round her feet, up her ankle and calf, stopping
just below her knee. Tucking the loose end of the bandage into the cast, Kai
said, ¡°There, finished! There, that wasn¡¯t so bad, was it?¡±
Face pale and clammy with perspiration, Meilin nodded.
Kai said, patting her bandaged leg. ¡°When I set my bones, I used to holler out
with all my might. You¡¯re really brave, Meilin, not letting out a single
I¡¯m not brave at all. Only an idiot like me would be caught in such a scrape,¡± Meilin
said, examining her leg; it ached yet she would not admit that much to Kai.
¡°How can I ever go back to Hong Kong in this form? I think I¡¯m only ten or so
now. Even worse, imagine going back to Syaoran in this state.¡±
worry; Sakura¡¯s in a worse position than you. Sunday, on her way to King
Penguin Park to meet Syaoran—mind you, she was six hours late—she got caught by
the dark force and now, she¡¯s approximately five,¡± Kai reassured. ¡°She feels
even more foolish than you do right now.¡±
¡°Really?¡± Meilin smiled
slightly. ¡°Five years old?¡±
¡°Yup! Well, are you ready to go back now?¡± Kai asked. ¡°Or do you want to rest a little bit longer?¡±
Meilin said, ¡°I think it¡¯s not quite safe around here. I feel like the same
force that attacked me is trying to lure you in and trap you as well. I would
feel much safer once we¡¯re back at home.¡±
¡°Haha¡¦ Worrying for me, are you?¡± Kai asked, mischievously.
it¡¯s not like that!¡± Meilin blushed furiously.
¡°I know, I know. Well, here, get on my back; you can¡¯t walk with that leg. I have my motorcycle outside.¡± Back towards Meilin, Kai knelt down.
would have thought that the great Kaitou Magician would be carrying a ten year
old on his back?¡± Meilin giggled, looking on the bright side of being back to
her bratty child state.
would have thought that the great Meilin-sama would allow to be carried on a
criminal¡¯s back?¡± Kai laughed, hoisting Meilin¡¯s light frame up on his back.
Only when Meilin couldn¡¯t see his face, did he let his careless smile drop. A
thin, lonely wail let out by the wind indicated to him that something was
amiss. Cradling Meilin in his arms, Kai speeded his motorcycle back to the
are you okay?¡± a childish voice asked.
Meilin realized that she was on Kai¡¯s back, in the warmth of Syaoran¡¯s living
room; she didn¡¯t even remember the motorcycle ride back home, having fallen
asleep. Gently, Kai laid her down on her own bed in Syaoran¡¯s apartment.
what happened?¡± Syaoran asked, looking harried at the sight of a ten-year-old Meilin
with a crude cast on her leg. So, Meilin was also attacked by the Age. ¡°Kai,
where¡¯d you find her?¡±
story,¡± Kai replied, collapsing onto a chair.
¡°Goodness, what happened to you, Kaitou-kun?¡± little Sakura asked, craning her neck to see Kai. Not only was he coated with dust from head to toe, but his black t-shirt was ripped in several places, his entire left sleeve being ripped off, and his lips were swollen and bleeding. A large, purplish-green had formed on his cheek, also.
as she took a better look of Kai in proper light, Meilin grimaced. ¡°Wow, you
look like you¡¯re in a worse condition than me.¡±
fought?¡± Syaoran demanded.
¡°Just leave him alone; at least he brought back Meilin-chan,¡± Sakura said.
up the five year old Sakura curiously, Meilin set her on the bed, then burst out laughing. ¡°Kai was right. You¡¯re in a worse
condition than I am, Sakura.¡±
Sakura replied, ¡°I know. You don¡¯t know how much everyone rubs that into me.¡±
¡°What shall we do, Sakura?¡± Meilin asked. She sank back on the soft bed sheets; it was a relief after sleeping on bundles of rags for four days. Her stomach rumbled since she hadn¡¯t had a decent meal in three or four days—she had lived off bits of snacks she had packed in her duffel bag, along with a bottle of water. Had Kai not found her¡¦
go bring you late dinner,¡± Syaoran said, standing up and leaving the room,
carrying Sakura out with him, who kicked out, protesting, ¡°Stop carrying me
around like a doll!¡±
¡°Shh¡¦ I think they need to be left alone for a second,¡±
Syaoran whispered, setting Sakura down on the living room sofa. At this, Sakura
quieted, staring up at Syaoran with a puzzled look on her face.
alone with Meilin, Kai looked down at his feet. ¡°I¡¯m sorry Meilin.¡±
¡°What for?¡± Meilin asked,
fiddling with a stuffed animal.
¡°I guess I broke my promise to you, after all. I did fight again. And I enjoyed it. I guess I disappointed you again, didn¡¯t I?¡±
doesn¡¯t sound right to hear you apologize,¡± Meilin said, peering up at the
young man who looked so broken and beaten. For the second time, she felt
helpless. Yet, she began to understand that Kai looked upon her to guide him in
the right direction. Why, she had no idea, yet she should do everything within
her power to help him through these times of hardship.
guess I¡¯m no good at reforming. Stupid of me to attempt it from the beginning,¡±
Kai said, waiting for Meilin to berate him.
Meilin commented lightly, ¡°Rather than someone who got into a fight, you look
like someone beaten up. I thought the Kaitou Magician never lost to anyone.¡±
don¡¯t mind that I broke my promise once again?¡± Kai asked slowly, surprised at Meilin¡¯s
do mind. But if you¡¯re asking me if I¡¯m angry, no,¡± Meilin said briefly.
Kai fingered his bruised cheek in bewilderment.
heard a voice from outside through the window of the basement,¡± Meilin said
softly. ¡°He said that he won¡¯t fight, no matter what. That was you, wasn¡¯t it?¡±
Kai knelt down by the bedside. ¡°But I fought, anyway.¡±
counts is the effort, Kai,¡± Meilin told him. ¡°It¡¯s how hard you tried that¡¯s
important. There is no guarantee that the results would always be successful,
yet at least you have the satisfaction of knowing that you did your best.¡±
philosophy,¡± Kai murmured. ¡°I used to think it¡¯s the results that count. But
does that mean that you¡¯ll give me another chance?¡± He looked up hopefully.
¡°As many as you need, if you show me effort and improvement,¡± Meilin said, smiling brightly. At first, she had mixed feelings about her former kidnapper and ex-criminal. Yet, she realized that this person wasn¡¯t a bad person at all.
Grinning, Kai, from his kneeling position, swept a grand bow and presented Meilin a crimson rose. ¡°Merci, mademoiselle. I really appreciate your benevolence.¡±
¡°Oh, shut up Kai. Je ne comprends pas francais!¡± Blushing furiously, Meilin stared down at her hands. Then she let out a gasp of dismay. ¡°WAI!!! My bracelet! My bracelet is gone.¡± She groped around frantically, searching for it.
certainly don¡¯t mean that bracelet that I locked onto your wrist?¡± Kai asked
Meilin slapped her forehead. ¡°It must have slipped off when I was shrunk by the Age! What shall I do? I¡¯ll never find it again!¡±
an eyebrow, Kai asked, ¡°Weren¡¯t you always complaining how that bracelet
annoyed you so much and how you would love to take it off?¡±
turning red, Meilin mumbled, ¡°Well, I kind of got fond of it and it¡¯s rather pretty, despite the fact that there was a
microchip attached to it by a stalker.¡±
girl,¡± Kai ejaculated. ¡°I thought you would be glad to be free of it.¡±
¡°Shut up.¡± Meilin drew the blankets over her head and shut her eyes. Still chuckling, Kai turned off the lights. Once engulfed in darkness, Meilin¡¯s heart lurched. The unwanted thought that had been lingering in her mind for the past weeks emerge again. Her skull pounded and her breathing grew rugged. Never had she felt more wretched in her life.
Syaoran and Sakura are not at school today,¡± Rika noted the next day. Everyone
was extremely grateful for having Monday off as a treat. Meanwhile, the school
administration was yet confused why there had suddenly been a power failure the
previous day, yet kept their thoughts to themselves. Though the math teacher
suspected it had something with the computer genius and truant Mizuki Kai, she
had no evidence.
really coincidental how they always miss school on the same days,¡± Naoko noted.
¡°Kai-kun¡¯s not here, either,¡± Tomoyo noted, trying to divert the attention from Sakura and Syaoran.
is, I saw him at the principal¡¯s office early this morning, though true, he
usually never comes to school in the first place,¡± Naoko asked, ¡°Hey, did you
see the headline news this morning? It was about Kaitou Magician again! Isn¡¯t
it so exciting? He¡¯s back!¡±
on, there¡¯s more important things on the news, like the earthquakes that are occurring
all around Japan,¡± Aki interrupted.
when were you so concerned about nature?¡± Naoko inquired.
male celebrity that takes the spotlight is insignificant in Aki-kun¡¯s eyes,¡±
Chiharu giggled. From acting as Aki¡¯s aunt, Lady Capulet, in the production for
the past half year and the few weeks of journalism club, her impression of Aki
had completely changed. At first, she had thought him rather handsome and nice,
but in the end, she concluded that she liked Takashi best.
