Chapter 52: On the Night the Lone Wolf Calls
It was a mild spring day twenty three years ago, just after the snow had thawed and trees were blooming.
“I wonder how many more years I have left to live,” Amamiya Nadeshiko remarked, twirling around to face Li Ryuuren. Her long braid whipped around her, strands of violet curls brushing Ryuuren’s cheeks ever so softly.
“Don’t say such morbid things on such a bright spring day like this,” Ryuuren said, stroking his cheek which still tingled.
Nadeshiko shielded her eyes with her hand and looked up at the magnificent rows of sakura trees lining up the path ahead of them. Everywhere they looked, they were surrounded by pink glory as the petals blew around them with the gentle spring breeze. “It’s so beautiful, isn’t it?” She reached up to pluck a branch of sakura blossoms. “Sakura. The most beautiful flowers of them all. No matter how sad or depressed you are, just looking at sakura blossoms makes you happier.”
“I guess,” Ryuuren replied,
blue eyes smiling merrily at Nadeshiko’s radiant face. “I’ve never seen such
cherry blossoms until I came to
“If I have a daughter, I think I would name her Sakura,” she commented, taking a whiff of the blossoms from the branch she had plucked. “Don’t you think it’s a pretty name? She won’t be clumsy or sickly like me, but she’ll be strong and healthy.”
Bending down to look Nadeshiko directly in the eye, Ryuuren murmurred, “Right. But I’ll be very very jealous of your husband.” She blinked, wondering if she heard right.
He was bent so near to her that Nadeshiko could feel his soft breath on her cheeks. To her surprise, he picked a sakura petal from her hair and took a step back. “R-really?” she asked, turning the color of the flowers she held in her hand.
Ryuuren laughed out loud, flicking her forehead. “You wish.”
At this, Nadeshiko pouted and stomped down the path carpeted by a thick later of flower petals. Ryuuren followed her, still laughing.
“Stop following me!” Nadeshiko called out.
“I’m not following you. There is only one path,” he replied back and continued to tail her.
After a while, Nadeshiko halted.
She whispered lowly to Ryuuren. “There’s someone following us.”
Immediately, Ryuuren drew Nadeshiko nearer to him and narrowed his sapphire eyes. “Dark force?”
Nadeshiko shook her head.
“Who’s there?” called out Ryuuren, swerving around. “Show your face immediately.”
A short, blonde middle-aged man stepped out from behind a tree. Clutched In his hand was a black Canon analog camera. “I-I’m sorry,” he stammered. “My name is Mark Kant, and I’m a photographer. H-here’s my name card.” He shoved his name card into Ryuuren’s hands as if to prove that he was not a shady person.
“Well, what do you want from us?” Ryuuren asked.
Gulping, Mark Kant continued, “As I said, I am a photographer, and I was wonder if I could photograph you two for a magazine shoot. The theme is ‘couples in the springtime.’ ”
“We’re not a couple!” exclaimed Ryuuren and Nadeshiko simultaneously.
Taken aback, Mark stammered, “Ah, well, it doesn’t matter. I would be honored to photograph you two.”
“Sorry, I’m not interested,” Ryuuren said.
Mark gazed wistfully at Nadeshiko. “How about you, ojou-san? The first time I saw you, that radiant contrast of hair and eyes color, the beautiful porcelain skin, I swore I must photograph you. I can make you big; I know for sure. We can find another male model to pose with you, but if you can do this photo shoot…”
“She’s not interested, either,” Ryuuren interrupted.
At this, Mark looked so abashed that Nadeshiko quickly assured, “Well, if it’s one photo shoot…”
“Nadeshiko!” Ryuuren exclaimed.
“What, it’s just one photo shoot—it’s not going to hurt,” Nadeshiko replied, her green eyes sparkling. “And you have to do it with me—I can’t possibly do it alone.”
“Please?” Nadeshiko blinked up at the older boy expectantly.
He sighed in relent.
was the launch of Nadeshiko’s modeling career at the age of 15, her last year of
junior high. As Mark Kant, the foreign photographer, promised, the “Couples in
Springtime” photo shoot for JJ magazine launched her a modeling contract and
made her name big in
afterwards, even after Nadeshiko married, she continued modeling. A fun
experience that had befallen her on one spring day while walking down the
dream-filled lane of cherry blossoms with the first man she had ever loved had
lead her to a life-long career. And back in
Syaoran at the age of 15 could not understand how his father could have left the
love of his life and return to
He ran out onto the streets, whipping out his Lasin board. He placed a frayed green ribbon on top of the board and chanted, “Imperial king of gods, your divinity watches over the four corners. Metal, wood, water, fire, earth. Thunder, wind, lightning. Whirling blade of light, I summon thee!”
For a while the Lasin board glowed, then faded again. Fingering the green ribbon with his left hand, Syaoran frowned. How could she completely disappear off the Lasin board? The only answer would be that either she was out of the country or an extremely strong spell was concealing her location. Was it a trap? The Dark Ones could have gotten her. Or, she might have… He took a sharp breath.
I can’t panic. Even if she wouldn’t tell me what she’s up to, she’d at least tell her best friend, Syaoran reasoned to cool his nerves, realizing that he had no clue where to start in his search. He’d have to enlist for help.
“Sakura-chan has disappeared?” Tomoyo exclaimed. She’d never seen Syaoran this anxious; she even had the tact to decline from mentioning videotaping let alone battle costume change. Syaoran had called everyone to his apartment, and the usual crew gathered without questioning Syaoran’s voice of urgency.
“The Lasin board doesn’t show any trace of her,” Syaoran replied grimly. “The only one I know who can put up such a strong barrier to conceal one’s location is Hiiragizawa Eriol.” He turned his head deliberately towards Eriol.
“Are you sure Sakura-san missing?” Eriol asked blandly. “You said you saw her at the hospital this morning. We might be preemptively panicking.”
Syaoran leaped forward and grabbed Eriol by the collar. “You know she’d stop at nothing in order to save everyone, given a chance. Where is Sakura?”
“I would tell you if I knew. Unfortunately, I have no clue myself where she is,” Eriol replied, peeling off Syaoran’s left hand from his collar. “I too have spent the past hour scouring for her location.”
“What do you mean you don’t know where she is? It’s your specialty to locate people, isn’t it?” Syaoran glared at Eriol.
“Well, it’s your specialty to be able to locate Sakura-san, isn’t it Li-kun? Besides, it seems like our Card Mistress knew we’d be on her track and set up a powerful barrier—so powerful that even her location is disclosed,” Eriol stated mildly. “It must be her doing it; I know for a fact that no one in the East is capable of setting up a barrier that I cannot detect with the exception of one who can wield the Shield to its full potential.”
“Why would she do something like that, all on her own, without telling any of us?” Syaoran demanded. He frowned, staring directly at Eriol. “You swear you didn’t tell her anything about the Plague?”
“It wasn’t me,” Eriol replied. “There are other people who could give her information besides me, you know.”
When Syaoran turned to Kero-chan, the yellow creature shook his head frantically. “I would never dream of telling Sakura-chan—I know better than anyone how determined she is.”
“Grrr… Arf!” Wolfie-chan barked at Kero-chan.
“Say, Wolfie-chan, do you know where she is?” Syaoran asked the dog who looked up at him with sorrowful golden brown eyes.
The dog shook his head, then nudged the wall, indicating next doors.
Syaoran blinked. Of course; why didn’t he realize sooner?
When Syaoran stormed into Kai’s bedroom, he was not surprised to find the bed empty. Don’t tell me that wretched thief got away… Syaoran yanked open the black silk curtains and slid open the balcony door, ignoring the parrot pecking at his arm. He found Kai perched on top of the balcony banister, presumably ready to jump off.
“What are you doing out there in the cold?” Syaoran demanded, looming over him.
“Cigarette break,” Kai replied, sneezing, slipping back onto the balcony with casual ease. Just a second more, and he would have been able to escape Syaoran’s wrath. Why, oh why did everyone insist on nagging him?
“You don’t smoke.” Syaoran sighed. “Look, I don’t have time to waste arguing with you. Do you happen to know where Sakura is?”
Shrugging, Kai replied, “How would I know if you don’t know?”
“Exactly,” Syaoran said, grabbing the collar of Kai’s shirt and dragging him up. “Would you care to enlighten me before things get bloody?”
“Why do you all come to plague me? What makes you think I’m involved in this, anyway?” Kai said, yanking his shirt away from Syaoran’s grasp. He was still drowsy and tired. These days, things seemed to be happening one after another, leaving him no moment of peace.
are only two sources in
Smirking, Kai replied, “You forget there’s a third factor. Sakura herself.”
“Why would she conceal herself from me?” Syaoran then paled. “Don’t tell me…”
Kai sighed—if he had a choice, he would be in a den of hyenas than facing the infamous Li temper at this moment. Even if he told Syaoran now, it was too late anyway; he wouldn’t be able to stop Sakura now. “I’m sorry Syaoran. I told her,” Kai said quietly. “I told her how to seal the Plague. And I gave her access to the Five Force Treasures.”
Syaoran swallowed hard. His worst fears were confirmed. There was no point in raging at Kai. “Where is she now?”
“I don’t know.”
“How long has it been since she left?”
“A little over an hour,” replied Kai. But still enough time for Sakura to do what she had to do.
Without listening any further, Syaoran jumped over the banister.
“Wait, we’re on the seventh floor!” Kai called out half-heartedly. He saw Syaoran had landed neatly on the road hundred feet below, then he dragged his leaden body indoors and collapsed back into bed. I’m sorry Syaoran. I’m fond of Sakura too, but it can’t be helped. And you won’t be able to stop her now, anyway. No one will.
Syaoran sprinted down the path, down to the main road. His breath came out in short puffs into the winter air; he wished he had remembered to bring his coat. Around a century and a half ago was the last time the Five Force Treasures were gathered in one spot, in order to seal the Plague that had been released by the Dark One. Since the seal on the Plague had been broken. The last time it was released, Li Ryuuren and Amamiya Nadeshiko took it upon their hands to use their own bodies as containers to seal the Plague. How they did it, Syaoran could not fathom. All he knew was that back then, they possessed three of the Five Treasures, and the ancient magic sealed within the treasures had lent them powers unimaginable to them. With all five treasures gathered in one spot, Syaoran did not know what powers would be granted upon Sakura. All he knew is that a single person could not be a vessel for such great source of magic and not be consumed by it.
“So, how are we going to find Sakura-chan?” Tomoyo asked, panting as she and the others caught up to Syaoran. “What did Kai-kun say?”
“She’s taken the Five Force Treasures—I think she’s up to some big mess right now,” Syaoran replied shortly.
When Tomoyo turned to Eriol to see his reaction, she was taken back to see his grim expression. She realized that he had known all along that it would come down to this. Yet, Eriol was not the one who told Sakura about the Five Force Treasures. Why had he kept the knowledge from Sakura?
“We can always split up and look,” Kero-chan suggested.
“If our Mistress didn’t want to be found, what makes you think that we’d be able to see her, even if we find her?” Yue, who had just arrived via air, commented disdainfully. Upon hearing the news of Sakura’s disappearance, Yue had flown over to the crew in a hurry. Kero-chan glared at his poison-tongued fellow guardian.
“No time. We’ve got to think,” Syaoran said. He fingered the frayed green ribbon in his pocket. So, she concealed her powers and her location through the Shield. Well, she was mistaken if she thought that would keep him from finding her. He had to stop her from doing something really stupid. He had to stop her before it was too late. But to do so, he had to find her first. Where could she be?
“Well, are we going to just stand around here then?” Miho demanded.
Li-kun’s right. The results will be detrimental if we don’t stop Sakura-san in
time.” Eriol spoke for the first time. “I’d be truthful—I have no idea where she
could be.” They all turned to Syaoran, remembering that last year in
Syaoran tapped his foot impatiently. He simply had to think like Sakura—and he knew her well enough to follow her train of logic. She’d need a relatively spacious, open-ceiling place to work, somewhere near the center of the town. She’d probably prefer a relatively elevated, quiet place, but also, somewhere that she feels safe and secure, comfortable in, where she won’t be disturbed in on a bustling Sunday. A familiar place.
“The school rooftop. Sakura’s at the school rooftop!” Syaoran exclaimed. It was so obvious, why did he not think of it earlier? “Cerberus, take me to the school.”
Cerberus did not even protest against Syaoran’s authoritative tone. Immediately Syaoran and Tomoyo jumped on his back, and Cerberus soared off into the sky. Miho and Eriol climbed on Spinel Sun’s back, and they tailed Cerberus and flew off towards the school.
Kinomoto Sakura, mistress of the Sakura Cards, sat in the center of the rooftop of Seijou Junior High in a circle made by the Five Force Treasures, the Mirror of Truth facing her, and beside it the Li Sword, on the other side the diamond necklace. Behind her was the sapphire ring and the ruby earrings of the Dark Ones. “Bestow the power of the Five Treasures onto your one humble servant to seal the foulest of dark forces,” she commanded, and the Five Treasures gleamed then rose into the air to surround her. Amamiya Hayashi’s diamond necklace settled around her neck, and the Chang rubies shimmered from her lobes. The Reed sapphire felt heavy around her ring finger while the Li Sword was lain in front of the Mizuki Mirror of Truth levitated in front of her. She held her staff with both hands, bracing herself as she summoned the Plague. “The Mirror that Sees. I summon the Plague in front of me. I, Sakura, command you under contract!”
The Plague, in the form of a large black rat with glowing crimson eyes, appeared in front of Sakura. Sakura shuddered at the sight of the vile vermin, realizing that it had been responsible for the death of countless people. For the death of her mother and Syaoran’s father.
It snarled at Sakura, realizing that it was she who had summoned him to the roof. Then it bared its fangs at the fresh meat laid right before it.
“Plague,” Sakura uttered through gritted teeth. “I’ll seal you if it’s the last thing I do. I won’t let you kill another person.”
The rat circled around Sakura, as if awaiting the right moment to prance at her and bite into her flesh, and suck the life out of her. It hissed at Sakura, like a cat humoring a mouse before prancing on it.
Yet, Sakura was past the point of fear, intimation or horror. She was completely calm, and knew what she must now do. Though she knew the Plague might attack her any moment, she swiped out the one card she had created out of her own will. “Heal! Cleanse the city of the Plague.” As she struck down her staff against the Heal Card, the Five Force Treasures blazed, and she felt fiery burning and an icy chill wrap around her veins, up her arms, channeled through her staff and into the Heal.
rat let out a piercing screech as it was blinded by the light, and it scurried
to a shadowed corner of the roof. Sakura relentlessly fed her power into the
Heal feeling her aura radiate out across from the school, into town. She emptied
her mind and signaled her powers towards the hospital, all throughout Tomoeda,
all the way to
At that moment, Syaoran and Tomoyo arrived soaring through the dusky orange sky on Cerberus’ back. Cerberus swerved around the school top, impressed to see that Syaoran’s deduction had been right. The great beast blinked its golden eyes, blinded by the blazing light that surrounded Sakura. It took them a second to realize what the large black rodent standing in front of Sakura actually was.