I¡¯m really concerned with earthquakes because should one occur near my father¡¯s
stables, it would be a real catastrophe for all the horses,¡± Aki protested.
¡°Not that I care, but my sister and her geeky boyfriend does.¡±
¡°How can you call Tamemura Asuma-san geeky?¡± Naoko exclaimed in shock. ¡°He¡¯s awesome! Don¡¯t you know Tanemura-san and Akagi-san were voted ¡®Most popular couple in Japan?¡¯¡±
Crossing his arms, Aki replied, ¡°Humph. They fight all the time.¡±
Tanemura-san truly is everything one could ask for in
a boyfriend—he¡¯s completely awesome. Almost as awesome as
Kaitou Magician!¡± Chiharu couldn¡¯t help adding, despite the cross
expression on Takashi¡¯s face.
you still have nightmares about the Phantom, Tomoyo-san?¡± Eriol asked. Tomoyo
and sat out on the grass, underneath the shade of an oak tree. Tomoyo was
busily attaching lace to a scarlet doll¡¯s dress, adjusted to fit chibi-Sakura during lunch break.
Setting the sewing material on her lap, Tomoyo hesitated for a moment. ¡°Not as frequently these days.¡±
a relief,¡± Eriol said. From his bag, he took out a small cushion, the size of
his palm, and filled with aromatic potpourri. He handed it to Tomoyo. ¡°Put this
next to your bedside when you sleep. It usually wards against nightmares.¡±
Taking the small, fragrant cushion, and holding it tightly in her hands, Tomoyo replied, ¡°Thank you, Eriol-kun.¡±
Eriol smiled. ¡°No problem. So, Sakura-san hasn¡¯t captured the new dark force yet?¡±
her head, Tomoyo replied, ¡°No. I heard from Sakura-chan that Meilin-chan was
attacked by the dark force also, last Friday, so she wasn¡¯t able to return to
Hong Kong.¡± Then critically, she added, ¡°I bet you can do something to help
them. Why don¡¯t you?¡±
¡°That will be no fun then,¡± Eriol replied. Suppi-chan scowled from Eriol¡¯s book bag at such a blatantly Eriol-like response.
that moment, the ground shook. The scraps of cloth in Tomoyo¡¯s bag slipped out.
The stack of books next to Eriol also collapsed. There were startled
ejaculations throughout the school. It was worse than the tremor felt few weeks
ago, on the day that the prop chandelier had fallen onto the stage during a
the grim expression on Eriol¡¯s face, Tomoyo figured that it was something to be
worried about. ¡°I reckon something big will happen together.¡± Then she
brightened as she exclaimed, ¡°More action to video-tape then!¡±
was that?¡± Miho exclaimed, looking up from the computer in the journalism
classroom as the desks and chairs vibrated and the ground shook. She had been
busily typing up a new article describing the student¡¯s new project doing
volunteer work at the Kinhoshi Hospital. The computer
screen flickered for a second, then to her relief turned back on.
¡°It must be the reverberations from an earthquake, somewhere nearby,¡± Kai replied from the other computer, working on the newspaper layouts that were supposed to be due the previous week.
¡°Hope it¡¯s nothing too serious.¡± Critically, Miho stared at Mizuki Kai. It was the first time she was alone with him since the day before the production. And it was the first time talking to him since the incident at Kinhoshi Hospital, which had led to her decision to visit her mother. Though Miho hadn¡¯t had a chance to visit her mother again since the first visit, she had so many things to tell her! She had finally found her brother—it was like a dream, yet so much better because it was real. Grudgingly, Miho had to admit that without Kai, she would never have gathered the courage to go visit her mother. If Kai hadn¡¯t convinced her to gather courage, she might still be in the same situation as before. She felt a surge of thankfulness in her heart. Kai truly wasn¡¯t that bad of a person once you got to know him.
¡°Finished!¡± Kai clicked ¡®Save¡¯
and leaned back on his chair to stretch. His whole body was sore from being
soundly beaten the night before, but the ache was nothing new.
you get into a fight again, Mizuki-senpai?¡± Miho asked, observing the browning
bruise on Kai¡¯s cheek and his blistered lip. It was the first time she saw him
you¡¯re meaning to give me a lecture on it, I heard plenty enough from Meilin
already,¡± Kai said sharply. In fact, he had been meaning to ditch school today
also, not wanting to show his bruised face at school—all the teachers would
have something to say about it. But Meilin forced him to go, saying that
Syaoran was good enough as a babysitter for her and Sakura.
Miho hastily backed up. ¡°I—I guess I just wanted to thank you for what you told
me last Thursday. Without your advise, I would never
have gathered the confidence to go visit my mother. And I¡¯m so glad I did. So,
thank you, Mizuki-senpai, and I¡¯m sorry for being so
harsh and critical of you previously.¡±
problem, Tanaka-san,¡± Kai brushed off uncomfortably.
and I was just thinking,¡± Miho continued. ¡°You¡¯re always calling me
¡®Tanaka-san.¡¯ Nobody does that; at least not my friends. All my friends just
call me ¡®Miho-chan.¡¯¡±
I your friend then?¡± Kai asked, raising an eyebrow.
hope you can be, Mizuki-senpai,¡± Miho said, looking up with appealing gray eyes.
Kai laughed, ¡°Oh all right, I¡¯ll stop calling you Tanaka-san. But you better
stop calling me Mizuki-senpai then. Just plain out ¡®Kai¡¯ is fine.¡±
Miho exclaimed, ¡°But that won¡¯t be showing any respect to my elder!¡±
¡°Since when did you have respect for me?¡± Kai pointed out. ¡°Besides, you don¡¯t address Syaoran or the rest, Li-senpai, though they¡¯re all older than you are.¡±
knew them since New York,¡± Miho responded. ¡°But all I can say is that you
better stop calling me ¡®Tanaka-san¡¯ or else I¡¯ll consider it as a sign that you
don¡¯t want to be friends with me.
Kai bowed eloquently in his sitting position and replied, ¡°What ever you wish,
*(hime = princess—Princess Miho)
Miho stared at Kai¡¯s bent head before smiling back warmly. ¡°I guess if I¡¯m a princess, then you¡¯re the knight in shining armor—¡°
¡°Nope, the princess¡¯ court Jester,¡± Kai said, sweeping up a pencil, ruler, eraser, and stapler and skillfully juggling them over his head before sweeping them up again in one hand. ¡°Dedicated to make Miho-hime laugh.¡±
Clapping in delight, Miho exclaimed, ¡°Do that again, with five objects!¡±
you¡¯re supposed to be working on your article unless you want the prince syndrome
(referring to Aki) to be on your back,¡± Kai reminded. Yet, he took seven
objects and began doing fancy juggling tricks with them; it was a relief to
fall into the rhythm of simple routines like juggling because it took his mind
off pressing matters to just entertain an enthusiastic audience. After a final
round of juggling, he snapped his fingers and the school objects turned into
seven white roses, which turned into fruit flavored bonbons that showered down
one of the orange candies and popping it into her mouth, Miho sighed. ¡°You know
Mizuki-senpai?¡± Kai grimaced at this honorific. ¡°I¡¯m really thankful to you for
I think you enabled me to find onii-chan, as well. I think somehow, fate was
preventing me from finding my brother because I couldn¡¯t even take the first
step to meet my mother. Then three days later, I coincidentally bumped into
onii-chan at the archery competition—you were there; you remember, right?¡±
¡°The funny thing is,¡± Miho continued. ¡°When I first met you, I thought that there was the faintest possibility that you might be Mikai onii-chan. Because you seemed to be round about the right age, though you¡¯re a grade lower than my brother should be, and your facial features aren¡¯t too different from what Mikai¡¯s might be like at age sixteen. But more importantly, there was just a feeling about you that reminded me of something familiar. You can laugh if you want to. Of course, as I got to know you better, I knew you possibly couldn¡¯t be my brother. You¡¯re personality, philosophies, and attitude of life are different. In fact, you¡¯re completely opposite from my brother. I think I was too hopeful of finding my brother and imagined things up. He also hated violence.¡± She gazed at Kai¡¯s bruises critically. ¡°Especially now that I found my real brother, I know better. Silly of me, huh?¡±
¡°Not really. Anything is possible,¡± Kai said.
my point is, I hope to get to know you better, Mizuki-senpai,¡± Miho said. She
smiled widely. ¡°I can¡¯t imagine a more perfect world, now that I have both my
mother and brother by my side, not to mention great friends.¡±
grinned lopsidedly. ¡°Well, then, I gotta go now. Turn
off the lights in the classroom when you finish.¡±
¡°Sure, Mizuki-senpei,¡± Miho stated, returning to her article.
walking down the hallway, Kai murmured, ¡°It¡¯s not a perfect world.¡±
After school, Miho rushed out of the gates, waving her arms wildly. ¡°Onii-chan!¡±
brother, dressed casually, was leaning against the gate; he had promised to
spend the afternoon with her. Seeing Miho, Mikai waved back ¡°Miho!¡±
were waiting for me?¡± Miho asked.
¡°Of course. I promised to buy
you a snack after your school ended,¡± Mikai answered.
¡°Oh yeah, where were you staying again? Eriol said that you
can come stay at our house—it¡¯s really huge and
everything,¡± Miho said. ¡°You remember Eriol, right? You met him at the archery
competition. He¡¯s the one looking after me, him and Kaho-san, our cousin.¡±
her hair, Mikai said, ¡°Yes, I remember the person who I am eternally grateful
to for looking after my little sister so well all these years. Right now, I¡¯m
staying with one of my old friends from Eitoukou
Miho laughed. ¡°You really did have many friends back then.¡± Then she asked, hesitant, ¡°You are going stay nearby, right? You¡¯re not going away, are you?¡±
staying right here, beside you,¡± Mikai reassured. ¡°And once Mother regains her
health, we¡¯ll all live together again. There¡¯s the ice cream store—what flavor
do you want?¡±
for a second, Miho replied, ¡°What ever you want, onii-chan.¡±
Miho was licking a scrumptious looking chocolate fudge ice cream cone. ¡°Guess
what, ¡®nii-chan, I¡¯m the assistant editor of Seijou
Junior High—remember how Mother said she used to be Chief Editor of her high
school paper? Oh, and I was part of a production that Mother wrote—I was the
and on Miho went about all the things that had happened to her over the past
five years, and Mikai listened patiently. Every so often, Miho glanced up to
her brother¡¯s face, to check that he was really beside her, and not some
character conjured up from her dreams.
such a drag going around with a kindergarten kid and a stuffed animal,¡± Syaoran
grumbled, though not truly meaning harm. It was already late afternoon. ¡°You¡¯re
slowing everything down.¡±
¡°We¡¯ve been looking for the Age all day, and we still haven¡¯t found it,¡± Sakura stated, crouching on her short stubby legs. Being only five, even a short stroll down the park seemed like a very long walk. Syaoran, Kero, and she had reached King Penguin Park after searching all over Tomoeda for the Age. Though Meilin had insisted on coming, Syaoran had convinced her to remain at home because of her leg.
¡°You better find it quickly,¡± Kero-chan, who
had joined them early that morning. ¡°Luckily your brother had to spend night
shift at the hospital yesterday night, so he couldn¡¯t throw a fit. I bet if you
don¡¯t show up today, he¡¯s going to personally come find me and throttle the
¡°Sakura-chan!!!¡± Tomoyo waved,
running towards little Sakura, followed by Kai who came strolling along with a
nonchalant expression on his face. Tomoyo had headed straight to King Penguin
Park after school ended, ready with a new outfit and her video camera; Kai had
only followed for the sake of laughing at Sakura¡¯s small form.
In no time, Sakura was dressed in a scarlet dress with a matching cloak and hood.
made out of really stretchable material,¡± Tomoyo stated. ¡°So that when you grow
large again, it won¡¯t rip or tear.¡±
I grow large again,¡± Sakura said.
have a battle outfit for you, also!¡± Tomoyo said to Syaoran, and in no time,
Syaoran was dressed in his usual dark green Chinese battle outfit. Then she
turned to Kai with sparkling sapphire-violet eyes.
¡°No,¡± Kai stated firmly. This made Tomoyo sigh in disappointed. She had a cool outfit, of course all in black, prepared for Kai also. Then again, there was next time.
it¡¯s just like the old times.¡± Tomoyo clapped her hands together, when she got
over her disappointment. ¡°It¡¯s been ages since I made Sakura-chan a battle
outfit firstly because of the hectic summer, and then I got possessed by the
Phantom, and then the production!¡±
know what I¡¯m curious about is why you put up with such a large crew when
capturing cards, Sakura,¡± Kai commented, staring at Tomoyo, Kero, and Syaoran.
¡°I would think it tends to get to be a nuisance, and it probably slows the
whole process down.¡±
¡°Humph. Brat number two,¡± Kero-chan muttered, crossing his arms.
got it all wrong, Kaitou-kun,¡± Sakura said. ¡°I wouldn¡¯t be able to be a Card
Captor without everyone. It was Kero-chan who acted as my guardian and mentor
all along. Tomoyo¡¯s clothes always gave me more confidence and her effort into
making the battle costumes always gave me a protected feeling. And Syaoran¡¦ Syaoran¡¦¡±
more people means that there is the danger that they will be used against you,¡±
Kai interrupted. ¡°Is it worth the risk?¡±
times, I have worried about endangering my friends. Several times Tomoyo has
been victimized because she is my friend, such as being the target of the Voice
and most recently the Phantom. And there was once a time Eriol controlled
Syaoran¡¯s body with thread to make him attack me,¡± Sakura trailed off.
Sakura-chan has always been able to protect her friends, Kai-kun,¡± Tomoyo
continued. ¡°True, there is more risk when working in a group; yet that much
more power is bestowed when one has the support and trust of her friends.¡±
Sakura finished, ¡°I wouldn¡¯t have been able to come this far without the
support of my friends. It is true that it is my fault that they are exposed to
danger. That is why I will always do my best to protect them. Which is all the
more the reason to return to my proper age.¡±
Sakura, don¡¯t you know, when your alone, you have nothing to lose?¡± Kai asked
skeptically. Then, he bolted in alarm. ¡°Duck!¡± he called out.
passed by!¡± Sakura exclaimed.
¡°The Age!¡± Kero-chan looked
do we capture it?¡± Tomoyo asked.
know. We need something to lure it,¡± Kai said.
¡°Something—someone to lure it? Hmm¡¦¡± Sakura pondered for a second. ¡°Kaitou-kun?¡±
I am not going to be used as a bait to lure the Age,¡± Kai replied, flat
turned to Syaoran.
way!¡± Syaoran stammered. ¡°I¡¯m not going to be the bait!¡±
worry! It doesn¡¯t hurt that much when your body shrinks,¡± Sakura stated
cheerfully as Kai began tying Syaoran to a tree with sturdy rope. ¡°There¡¯s only
a brief burning sensation, as if your limbs are being ripped apart.¡±
me at once!¡± Syaoran hollered.
out her tongue, Sakura said, ¡°Serves you right if your age is reversed to three
or so, after laughing at me so much in this form.¡±
wait till I get free,¡± Syaoran shouted, scowling fiercely.
ho ho¡¦ This is really priceless,¡± Tomoyo said, video-taping Syaoran, squirming from his uncomfortable
position, tied to the tree.
¡°Shh¡¦ Now we have to hide in our positions and wait for the Age to fall into the trap,¡± Kai said.
Tomoyo, Kero-chan, and Kai each crept behind different bushes, encircling the
center tree which Syaoran was tied to. For minutes, there was no sound. Then,
there was a swooshing sound, and a silver flicker. A hazy form materialized in
front of Syaoran, sprinkling a shimmering powder on him.
¡°NOW!¡± Kai leaped down from his position on a tree branch, onto the dark force. Sakura had leaped out from her hiding place also, but fell over because of her short legs. Nonetheless, Kai had landed directly on the dark force before it could sprinkle the Sand of Age on him. His hands moved deftly; it looked as if he was tying the Age up, yet Sakura couldn¡¯t see the rope. Soon, the Age was tightly tied to another tree trunk. Now, they could see that the Age took the form of a tiny infant with an innocent face; it held in its left hand a sand clock, and with its right hand sprinkled the sand from the clock onto it victims, the Sand of Age.
amazing!¡± Tomoyo exclaimed. Then, she peered at the Age. It seemed to be tied
against the tree trunk, yet no string or rope was visible. ¡°What did you tie
the Age up with, Kai-kun?¡±
finally having caught up, carefully stared in between Kai¡¯s fingers. In the
light, she could catch glimpses of silvery, narrow threads.
¡°Piano string. Very strong, almost
invisible, used by all magicians,¡± Kai said. ¡°But it won¡¯t hold the Age down
for long. Hurry up and seal it.¡±
¡°Okay!¡± Sakura held out her key. ¡°Key, that hides the power of the stars. Show your true self to me. I, Sakura command you. Release!¡± Nothing happened. ¡°Release! Release! Release!¡±
wrong, Sakura-chan?¡± Tomoyo asked.
¡°At that age, she didn¡¯t know she had any special powers,¡± Syaoran replied, untangling himself from the ropes tying him down to the tree. Since his body had shrank to a few years younger, it was easy to loosen himself.