“SAKURA!” Syaoran shouted when he realized that Sakura was simply ignoring the black rat. “Stay away from the Plague!”
Cerberus tried to land on the rooftop but was repelled by a strong barrier and reeled off midair. Tomoyo and Syaoran clung onto the golden beast, shaken by the impact.
“What’s the matter?” Miho demanded, clutching onto Eriol’s waist, flying on Spinel Sun’s back.
“The barrier. Our Card Mistress won’t let us in,” Yue replied, circling around the circumference of the roof. He let fly a pointed silver feather to test the strength of the barrier; upon hitting the Shield, the feather’s tip sizzled, then blew away in the wind.
“Sakura, let us in!” Syaoran drew his sword clumsily with his left hand. “If you don’t let us in, we’ll have to break our way in!”
But Sakura was not listening. She was completely focused on the Plague. Through the Mirror of Truth, she could see that a glowing rose aura enveloped Kanto district, absorbing the previous black that had clouded the area, indicating the spread of the Plague. Sakura quavered as the last of the powers in the Five Force Treasure were absorbed into her staff and the light went out of the sapphire ring, then the Mirror of Truth. For a brief second, she saw the image of a woman with weary gray eyes and long unbound auburn hair stare out from the glass, shaking her head. Then the mirror toppled over onto the cement floor with a clatter. But she did not notice.
“A little more,” Sakura whispered to herself, oblivious to the ruckus around her. “A little more and I’ll rid of the Plague completely.” Her white knuckled hands were trembling from gripping her staff so tight. She felt a wave of nausea as she exerted all that she had left into the Heal card.
“Stop it, Sakura!” Syaoran screamed, banging on the barrier with his shoulder.
Tomoyo tightly gripped onto Syaoran’s sweater, afraid that he would fall off Cerberus’ back at this rate.
“Sakura, if you use anymore power, you’ll be cutting into your life source!” Syaoran continued, slamming his sword into the barrier, which repelled him so badly that he was flung off Cerberus’ back and dropped him down alongside the school building until Yue swept down and caught him.
“I don’t think she can hear us,” Yue told Syaoran.
Even while Syaoran was trying to find an opening in the Shield, Eriol had been deriving a powerful barrier breaking spell, hesitant to execute it because he was not sure what effect it would have on the barrier maker.
“What are you waiting for?” Miho demanded, as Eriol’s staff wavered. She pulled his arm down and pointed it to the barrier. The staff let out a stream of blue-black aura which shot down into the invisible barrier and etched black fissures around the barrier. Yet, it did not break; it only resulted in Sakura being aware of their presence for the first time. She lost concentration and looked up to see Syaoran pounding on blank air, shouting her name.
It was just the distraction the Plague needed to leap forward from its corner in the shadow, and pounce onto Sakura’s neck, sinking its venomous yellow fangs into Sakura’s soft flesh.
“NOOO!!!” cried Syaoran, hurling himself shoulder first against the barrier. This time, he clearly felt the barrier tremble—it would be a matter of time before it completely collapsed. But he did not have time.
Sakura let out a short gasp at the biting pain between her neck and collarbone and flung away the vermin with all her might. For the first time, she realized that her entire body was trembling because she had no strength left; it was difficult even to breathe. Her vision was fading and she could see black spots in front of her eyes. And she kept hearing Syaoran’s voice, even though she knew she had concealed herself and that no one could find her. She had to seal the Plague before its poison spread through her body. The Plague knew she was weak, and scampered towards the other side of the roof. A wave of nausea washed over Sakura, and her breath became rapid and truncated. Inch by inch, she dragged herself forward towards the Li Clan Sword. With trembling hand, she reached out and grabbed the hilt, then hoisted herself up using the sword as a crutch. She had to pin down the Plague. The sword was heavier than she had expected, and it took every bit of her aching arm muscles to lift it up above her head.
With all the strength she could muster, she leaped forward and swung the blade down with both arms, piercing the gigantic rat through its stomach. She did not even hear the piercing screech the rat let out, though Tomoyo, Miho and the others blocked their ears. She stared at the gleaming sword of the Li Clan, edge stained with black blood. The sword that had been Syaoran, and before that belonged to Li Ryuuren, the man that her mother had first loved, and the man who was the father of the one she loved. He would have been so proud of Syaoran, had he seen his son now. “This is for Syaoran’s father.” The rat still squirmed, but she did not relent. She raised the sword up fiercely and stabbed the rat again. Then there was Miho, who had lost her entire family, Kai, who had abandoned everything in order to find the Five Force Treasures, Mizuki Miara, who was confined to the hospital for all these years, separated from her children. She cried out loud, “This is for Miho-chan and her family.” She realized that her vision was blurred not because of lightheadedness but because tears were fast dripping down her cheeks, onto the sword, and she did not even known where she was swinging anymore. She said choked, stabbing the sword down again, “This is for Subaru, and all the centuries of your helpless victims.” Black gas vaporized around the Plague, seeping out of its wounds.
“Sakura! Stay away from the venom!” Eriol called out, slamming the bottom of his staff into the barrier. Miho was startled by the edge in his voice, for Eriol never raised his voice. Then again, neither did he ever look like tears would fall from his eyes, as if he had remembered something he had long since forgotten.
“And this is for me!” Sakura panted, sword already raised for the final blow. She struck down mercilessly, pinning the rat down straight through its heart to the ground. The mother that she never had—the Plague had taken away her father’s loved wife, leaving him to raise her and her brother on his own. The Plague flinched and screeched a bloodcurdling final wail. Everyone winced. Even as the rat-form evaporated, its poisonous fumes shrouded Sakura.
She gasped for air, picking up her staff again. The wound in her neck throbbed and her hands on her staff were burned raw from the energy exerted from her skin. Sakura, kneeling in front of the remnants of the Plague, held up her staff and cried out in gasps, “Spirit of the dark forces… I, Sakura command you. Return to a new shape under contract. Sakura Card!”
The Plague resisted the ultimate seal, trying to escape in all directions, but it was entrapped in Sakura’s overwhelming aura, bound by the magic circle of the Great Five. So deep was she in concentration that she did not see the awe in everyone’s eyes at what was unfolding before them.
The rat had mostly lost its form, but it red eyes still glared at Sakura. It let out a last malicious shriek, before it collapsed into a card. Even as she held the Plague card, with a black rodent on its face, she felt the Plague’s malevolent last attack streak through the weakened barrier, towards town. She could not yet conceive that the Plague had been sealed, for her body felt like every limb had been ripped apart from her torso, finger from hand, hand from arm, arm from shoulder. Her skin prickled as if she had been pressed against a scorching iron grid and then sprayed with salt. Several times, her eyeballs rolled back, but she realized that she could not collapse yet. And she was jolted back into reality when she felt Subaru’s heart beat grow weaker, back in the Kinhoshi hospital, where he had fallen into a coma. He was not healed yet. The Plague had left its mark. There were still numerous people remaining to be healed.
She could not quite sit up straight, but knelt down on the ground, unaware of the gravelly cement cutting into her knees. Even knowing that she was dry of her powers, she called out again, “Heal! Save Subaru!”
It took a second for Syaoran to realize what Sakura was doing. “No Sakura! You’re past your limit!” Syaoran shouted, pounding on the barrier, wondering when Sakura would come to her senses. Tomoyo was genuinely frightened as she saw a wild look of terror wash over Syaoran’s eyes.
But shaking her head, Sakura said to herself, “I promised Subaru I’ll save him.” Yet, the Heal would not release again, for she had nothing left in her. She waved her staff in the air, crying out, “Heal! I command you to release!”
“Why isn’t the barrier breaking?” Tomoyo asked, as Cerberus swooped around the rooftop for an opening. “Sakura-chan’s out of all her powers, isn’t she?”
“Look.” Eriol pointed to Sakura’s neck, around which hung the diamond necklace of Amamiya Hayashi, the last of the Five Force Treasures to retain its powers. The glimmering star-like gem was still glowing. “The last of the power embedded in that stone is sustaining both the barrier and Sakura-san—otherwise, she would have collapsed long ago.”
Even as Eriol pointed out that remaining source of power, Sakura looked down and realized the gem against her chest was still warm. Smiling in a euphoric state, she cupped the ovular stone in her two hands, and commanded, “Power of great ancestor Amamiya-sama; give thine all to me. I, Kinomoto Sakura, bind thee with blood and life.”
Eriol paled as he ascertained what Sakura was doing. “We’ve got to stop her. She’s cutting into what’s remaining of her life-source.”
“What do you mean?” Tomoyo asked, turning to Eriol. Was it terror that she heard in his voice?
“When a person uses up all their powers, it means that they’re powerless for the moment, but eventually it comes back. Like lost blood,” Eriol said gravely. “It happens to most of us when we get carried away. But what happens when you lose too much blood?”
“You can’t recover,” Miho replied grimly.
“And Sakura’s used up beyond her regular power. Power can be generated from any raw energy, and if she uses all of her lifeline—” Eriol could not bring himself to finish his own sentence.
“Sakura, listen to me! You’ve done more than you could have today. You’ve captured the Plague. You’ve rid of it forever. Now, let us handle the rest,” Syaoran cried out frantically. “You can stop now! There’s nothing more you can do!”
Golden-brown hair whipping over her sweaty face, Sakura tilted her head slightly, almost as if she heard Syaoran’s words. But, at this point she could not hear or see or feel anything; her body was entirely numb. All she knew was that she had to keep her promise to save Subaru. “HEAL!” A great rose-colored light, enwrapped in shimmers of pale yellow-green, flooded out of the rooftop.
“SAKURA! STOP IT!” Cerberus boomed out in his deep voice.
Tomoyo clenched her eyes shut, while Yue struck through the barrier with his bare fist.
Syaoran thrust all of his will into his sword point as he pierced into the barrier. He was met by a blazing resistance and his skin prickled, as if he was getting electrocuted. The barrier trembled at the impact and finally crumbled, and he fell onto the rooftop, shoulder-first. Oblivious to the stun from the hard impact, Syaoran ran towards Sakura, who even as he approached, wavered. She murmured softly, “I can’t sleep yet. I must save Subaru…” Even as she spoke, the light around her complete faded and they heard a large crack as the glow from the crystal turned dull and the stone split into two, falling onto the ground. And Sakura toppled over into Syaoran’s arms.
“Sakura!” Syaoran’s heart plummeted to his stomach. He shook her. “Sakura! Answer me!” But she swayed back and forth in his arms like a limp rag doll. With trembling fingers he felt her neck to check for her pulse. “Someone, call the ambulance.” His voice cracked. “We need to take her to the emergency room, now!”
“No!” Tomoyo gasped, jumping off from Cerberus’ back, stumbling towards Sakura.
Yue swerved up to Syaoran, taking one glance at his Mistress then sank down onto the rooftop, kneeling in front of her. Tomoyo had her cellphone out in her trembling hand, ready to dial.
Cerberus shook his head, “It’ll be quicker if I fly her—“
it’s dangerous in her unconscious state,” Eriol said. His staff was already in
his hand, and a golden sun circle materialized at their feet. “I’m going to
transport her to
“I’ll do that,” Tomoyo said, glancing over to the pale, pale Sakura, whose arm dangled so limply by her side. Tomoyo could see the ugly red welts on Sakura’s palm, where she had gripped her staff. Trying not to panic, Tomoyo bent over and tried to pick up the staff, which had returned to its key state, then quickly dropped it again because it was burning hot. She took out a handkerchief, then picked up the Key of Star and the fragments of the diamond crystal and the molten chain.
“I’m going with her,” said Syaoran in a low voice, clutching Sakura even tighter.
Eriol nodded without questioning further.
“Sakura’s going to be okay, right?” Miho asked in a small voice. She expected Eriol to confidently reassure her that Sakura just needed a good rest, and she would wake up tomorrow, fine.
Instead, he struck his black staff down, and Sakura and Syaoran disappeared from the school roof.
“Miho, you’ve got to do something for me,” Eriol said grimly, turning to the younger girl. “We’re going home right now.”
“But I want to go see Sakura in the hospital!” Miho protested.
“Later. Right now, you’re going to have to help me find some emergency measure spells,” Eriol continued, collecting the remaining four treasures. “Mizuki Mayura was the greatest healer of her time. I am counting on your help.”
Miho blinked up at Eriol. Eriol was always calm and omnipotent. When he was fighting the duel against Syaoran, when he was facing the Snow Queen was nothing compared to his current state. Eriol never perspired, never lost composure. Yet, there was a sense of urgency in Eriol’s deep voice that was never heard before.
Cerberus, who knew Clow Reed better than any mortal being, shook his head slowly. He knew that in Eriol’s eyes, he, Cerberus, Guardian of the Clow, had failed to protect his Mistress. “I’ll take you to find Sakura’s father,” he said to Tomoyo.
“I’ll go find Touya,” Yue said, flying off. He refused to believe that there was any harm to come to Sakura, yet her brother had a right to know, though he was reluctant to explain to Touya exactly why Sakura had been allowed to get to such a state.
Spinel Sun shot off back to the Clow estate with Eriol and Miho on his back towards the dark horizon.
“What do you mean she’s used up all of her life line?” Touya demanded to the person he despised most in the world.
Syaoran was not even listening to Touya anymore, for he did not have the energy or the will to argue with Sakura’s older brother. His right arm ached again—though it was stiff, he was able to move his fingers now. And his cough no longer brought up blood. Most of the symptoms in the patients that suffered from the Plague had subsided, and patients were being released from the hospital at a rapid rate.
Except for one. A pale Sakura lay on white sheets, motionless. The doctors had deemed that she was merely unconscious and would come about in her own time. They simply dismissed her from the emergency room, which was overcrowded with patients with more pressing matters. Sakura had been moved to the general room, then later transferred to a private suite by Daidouji Sonoko, who upon hearing that Sakura had collapsed, insisted upon the head doctor checking upon Sakura. Sonomi also demanded that Sakura should have her own room, instead of lying besides patients with “who knows what diseases and germs.”
Touya glared at Syaoran. “I said, what exactly happened to Sakura?”