They turned around to see Syaoran, whom they had all forgotten about. Sakura¡¯s eyes widened to see a scowling boy of twelve or so, the Syaoran she remembered before his leaving Japan. His battle outfit hung loosely on his smaller frame. Sakura became aware of how he looked like the fifteen year old Syaoran in many aspects, yet, the face was somewhat more boyish; he was shorter, and more similar to the aggressive Chinese boy that Sakura first encountered, five years ago. The one who had tried to take away the Clow Cards by force. She hadn¡¯t been aware how much he had changed over the past years. It was less about aging and looking mature, than the actual expression on his face. Even over the past few months, Syaoran¡¯s expression changed from being slightly acerbic, wary, and somewhat guarded and cautious, to one that was relaxed, animated, and more often his brilliant amber eyes were laughing and gentle. The boy standing in front of her was the old Syaoran, the mistrustful and reserved one.
Kai, couldn¡¯t you have trapped the Age a little bit faster, before it shrank
me?¡± Syaoran demanded. ¡°I knew this would have happened if you used me as bait.¡±
¡°Haha¡¦ Stupid, I caught it a hair later, just so that I
could see the high-and-mighty Syaoran as a toddler,¡± Kai said. ¡°But unfortunately,
it seems to have shrank you only a few years.¡±
¡°Bastard. I¡¯ll really get you after this business is over,¡± Syaoran muttered, kicking aside the last strand of rope.
¡°Release!¡± Sakura called out
once more, sweat forming on her brows. She panted, ¡°I can¡¯t do it. I can¡¯t
release the staff. Remember? I didn¡¯t have any magical powers until I was ten,
when I became card mistress.¡±
¡°Hurry, the Age is trying to escape,¡± Kai said, carefully not to stand too near the Age, who was desperately shaking the Sand of Age at him, squirming to escape from the piano string. No way he would let off his guard now.
can¡¯t you release my staff again for me, like you did when I was attacked by
the Crystal?¡± Sakura pleaded.
his head, Syaoran replied, ¡°No. That truly was a one time exception. Anyway,
you should know by now that you were born with magic. It didn¡¯t suddenly appear
out of nowhere when you were ten. You discovered it then, but it was always
inside of you. Therefore, whether you are five, ten, or fifteen, your powers
are always within you. Remember? The creep also told you that also.¡±
For a second, Sakura stared blankly at Syaoran. The creep? Oh¡¦ That¡¯s right. Eriol told that my powers were born inside of me. Though my body is smaller and weaker, it still contains the same capacity of power, despite the fact that at this age, my powers were less developed.
Suddenly, Sakura cringed. Mental images formed as she recalled a blurry event. What was it? What was she trying to remember?
a little girl, five or so, crying. It¡¯s me. Why am I crying? Sakura pondered.
Mother, ¡®nii-chan, where¡¯s Mother?¡± the little girl
dark haired boy, around twelve or so stared up at the blue sky. ¡°Up there.¡±
where?¡± the little girl persisted. ¡°Why can¡¯t I see her? Doesn¡¯t Mommy
want to see Sakura-chan anymore?¡±
you know? Mother¡¯s an angel now. She¡¯s always watching over us. Our entire family. When you cry, Sakura, Mother has tears in
her eyes too. She doesn¡¯t like seeing you sad,¡± young Touya said, patting
his little sister¡¯s head.
¡°¡®Nii-chan¡¯s lying. The kids in pre-school said that there are no such thing as angels.¡±
Touya reached out to hug his little sister. ¡°Hey, Sakura¡¦¡±
¡°I don¡¯t need ¡®nii-chan.¡± Little Sakura abruptly pushed her brother¡¯s gentle hand away and stepped back. ¡°I want Mommy! I don¡¯t want ¡®nii-chan!¡±
Mother¡¯s no longer a part of this world. But she told me to tell you that she
is always by your side, whenever you feel joy or sadness, and she asked me to
take her place. Father¡¯s very busy, so can¡¯t you turn to me, Sakura? It¡¯s not
the same as having Mother, I know, but isn¡¯t just ¡®nii-chan
Why can ¡®nii-chan see and talk to Mommy? Why can¡¯t I
see her?¡± Sakura sobbed. ¡°Doesn¡¯t Mommy want to talk to me?¡±
Sakura, it¡¯s not that.¡±
how can ¡®nii-chan see her then? Tell me how, so that
I can see her too.¡±
With a far off expression on his face, young Touya replied, ¡°If you close your eyes and empty your heart, if you take a deep breath and open your mind, and if the warm blood flowing through your veins intertwine with a glowing aura wrought from a profound belief in your heart, then, an inner vision is unveiled and you will see heavenly light.¡±
little Sakura shut her eyes and took a deep breath in. Her smooth forehead was
crinkled from the effort put into concentration. After a while, she burst out, ¡°I
still can¡¯t see anything. I did what ¡®nii-chan said,
but I still can¡¯t see Mommy! ¡®Nii-chan lied to me.¡±
have to be patient, Sakura,¡± Touya sighed, looking much more tired and
mature than other twelve year old boys. ¡°You have the vision within you,
because you¡¯re Mother¡¯s daughter, but it might take more time and effort to
awaken that vision.¡±
I want to see Mommy now! Does she really love me? Is she really watching over
Her throat was choked with fresh tears. ¡°Why can¡¯t I see her?¡±
thought it strange that you never cried for Mother before, not even when she
first died. I guess you were holding it within you too,¡± Touya said, his voice
sounding worn out. ¡°I¡¯m sorry, Sakura, I¡¯m sorry.¡±
Recalling that instance, it now stumped Sakura why Touya had apologized.
¡°Don¡¯t cry, Sakura, don¡¯t cry,¡± Touya said in a broken voice as his little sister¡¯s sobs grew louder. ¡°I miss Mother too. I miss her so much. Yet, we must be strong. Father¡¯s always smiling for us. Let¡¯s not show him that we are in pain, Sakura.¡±
is strong so she can smile for me, right? Right, Sakura?¡±
Blinking away the tears from her round eyes to clear her vision, little Sakura stared at her brother. She could glimpse tears in her brother¡¯s midnight blue eyes. For as second, she hesitated before throwing her chubby arms around her brother¡¯s neck. As she sobbed into her brother¡¯s warm embrace, she could only call out, ¡°¡¯Nii-chan! ¡®Nii-chan!¡±
Holding his fragile baby sister in his arms, young Touya let silent tears stream down his cheeks, dropping onto Sakura¡¯s golden brown head.
¡°Earth to it, Sakura!¡± Syaoran said,
bending over and peering at Sakura¡¯s face, which had a stunned, melancholy
expression, uncanny coming from a five-year-old face. ¡°Hey, hurry up and seal
if she can¡¯t release that staff-thingy¡¦¡± Kai trailed off.
If I close my eyes and empty my heart. If I take a deep breath and open my mind. If the warm blood flowing through my veins intertwine with a glowing aura wrought from a profound belief in my heart, then, an inner vision is unveiled and I will see heavenly light. Staring at the dusky twilight sky, Sakura smiled. Onii-chan, I finally understand the meaning of those words.
¡°Release!¡± With the same ease as usual, little Sakura released her staff. This time, the pink staff was slightly shorter and lighter than usual, to match a child¡¯s strength. ¡°Spirit of the dark forces. I, Sakura, command you. Return to a new shape of contract! Sakura Card!¡± The Age materialized and turned into a card.
Now I can finally return to my real age,¡± Sakura said.
¡°Transform me first,¡± Syaoran said, tapping his feet impatiently. Amazing—Sakura had such powers submerged inside at such an early age. If she had started training as early as he did¡¦
Age! Revert Syaoran back to his actual age!¡± Sakura
commanded. Instantly, Syaoran reverted to his actual age.
That feels so much better,¡± Syaoran stated as his limbs grew and fitted back
perfectly into his battle outfit.
¡°Not much difference,¡± Kero-chan muttered. ¡°Especially in mentality.¡±
much difference?¡± With full force, Syaoran kicked Kero-chan into the air and
called out, ¡°Don¡¯t you know I went through the ¡®Li Clan Nightmare Training¡¯
while I was in Hong Kong? I have confidence that I grew at least twice as
strong as before. That¡¯s a big difference.¡±
¡°Hoee~ Kero-chan! Oh well. Now, myself!¡± Sakura struck her staff down on the Age once
more. Nothing happened. ¡°Hoe? HOEEE!!! I¡¯m stuck in
this form forever!¡±
panic, Sakura-chan! Let¡¯s go back to the Li apartment and try transforming Meilin
first,¡± Tomoyo said.
Syaoran, with an ill-concealed merry expression picked up little Sakura to
carry her back to the apartment.
Sakura grumbled. ¡°You take pleasure in my distress.¡±
I¡¯ve always wanted a younger sibling,¡± Syaoran said. ¡°And you can¡¯t blame me
for your own inability to convert yourself to your proper age.¡±
¡°Sadist.¡± Sakura stuck out her
out his own tongue, Syaoran replied, ¡°Revenge after standing me up for how many
hours last Sunday.
Sakura was left to gape, for the action and the words were so unlike what one would expect from Syaoran. Then she grinned. She deserved this baby treatment.
can¡¯t tell him¡¦¡± Meilin muttered in her sleep. ¡°I really can¡¯t.¡±
¡°Meilin-chan, wake up! We sealed the Age!¡± Sakura exclaimed as they all returned to Syaoran¡¯s apartment.
¡°Hmmm?¡± Meilin woke up drowsily. She had been sleeping the entire day, yet her head pounded. ¡°Really?¡±
¡°Meilin! What¡¯s wrong with you?¡± Syaoran
exclaimed, bending over in concern. His cousin¡¯s face was unusually red, and
her eyes were unfocused.
Meilin¡¯s forehead, Tomoyo said, ¡°Meilin¡¯s feverish.¡±
from being locked up in a chilly basement for three days, without proper drink
or food,¡± Kai said.
and revert her back to her original age; that¡¯ll give her more strength to find
sickness,¡± Syaoran said, feeling Meilin¡¯s forehead for himself. It was burning.
He had been too busy worrying about capturing the Age and hadn¡¯t even checked
on how Meilin was doing for the entire day. It was his mistake to leave her all
revert Meilin to her actual age!¡± Sakura commanded once more, and the little
infant creature came out and sprinkled the Sand of Time on Meilin.
up with her fifteen year old face, Meilin smiled. ¡°Thanks Sakura. Sorry for
causing so much trouble.¡±
no,¡± Sakura said. ¡°I¡¯m so sorry all this happened to you.¡±
the card seems to work for Meilin. I wonder why it can¡¯t work for Sakura,¡±
okay. We can carry out our plan and adopt five year old Sakura,¡± Kai said
joke lost flavor days ago,¡± Sakura snapped. ¡°This is serious.¡±
¡°I think something¡¯s holding you back in that age,¡± Syaoran said.
¡°Seeing that all three of us were reverted into different ages, I think the Age strategically chose which age to revert us into,¡± Syaoran explained.
do you mean?¡± Kero-chan asked.
¡°I get what Syaoran¡¯s saying,¡± Meilin said, smiling crookedly despite her flushed face. ¡°I just remembered, in my nine year old self, when Syaoran first became the Chosen One. I didn¡¯t want him to become the Chosen One. Because I knew that would take him far from me. Until then, we had always grown up together. But, when he trained to be the Chosen One, they sent him to far off places and eventually to Japan. And I lost him¡¦ he was already in a different zone¡¦ so far from me. I was all alone. Then, I then recalled¡¦ ¡± Her head had been nodding as she said this, and finally she toppled over on her pillow.
¡°Meilin-chan!¡± Sakura exclaimed as Meilin¡¯s breathing grew faster.
In a faint voice continued, she continued, ¡°I followed him¡¦ And I learned so many new things¡¦¡± For a moment, she was silent.
¡°Meilin-chan? Are you okay?¡±
head,¡± Meilin groaned. ¡°It hurts so much.¡±
¡°I¡¯m sorry, Meilin, I¡¯m sorry,¡± Syaoran whispered, stroking Meilin¡¯s damp head.
Meilin called out weakly. ¡°I have to tell you something.¡±
¡°Shh¡¦ You can tell me later. Rest now,¡± Syaoran said. He
beckoned the others to leave the room to let Meilin rest.
thought that girl ever could get sick,¡± Kai commented. ¡°Bet she¡¯s just putting
on a show to get sympathy.¡±
glared at Kai. ¡°Don¡¯t say that when you can see how much Meilin is suffering.
She¡¯s usually very healthy, which is why it¡¯s all the more serious when she
does get sick.¡±
you¡¯re always so protective and touchy about your cousin,¡± Kai grumbled. ¡°But
when it comes down to it, you¡¯re the one who has hurt her and made her suffer
¡°You bastard!¡± Syaoran knocked Kai to the ground, raising his fist to punch Kai hard.
Over the rim of his glasses, Kai stared at Syaoran plaintively. ¡°Do I speak anything untrue?¡± When Syaoran hesitated, he reiterated, ¡°Well, do I?¡±
don¡¯t fight,¡± Tomoyo said. ¡°Consider Sakura-chan¡¯s case right now. If she
doesn¡¯t go home this evening, her brother would be infuriated, to put things
¡°¡¯Nii-chan,¡± Sakura muttered. ¡°That¡¯s it¡¦ Something holding me back at this age. Something unresolved from when I was five. Something that¡¯s been bothering me in the bottom of my heart.¡±
is it?¡± Tomoyo asked.
Shutting her eyes, Sakura said, ¡°Until I was five, I merely thought that my mother was away on a far away journey. I did not understand the concept of death until I entered pre-school. Then, I was hurt, so hurt because I finally understood what it meant not to have a mother. My brother always took me to pre-school and picked me up when it ended. My father packed my lunch. So, I did not miss Mother until I saw the mothers of all the other children. Yet, I never said anything; I never complained to my father because he was always smiling for onii-chan and me.
once, just once I broke down. I don¡¯t know the exact cause, but that one time,
I cried and cried. When my brother tried to comfort me, I told him that I did
not need him. At that time, I did not know how much he sacrificed for me, and I
was ungrateful. Since he was always having to look
after me and handle household chores, he couldn¡¯t even make many friends and
hang out with other people after school. Yet, I did not appreciate him and said
many hasty, ignorant, regrettable things to him when he was trying his best as
a brother to look after me. And that¡¯s the one time I saw ¡®nii-chan
with tears in his eyes. He had never cried in front of me before, not even when
Mother died. Yet, just once I saw him break down in front of me. Never since
then has he cried in front of me. But since then, I regretted saying such harsh
words to him, though over time, I forgot about it.¡±
¡°So you¡¯re being held back at age five because you feel guilty and you wanted to apologize?¡± Tomoyo said.
¡°I think so,¡± Sakura said, wondering when she had forgotten this particular memory. Yes, she had tried her best to repress it because she had felt so guilty afterwards at that young age. So, she had continuously repeated to herself that her big brother was mean, bossy, and annoying.
¡°How silly of you!¡± Kai exclaimed. ¡°It¡¯s
not too late to tell him that. It¡¯s not like he disappeared for years like
Miho¡¯s idiotic brother. He¡¯s always been right beside you all these years, and
I bet he knows how much you appreciate him, even if you two always have those
sibling squabbles. You don¡¯t have to say so much in words, because you can
still understand each other; that¡¯s family bond, you know. There¡¯s no reason to
be held back by long passed by guilt. Think how bad you might feel if he
disappeared suddenly one day. After all, I think you realized your brother¡¯s
worth especially these last few months, that he spent
away at England.¡±
right, Kaitou-kun.¡± With confidence, Sakura took out her staff. ¡°I¡¯m glad I
remembered this certain memory, as guilty as I feel; but I can correct past
mistakes. There¡¯s no reason to be caught up in it. And I don¡¯t want to stay as
you guys¡¯ play thing anymore!¡±
I wished she could stay in that form,¡± Syaoran sighed to himself.
him, Sakura commanded once more. ¡°Age! Return me to my
With a poof of smoke, Sakura¡¯s limbs stretched out and returned to her fifteen year old self.
¡°Woa, sexy outfit,¡± Kai whistled.
¡°Shut up!¡± Sakura exclaimed, blushing. True to Tomoyo¡¯s word, her scarlet outfit had stretched out marvelously to fit her fifteen year old body, yet it was extremely tight and short in all aspects. Still, it felt good to look at all her friends level in the eye.
Syaoran, do you know why you were reverted to twelve years old?¡± Sakura asked.
¡°Hmm? Secret,¡± Syaoran replied, smiling.
¡°Not fair! You never tell me anything,¡± Sakura took off her crimson cloak, which was half choking her because the ribbon tying it around her neck wasn¡¯t stretchable. Now that she was back at to her regular age¡¦ Now what¡¦ Should she apologize to Syaoran for the incident last Sunday, for not appearing at the meeting place on time?
I¡¯m going home; my family must be worrying. Thanks, Syaoran, for letting me
stay overnight! ¡± Sakura said. ¡°Tell Meilin to feel better! And Kai, thanks for
your surprising words of wisdom.¡± She ran out of the house, stuffing her feet
into the boots prepared by Tomoyo. ¡°Hurry, let¡¯s go Kero-chan!¡±
Kai, and Syaoran stared at Sakura, rushing out of the house, shoes half on.
Sakura had forgotten to change out of her tight scarlet dress.
did I revert to twelve? Syaoran mused. Because that¡¯s when
I had the greatest dilemma of my life. When the Elders asked me
to return to Hong Kong, I did not want to leave you. Yet, I made the mistake of
returning anyway, unable to disobey their orders, and I almost made the biggest
mistake of my life. And I will never repeat such a mistake again, never. So
here I have returned to be by your side, and I plan to stay by your side from now
on. Come what may.