“As I said before, Sakura was trying to capture the Plague,” Syaoran said with brevity, for he had already explained the situation to Touya upon arriving in the emergency room and again after the doctors’ reassurance that there was nothing wrong with Sakura. “And she got carried away.”
”What do you mean ‘carried away’? And what were all of you doing?” Touya asked, glaring at Yukito, who was grimmer than anyone could remember him to be.
“Sakura had a barrier around her. She used the power of the Five Force Treasures,” Yukito replied, unable to meet his best friend’s eyes. “You know its powers; no one can break them.”
“So, why exactly hasn’t she woken up by now?” Touya stared at Sakura’s fluttering eyelids. She could have almost been sleeping, but her face had a grayish pallor unseen before, and almost no breath came from her nose. The last time he had seen someone that chill aura… It had been his mother in her deathbed. “Her pulse is so shallow—she’s not sleeping, is she?”
“We don’t know,” Yukito replied wearily. “All we can do is wait.”
“And what if she does not wake up?” Touya demanded.
“Eriol’s coming up with something,” Yukito replied.
“Clow Reed’s reincarnation?” Touya scoffed. “Shouldn’t he have done something before she got to this state? I didn’t expect much from the Brat,” he glared at Syaoran, “But I’m sure this Clow or whatever could have done something.”
“You underestimate your sister’s strength,” Yukito said, gazing at Sakura’s still figure. “She sealed the Plague—no mortal has ever done that before. And she was trying to save everybody; she placed healing everyone above her own life. How many people can truly do that?”
“Is it all right that we don’t call for Sakura’s father?” Syaoran interjected. Tomoyo had not been able to get in touch with Kinomoto Fujitaka for he was out of town.
“Well, I think her father has a right to know,” Syaoran said quietly, ignoring the fact that Touya was glaring at him again.
“We will contact my father when there is a change in her condition,” Touya repeated, and that was final. And nobody challenged him other wise.
What followed were the longest, most anguishing days for Sakura’s friends and brother. When Sakura did not awake after the third day, even the doctors became concerned, as they hooked her up to IVs and checked her pulse frequently.
“Her pulse is getting weaker,” the doctor said solemnly. “At this rate…”
“Yet, we do not know what the cause is,” the second doctor stated. “Li-san, you mentioned that it was over exhaustion? Or it could be traces of the recent plague that has been circulating this neighborhood. But she’s not responding to any of our medication and antibiotics, and she shows no physical symptoms of the plague.”
“Can’t you do anything, doctor?” Touya demanded.
“I’m sorry, Kinomoto-kun. I know she’s your sister, but we cannot cure when we don’t know the cause,” replied the doctor, shaking his head slowly. He quickly retreated from the suite because the tension was stifling.
“Well, don’t you have a solution?” Touya asked, crossing his arms and facing the younger boy who had been haunting Sakura’s bedside for three days. “You’re from the high and mighty Li Clan or whatever, aren’t you? So, what did your masters teach you besides circus tricks?”
Syaoran was too weary to answer to Touya’s usual cutting remarks. The best Healers of the Li Clan would not have an answer, even if he had not been banished by the Elders. He had stayed by Sakura’s bedside for the past three days, day and night, without much sleep or food. Tomoyo had brought Syaoran his change of clothes. Even though it meant being constantly in the presence of Touya, Syaoran refused to let Sakura out of sight. Initially, Touya and Syaoran bickered and sulked around each other, but eventually, they simply accepted that the other must be present by Sakura, whose condition might change any moment. By the second day, they worked out shifts where each could take short meal and nap breaks while the other watched.
“Eriol has been researching for cures,” Yukito replied for Syaoran, picking up a glass of water and bringing it to Sakura’s lips to moisten her mouth.
Touya stared hard at Yukito’s white hands. He rubbed his eyes, wondering if lack of sleep was causing hallucinations. Then, he caught Syaoran’s eyes, and realized that it was true. He could see the glass straight through Yukito’s hands.
It was the fourth day that Sakura’s condition worsened. She had developed a burning fever and was perspiring so heavily that she was changed into a new gown every couple hours because the old one would become soaked, and she would start shivering. Though deep anguish was written on her face, she let out no sound, nor did she move at all. She was unresponsive to any treatment, medication and injection. And Sakura’s father was finally called for.
how could you not tell me about this?” Fujitaka demanded in a low voice when he
saw his daughter’s pale face against the white sheets. He was still in a suit
and he set down his briefcase on the ground, breathing heavily, for he had
caught the red-eye bullet train from
“We didn’t want to falsely worry you during your seminar,” Touya replied, realizing how ridiculous his excuse sounded.
“There is nothing more important than the health of my children,” Fujitaka answered. “I won’t ask any questions. Yet, I heard from the doctors that the cause Sakura-san’s coma is unknown, and that all we can do is wait.”
“Sakura will be all right,” Touya said in a broken voice. His eyes were red-rimmed from lack of sleep, and he was suddenly ashamed about trying to hide everything from his father. Of course his father knew best. After all, he had lost Nadeshiko—he knew better than any one else how trying illness could be. “I’m sorry otou-san, I’m sorry for not being able to protect Sakura.”
Touya leaned his head against his father’s shoulder, as if he were a boy of ten again, and Fujitaka patted Touya’s back gently. “You tried your best, Touya-san. Sakura-san is going to be all right. Nadeshiko-san is looking after her. Be brave, and trust Sakura-san’s will to wake from her sleep.” And suddenly, Touya was very glad that his father was by his side. Even when their mother had died, Fujitaka never showed tears in front of his children. His father was his greatest role model, and Touya grew up believing that even in adversity, one cannot lose composure. Yet, he also found it difficult to be as understanding and encompassing as his father.
Syaoran bowed down low to Sakura’s father, afraid that Fujitaka might be angered that he had allowed harm to befall his daughter. Instead, Fujitaka smiled and said, “Thank you, Li-san, for looking after Sakura-san.”
“I-I’m sorry,” Syaoran stammered, not knowing how else to respond.
will be glad to know you’re by her side,” Fujitaka said gently, because more
than anyone else, the boy from
That night, Fujitaka stayed by his daughter’s bedside, and Touya and Syaoran each got more than five hours of sleep for the first time in days. Over the night, Sakura’s fever quenched a little as Fujitaka wiped her sweaty forehead with a cool towel all night long.
Meanwhile, Tomoyo moved back and forth from the hospital and might have had the most difficult role out of anybody. She brought meals for the three men, for otherwise they would starve, she brought change of clothes for everyone, she cleaned Sakura and changed her out of her gowns soaked in sweat, she made sure there was a fresh bouquet of flower in the vase every morning, and she always made sure to bring Kero-chan, hidden in her skirt pocket. She also served as messenger between everyone.
One of her daily routine stops was the Reed mansion, which was devoid of its usual activity, for everyone was confined to the library and the basement.
Tomoyo hated to ask knowing that Eriol was trying his best, but aware that Sakura’s situation was worsening, but couldn’t help saying, “Eriol-kun, haven’t you found anything that might help Sakura, just a bit? She’s been… deteriorating.”
A disheveled Eriol sat on the wooden floor in the dim basement of his mansion, surrounded by mountains of books. His hands were covered in chalk dusk, and various magic circles and symbols were scrawled all over the floor. Miho was balanced on a ladder, sorting through books in the top row of the book shelf, while Nakuru went around, picking up useless books and reshelving them.
Miho yawned, swaying dangerously on the ladder for a moment, before Tomoyo caught her hand and helped her regain balance. “Impossible! What is this gibberish? Some of Clow Reed’s old books aren’t even in Japanese, nor English!”
“Well, we’re searching for the impossible,” Suppi-chan stated, glaring at Eriol with his narrow pupils. “There is simply no cure to save someone who’s used up their lifeline. It’s written in any spell book, universally, encrypted in laws that dates back from the start of time, that the one forbidden magic is to bring back someone from the dead.”
“Sakura’s not dead yet,” Kero-chan said flatly, crawling out of Tomoyo’s coat pocket. He was currently too weak to fly about as usual. Though to a lesser extent than Yue, he was feeling the effects of Sakura’s illness by now.
“She’s same as dead,” Suppi-chan replied. “She burned out her life-fire. If she had stopped when she used up all of her magic, then she might have had a chance—it still would take taken some time to recover. But you saw the diamond crack; it cracked because something inside her broke. She’s done what many foolish magicians have done—reached beyond her powers.”
“Sakura’s not foolish!” Miho retorted. “She knew what she was doing—and she didn’t stop because she knew that if she didn’t more lives would be lost. She hasn’t given up yet, and we’re going to find a way to save her.”
“There’s nothing you can do to bring her back, when she’s already gone too far to the other side,” Nakuru remarked, staring at Eriol wryly. “It’s not a simple cold we’re talking about. Even Clow Reed wouldn’t have been able to bring back someone marked by Death. He knew that better than anyone else.”
“But if Sakura…” Tomoyo gulped. “If Sakura ceases to be, what happens to Yue and Cerberus?”
“Unless she makes prior arrangement to seal us or pass us over to another master, we will also cease to be,” Kero-chan replied. “But as long as she is alive, Sakura is our one and only mistress.”
“That’s what I don’t understand,” Eriol said slowly, taking off his dusty glasses and rubbing his eyes. “Since her lifeline burned out the moment the diamond, which had been sustaining her till then, cracked, I don’t understand why she’s still alive.”
“Can you be anymore cheerful?” Miho snapped, jumping off the ladder, on top of the piles of books scattered on the ground. She almost slipped, steadied by Tomoyo.
“No, what I’m trying to say is that if Sakura’s lifeline had burned out completely, she should have died on the spot; she wouldn’t have fallen into a coma.” Eriol looked up at Tomoyo, who gazed upon him with sorrowful violet eyes. “It’s been five days, and she’s still in a deep sleep—something’s yet sustaining her life.” Though he could not guarantee anything, those were the most hopeful words he could provide her.
And Tomoyo smiled gratefully at Eriol, for she knew that he was trying his best to reassure her and all those who waited anxiously for Sakura to awaken, for none of them believed that Sakura could truly die.
Eriol left the house for the first time in a week to visit Sakura in the hospital and to check her condition. At the hospital, Yukito and Touya awaited eagerly to hear from the great sage himself. As Eriol relayed what he had told Tomoyo to them, Touya crossed his arms grimly, tapping his feet impatiently.
“You mean to tell me she should have died, but she’s still alive, so there’s some hope left?” Touya snorted at Eriol. “Is that the best diagnosis you can come up with after a week? And you call yourself some reincarnation of the greatest Magician of the East and West?”
Eriol ignored Touya’s sarcasm and said lowly, “I am saying that though the procedure is risky, we still have a possibility with it. Besides, we are in a dire situation so there is no choice but to risk it.” He turned to Yukito. Eriol blinked. For a second, he saw the wall straight through Yukito.
Yukito sighed—only he could deal with Touya when he in one of his tantrums; really, Touya’s temper was no better than a teenage boy going through puberty. “What Eriol-kun is saying is that Sakura has used up all her own powers, which is why she is unable to awake from her coma. Yet, her heart is still beating, which signifies that something is sustaining her life at the moment. Eventually, though, this source might die out, or simply become insufficient, and then she would surely disappear. But if, if she is replenished by some energy source, she might be able to awake.” Yukito paused, looking straight into Touya’s eyes. “We drew this idea from when ‘Yue’ was disappearing because Sakura’s power was too weak to sustain me. But then, you transferred your powers to me, so I did not disappear.”
Seeing Touya was listening now, Eriol continued, “Thus, I hypothesized that if Sakura received a transfer of a strong energy source, she might be able to at least regain her life force. Kind of like receiving blood transfer, when you’re bleeding to death. Like blood transfer, this would be a difficult process. If Sakura’s body is not compatible with the energy she receives and rejects it, the result can be catastrophic. Also, this would mean that an individual would be endangering his or her life and sacrifice all his or her powers in the process.”
“What is the chance of success?” Touya asked.
Eriol paused. “Less than fifty percent.”
Touya shook his head grimly. How could he allow a procedure that had less than a one in two chance of saving his sister? “And if Sakura doesn’t receive this transfer of power?”
“She won’t survive another week,” Eriol replied grimly. His midnight blue eyes darted over to Sakura’s sleeping figure. Even though it was dim, he could see it now. I see. I see what’s been sustaining Sakura. In all his lifetime, and Clow’s, he had never seen anything like it. But Eriol realized that with those two, it might be possible. Sitting by Sakura’s bedside, Syaoran silently watched Sakura’s sleeping face while digesting Eriol’s words. From his body threaded out a faint green light only visible to Eriol’s trained eye, which shrouded Sakura. With his great desire to save her, he had been feeding her body energy as soon as she collapsed. From the moment Sakura had used up her life source, till now, Syaoran had always been by Sakura’s side, sustaining her life thus far. Otherwise, she would have ceased the moment the diamond cracked. For the first time in days, Eriol mustered a half smile. And I don’t think he’s even aware of it.
Kero-chan, who had been peeking out from Tomoyo’s pocket, realized the energy source too. Tomoyo had been quietly sitting in the guest chair, listening to Eriol intently. It was not her place to interfere, and once again, all she could do was watch. But she knew that Sakura would be glad to have all her loved ones by her. Kero-chan murmured to Tomoyo, “I see what Eriol’s been saying, about the life support. It’s Syaoran’s power which is still keeping Sakura alive. But I don’t think he did it intentionally—it was the result of spur of the moment desperateness, feeding his ki into her body.”
Tomoyo strained her eyes, but she could not see what Kero-chan or Eriol saw. She whispered back, “So, Sakura’s body is taking it from him to stay alive? Or is he giving it to her?”
“It seems more like a mutual thing,“ Kero-chan reflected. It helped that the bond between the two was so deeply wrought. “I never realized how useful it was until now, that those two share that deep bond. I’ve heard Sakura that she can speak to Syaoran mind-to-mind. Only magicians with very intimate connection can do that. And you realize that Syaoran’s always been able to track Sakura. Over the years, they’ve sort of formed a thread tying their powers together, just enough so that they can keep a tab on each other. The sort of thing the Five Force Magicians did to strengthen themselves fivefold. Except, it happened for those two kids naturally by proximity and constantly battling side by side.”
“I see,” Tomoyo said quietly. “So, when Sakura passed out because all her powers were used up, she still had some of Syaoran’s as last resort to keep her alive.”
“Well, despite the risk factor, this is the only way to save her then, isn’t it? Why didn’t we think of this idea any sooner?” Touya stated when the significance of Yukito’s words finally dawned upon him. “Well, if it’s as simple as that, then I’ll do it. I’ll gladly give my powers to Sakura. I’ve done it before; I can do it again.”
“But you’ve only recently regained your powers—it’s a rare case that anyone regains their power after giving it up. Though you regained them after transferring them to Yue, it only happened because Sakura had a sudden burst in her power level,” Eriol warned. “If you give it up this time, you’ll probably never regain it. And you clearly remember the side effects on your body. Constant weariness and narcoleptic tendencies. It put a great strain on you physically and mentally.
“Do you think I care?” Touya replied. “As long as I save Sakura, I’ll do anything.”
“No, I’ll do it,” Syaoran said slowly, speaking for the first time. Listening to Tomoyo and Kero-chan whispering to each other, Syaoran himself had realized that for the first time, he could be useful. Yet, what did he have to hesitate for?
Glaring at Syaoran, Touya said, “I already said I’ll do it. It’s none of your concern.”
“No, it has to be me.” Syaoran stood up, walking towards Touya.
“She’s my sister.” Touya asserted to Syaoran, as if Syaoran was undermining his ability as a brother to protect his sister.
“Do you seriously think that your powers would be enough to wake her, let alone sustain her?” Syaoran’s amber eyes were level as he gazed at Touya. He was not challenging Touya, nor mocking him. He was simply stating the fact. “Her power has grown threefold since old days, and even then, her power was always greater than yours will ever be. It might have worked with Yue, because Yue only needed a little additional power to keep from disappearing. Yet, you remember better than anyone else what difficulties you had from the aftereffects of transferring your powers to Yue—you could barely support Yue’s powers, so how do you think you can support Sakura, who supports both Yue and Cerberus, on top of her hundred plus cards? To replenish Sakura’s lifeline, she needs someone of equal power. Out of anybody, my powers are most similar to hers, and I know her powers better than anyone else. I’m the only one who can do this.”
Touya glared at the younger boy, opening his mouth then shutting it again. For he knew that what Syaoran said was right. Despite his crushed pride, despite a reluctance to allow any proximity between Sakura and the Brat, Touya still placed Sakura’s life over all his selfish own whims. And he too saw that pale green aura glimmering from Sakura’s skin. The bond had already been made. “So be it.”
“I promise to save Sakura,” Syaoran said, looking directly into Touya’s eyes.
“Well, I’m allowing this only out of necessity, not choice,” Touya stated gruffly.
“And I’m doing this because of choice, not necessity,” Syaoran replied. He reached over to Sakura’s hair, almost about to stroke it, before realizing that he did not want to provoke Touya anymore at this point.
Eriol frowned. “Li-kun, you realize that once you give up your powers, you’ll be giving it up completely. It’ll never return, so long as Sakura’s alive. And you won’t be able to perform any spells. Side effects could include fatigue and drowsiness, and in extreme cases, the transfer can backfire. If you want to consult with the Clan before…”
Syaoran crossed his arms “Hiiragizawa, just tell me what I should do. How exactly do I transfer my powers to Sakura?”
“Very well.” Eriol did not doubt Syaoran’s determination. Yet, he knew the Elders would not be very happy when they heard about this, whether or not they had already disowned Li Syaoran. “It’s quite a delicate process. It would work best if the other side was conscious, and could control the flow of power entering her body. When the transfer is one-sided, it is difficult for the transferor to measure the amount needed by the transferee.”
“I can manage,” Syaoran said. “Well, anything else about the procedure?”
“Well.” Eriol cleared his throat. “I’m not really quite sure how it would work, since I’ve never done it myself. I would say it might require some intimate physical contact or a focal object, but…”
Touya coughed. “I think I should do this after all.”
Sighing, Syaoran said, “I think I can figure it out myself. Now, if I can have some privacy. What ever happens, don’t let anyone in and none of you return to the room until I give clearance. For the worst case scenario, Kinomoto-san, stay stand-by. Hiiragizawa, I trust you with forming a barrier around the room to protect any power from leaking in or out.”
Everyone cleared the room quietly, and even Touya did not protest against Syaoran’s orders. Then, Syaoran drew all the shades down over the windows and locked the door. He stared at Sakura, who almost looked like she was simply taking a nap on the bed, in her pink lace gown—if nothing else, Tomoyo made sure Sakura was dressed like a princess even in her sleep, declaring the hospital gowns “hideous” and the “greatest crime in fashion since huge shoulder pads.”
It was his first chance alone with her in days. He leaned over the bed, staring at Sakura’s white face. When was the last time he had a chance to see her up so close? “Hey, Sakura, can you hear me? Who do you think you are, causing so many people to worry? Once you wake up, you better apologize to everyone. Your father, brother, Tomoyo, Miho, Kero-chan, Yukito-san, everyone’s so worried about you. What about me? I’m not worried. I know you’re going to be all right. So, you better get better, fast, okay?” He stroked her cheek, which was so cold.
“Hey, Sakura, when you wake up, I might not quite be the same anymore. I’m not going to have any powers. So, I might not be able to protect you. But, I’ll still fight till the end, okay? No matter what happens, no matter what befalls us, I’ll always be on your side. Remember that. Even if I don’t have powers, even if I’m not the Chosen One, even if I can’t always be gentle and kind to you, even if you can’t always see me with your eyes, I’m still here by your side. I’m sorry I can’t be your prince coming to save the day, for I’ll be powerless from now on, but if you turn around and watch your shadow, you’ll find me waiting and guarding your back. Just let me be your black knight, forever, if I can do nothing more for you.” He felt his throat clog up, and he wondered if she could really hear him. “You’re strong, Sakura, and you’ll do many great things as Card Mistress even without me. So no matter what, I want you to know that I’m so glad that I fell in love with you. You gave me a brief glimpse of a vision that would have forever been shielded from me had you not smiled upon me. So, don’t be sorry and always be strong and move forward. Sakura, I love you; I love you so you’re going to live a long happy life. That is the last gift I can give you.”
He carefully took her right hand, tracing the fading red welts on it. She had been so focused on healing everyone that she did not realize that she was burning her own skin. It broke to see her tender palms marred by scars and he brought her chill hand to his lips. Then, Syaoran bent over Sakura’s head and kissed her lightly on the forehead. Her skin felt so cold against his lips, but the soft breath that tickled his cheek was yet warm. He peaked out through the gap in the window shades—the moon was finally up. Taking a deep breath, he focused all of his powers into the tip of his hands. Each person had a different focal point of power, the body part that can contain the greatest concentration of power. His were his hands, because of his extensive practice in swordsmanship and also because most of the spells require focusing his energy into the tip of his fingers before releasing his ofudas. Kai’s focal powers lay at his feet, though an equal amount probably rested in his hands also, while Touya’s focal point were his eyes; Yue’s was his back and Cerberus’ his mouth. It was more difficult to tell with those like Eriol or Sakura because they contained so much raw energy; but Syaoran would not be surprised if Eriol’s was his mind—organs counted as body parts also—and Sakura’s was likely to be her heart.
It might have been hours or days later—Syaoran did not know. Time had momentarily stopped for him. He was perspiring hard and beads of sweat rolled down his temple from his wet brown hair plastered over his forehead. He felt so faint—the last time he had felt like this was when had finished the final test to become the Chosen One, or that time he had struggled to stay awake during the final battle against Eriol. “Sakura, please wake up,” Syaoran murmured. If Sakura didn’t wake up after this, it would be over—he would give out before she even stirred. He gathered every remaining fire within him and pressed it straight into Sakura’s heart, giving it a final jolt. And as he felt the last trail of green energy leave his hands and seep into Sakura’s body, he collapsed over the bed.
When Syaoran awoke, he was greeted by bright daylight seeping into open shades. He woke up with a backache from the hard cot, feeling more exhausted than he had after his duel against Eriol. Ah, this strange feeling—I feel as if I’m deaf and blind. But I can see, I can hear and I can breathe. What is this stifling sensation? Then, he realized with a jolt. “Sakura!”
Tomoyo bent over Syaoran. “Syaoran-kun, you’re finally awake. I’m sorry—we broke your orders. We started getting worried after you didn’t come about after half a day, so we broke in. You were asleep, so Yukito-san moved you to the cot.” Tomoyo failed to mention that had Touya had his choice, he would have thrown Syaoran onto the benches outside upon discovering Syaoran’s head on top of Sakura’s bed, tightly holding her hand.
“And Sakura?” Syaoran sat up, the flannel blanket covering him sliding onto the floor. “Did it work? Has she woken up yet?”
“Not yet.” Tomoyo quickly reassured when she saw his frown, “But no, it did work—she’s just in a sleep now, not a coma. Come, look for yourself.”
Fujitaka and Touya sat by Sakura’s bedside, waiting for Sakura to wake up any moment. And when Syaoran glimpsed Sakura’s softly breathing figure, he sighed in relief. There was no mistaking that death was no longer looming by her bedside, for a rosy flush had returned to her cheeks, and she was breathing normally; her fever had completely subsided. As he approached as near to her as possible without Touya throwing a fit, Sakura stirred. She blinked her deep evergreen eyes several times, before they focused on the white walls, and the blobs of heads surrounding her.
“Where… am I?” she asked in a hoarse voice.
“Kaijou!” Touya cried out.
“Sakura-chan!” Tomoyo squealed. And no one thought strangely of the yellow stuffed animal flying out of her pocket and landing on Sakura’s lap.
Then, she jerked her head to Syaoran. “Wait! The Plague... your arm…”
“It’s captured,” he said, rolling up his right sleeve and showing her his arm—it was still sore, but he could move it.
Sakura barely smiled in relief. “Subaru-chan’s all right then? I’m so relieved.”
Everyone in the room shifted uncomfortably, but Sakura did not notice for she was overtaken by relief that the Plague was finally sealed. She shifted her left arm and realizing all the needles inserted in it. “Why am I in the hospital?”
“Silly, you collapsed after capturing the Plague, and you’ve been in a coma for a week now,” Tomoyo replied. “Don’t you ever scare me like that again.” She flung her arms around Sakura’s neck and sobbed in relief. “You know how worried everyone was?”
“I’m sorry,” Sakura said weakly. She turned to her brother and father. “Sorry, onii-chan, otou-san… I—“
“Hush, you can do you explaining some other day, when you’ve regained your usual energy,” her father told her, brushing the hair from Sakura’s forehead. “Save your words for now, Sakura-san.”
“Kaijou—wait till we get home,” Touya said in a cracking voice. “You should expect to have cleaning and cooking duty for a month. And you’re completely grounded.”
“Okay,” Sakura replied meekly.
The doctor entered the room. “Good to see Kinomoto Sakura-san has finally awoken from her coma—she’ll need some more time for recovery, and we’ll run some tests to make sure she’s completely okay. Now, everyone out. Let the girl get some rest.”
Sakura was ashamed to find that she was too weak to feed herself, and that she did not have strength to sit up on her own, let alone stand and walk. “Why am I so weak still?” Sakura asked tearfully. She stared down at the tray of unappetizing hospital food. Tomoyo had propped her up against pillows for mealtime.
“So, eat up and regain strength,” Tomoyo said, feeding Sakura a spoonful of unseasoned rice porridge. “When you’re a little better, I’ll sneak in some outside food.”
“I must have missed so much school,” Sakura commented. “I don’t want you to miss any more lessons because of me, either.”
“Oh, school had been canceled until this week—everyone was recovering from the Plague or the flu, and with more than half the student in quarantine, it was useless to resume classes. And Syaoran-kun’s taking notes today for me, so I can spend all my time with Sakura-chan!” Tomoyo said falsely cheerful.
“Sorry,” Sakura said, chewing and chewing on the porridge, which she couldn’t quite bring herself to swallow.
“Stop apologizing. You were saving everyone’s lives—we should be the ones thanking you,” Tomoyo replied, setting down the spoon. It was impossible to get Sakura to eat even a mouthful. “Here, drink some water—you must be dehydrated from sweating so much.”
Shaking her head, Sakura said quietly, “Nee, Tomoyo. I want to see Subaru.”
Tomoyo set down the cup again. “Not yet—when you’re better.”
“I’m okay now. I need to see Su-chan—he must have missed me a lot,” Sakura said wistfully. “You know his tantrums when he doesn’t get his own way.”
Staring at the gravely white texture of the porridge, Tomoyo said, “Sakura-chan, listen to me carefully.” They had all agreed that it would be best not to tell Sakura, at least not until she was dismissed from the hospital. Yet that was not being fair to Sakura. Tomoyo found it harder to bring up than she had anticipated, and slowly continued, “Subaru’s… not here anymore.”
“What do you mean? Did he return to the orphanage already?” Sakura asked.
“No. Subaru… he never awoke from that coma.” Tomoyo looked up at Sakura with cloudy violet eyes.
“But I destroyed the Plague,” Sakura said distractedly. “I promised him that I’ll save him.”
“Sakura, he was already dead, before you sealed the Plague,” Tomoyo said. “You tried your best, and Subaru knows it too. He’s now in a better place.”
“No, Su-chan can’t be dead.” Sakura’s eyes were no longer focused. “I promised to take him to the aquarium. He was going to learn how to rollerblade and play soccer.”
“I’m sorry, Sakura.” Tomoyo shook her head. “If it wasn’t the Plague—he was dying from the tumor already. We all knew this.”
“I couldn’t do anything for him!” Sakura’s green eyes were dilated.
“No, Sakura, you gave him more love than he had ever received before.” Tomoyo cleared away the tray, realizing Sakura might topple it over soon.
“And what good was that? Nothing. Everything I did was useless.” Wetness flowed from Sakura’s eyes, plopping onto the blankets.
“It wasn’t useless!” Tomoyo said fiercely, tears rolling down her face also. “You sealed the Plague. You cure numerous people. Of course you can’t save those whose health has already completely deteriorated. But you did the impossible, something that not even your mother of Syaoran’s father could do.”
“But I couldn’t save Subaru,” Sakura murmured, lying back down on the bed, too tired to even argue. “I’m sorry, Tomoyo-chan, do you mind leaving me alone for a while? I’m sleepy.”
“I’ll come back in the evening, Sakura-chan.” Tomoyo picked up the tray and left the room with heavy feet. She took one last glance at Sakura, who lay on her back without sleeping, her eyes unfocused as she stared up at the ceiling. If it was Sakura of old days,Tomoyo could hug her best friend and reassure her. Instead, the Sakura now refused to talk, refused to argue, refused to listen.
“Why isn’t she improving at all, doctor?” Touya demanded, crossing his arms. “Why is she still so weak and listless?”