¡°Kaijou! Where have you been?¡± Touya
exclaimed, as he added another plate to the dining table. Then, his eyes
scanned Sakura¡¯s outfit up and down. ¡°Now, where did you get that scandalous
made it for me,¡± Sakura said, not untruthfully.
¡°Ah. That makes more sense than it doesn¡¯t. Well, hurry up. Dinner¡¯s getting cold. Father¡¯s eating out with his colleagues. So you have to do the dishes today. Hey, why are you staring at me with those eyes. You caused trouble, didn¡¯t you? Or you need to borrow money?¡±
¡°¡¯Nii-chan, have you seen Mother lately?¡± Sakura asked,
sitting down on the kitchen stool and leaning on the counter.
¡°No, not these days. I haven¡¯t seen her
frequently ever since I entered high school. You know that.¡±
you still miss her?¡±
about it, she died when I was too young for me to really miss her because I
don¡¯t remember that many things about her. Yet, you must remember so many
things about Mother.¡±
stared at his little sister blankly.
remember¡¦ Long ago, when I was five and you were in sixth grade, I cried so
much because I missed Mother. I was crying so hard, and you tried to cheer me
¡°Hmm?¡± Touya asked absentmindedly. ¡°Get the
plate from the cabinet, will you?¡±
that incident, I didn¡¯t mind not having Mother, because I had onii-chan,¡±
Sakura continued, as if Touya was paying the fullest attention to her words.
¡°You really caused something big, didn¡¯t you,¡± Touya said, teasingly. As Sakura busied herself with setting the table, his face became somber. He didn¡¯t know that Sakura still remembered that certain incident. It was one memory he preferred her to forget, the only time he had truly let his mask of brotherly composure slip away.
still recalled holding his fragile baby sister in his arms, with silent tears
stream down his cheeks, dropping onto Sakura¡¯s golden brown head. It was the
only time he had ever let tears escape in front of her. Even then, he knew he
mustn¡¯t break down for his sister¡¯s sake. Yet, I bet she doesn¡¯t remember
had stared up in surprise as he felt a third pair of arms reach out to embrace
them. ¡°Mother¡¦¡± he whispered. ¡°She¡¯s watching over us right now,
Sakura murmured. ¡°I¡¯m sorry, I¡¯m sorry because I made ¡®nii-chan
cry. I¡¯ll never be a bad girl again. But I wish so
much that I can see Mother one more time.¡±
Sakura, look hard enough,¡± he told her. ¡°Not with your eyes, but with
your mind. Your mother¡¯s daughter, so you¡¯ll be able to see.¡±
I can¡¯t see. Sakura¡¯s a good girl, but I still can¡¯t see,¡± Sakura said,
staring in vain.
stroking your hair right now,¡± he murmured.
¡°I believe you, ¡®nii-chan. I believe ¡®nii-chan,¡± Sakura said, as her tears completely ceased and a small smile played on herlips. Then her green eyes widened. ¡°Mommy?¡±
Meilin,¡± Syaoran said, placing a cool towel on his cousin¡¯s burning forehead.
¡°Sakura and the others returned home. I called Wei to let him know you¡¯re safe.
You¡¯re going to stay until your leg gets better, so rest well, and gain
strength again, okay?¡±
Meilin moaned, tossing in her bed. ¡°Syaoran¡¦¡±
¡°Shhh¡¦ I¡¯ll leave you now. Sleep now. Kai¡¯s frantically worried right now.¡± Syaoran forced a smile. ¡°Funny guy, isn¡¯t he? Seems to think it¡¯s his fault.¡±
Quietly, he turned off all the lights and left the room shutting the door.
¡°Has Meilin¡¯s fever gone down yet?¡± Kai asked, slouching down on the Li living room couch.
think it¡¯s getting higher. Her legs starting to swell up and ache again, also,¡±
Syaoran said. ¡°It seems to be a more serious break than I had anticipated.
Probably from having been untreated for three days.¡±
take her to the hospital tomorrow,¡± Kai said.
¡°It¡¯s okay, I can take her,¡± Syaoran replied hastily.
let me,¡± Kai insisted. ¡°It¡¯s my fault that she¡¯s sick anyway. If I took her to
the airport, she wouldn¡¯t have fallen into the hands of a dark force.¡±
know, you seem to harbor some special feelings for my cousin,¡± Syaoran said,
Smiling queerly, Kai replied, ¡°It¡¯s because I understand her better than any of you.¡±
Syaoran muttered. ¡°How is that possible?¡±
you look like you need some rest,¡± Kai said. ¡°I¡¯ll nurse Meilin for a while.¡±
¡°Are you sure?¡±
Kai gave a thumbs up and entered the room. ¡°Pay back time for eating off your kitchen all the time.¡±
the night, Meilin had recurring dreams about her childhood. Several times, she
woke up in the night, to see through blurred vision a straight figure sitting
by her bedside, staring down at her with gleaming, inscrutable eyes. Then, she
would fall back in to her surrealistic dream-state, which often reverted to a
vivid replay of her past.
After our cousin Li Leiyun¡¯s disappearance, Syaoran became a different person. At that time we were nine years old. Though he naturally was a cold, reserved person, he at least was kind to me and careful to humor all my tempers. Most members of the Li Clan ignored me and paid little heed to me because I have no magic powers, yet Syaoran was always patient and encouraging me. Yet, after the news that Leiyun had died, a chilling fury seemed to burn in his eyes, as he stated boldly to the Elders that he planned on becoming the Chosen One of the Li Clan. They warned him that it was a near impossible task, that one so young, weak, and inexperienced as he had little chance of even surviving the Test of Worthiness for the Chosen One and after that, endeavoring in all the ordeals and challenges that the Representative of the Li Clan would have to face.
¡°Syaoran, please, don¡¯t go through the Ordeal of the Chosen One! Don¡¯t go to Japan to collect the Clow Cards. Let the Elders send someone older, more experienced,¡± I pleaded Syaoran. Naively, I thought he would listen to me though he wouldn¡¯t listen to any of the adults.
Syaoran usually entertained all my whims, this time he was cold and grave and
never before had I heard such a fervent, determined ring in his voice. ¡°Meilin,
don¡¯t you see? This is the first time I ever felt I wanted to accomplish
something, the first time I really wanted to sweat and bleed for a goal. I too
know that I am yet ignorant and uninitiated, with so much more to learn. Yet, I
know I was born to be the Chosen One, and I know I can survive the Test. So out
of all people, I want you to wish me luck, Meilin. I will make the Li Clan
proud of me and honor my family.¡±
At those words, I could only nod; I couldn¡¯t not argue or cry, for Syaoran was so sincere. I could not oppose him. I think it was as I watched ten year old Syaoran pack his bags and leave for the airport to Japan, that I received the dreading feeling that Syaoran, by becoming the Chosen One, was lost to me forever, though I refused to accept it.
¡°Syaoran!¡± Meilin sat up on her bed, squinting. Sunlight was pouring into the bedroom. It took her a second to remember that she was fifteen years old and in Syaoran¡¯s apartment in Japan, not a nine/ten year old yearning for Syaoran to not become the Chosen One. Her right leg was throbbing again, but her fever seemed better after sleeping deeply. Then, her eyes flickered to the figure sitting by her bed, straight backed and not having moved an inch the entire night; her heart gave a thump.
been calling out his name all night,¡± Kai said with a grim expression. ¡°To the
point that I was about to tape your mouth shut, despite my reluctance to molest
a sick person. But luckily, you began to say some very interesting stuff in
your sleep, and I restrained.¡±
you been sitting there the entire night?¡± Meilin asked,
ignoring Kai¡¯s dripping sarcasm. Her heart sank, wondering how much Kai had learned
about her from her sleep talk. ¡°Where¡¯s Syaoran?¡±
¡°I told him to go to school. I¡¯m going to take you to the hospital once you fully wake up. Here, eat the breakfast that Syaoran prepared for you.¡± On the nightstand was a tray with steaming porridge and hot tea.
¡°So, what can¡¯t you tell Syaoran?¡± Kai asked, propping his chin on his hand as he watched Meilin eat. ¡°You were saying such nonsense last time also, before you were supposed to leave to Hong Kong.¡±
¡°What happened to the pretty silver locket that you always wear around your neck?¡± Meilin asked, staring at Kai¡¯s bare throat. ¡°The one that got Syaoran and Sakura into so much trouble over the summer?¡±
¡°I don¡¯t know, maybe I lost it,¡± Kai said sharply.
thought it¡¯s so important to you that you couldn¡¯t throw it away even back when
the Hong Kong police force attached a locating microchip to it. Now, you simply
don¡¯t you answer my question first, instead of avoiding it?¡± Kai replied
her head, Meilin stared at the golden cream flakes in the bowl. Why was this
aggravating person left to badger her? Why couldn¡¯t Syaoran be by her side
wanted to stay and nurse you. But I told him that I needed to find something
out from you because that something was bothering you deeply. And I knew you
would never tell him, so he agreed to leave you under my care, very
reluctantly,¡± Kai explained, as if reading her mind. ¡°So, I will find out
what¡¯s on your mind.¡±
Kai. Thanks for your concern, but it¡¯s not related to you, so I¡¯d rather keep
it to myself,¡± Meilin said stiffly.