“There isn’t anything physically wrong with her, according to examinations,” the doctor replied, reviewing Sakura’s chart. “But she’s not eating well, and she should be now that we’ve taken her off the IVs. The trouble is she’s not showing to desire to recover. I would not be surprised if it’s more of a psychological problem.”
“What do you mean?” Touya glanced over at his sister, who lay in bed staring at the wall listlessly.
“Is there some sort of worry that might be bothering your sister? Or it can be post-illness trauma,” the doctor replied.
Touya walked up to Sakura’s bedside. “Sakura,” he called out. She continued to stare up with blank glass green eyes. “Sakura, are you listening to me?”
“Syaoran. I want Syaoran,” Sakura whispered, turning to her brother. “Where’s Syaoran?” Syaoran had not visited her once since she’d awaken. Syaoran would understand; he’d be sympathetic and explain things to her.
“Can’t I do anything for you?” Touya asked, torn by the way Sakura called for the boy’s name so forlornly.
Sakura shook her head. “Syaoran…”
“I’ll get him, okay?” Touya frowned. Why did Sakura call for Syaoran? Why couldn’t she confide in him, in anyone else? He guiltily realized that Syaoran avoided visiting Sakura’s room in order to avoid the grouchy old brother, even when the boy was in the hospital five days of the week for after school volunteer service. Even when that prideful boy had sacrificed everything to save his little sister.
Touya found Syaoran in the children’s playroom, cleaning up the scattered toys and gathering up pieces of jigsaw puzzles, Kai’s old job. Syaoran did not look up when Touya walked up next to him and helped gather up the building blocks.
When Syaoran failed to acknowledge his presence, Touya cleared his throat. “Hey you, don’t you want to go visit Sakura’s room?” Touya would never tell the Brat that Sakura was calling for him.
“I’m busy,” Syaoran replied, stacking the cushions up and folding up the mats. “And I have waiter shift afterwards till 10.”
“I see.” There was an awkward silence—Touya did not know how to make conversation with this glowering boy. “Well, how’re you doing these days?” Touya asked gruffly, realizing that Syaoran was not his usual spitfire self. Though he could not remember when Syaoran did not look tired anymore, Touya recalled that the boy used to have more vigor behind his voice, more of an edge.
“Not bad. Don’t worry; I’m not suffering from any of the symptoms that you suffered when you transferred your powers to Yue. My body’s more resilient than yours.” Syaoran replied in his usual curtness.
“Good. I won’t waste any concern on you then.” Touya sighed and reluctantly remarked, “Well, why don’t you go see Sakura? I can finish up here. She hasn’t been doing well lately. See if you can cheer her up and maybe get what’s on her mind.”
Alarmed at Touya’s unexpected request, Syaoran asked tensely, “Is she not responding well to the power transfer?”
“No, I think it’s something
else.” Touya watched the younger boy with blue-black eyes. This was the last
time he needed Li Syaoran. Once Sakura’s health was fully restored, he’d get rid
of the boy from
Syaoran didn’t look up. “She heard of Subaru’s death, didn’t she?”
“Sakura’s never directly dealt with death—she was too young to remember Mother’s death. I think its hit her hard.” Touya swallowed hard, trying to read Syaoran’s expression. “It would be good to have a friend talk things out with her.” He couldn’t admit that he himself did not have the courage to confront his sister about Subaru.
“I’ll go see her. But I have a request,” Syaoran said, somber. “Don’t tell Sakura about the power transfer. Knowing her, she’d feel guilty about it and try to return it, not knowing she’d die if she did that.”
“Don’t worry; I’m not stupid. I’m not going to let her know how close she was to death. Besides, I hate to think that she’s in debt to the likes of you,” Touya replied shortly.
“She’s not. I just repaying my debt to her; she’s saved me more times than I can repay,” Syaoran stated wistfully. “Before her, I was just a skilled puppet. Now, I’m powerless, but I’m still human.”
Touya stared at Syaoran in well-concealed awe, for the boy spoke words that were older and wiser than he would expect from a junior high student. But then again, Li Syaoran had never been just a regular student. It was regrettable, for if he had met the boy in any other circumstance, he might had respected him and liked him well enough. However, under the current situation, Touya disdained Li Syaoran more than any other person in the world.
Sakura’s eyes brightened slightly when she saw that a sullen boy with dark brown hair enter the room with a small bouquet of white lilies. The sweet scent filled the room, reminding her of a warm breeze over a lily pond in a midsummer’s night.
“Syaoran! You came.” Sakura almost managed to smile at him.
“You look all right,” Syaoran said, thrusting the flower into Sakura’s hands.
“For me? Thanks.” Sakura smiled sadly, laying the bouquet on her blanket-covered lap.
“So, how have you been doing? I heard you’re not eating well and you’re not even trying to recover.” Syaoran scowled. “You want to cause everyone more worry? Hurry up and get healthy again. This is not like you.”
“I’m sorry. I’m trying,” Sakura replied, the smile dropping from her face. “But why am I so weak? I don’t feel right—like I’ve run a marathon and I can’t quench my thirst, no matter how much water I drink.”
“Silly, of course you’ll feel weak and shaky after using all your energy up to capture the Plague and then using the Heal—even with the help of the Five Force Treasures, you’ve done an incredible feat for someone your age.” Syaoran found that he could not meet Sakura’ eye and instead stared at the flowers in her hand. Her body was not rejecting his power of the moon, was it? No, he would have felt it if her body was not reacting well to the power transfer. Besides, he could not tell her she was weak because she almost died, because she no longer had the power of stars within her.
“Nee, Syaoran.” Sakura looked up at the boy who stared at her with somber amber eyes. “I’ve been thinking, and I decided not to use magic anymore. I realized that I don’t know how to control my own magic, and I cause more harm than good in doing so, and ceaseless worry for everyone. And I can’t even change anything, even with my magic. So what’s the use in struggling with it? I’m not going to be Card Mistress anymore.”
“So be it,” Syaoran said quietly. He did not think she realized the extent of danger she had been in—it made him angry but he could not berate her in such a state.
Sakura blinked, clearly surprised at his consent. “I didn’t think you’d agree with my decision.”
“It’s your choice. There’s no use in doing magic when you don’t have confidence in your abilities and your motivations,” Syaoran replied.
For some reason, Sakura was more abashed by Syaoran’s words than reassured.
“Well, I have to leave now.” Syaoran patted Sakura’s head and slung his bag over his shoulder.
“You’re leaving already?” Sakura desperately wanted to ask him to stay a little longer. “Will you come visit again?”
“I’m busy with my after-school job and soccer practices—I don’t have a whole lot of time these days, especially with preparations for Subaru’s funeral.”
Sakura stared at the white wall across from her bed. “Did you not visit me once because you didn’t want to tell me about Su-chan? Everyone knew, and kept it from me.”
“The doctors strictly ordered that you should be kept from all post-coma mental trauma if possible,” Syaoran replied.
“He didn’t have to die,” Sakura said, her voice sounding far off. “It isn’t fair. He was so young.”
“Is death ever fair?” Syaoran asked quietly. “You know better than anyone else that death does not shy from any victim, young or old, lovers or criminals.”
“But if I was a little more powerful, I could have stopped the Plague in time,” Sakura burst out, wondering why Syaoran didn’t understand. “If I was stronger, quicker, I could have saved him.” She thought that at least Syaoran would understand her.
“Subaru was dying from cancer—the tumor was already in its final stage and attacking his vital organs. It was just a matter of time before the death gods came for him. He died in a painless way, which might have been a blessing in disguise.” More than anything, Syaoran wanted to take Sakura in his arms and cry with her for Subaru. He too had grown to love the boy, for he saw signs of his younger self in Subaru’s willfulness and anger at the world. But if he showed a sign of weakness or doubt, Sakura would end up hating herself; he knew had to come down strong.
“I tried so hard,” Sakura whispered, staring at her chaffed white hands, so translucent that you could see the green veins underneath. She remembered how burning the diamond stone had felt against her palms; she still had burn marks. “I tried so hard for Subaru’s sake.”
“Well, sometimes effort’s not enough,” Syaoran said. “Sometimes all your hard work amounts to nothing but wasted time and energy. And you have to just deal with it.” He thought of that foolish boy who put his life at stake to complete his training to become the Chosen One. For what? To be ousted from the clan and disgraced six years later? “But Sakura, what you did does not amount to nothing. You saved hundreds and thousands of people’s lives by sealing the Plague. You did what our parents could not. You’ve accomplished a miracle with your desire to save Subaru—he would be thankful to your for that.”
“I’d rather save the one I love than hundreds of faceless people,” Sakura replied dully.
Syaoran gripped her by the shoulder and shook her hard, making her look into his face. “Do you realize what you’re saying, Sakura? You’re the Card Mistress whether you embrace that fact or not. If you have the power to save thousands of innocent people, it is no longer a choice; it is your duty to do so. Magic does not exist for hedonistic purposes; it is to better society, not for individual gain. You can’t be selfish; you can’t choose who you save.”
“And what about you, Syaoran?” Sakura demanded. “What have you done for society? Wasn’t everything you did for your own gain, for your status as the Chosen One?”
“I’m no longer the Chosen One.”
“Well, isn’t that selfish too, because you shirked your duty and did not want to deal with your obligations anymore?” Sakura hated herself for her spiteful words the moment they left her lips. Why was she taking out her anger on Syaoran, when she was mostly angry at herself? She wanted to apologize, but instead lay back down, feeling the blood rush to her head.
“Let’s stop this,” Syaoran said tiredly. “You’re not in the condition to be sitting up. You should get some sleep. I really have to go to work now. But I’ll send some vegetable porridge with Yukito-san later on, okay? It’ll taste better than hospital food. You can have it when you wake up, and heat it up in the microwave.” Though Sakura didn’t respond, for her head was turned the other way, Syaoran drew the blanket over her body, then left the room, turning off the light.
When she heard Syaoran’s footsteps fade away down the hallway, Sakura finally allowed herself to let out a sob. Syaoran’s patient kindness hurt her more than any scolding could have done. Even after she had said all those nasty things, he did not lose his temper at her. Today, she realized that Syaoran might have loved Subaru as much as she did. All those days she spent at the hospital by Subaru’s beside, he had also been there. He hadn’t followed her around and chided her when she was playing fairy godmother to Subaru in order to scorn her. He had only been keeping an eye out for the both of them. Why hadn’t she realized this? That he was always there for her in her hardest moments. He discouraged her from facing the Plague, even while he was suffering from the illness spreading in his body and his paralyzed right arm, in order to protect her. She cried herself to sleep, drifting into a dream where she was playing tag with Subaru, and he ran and ran, and she kept chasing him. Her neck throbbed where the Plague had bit her. She kept running, until she came to a door and flung it open. Instead of finding Subaru, she was at the end of a black abyss, the only light a pair of pale blue eyes, glistening like silver moons in the dark. Who are you?
In the midst of the night, some time after midnight, Sakura thought she heard the door open and close, startling her out of her nightmare. She turned on the light with the switch by the bedside. On the chair next to her bed was a thermostat and a package with napkins, paper bowls and plastic spoons. She opened up the thermostat and sniffed the rich aroma of steaming rice porridge wrought with diced vegetables and chicken breast meat. She poured herself a bowl and took a bite from the plastic spoon. The porridge slid down her throat like silk because Syaoran had diced up the vegetables and meat so finely. She quickly finished the bowl and poured herself a second bowl. Up till then, she did not realize how ravenous she had been. I must regain my strength and stop everyone from worrying. I’ve been unreasonable, and I need to apologize to Syaoran. Suddenly, she wondered if Syaoran might have delivered the thermostat himself, since Yukito couldn’t have delivered it—he had been working at the hospital all night. Maybe Syaoran was still around. Steadily, she lowered herself out of her bed, slipping her feet into furry slippers and drawing a cardigan around her shoulders over her nightgown. Her legs were wobbly but she gripped the wall, inching her way towards the doorway.
“So, what are you doing here again at this hour?” Touya crossed his arm, leaning against the wall in the fifth floor hallway entrance, near by Sakura’s room. The boy had not succeeded in cheering up Sakura—she was even more distraught that evening after Syaoran had left. He did not know what the boy had said to his younger sister, but clearly, he had hurt her even more.
“I brought her some porridge,” Syaoran replied sulkily, trying to slink his way through the glass door to the private suite floor; what was Touya doing, looming around in the middle of night?
“You know outside food is strictly forbidden,” Touya said. Sometimes, the boy’s demeanor and actions completely contradicted each other.
“Well, are you going to tell on me?” Syaoran smiled grimly. “Besides, I think you’d rather bend a few hospital policies than have your sister starve.”
Touya cracked his knuckles, knowing Syaoran spoke truly. “You, Brat, one of these days, I’ll teach you a lesson. Well, I guess it’s for the better. I’ve been meaning to speak to you for some time now.”
Syaoran stared at Touya warily.
“I’ll be to the point. I’m thankful and all that you saved Sakura,” Touya said briskly. “But now that you’ve done your duty, I feel it is no longer necessary to be near Sakura anymore.”
“What are you trying to say?” Syaoran asked.
“I’m saying, and forgive me for my crassness, that you were useful to Sakura so long as you could protect her. And you did relatively well in protecting her, I’ll grant you that.” Touya paused. “But it seems you no longer have your purpose anymore. You don’t have your powers now, hence you can’t exactly protect her anymore. In fact, you’d probably end up being a nuisance being by her side in your current state.”
Syaoran’s shoulders were trembling, but he tilted his chin up.
Touya continued, “Thus, to put it directly, I want you to stop seeing Sakura.”
“And if I refuse?” Syaoran asked.
“You won’t refuse,” Touya replied. “Because if you truly care for her, you’d realize that what I am saying is true. And protecting her would be to be as far from her as possible. You’re useless by her side now.”
“If you weren’t Sakura’s brother, I would beat you at this spot,” Syaoran said through gritted teeth, raising up his right fist into the air. They were both so intent in despising each other that they did not hear Sakura’s door room creak open.
“Hit me,” Touya goaded. He did not know why he was being this childish with Syaoran. Yet, all his five years worth of hate of the boy had climaxed the moment that Syaoran had told Touya that he was able to save Sakura because he knew her best. “Hit me if you dare.”
“Don’t worry, I will, without your encouragement,” Syaoran replied. His clenched fist was ready to strike.
“STOP IT!” Sakura screamed, clutching to the wall. “What are you two doing?” Both Syaoran and Touya halted, staring at Sakura’s slender flame clad in her white nightgown, her light brown hanging around limply around her face. They guiltily wondered how much of the conversation she had heard. “I don’t care what you’re fighting over, so please, both of you, stop it.”
Heedless, Syaoran turned his attention back to Touya. He was almost eyelevel with Sakura’s brother now.
“What are you waiting for?” Touya smirked. “Show her your true nature.”
But Syaoran did not need any more encouragement. His fist flashed forward lightening speed, straight at Touya’s face. Touya gaped. He didn’t have time to even duck before realizing that the fist had sailed straight past head, barely missing his cheekbone, and slammed straight into the glass door behind him with a loud crack. Syaoran drew back his bloody, crumpled hand. Touya’s knees were wobbly as he stepped forward, and glanced behind at the crimson smear on the door, millimeters away from where his head had been, threading into the spider-web-like cracks etching its way through the thick glass pane. The glass trembled for a few seconds to contain the thousands mosaic-like cracks and fissures through it. Then, the pane completely shattered, sending out millions of glass fragments. Touya ducked. Syaoran stared at the shards fly out in all directions, a piece slicing through his cheek. He did not flinch.
“They’re going to make you pay for the cost of repairing this,” Touya snapped, once he recovered from the shock, trying to keep the tremor from his voice. “Now this place is dangerous. I’ll go call someone to clean this up. Sakura, don’t come near here. Li Syaoran, are you an idiot? What were you thinking?”
“I changed my mind at the last moment,” Syaoran said dully, examining the mess he had made. His right hand hung limply at his side, blood dripping down from his curled finger tips onto the floor. He almost welcomed the pain in his arm after the weeks of numbness. “It could have been your head. But then, I thought Sakura would be sad if I bust up your face.”
“You—“ Touya raised his fist up. Then he saw that Sakura was still watching. Keeping one eye on Syaoran, he called out, “Sakura, what are you doing out of bed? You shouldn’t be walking around like this.”
“I thought I heard your voices,” Sakura said. “Please don’t fight. I’m sorry; I’m sorry, so don’t fight.”
“We’ll both leave for tonight—Sakura, you got back to bed,” Touya said, fully ashamed now to be caught in a row with someone seven years younger than himself. “Otou-san will stop by in the morning, before he goes off to the university.” He stormed down the hallway, careful to avoid the glass, unable to face his sister tonight because he’d shown a glimpse of his uglier face, a face that he had been so careful to hide from Sakura.
Syaoran stood blankly, a pool of blood forming by his feet, below his crimson-streaked hand.
Unable to contain herself, Sakura stepped forward, shakily, grabbing Syaoran’s right hand with her two, small, cold hands. “Look what you did to your poor hand, when it didn’t even recover yet,” she said tearfully.
He snatched his hand away. “It’s nothing. It looks nastier than it actually is. I have so much calluses on my knuckles, there was more harm done to that glass door than my hand.”
“We’ve got to stop the bleeding,” Sakura insisted.
“I’ll take care of it. You go back to bed. Sorry for waking you.”
“No, I just wanted to thank you for the porridge. It was good.” Sakura took Syaoran by the arm. “Come, let me bandage it up for you, if you’re not going to see the doctor.”
“I told you it’s all right,” snapped Syaoran.
“No, it’s not!” Sakura retorted, scowling, with more fervor then she had shown in days. Yet, her legs were wobbly from the days of being bedridden.
Sighing, Syaoran guided Sakura back to her room. Sakura found a first aid kit and sat Syaoran on her bed. “Hold out your hand,” Sakura commanded.
“You really shouldn’t be up at all,” Syaoran said, wiping the blood on his cheek with a sleeve. Ignoring him, Sakura knelt by the bedside and carefully removed glass shards from Syaoran’s cut hands with stainless steel tweezers. Then she dabbed at the blood with gauze until the bleeding subsided. “Really, Sakura, just let me go wash it up, it’s fine.”
“Syaoran, I haven’t been working at this hospital for half a year for no reason. I know what I’m doing.” Despite her brisk words, Sakura tenderly wrapped Syaoran’s right hand tight bandage. “There’s something wrong with the angle of your fingers—you need to x-ray your hand tomorrow, all right?”
Syaoran nodded, knowing that he could not win against Sakura in an argument when she was in her stubborn mood. At that moment, he was just relieved that she was up and moving again. “Thanks.” He stared at the crimson seeping through the white gauze.
“Now, don’t move around your right arm too much,” Sakura said, setting his hand down and gathering up the first aid kit.
“I’ll go put it away,” Syaoran said, taking the white box from her.
Without looking at Syaoran, she asked quietly, “What were you fighting with my brother about?”
Syaoran gulped, looking around nervously. “Well…” At least she hadn’t heard the conversation.
“Syaoran, I know you don’t get along with my brother—is that why you never visited?” Sakura inquired. “Did my brother say something you?”
“No, it’s not that,” Syaoran quickly replied.
“Are you mad at me for trying to seal the Plague by myself? Is that why you won’t talk to me anymore?” Sakura gazed up at the boy standing by her bedside.
“No! I mean, yes, I was mad that you went off and did what you promised you wouldn’t do… You simply can’t use the Heal like that, so recklessly, and I made you promise me—forget it, that’s over now. But I’m not mad at you. Your intentions were nothing but good. I admire you for that much.” Syaoran stared at his feet. What words could express the terror he felt when he thought he had lost her, the nightmarish days they all had endured when she did not awake from the coma? He had naively always thought that life without Sakura might be difficult to endure. But over the past week, he had learned that life without Sakura would be a living hell. That was why he would never allow her so close to that kind of danger again.
“I was so scared when I found out that you had been bitten by the Plague,” Sakura whispered, lying back in the bed half in relief, half exhausted from having moved about so much that night. “I’m glad you’re all right, Syaoran.”
Syaoran pulled the blanket over Sakura. Could he really live without seeing her, as Touya told him to? “Good night, Sakura.”
“Don’t leave, Syaoran. Please stay a little longer,” Sakura murmured, her eyes shut. “I wonder if this is what Su-chan felt like… I was so happy when you visited me.”
“I only came because your brother was worried about you,” Syaoran said shortly. For a short while, he had thought she had forgotten about Subaru.
“I see.” Sakura turned her
head away from him. “Nee, Syaoran. You aren’t thinking of going back to
“No, why do you think I would?” he reassured her quickly at the alarm in her voice.
“When you told me you’re no longer the Chosen One, I kept thinking, it’s my fault. You need to go back. But you haven’t yet, and it’s been a year and a half.”
“Don’t be silly. It has nothing to do with you. It’s because I got tired of following the whim of the Elders—I quit.” replied Syaoran. So had that been bothering her so much?
“You promise?” Sakura asked. “You promise to tell me if you’re going back, right?”
“Of course.” Syaoran reassured, forgetting the pain in his hand, forgetting his resolve to be firm with her this time. “Bye, Sakura.” She did not respond. Maybe she was sleeping. Syaoran turned off the lights as he left, taking the empty thermostat back with him.
Subaru’s funeral was a
quiet procession. Though he had lived for seven short years, many people filled
“Where’s Subaru?” Nina demanded, tugging at Kai’s black slacks. She clutched a golden angel figurine in her other hand. “You said you’ll take me to a place where I can see him.”
“He’s not coming back anymore,” Kai said, stroking the girl’s golden curls tied back with a black ribbon.
“Why not?” Nina hiccupped. “Why won’t he come back?”
“Because he’s left us to go on to a place that we can’t follow him. Where his mother and father wait for him,” Kai replied quietly. He turned his head to see how Sakura was holding up. Though she had been released from the hospital last week and she had not yet returned to school and had been regaining her strength at home.
Sakura looked pale in a black blouse and skirt, dark circles underneath her eyes. Her eyes were red-rimmed but she was not crying nor speaking. It began raining, but she did not even blink. Her brother stepped forward with a black umbrella, covering her head. Touya and Yukito, both in black suits and ties, exchanged concerned glances. People were beginning to move out of the rain and pushed her from both directions. But Sakura continued to stare on ahead at the gray tombstone engraved with “Shirose Subaru.”
“Come, Sakura. It’s time to leave,” Yukito said, gently taking Sakura by the shoulder.
Sakura shook her head, pushing aside Yukito’s hand. Touya frowned and gazed around. Where was the Brat? He should be around.
From behind a tree, a little distance away from the crowd, Syaoran watched the mourning group, a range from elderly people who had been patrons of the orphanage to young children who had been to a funeral for the first time. One could ask, what difference does the death of one young, orphan boy make to the world when people are dying by the minute? But in his seven short years, Subaru had made a permanent impact on many people’s lives. Taking shelter below the branches from the rain, Syaoran gazed at the numerous faces, some familiar from the hospital, others who may have been from the orphanage or Subaru’s first grade class, others faces of those who did not know the boy personally but were there just to maintain a philanthropic image as benefactors of the orphanage. Amidst the blur of people dressed in black, Sakura, frail like a wispy willow, was the only person he could see. Her head was tilted back, as if holding back tears, and she stood motionless within the bustling crowd, so rigid that if anyone nudged her, she might topple over. Syaoran desperately wanted to run out and hug her and tell her it’s okay to cry, to feel the warmth of her body against his, as to reassure himself that she was alive and breathing, that nothing would take her away from him. But he could only watch her from the distance. Even as he stepped forward as someone walked in front of him and obstructed his view of her, he saw Tomoyo run up to Sakura and hug her tightly, sharing tears. Touya, still holding an umbrella over their heads, lead them away.
One by one, the mourners left, and Syaoran was left standing alone, gazing upon the new mound. His right arm, still in a sling, ached, just like it did back when he had learned of his cousin’s death six years ago, when he accepted his fate to become the Chosen One. By now, Syaoran was used to death—human life was impermanent. Though God may have a reason for everything, he did not necessarily understand the reason. Yet, Subaru was a boy full of so much life, so much desire. He was a boy who had so much of the world left to see and explore. At the age of seven, Syaoran thought the Li Clan was the beginning and the end of the world. His soul, body and mind was devoted into becoming a better warrior of the Li Clan. But now, now he was different. He had seen so much more of the world, met so many more people, learned about the joys, sorrows and excitement of living in the unpredictability of life. Almost losing Sakura had taught him that he still had so much left to do, so much to say, so much to see. Life was precious.
He adjusted his black trench coat over his shoulders, the right sleeve hanging loosely over his bandaged arm. “Rest in peace, Subaru,” he whispered. “Please watch over Sakura. She loved you with all her heart.” For a moment the trees rustled, almost as if in response. Soon, rain ceased. Water droplets dripped off of his coat as he got up and left the graveside.
Sakura’s concerned classmates were delighted to see her back at school the following week. Only those closest to her noticed any difference in her demeanor, how she was not as quick to laugh, and how her smile dropped whenever she turned away from her friends. She had so much schoolwork to catch up with, that despite Tomoyo’s neat copies of notes, Sakura did not have the will to try to tackle the workload to complete in order to graduate from junior high.
For days after the funeral, Sakura tried to catch Syaoran’s eye and speak to him. Yet, somehow he seemed to completely disappear whenever she drew near. For the first time she learned what it meant for Sakura to truly avoid her. Ah, so those other times I thought he was avoiding me, he must truly have been busy, she thought ruefully as she saw Syaoran deliberately loop around the cafeteria to avoid running into her. The twins were continuously absent for school, which was just the same because Sakura did not think she could face Erika let alone Eron. She could not help wondering if Eron had recovered by now. Meanwhile, she found she had a lot of spare time at hand since she no longer worked at the hospital. Touya had bound her to resting and recovering at home, which was for the better since she could not bear to be reminded of Subaru, whose bed had already been cleared up in the children’s ward. Another child occupied that spot now. In a hospital, patients were replaceable, though lives never would be.
One night, Touya brought back a box full of books that Subaru had left. He almost did not give it to her because she might not want any more reminders of the dead boy, but Touya went with his instincts and let her choose. Sakura almost tossed the box aside, but ended up opening it because she figured she could donate the books to the orphanage, and she carefully took each book out, smiling nostalgically at the collection of fairytales, fables, adventure books and even the fantasy novel she had just begun reading him before… before he left. In the bottom of the box was a short letter written in childish scrawl with a blue marker:
To Sakura-nee-chan, my fairy god-mother:
Thank you for reading to me and taking me flying. It made me happy. I want to fly again. I think I will soon. I am sorry for calling you kaijou-nee-chan. I think ‘nee-chan is pretty. Not as pretty as Okaa-san, but second prettiest. I know you like Syaoran-nii-chan. But please like me a little too. I have been trying to become a nicer person. I don’t make the nurses cry anymore, and I eat all the food. I share my toys with other children too. I thought I hated the orphanage but I miss it. But I’m happy at the hospital too because Sakura-nee-chan visits me every day.
I never told ‘nee-chan my third wish… I tried to think of a third wish. But I couldn’t think of anything. Sakura-nee-chan gave me everything I wanted. What does Sakura-nee-chan want? Why was Sakura-nee-chan so nice to me? I never did anything to make onee-chan happy. I was always a bad boy. I’m sorry. Please don’t be mad at me because I was so bad. I wanted Sakura-nee-chan to like me. But the badder I am, the nicer onee-chan is to me.
Onee-chan, I have one wish left. My real wish... My last wish is I want Sakura-nee-chan to be happy…
The marker trailed off. Sakura read the letter over again and crumpled it in her hand. Tears welled up in her eyes, and Touya rubbed her shoulder.
“He went without pain,” Touya said, realizing that he could speak to her now. She was hurting, but she was no longer in denial. On the day of the funeral, she was able to bury her own self-reproach and accept that there was nothing she could have down to change the outcome. “He was a brave boy. He was not scared at all.”
“I know,” Sakura replied, smoothing out the letter and holding it to her chest. “But I wasn’t ready. I was scared.”
“Oh, Sakura.” Touya patted his sister’s head. “It’s always been more frightening to live than to die.”
Sakura was informed that the Five Force Treasures had been returned to Kai, who was consistently absent from school—Tomoyo and she theorized that Kai was hiding from Miho, who would bombard him with questions should he show up. Miho had told Tomoyo how Kai had been an acquaintance of her brother and knew something about the murder of her father. While Tomoyo did not quite know what to make of the story, Miho had a new drive. She wore the silver locket around her neck every day, but she had switched into analytical journalist mode—the young girl yearning for her brother was of the past.
“His plan back-fired,” Sakura stated. “He wanted to put distance between himself and Miho-chan, but now, she follows him around more than ever.”
“I know,” Tomoyo chuckled. At times like this it was almost like Sakura had returned to normal. But something still wasn’t right.
“Syaoran’s avoiding me. I think he’s still mad at me for going to face the Plague on my own,” Sakura commented, picking out the cucumbers in her sandwiches. She had no appetite.