¡°Fine, for now.¡± With a bright smile,
Kai took the emptied tray from Meilin¡¯s lap. ¡°Off to the lovely hospital we go!¡±
groaned. ¡°Though I might be grateful for your ardent care one day, right now I
wish Kaitou Magician was locked behind bars.¡±
¡°Sakura-chan! You came to school
today! We thought you were sick or something,¡± Naoko said, glancing sideways at
Syaoran, who was stooped over his seat in homeroom class.
wrong, Li-kun?¡± Aki asked. ¡°We have after school volunteer work at the hospital
today. Don¡¯t tell me you¡¯re already tired.¡±
sick so I spent all night nursing her,¡± Syaoran muttered. Actually, he and Kai
had taken shifts doing so. Believe it or not, he was immensely grateful to Kai
at that moment. While he had to shamefully admit that he had dozed off several
times in the nighttime, Kai had stayed awake throughout the entire long
interval without sleeping at all. Being a former thief, therefore completely nocturnal, did come in handy at times.
Kai-kun?¡± Sakura asked.
took Meilin to the hospital,¡± Syaoran replied.
¡°I¡¯ve never seen Meilin so sick before. She¡¯s always so healthy and energetic,¡± Sakura said.
¡°Yeah. She rarely gets sick.¡± Sighing,
Syaoran stared out the window. And rarely did Meilin get so troubled and
tormented from some nagging knowledge, though he knew not what.
school ended, the journalism club crew headed off to the hospital. It was a
torture for Syaoran to work in the office with Erika, under Touya.
Absentmindedly, Syaoran filed documents alphabetically. He was puzzled why the Age had attacked Meilin, and who had locked her up in the basement of some rundown building, not to mention why. After all, Meilin had no magical powers and posed no threat to anyone, especially not the Dark Ones—even less than Tomoyo. Another thing that puzzled him was why Meilin seemed so absentminded and vague during her entire visit to Japan. It was as if she was hiding something from him. Her whole excuse about skipping her school trip to Shanghai to visit him was suspicious.
Dark Ones confused him as well. After the magnanimous Fate, the Age was such an
unexpected dark force, as if it were some kind of diversion. It worried him
that the Wave and the Riddle were still lose. Most of
all, he was worried about his next door neighbor, Mizuki Kai. By now, he had no
doubt about Kai¡¯s good intentions, yet the missing pieces didn¡¯t fit together
and it did Kai no good that he managed to be as indiscernible as the Sphinx. On
top of that, he still hadn¡¯t sorted out old misunderstanding with Sakura.
don¡¯t daydream! This is a hospital, and we have urgent work to finish,
especially because of all those civilian injuries resulting from the recent
earthquakes¡± Touya berated. ¡°After you finish with the files, photocopy twenty
copies of this patient¡¯s chart. Chang-san, please work a little faster—even the
Brat works at twice your rate.¡±
Syaoran mumbled once Touya left the office.
know,¡± Erika said. ¡°One would think someone as handsome as he would have a
Syaoran said. ¡°He¡¯s a complete tyrant.¡±
better than working in the playroom, full of bratty, screaming children,¡± Erika
stated, stretching. Filing documents was the most boring work ever.
¡°True,¡± Syaoran said, almost smiling. Erika was so much better company when she was void of all her silly pretenses and loftiness.
of the children¡¯s playroom, I wonder how Mizuki-kun is doing,¡± Erika said,
stifling a giggle. It served that nasty thief right if he was having a
¡°SHUT UP!¡± Kai hollered, plugging his finger into each ear. Though he had skipped school that day, he still—unwisely—showed up for the volunteer work. After bringing Meilin He had stayed on in the Kinhoshi hospital the entire day,.
of all ages were screaming and shouting, running round and round the colorfully
decorated playroom. They were throwing toys at each other, jumping on each
other. It was hard to believe that they were actually patients. Most of the
truly ill children stayed in their rooms. All the noisy troublemakers of the
hospital were gathered in that room.
said, shut up you little #@%*#*!!!¡± Kai shouted one more time.
the children halted. Several of the younger ones plopped on the ground and
began howling, while the older ones stared up at Kai with new reverence.
What is going on in here?¡± Touya, who had come to inspect because of the noise
level, exclaimed. ¡°Mizuki-san, please tell me what you have been doing. Why are
there children crying on the floor?¡±
¡°Wah!!! ¡®Nii-san, he¡¯s scary!¡± cried one of the little girls, hanging onto Touya¡¯s leg and pointing at Kai, who had his arms crossed and was glaring at the children over the bridge of his sunglasses.
¡°As I would expect from Kai,¡± came a laughing voice. Thanking the nurse who had pushed her wheelchair to the playroom, Meilin wheeled herself in.
what are you doing out of bed?¡± Kai asked.
doctor said my temperature went down a lot. They finished casting my foot too.
See?¡± From her sitting positions, Meilin stuck out her right foot, plastered up
to her knee. ¡°I was restless, so I asked if someone could wheel me down to the
¡°To come torment me?¡± Kai grumbled. ¡°Tell
me, does a fifteen year old patient belong in a children¡¯s playroom?¡±
¡°I came to play with the ever so cordial candy-striper,¡± Meilin chuckled.
¡°Oooh~ Who¡¯s the pretty ¡®nee-san?¡±
the little girl who clung onto Touya¡¯s leg. ¡°Is she the big, mean, scary ¡®nii-san¡¯s girlfriend.¡±
whose girlfriend, you little snot?¡± Meilin exclaimed furiously.
¡°Wah!!! She¡¯s even scarier!¡±
The girl burst out crying over again.
Sighing, Touya left the room. Maybe it wasn¡¯t a good idea to assign that delinquent-like personnel to the children¡¯s playroom.
playroom hours ended, Kai wheeled Meilin back to her room in the west wing of
how long do you have to stay in the hospital?¡± Kai asked.
few days,¡± Meilin replied. ¡°The doctor said my leg bone broke pretty severely
and since it was left untreated for a few days, it got infected. It¡¯ll take
around a month to heal, he said. After I¡¯m released from the hospital, I¡¯ll
probably have to stay at Syaoran¡¯s for another month then, causing so much
trouble as usual.¡±
out of all people must know that Syaoran actually likes having you around,
believe it or not. He just worries a lot, that¡¯s all,¡± Kai said.
¡°Hmm?¡± Meilin sighed. ¡°I¡¯m so tired. I want
to run around instead of have my foot stuck in a cast.¡±
Meilin¡¦¡± Kai stopped the wheelchair. ¡°What is it that you can¡¯t tell Syaoran?¡±
are you talking about?¡± Meilin tried to wriggle her right foot toes and found
it impossible. Kai¡¯s persistence was amazing.
¡°In your delirious sleep, you kept on muttering that you can¡¯t tell ¡°him,¡± and I presume that the ¡°him¡± is Syaoran. What is it? It must be a very significant, disturbing thing that you can¡¯t tell even your cousin about.¡±
told you it¡¯s none of your business,¡± Meilin said. ¡°It¡¯s nothing important.¡±
were never good at lying,¡± Kai said, half chuckling. ¡°You can feel free to tell
me, you know. I think you won¡¯t get well unless you get the stress off your
can¡¯t say it. I can¡¯t say it to even you, though I want to,¡± Meilin said. ¡°Kai,
take me to my room. My head hurts.¡±
The nurse scolded Kai as she tucked Meilin back into the bed. ¡°You¡¯re not supposed to give patients mental stress! See, Li-san¡¯s temperature went up again.¡±
we¡¯re finished for the day,¡± Eron said, his golden brown eyes glimmering with
amusement. Though the Age hadn¡¯t exactly produced the effects he had desired,
it still had been interesting. From now on, things would become even more
foiled and interesting and certain cocky beings would be humbled.
¡°Hoe?¡± Sakura had been leaning dumbly against the wall of their last patient¡¯s room. It occurred to her that now she returned to her proper age, it was time that she repaid her debt to Syaoran. For the last several Sundays, she had avoided meeting Syaoran for this reason and that reason. Yet, it was true that she was deeply grateful for Syaoran¡¯s generosity in letting her stay at his apartment over the summer, and she wanted to express it to him.
said we are dismissed,¡± Eron repeated.