“He should be. We were all angry. Don’t ever pull something like that on us again, Sakura-chan,” Tomoyo chided gently.
“Sorry for making you all worry,” Sakura murmured, hugging her knees to her chest on the bench. “I didn’t mean to.”
Giving Sakura a tight hug, Tomoyo said, “But you saved everyone too. I’m so proud of you, Sakura-chan.”
“There are some things out of control for even great magicians,” Tomoyo stated darkly. It seemed so many years ago when the discovery of Sakura’s new powers as Card Captor had been filled with so much joy and fun, a mere child’s play. If only she had known back then that it would lead to this…
“Very true,” commented Eriol from behind the two girls.
Even though Eriol had quickly regained his composure after Sakura’s recovery, Tomoyo would never forget the panic in his eyes when Sakura was in the coma. It almost humanized the granite-hearted Eriol who never shed emotions.
Eriol continued in his deep voice, “Sakura-san, you have accomplished an incredible feat by sealing the Plague—even Clow Reed failed to do so. It just shows what a powerful magician you have become. But never forget, you almost lost your life in doing so. Next time, you won’t be so lucky.”
Sakura replied somberly, “I thought I had died. I know the Five Force Treasures protected me somewhat. But how did I manage to survive?”
At this, Tomoyo and Eriol exchanged furtive glances—Syaoran had made them all swear that Sakura should not find out about his part in Sakura’s recovery. They both understood Syaoran’s logic, because they realized that Sakura probably would not be able to live with the guilt if she learned that Syaoran had given up all his powers in order to save her.
“Well, it doesn’t matter. I’m not going to use magic again,” Sakura stated.
“I see,” Eriol commented. Tomoyo was surprised to find that Eriol looked almost relieved when he heard Sakura’s decision.
When Sakura left to take a make-up exam, Eriol said to Tomoyo, “You want to ask me why I’m not encouraging her to use magic again.”
Tomoyo nodded, marveling at how Eriol always read her mind.
“I’m afraid I don’t know what adverse affects absorbing Syaoran’s powers might have on Sakura. Actually, I’m not even sure if she would be able to use magic properly again with the power of the moon. It would be safe for her to steer away from using any magical powers for now,” Eriol explained.
“I see.” Tomoyo sighed. “How about Syaoran-kun? Do you think he’ll be okay after giving up all his powers to Sakura-chan?”
“He’s a strong boy. Even without his magical powers, he is physically and mentally superior to an average boy. He’ll be able to take of himself,” Eriol replied.
“One more question, Eriol-kun,” Tomoyo said, deciding to try her luck.
“Who did Clow Reed lose that was so close to him but he couldn’t save?”
This time, Eriol was taken back, and his glasses concealed his eyes. Finally he said, “What makes you think that Clow Reed has lost a loved one?”
“Is it not true?” Tomoyo asked.
“I’ll tell you some other day, Tomoyo-san,” he replied slowly. “But not today.”
And Tomoyo had to be content with that.
At least when Sakura was resting at home, Syaoran could avoid seeing her completely. It was more difficult when she returned to school, trying to avoid her at all costs. She looked well, though signs of hospitalization had not completely worn off her yet. Their classmates who had been inflicted from the Plague were pretty much fully recovered by now, but Syaoran wondered why the haunted, desperate look did not fade from Sakura’s eyes yet. Maybe it was because she had brushed so closely to death. An exhausted Syaoran leaned back against the couch at home. His bandaged right arm throbbed and he felt as if dozens of sandbags were tying down all his limbs. So this is what it feels like to lose all your powers. Not only did he feel bare and exposed, deaf and dumb because he could not sense anything around him, not even Wolfie-chan, but constant fatigue plagued him. It was as if he was in a constant state of post-duel exhaustion. He was afraid that Sakura would notice—for he knew she would—so he had to keep out of her way as much as possible. He could only act so much.
Distractedly, Syaoran tossed a ball at Wolfie-chan, who would usually scamper in delight. Instead, Wolfie-chan turned his head and let the ball roll away.
“What, don’t tell me you’re mad at me too,” Syaoran muttered, reaching over to pet the dog, his only companion as of late. He was no longer on speaking terms with Kai—he had not forgiven Kai yet for providing Sakura the Five Force Treasures. At this point, Syaoran was not even sure if Kaitou Magician was even home these days, not that he cared.
The puppy bared his teeth and growled at Syaoran.
“What’s wrong?” Syaoran snatched his hand away as Wolfie-chan attempted to bite him. “Hey, boy, don’t turn your back on me too.” Was it just him, or did the puppy look more and more wolfish as of lately. Don’t be silly, Syaoran told himself. After all, Wolfie-chan was originally a wolf.
“Why do you bother to show up to work with your arm like that?” snapped Touya at Syaoran, as the boy spilled a bowl of chopped onions.
“Because I’m currently broke from paying for the shattered door at the hospital,” retorted Syaoran, dumping the spilled vegetables into the trash.
“Maybe you should go break your other arm also,” Touya stated. “Then you really wouldn’t have to show up to the restaurant.”
“Touya, what is wrong with you? Do leave the boy alone,” Yukito stated as he carried in a tray of dirty dishes. “Syaoran-kun, the chef is calling for you.” Syaoran as much of an expert with chopping vegetables with his left hand as his right, which might be the reason why the manager hadn’t sacked him by now.
After Syaoran left for the kitchen, Touya replied, “I realized only recently how careless I was. He’s dangerous, but I didn’t realize how dangerous.”
“You’re making no sense, To-ya. If I didn’t know better, I would say your pride was hurt when it was Syaoran who gave his powers to save Sakura. If anything, you should be grateful to him—without him, Sakura-chan might be… well… thank goodness she’s fine now.” Yukito took off his glasses and wiped it on the apron.
“That boy’s no good for Sakura—I’m glad he’s realized that himself,” Touya muttered, as if possessed.
Yukito sighed. There was no use in arguing with Touya when he was in such a foul mood. Then again, Touya often proved to have an uncanny second sight.
They were interrupted by a howl from the chef. “Where has all the top grade sirloin steak gone? We’re ruined!”
“What’s the matter, do you think?” Yukito asked, glad to change the subject.
“This is the second incident,” Touya said. “There seems to be a meat thief.”
“Why would anyone steal steak?” Yukito raised an eyebrow. “Hundreds of pounds of it.”
“Something very bloodthirsty,” replied Touya, gaze lingering upon Syaoran, who was dragging cartons of fresh sea bass to the kitchen. So, did the boy really sense nothing? He smirked. How pathetic.
“Wolfie-chan! Where are you?” Syaoran called out as he stumbled into his apartment after an extra long shift at the restaurant, having to console the chef and come up with alternate specials. The puppy usually barked at the door upon his return. But the dog was nowhere in sight.
Unable to bear the silence, Syaoran turned on the television. The late-night news headlines flashed on. “Rumors of sightings of a wolf… The recent epidemic crisis only seems to have been a bad case of flu… A young woman claimed a sighting of a werewolf in Tomeoda…” Syaoran rolled his eyes. Did they really have no better news to report on? He decided to go for a jog instead. Grabbing a jacket, he headed outdoors.
The sidewalks were silent as it was well past midnight. Groaning, Syaoran decided that jogging in his already exhausted state might not have been the best idea. Or maybe he was just out of shape, which was just great, because his athleticism was the only thing left going on for him. As he gazed up at the sky, he realized it was the full moon. He should have known it without looking. But he was growing used to having to rely on his five senses—it was almost refreshing. Everything looked, tasted, smelled, sounded, felt different.
When he gazed at Sakura, he was just an ordinary guy looking at a girl. It was not the power of the stars attracting him, it was not the bond that they shared from fighting against the dark forces together. It was purely his heart, beating in relief that he could see her day after day, alive. He almost didn’t mind that he could not talk to her or go near her. Because she was still there. There was no other living proof than his own two eyes.
A piercing scream from the woods disturbed his musings. Though his muscles were already aching, Syaoran sprinted towards the sound. A young woman caught sight of him and shouted, “HELP!” She was nursing a wounded leg, bleeding from what seemed like a long gash running across her calf. There was bustling in the bushes, and Syaoran saw a tawny-gold furred beast slink back into the woods.
“Are you all right?” Syaoran asked.
The woman nodded, teeth chattering. Syaoran took out a handkerchief and tied it around the woman’s leg. “I’m calling 911—they’ll take you to the hospital. Can you tell me what happened?”
“T-there was a huge wolf.
It tried to attack me,” the woman answered. “I know it sounds crazy.”
“I believe you. Now, you wait there and don’t move.” Syaoran called the hospital and told them the location. Then, he ran down the parkway, trying to figure out which direction the beast had run off to. “Damn it.” He picked an empty can on the streets. He couldn’t sense which direction it had gone, at all.
Idle rumors traveled fast, and by the next morning, there was already a buzz in school about the recent appearances of a werewolf in Tomoeda.
“Nonsense!” asserted Miho, slamming down the newspaper. “Just look at the quality of journalism these days. Creating sensationalized stories just to sell their paper. Preposterous!”
“But there are witnesses,” Naoko said, clapping her hands together in excitement. “How exciting!”
“Nee, Sakura-chan, doesn’t this remind you of the case in Kusakou, the stories of the legendary werewolf,” Chiharu remarked. “Remember, there was some strange incidents when we at Kusakou for the Best Couple of Japan Contest.”
Sakura’s heart lurched at
the brief flashback of that summer escapade through
“Chiharu-chan, you’ve been brainwashed by Yamazaki-kun,” Rika joked. Out of the friends, Rika had taken the longest to recover from the Plague, for she had always been the weakest among them.
“No, Sakura-chan remembers,” Chiharu insisted.
“You shouldn’t make up stories, Chiharu-chan,” Takashi said, shaking his head disapprovingly.
“Why, you!” Taking hold of Takashi’s neck, Chiharu started strangling her boyfriend.
Everyone chuckled—the old Chiharu was back.
“Who would have guessed she was crying over Yamazaki-kun just a week ago,” Naoko said, rolling her eyes.
“I’m still in recovery process!” protested Takashi. “Speaking of the Plague, they say that originally there was a blood-thirsty king rat that ate the flesh of…”
“Oh shut up,” Chiharu said. “No another word out of you.”
In a lowered voice, Tomoyo asked Sakura, “Do you think it’s another dark force?”
“I don’t think so—I would
have felt it… Wouldn’t I?” Sakura said a little uncertainly. “Besides, I don’t
think even the Dark Ones would have the nerve to send out a dark force so soon
“You never know with them,” Miho said darkly. “But I personally don’t see the incident being a dark force myself. I think it’s just media scam. To cover up the chaos during the epidemic scare.”
Sakura surely hoped Miho was right, because she did not have the willpower to face another dark force again. Besides, she believed in Erika a little—Erika wouldn’t let Eron do anything foolish for a while.
Syaoran no longer had the
haunting dreams of the one with blue eyes, perhaps the only benefit of losing
his powers. His sleep was heavy and dreamless, his waking hours were equally as
drowsy and wearisome. The house felt quiet without Wolfie-chan barking and Kai
invading his refrigerator. Stretching his left arm, he strapped his sword to his
back and walked out of his apartment, wondering what he was trying to
accomplish. Yet, he did not have to worry for long how he was going to track
Wolfie-chan down; he heard a deep howl which rumbled through the woods near
Barely did Syaoran manage to duck as a full-grown wolf leaped at him from behind. Gracefully landing on its four legs, the Wolf swished around and growled at Syaoran, golden eyes dilated.
“Wolfie-chan,” Syaoran called out. “Vega. Don’t do this.” For it was Wolfie-chan. Back in Kusakou that summer, Sakura and he sealed the Wolf. Back then, because Sakura had grown so fond of the puppy, Syaoran had used his power of the moon to convert the creature of darkness to the power of light, so that the Wolf could remain by their side in a harmless form. Over the months, Syaoran had grown so accustomed to the puppy that he had named Vega of Lyra, that he had almost forgotten that it originally was a dark force. Now that Syaoran no longer had powers, he could not keep the Wolf from reverting back to its original form, the power of dark flowing within it. By nature, the Wolf was a carnivorous, vicious force.
The Wolf did not recognize its master. It only sniffed fresh blood, fresh meat. Crouching down low, it sized Syaoran, then leapt at him again with bared teeth. Syaoran swung his sword off his back, still sheathed, blocking off the creature with it. However, shielding himself proved difficult with only one arm. What could he do? How could he fight a dark force without the aid of any special powers? In his current state, he was completely helpless.
Thus, he realized that Li Syaoran as a normal boy was useless at life. As he waited for the Wolf to close down upon him, Syaoran discerned that the creature was distracted by some other prey, for it suddenly backed away warily. Syaoran did not have to have second sight to sense that something was amiss. He could hear the shuffling of bodies behind the trees—he was surrounded. By whom?
“Who’s there?” he demanded, clutching the hilt of his sword with his left hand. It couldn’t be Sakura—he doubted that she could sense the Wolf. She was filled with the power of the moon; it would be hard for her to discern another of the same source when she herself was unaccustomed to the very force within her. Then who?
Before there was an answer, the Wolf bounded forwards towards the trees. And with lightening speed, a figure swerved out from the branches, spinning mid-air and propelling downward with a powerful sidekick, knocking the wind out the beast’s stomach.
“No! Don’t harm it!” Syaoran exclaimed, squinting for a better look at the attacker. No one kicked like that except…
The man landed on his feet, then stepped back into an attack stance. In the dim
moonlight, Syaoran could see that the dark-haired man was dressed in a black cheongsam with a dragon embroidery up the front. His reddish eyes were slanted at Syaoran. Attacking the Wolf forgotten, the agile man turned several flips, thin braids from the nape of his neck swishing out and his jet black cheongsam flying around him. Reaching Syaoran, his leg sailed out to kick Syaoran in the head. Only years of training instilled within him allowed Syaoran to deter the blow by a quick reverse crescent kick.
Syaoran’s assailant seemed taken back by the boy’s quick defense technique, which somehow were in tact even after months of skills rusting. Without hesitating, the man in black bent low and then began a series of punches lashing out with the fierceness of an untamed tiger. It took all of Syaoran’s attention to spar the punches with various kicks and blocks using his left arm. With his right arm in a sling, he was clearly at a disadvantage, especially in the darkness when he could barely see in front of him. Even with the use of both arms, he would barely be able to fend for himself. When was the last time Syaoran fought against such a skilled opponent? Probably with his training master back in Hong Kong.
“Who are you? What do you want from me?” demanded Syaoran in pants, turning a one-armed flipped away from a sharp butterfly kick that shot towards his chest. Even as he ducked, the attacker was one step quicker and bent low and knocked Syaoran’s leg out from under him with a roundhouse kick. Without wasting a move, the attacker pinned Syaoran to the ground, smashing his head to the ground. A deadly firm hand gripped the nape of Syaoran’s head so that the attacker could snap Syaoran’s neck into two and end him right there. Syaoran didn’t thrash too long because he recognized the deadly stance very well, knowing that his mysterious attacker could easily kill him in that position.
There were more footsteps behind him. It didn’t take long for Syaoran to realize that the man pinning him down was probably just an underling. Perhaps a trained assassin. There were others. Who had sent them? His mother? His uncle?
“Go easy on him, Jin. It’s shocking to discover, but the boy is completely powerless.” The newcomer’s rich voice rang with humor, marred by a growling in the background. “Now, now, what is this here? An overgrown dog?”
Momentarily forgotten, the Wolf had been lurking in the shadows, ready to strike.
“Vega, stay away!” Syaraon called out, sensing that the man called ‘Jin’ was reaching towards the hilt of one of the double jian strapped to his back while still holding him down with his other arm. It was too late. The Wolf snarled and lurched forward but before anyone could react, the man who had spoken released an electric blue lightening from his own sword.
“NO! Wolfie-chan!” cried Syaoran, struggling to break free from his captivator’s grip. If he had half of his original powers, breaking free from the grip would have been no problem. But in his current condition, he could but watch the Wolf writhe in azure flame as it let out a final, piercing howl which echoed through the starless night. Then it collapsed onto the ground just in front of him, and the spent creature whimpered softly, almost reminiscent of an injured puppy. For a second, its watery golden eyes rested upon Syaoran. But dark forces didn’t have tears. The Wolf began to glow and its form crumbled away, condensing back into a Sakura Card. But the card was a gray, not the usual pink-tint. Syaoran clenched his lips so tightly that he could feel the salt on his tongue.
Good-bye, Wolfie-chan… I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you. Syaoran felt his right arm snap as he made a final thrash against the tight grip holding him to the ground. But he did not even feel the pain crawling up his arm anymore.
“How touching,” drawled a new voice, a female one, but Syaoran could only catch a glimpse of a pair of high-heeled black boots laced up to the knees. Another pair of boots, brown leather, came into view now.
“Well, well, Li Syaoran. It’s been a long time,” the first speaker, Wolfie-chan’s killer, stated. He knows my name—he must be from the Clan. A cool hand reached out and lifted Syaoran’s chin from the dirt. “Not quite the reunion I envisioned for us, unfortunately.”
Syaoran had thought it briefly initially, and he realized it again—he had definitely heard that voice before, a rich, melodic voice that always held laughter in its words. His head craned up as far as possible, Syaoran was finally allowed to see the owner of that strikingly familiar voice. It couldn’t be—it was impossible. Yet, he found himself gazing up at a man with silver hair tumbling into a surprisingly youthful face. And through the longish locks of silver hair, Syaoran found himself staring directly into a familiar pair of ice blue eyes. For a second, he thought he was staring into his father’s face.
The man, bemused, remarked, “Why, don’t tell me you’ve already forgotten me, cousin.” There was a short laugh. “I’m sorry to have to meet you again under such circumstances. However, it is the order of the Li Clan to bring you back. If you struggle, I’m afraid we’ll have to force you to return. So, I would prefer if you come along with us complacently. It would save us all a lot of trouble, wouldn’t it Jinyu?” Jinyu responded by tightening his grip on the base of Syaoran’s neck. But Syaoran was numb to the added pressure, even as he felt his vision blurring from the oxygen being cut off.
Syaoran felt sick in his stomach, as if he had swallowed a pitcher of acid. Sharp pain ripped through his right arm. How could he forget? Memories of glass shards… blood stained floors of the Elder’s house, his own blood. Couldn’t be. But he was supposed to be… For six years… Those silver-blue eyes of his dreams… It didn’t make sense. He stared up at the smiling face that resembled Li Ryuuren so much. In a bare whisper, Syaoran finally uttered, “Lei…yun…” before blacking out.
Sakura awoke in the middle of the night—she though she heard Subaru calling her name. “Su-chan!” she called out. And then, she remembered that he was not here anymore. Desperately in need of fresh air, she threw a coat over her pajamas and tiptoed down the stairs to the front door. Stuffing her feet into slippers, Sakura walked out to the front yard of the Kinomoto residence. She had awoken from such a strange dream, a vivid dream of a spring day when her mother and Li Ryuuren spent walking down the very path she took to get to school every day, a path she had walked numerous times with Syaoran. She could still feel her cheeks were burning. How could humans be so fickle? How could two people love each other so much, but after separation, go on as if nothing was wrong? Her father and mother were happier than any two people in the world, the model husband and wife, father and mother. But before her mother had ever met Kinomoto Fujitaka-sensei, there had been Li Ryuuren. Somehow, she felt deceived. Who was the real Amamiya Nadeshiko? The spirited, stubborn girl who loved Li Ryuuren for two years? The sweet, beautiful model who had married Kinomoto Fujitaka and spent ten beautiful years married to him?
And who am
I? Sakura thought bitterly.
She had grown so accustomed to being Card Captor Sakura that she had she no
longer remembered the days the Guardian of the Clow, Cerberus, awakened the
special powers within her. What did she worry about before then? How did she
spend her days? For almost six years now, she had invested so much of her time,
energy and soul into threading together the mysterious of the past while molding
herself to become the best Card Mistress she could be. Could she truly return to
just being a normal school girl, soon to be a high school student? Who was
Kinomoto Sakura if she wasn’t Card Mistress anymore? And would Li Syaoran stay
by her side even if she did not want to fight anymore? Syaoran gave up his title
of the Li Clan Chosen One. Though she was shocked when he told her that, he was
still Syaoran. Even though he had not yet told her the reason why or the
circumstances why he was no longer the Chosen One. Maybe he would someday feel
comfortable enough to explain everything to her. There had been a moment in
their relationship, especially over the summer, where she felt that she had
never shared such an intimate bond with anyone before. Like that night when he
had told her about the death of her cousin, or that kiss they shared that one
dawn on the express train out of
Then, they hit the wall
that the most intimate relationships hit. Sakura suspected that she knew not
nearly as much about Syaoran as she had thought she did. She did not hide
anything from him, but more and more lately, she realized she really knew
nothing about the Li Syaoran that had existed before he had come to
A siren rang down the streets, wailing until the sound trickled off into the air as if it never rang in the first place. She shuddered, drawing her coat tighter around her. The living room floor creaked and the lights flickered on in the house.
“Sakura, what are you doing out there in the cold? Your body is still weak—you should be more careful,” Touya said from the front door, with a frown in his face.
“Sorry, ‘nii-chan, I’ll be right in.” Slowly, Sakura walked towards the front door.
Touya’s heart lurched to see Sakura’s tear-stained cheeks. “What’s wrong, Kaijou?”
“I’m all right. I just wanted some air.”
Touya sighed, wondering what he could do to bring a smile back to Sakura’s face. Would the Brat be able to do so? Mother, please give Sakura strength. Don’t let anything hurt her anymore…
Before walking back
indoors, Sakura took one last glance back at the pitch blackness of the night.
Why could she not shake off this unsettling feeling, as if she had forgotten
something very important to her? She thought she heard a lone wolf’s cry in the
darkness. But there were no wolves in this area of
The same spring day, twenty-three years ago…
Two youths walked down the path strewn by cherry blossom petals. From afar, they looked like lovers, a tall young man with dark, ocean blue eyes and a cocky smile and a lithe, nymph-like girl with long violet waves held back in a wispy braid. Her bright leaf green eyes darted up to glance at the young man then down at her feet again, bashfully.
“What?” Ryuuren asked, stopping.
“I want to thank you for doing the modeling shoot with me tomorrow. It was my dream to become a model,” Nadeshiko said. “I owe you a favor.”
“I’m not doing it for you,” Ryuuren replied. “Obviously it was my dark charm which attracted that photographer, and it would not be nice to turn him away.”
“Show-off,” Nadeshiko muttered.
“What?” Ryuuren glared at her.
“I said, show-off!” Nadeshiko called out, grabbing a fist of sakura petals and throwing it at him. He sputtered as she scooped up more petals.
“Why, you—” Ryuuren grabbed a fistful also and chased after her.
She squealed, ducking from his arms, only to slip on the leaves.
“Watch out—” Ryuuren rushed towards her and caught the small of her back, only to slip down with her, throwing her down on her back, him on top of her. They remained motionless, catching their breath. He found his nose buried in her thick, silky hair, his eyes level with the graceful slope of her white neck and bared collarbones. His hands, still clutching onto sakura petals, were already entangled in her long hair, pinning her down to the ground.
“You’re heavy,” Nadeshiko whispered. Her long lashes tickled his cheek.
But he did not move away, and she did not protest. Her eyes shut as his warm lips pressed against hers. The first time he had kissed her, that time on the stage in the middle of the school stage, it had been so sudden that she did not recall it at all. But this time, she was aware of each little thing, the way his strong hands caressed the back of her head so gently, the very hand that had slapped her a year ago, the way his eyes were such a sparkling sky blue, as if he was really happy.
When their lips parted for breath, Ryuuren found Nadeshiko staring up at him with round eyes. He wanted to hug her and kiss her again and again. Instead, he rolled back and stood up, unable to trust himself to show any restraint. Patting Nadeshiko on the head, Ryuuren said, “My price for doing you a favor and taking that troublesome photo shoot with you.”
At this, Nadeshiko pouted as Ryuuren chuckling, picked the flower petals out of her hair. She yanked his arm away, face as pink as the flowers surrounding her, struggling to stand up albeit the wobbliness of her legs.
This is my chance, Ryuuren thought. I’ve got to tell her… He watched Nadeshiko skip down the path, weaving in and out of the trees, laughing. When she reached the tallest tree, she grabbed a branch and hoisted herself up. How much more time did have to spend with her? A month? A year? Eternity? Sighing, he followed her steps. Who could think straight on such a warm, vibrant day, when the flowers were in full blossom?
“Hurry, Ryuuren! The view from here is amazing!” Nadeshiko exclaimed, standing on top of a sturdy branch, near the local shrine.
Ryuuren squinted up at the blithe creature waving from the tree, as if she was some sort of woodland fairy with her wild curls fanned out in the wind, the largest flower adorning the tree. I’ve got to tell her I love her… Hoisting himself up the tree, he joined Nadeshiko on the branch, veiled from the world by a curtain of cherry blossoms. If only time could freeze on this moment forever, intoxicated in the scent of spring.
I’ve got to tell her… But maybe, some other day…
Today, just let me be by her side.
Wish-chan: (August 2007) It has taken me more than a year to get Chapter 51 and 52 out, but it’s finally here! These two chapters have been by far the most difficult chapters to write. I’ve been working on it on and off through a busy year of graduating from college, writing an English and History thesis and finding a job. I started working right after graduating with no vacation, no chance to go home, nothing. Thus, I am completely burned out, and that might reflect on my characters. Lol…
As for chapter 51 and 52, there has been a darker turn of events, as I’ve been foreshadowing, and this marks the ‘season finale’ for lack of better term. Part of the reason this chapter took so long to develop was because I sort of dreaded writing the content. I’ve been waiting a long time to write about “The Plague,” for I held a fascination with the Black Death from junior high. I’ve taken Medieval European History classes in college, watched documentaries on it, etc. I guess I tried to mix realism with fantasy in these two chapters, for I personally think disease is the scariest thing to deal with in life. And Su-chan… I really did not want Su-chan to die. From the beginning, I knew it would have to turn out like this, but I feel like his character became more prominent in the story than I anticipated him to become. I tried out all ideas to save him, but in the end it had to be this way.
So, one more chapter remains in the third arc. And finally, the fourth and last arc of New Trials will begin. I know I am a slow writer, but I am very happy when I write New Trials, and I am very happy when people read this fanfic. It’s been nine years or so now, hasn’t it? Thank you for sticking by. I think I have succeeded in writing the longest CCS fanfic online? Not that it was my goal, but I think that you should all be proud of yourselves if you’ve read this... It’s as long as Les Miserables by now, I think. ^_^
On another note, I am very very angry at hotmail for shutting down my account in June for not having logged in for a month (while I didn’t have internet connection because I was moving.) Either way, I lost everything, EVERYTHING. So many precious emails, letters, etc. And I lost a bunch of mail from 2006-2007 that I have been saving up to read once I finished college. Well, serves me right. Sigh… So please don’t be offended that I have not responded to your mails if you contacted me between the latter half of last year and June 2007. Anyway, it has been reactivated again and is working fine.
I’ve had lots of emails saying, “I wish NT was an anime…” I sometimes do too because there is always a limitation to what can be expressed by words. Unlike other writing I do, when I write NT, I am always trying to visualize the scenes into anime format. It makes a strange type of writing, I say. Lol… Anyway, I’ve always thought that if New Trials were an anime, the opening theme song would be Utada Hikaru’s Sakura Drops… One of my favorite Hikki songs. Also, the lyrics fit New Trials perfectly. I once drew up a sketchboard of the opening sequence. I’m hoping to make an opening MV some day. The ending theme song for the first or second arc would be none other than Maaya Sakamoto’s Sutorobo no Sora from her album Lucy. First of all, I love Maaya—who doesn’t. Platinum is by far the best CCS song. I though Maaya would be perfect even before she did the ED for Tsubasa (I was ecstatic that she became even more involved in CLAMP works.). Anyway, Suturobo no Sora seems to fit Sakura’s image very well, and is a beautiful, uplifting song. Thought I’ll share that because music plays such an important part when getting in the mood to write. ^_^ Any good song recommendations as of late? My computer crashed last winter so I lost a lot of good music. I was so distraught. At least I backed up my New Trials documents. Whew…
Comments and feedback has been the fuel which has kept me going from a 12 year old writer to almost ten years later, the person I am now. I am currently in the transition period in life where I graduated from school and have to move on to the reality of the world. I love writing with a passion and maybe some day I’ll be able to write novels, or may be even now. In the mean time, working sort of drains me. Nonetheless, I am constantly reminded of how much I love Card Captor Sakura with a passion, and I hope that Sakura and Syaoran’s fans would endure for many years from now on, (especially with Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles… omg can Syaoran get sexier… ahem… never thought my dear Syao-chan can be so hot) and gain many many more fans. Long live CLAMP!
Well, Please email me at email@example.com or join the marvelous yahoo group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/newtrialsring/, a wonderful, wonderful community of people for those who love the world of Sakura and Syaoran.