¡°Oh, sorry!¡± Sakura stood up straight. ¡°It¡¯s more fun working at the hospital than we anticipated, isn¡¯t it Eron-kun? Especially since Yukito-san is so nice when we go around from each patient room.¡±
slightly, Eron replied, ¡°But I still detest hospitals.¡±
¡±Oh.¡± Sakura was stumped.
still a pleasure to work side by side with you though,¡± Eron reassured. ¡°Look, isn¡¯t that Miho and her brother?¡±
Sakura was a little startled. Then, she strained her eyes down the hallway, then called out, ¡°Miho-chan!¡±
¡°Sakura-chan! It¡¯s been a long
time since I saw you!¡± Miho exclaimed. Quietly, she added, ¡°I see you¡¯ve
returned back to normal, Sakura.¡±
¡°Miho, don¡¯t run around the hospital like that; it¡¯s not good manners,¡± her brother scolded, panting after her. To Sakura and Eron he bowed, then smiled. ¡°Nice to meet you.¡±
and I were going to meet Mother today,¡± Miho said. ¡°We were going to surprise
her; she doesn¡¯t know that onii-chan is back yet. But Mother was sleeping, so
we didn¡¯t wake her. We¡¯ll have to come back another day. Onii-chan really wants
to surprise her. After all, a few days wouldn¡¯t matter after five years.¡± Miho
pretended to glare at her brother, who just pulled her nose.
Miho, let¡¯s go eat dinner now,¡± Mikai said. ¡°Where do you want to eat? Chinese, or Italian?¡±
see you two later!¡± Miho said. ¡°Oh yeah, can you tell Eriol that I¡¯m eating
dinner with ¡®nii-chan? I think he¡¯s still stuck
supervising in the elderly patients¡¯ lobby area.¡±
¡°Hope we meet again,¡± Mikai said, bowing.
Sakura took this moment to stare at the perfect-mannered Mikai with his cloudless gray eyes and his cordial smile, far different from her own brooding brother, who often had a dark, somber expression on his face and indiscernible midnight blue eyes.
Miho and Mikai leave, Eron commented, ¡°Miho looks very happy, doesn¡¯t she?¡±
¡°Eh? Yeah, she does,¡± Sakura stammered.
¡°Eron!¡± Erika waved, running down the hallway
in a very un-Erika-like manner and grabbing her twin¡¯s arm. ¡°Please save me. I
can¡¯t stand this place another second.¡±
Eron said, ¡°What is it now?¡±
brother of Sakura¡¯s is bossy to the point that Erika looks like an angel in
comparison,¡± Syaoran muttered.
insult onii-chan!¡± Sakura retorted, hands on hips.
the one who called him a bossy tyrant from the beginning,¡± Syaoran exclaimed.
insulting me?¡± Touya asked, emerging from the office. ¡°Is it the Brat?¡±
All four of them jumped guiltily.
wonder they say his sixth sense is uncanny,¡± Erika muttered.
their working hours had ended, Sakura and Syaoran were finally able to visit Meilin¡¯s
room. Her plastered leg was slung up and she was in the middle of verbally
attacking Kai when they entered the room.
¡°Hey, Meilin-chan, are you feeling better?¡± Sakura asked, handing a box of bonbons to Meilin. Seeing Meilin so heatedly arguing with Kai was an indication that she was.
heaps better,¡± Meilin replied. ¡°Sign my cast!¡±
Meilin, have I already told you about how Sakura stood up Syaoran for ten
hours,¡± Kai stated loudly.
did it increase to ten hours?¡± Sakura demanded. ¡°It was only six.¡±
¡°Only six?¡± Syaoran crossed him arms. ¡°Only six?¡±
that¡¯s not what I meant,¡± Sakura stammered. ¡°I¡¯m really¡¦¡±
tell me you¡¯re busy again this Sunday,¡± Syaoran said in exasperation.
the truth is, I¡¦¡±
standing me up for more than six hours¡¦ I wouldn¡¯t say anything usually, but
you have to admit that was a little extreme, don¡¯t you agree?¡±
¡°I¡¦¡± Sakura was cut short.
your excuse was, you were spending the day with your brother and Yukito-san,
eating good food and watching a movie,¡± Syaoran ranted on.
I really was¡¦ Hoe-e!¡± Sakura lifted her hands up in
surrender. I¡¯ve got to tell him, I really have to apologize and ask him if
he is free this Sunday. But I just can¡¯t, not when he¡¯s this angry!
¡°Therefore, we will meet this Sunday, 7 AM sharp,¡± Syaoran concluded.
¡°Hoe?¡± What, did he just ask me out?
better not be late this time!¡±
Sakura regained her voice. ¡°As if I was ever late beside that
one time! Don¡¯t your remember, back in Tokyo,
we had to meet at the Italian restaurant and you came late and that time that¡¦¡±
¡°You guys, go argue outside. This is a patients room!¡± Kai shoved the two out of the door and shut it tightly. ¡°Whew. What a noisy twosome.¡±
this, Meilin chuckled. ¡°Kai, you act like you¡¯re so old sometimes, when you¡¯re
I wonder if those two will ever reconcile.¡± Casually, Kai sat at the foot of Meilin¡¯s
bed. ¡°Yet, overall, things still are looking better for those two.¡±
should stop worrying about other¡¯s love affairs and worry about your own
problems,¡± Meilin said. Then she grinned. ¡°Those two have gotten much closer,
I¡¯m glad to see. That¡¯s why I can¡¯t¡¦¡± Her face fell.
why you can¡¯t tell? Please continue,¡± Kai urged. The feverish, desperate look
came over Meilin¡¯s eyes again.
¡°Syaoran¡¯s been trying so hard. He put aside everything to be here with Sakura. Things are finally going well for him now. I don¡¯t want to ruin his happiness.¡±
tensely at the edge of the bed, Kai waited for Meilin to continue. From her
expression, he knew she dreaded to speak on. There was an uneasy silence in the
room. ¡°Is it relating directly to Syaoran? Is that why you can¡¯t tell him?¡±
tried so hard, he gave all he had to become the Li Clan¡¯s Chosen One. You don¡¯t
know what kind of training he went under,¡± Meilin said. ¡°He really cares about
bringing his family honor.¡±
does this have to do with what you¡¯re trying to say?¡± Kai asked, bracing
himself. ¡°I¡¯ve trusted you before. Now, you can trust can trust me to listen
before you eat your heart away.¡±
was so proud that he became the successor to his father¡¯s title.¡± Meilin stared
up at Kai¡¯s eyes. ¡°You don¡¯t understand what I¡¯m saying, do you? What do you
know about belonging to a family, a clan as large and prominent as the Li¡¯s?¡±
¡°I understand a lot more than you think, homeless I may be,¡± Kai replied tightly. ¡°And I know even better that you¡¯re going to drive yourself crazy if you don¡¯t let out the so-terrible secret.¡± Yet, at this point, he knew Meilin would continue what ever he said.
¡°I know he cares deeply for Sakura, that he will never want to leave her, not now when the Dark Ones are at the peak of their power. I know that he¡¯s been struggling between family honor and his own desire to stay by Sakura¡¯s side.¡± She slipped her trembling hands underneath her blanket, to conceal from Kai that she was in a nervous-wreck, not that it was of any use.
With a deep frown on his brows, Kai listened intently. To his annoyance, his palms were sweaty from the anxiety.
in a sharp breath, Meilin continued, ¡°That¡¯s why I can¡¯t tell him that the Li
Council has voted to remove him as the Chosen One if he doesn¡¯t return to Hong
Wish-chan: Finally, New Trials
Chapter 42 is out! This is the longest I ever took to write a chapter, I think.
There are many bits and pieces in this chapter foreshadowing the chapters to
come. I was going to have a cute, happy S+S scene in this chapter, four months
ago, but I couldn¡¯t fit it in after all. I¡¯m sorry I left off with a cliff
hanger, but the next chapter will come out much sooner, I guarantee. I can¡¯t
say anything more without giving away spoilers. Sorry, I spent less time
editing this chapter than others, because of lack of time to work on it~
For reference, onii-chan, abbreviated to ¡®nii-chan (more childish, intimate) / onii-san (more formal) is older brother, or sometimes to an older male, though not related. Onee-chan/¡¯nee-chan/onee-san is older sister.
I really wanted to have a NT Christmas Special, I even have the plot in my head, but I didn¡¯t have the time to write it out with finals, college applications, SATs, and maintaining grades. Oh well; expect a spring/summer Christmas Special. Hehe. So, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all! Thank you so much for supporting New Trials and waiting all this time. I really appreciate it with all my heart! Thank you to all those who e-mailed me, also, and sorry if I didn¡¯t reply all of them; I read every single one of them and they motivated me to continue on and I became aware of how everyone¡¯s waiting for a new chapter, slow as I may be.
Comments cherished at my e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. I¡¯ve discontinued the use of my other account, so please e-mail me at this one. ^_^. And please visit my site at www.geocities.com/wishluv. I plan to update some parts of it after I come back from my trip to New York~ December 2002.