Ackkk… sorry sorry. This chapter took a while because it's a lot of dialogue and I had trouble keeping it from being boring while trying not to give out to much information. I realized that since I love it when authors answer my reviews, it's really hypocritical not to do the same for my fic. :D

Piffles: Yes, yes I did quit. I can only hope that this is as good as you make my fic out to be. Nice talking to you again:D

tien-chan: Yay! I'm glad you like it. Thanks for the review and the thumbs-up:D

cherrixwolf: I'm actually really glad that people liked the soccer scene. I added it in on a rather final edit because I thought the chapter was too serious. Thanks for your comment:D

KatyRose: Yay! I'm happy you liked the soccer scene too. :D I don't actually play soccer so I just kinda imagined it like what I saw on TV. :P Thanks for the review!

pure hope: I'm glad you like my story: I'm updating right now! XD

shortygirl333: Thanks so much for liking the soccer scene all you guys. ToT It makes me happy. :D ExT all the way! You'll see… ;D

Placid Snowflake: Wow what a long review! ;D I'm SO happy you think it's mysterious (what I'm trying to do) and you ACTUALLY want to know stuff! Hahaha… -feels pathetic- Thanks for the review:D

Disclaimer: If I owned CCS, Eriol would have a less annoying seiyuu. -.-;

Key:
Narration
Thoughts, dreams, flashbacks, emphasized words
EMPHASIZED WORDS (also)
----- scene change
Spells, incantations, etc.

Japanese/
-san - suffix meaning Mr., Mrs., Ms.
-sensei – suffix meaning teacher
-chan – suffix showing endearment
Mou! – a sigh of frustration
Ne – feminine "hey" or "right?"
Oi – masculine "hey"
kaijuu – monster; Touya's pet name for Sakura
Tadaima! – I'm home!

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Spirited Away

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Chapter Nine: Faces of the Past

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"…Kaho?" Eriol breathed, his eyes holding more emotion than anyone had ever seen before. He clutched his staff tightly in one hand, "Is that really you?"

Kaho merely smiled and stepped aside, the ribbons from the mysterious bell in her hands waving in breeze. She looked at Sakura, "Sakura-chan, if you don't get out and capture the card soon, it will just make another maze around you."

"Oh, oh right!" Sakura came out of her daze watching the scene between Eriol and Kaho and nimbly sprinted out of the maze, Eriol following closely behind as if in a trance.

Facing the entrance of the maze, Sakura pointed her wand towards the sky but before she said anything, a strong wind filled the air as the large green maze seemed to fold within itself until it emerged as a small glowing rectangle, which landed in Sakura's hand. It seemed so obedient. But then Kero had said that the cards truly belonged to her. The thought of that was simply amazing.

Sakura stared at it, with awe in her face, before securely putting it away though she never knew quite where she took them out from. Then, Sakura faced the mysterious lady again, wanting to find out more about her, only to find her gone.

Eriol was most morosely staring at the spot where she had been standing but suddenly stopped when he realized Sakura was watching. Quickly waving his wand, the school once again came alive. Then, Eriol turned to Sakura and simply said, "PE is over, it's time to go to History, Sakura-san."

"But what about—" Sakura began.

"I said, it's time to go to History," Eriol repeated. Without waiting for an answer, he began making his way towards the boy's locker room, along with other students who were walking to their locker room as well.

Sakura looked up at Syaoran and Meiling who both looked just as surprised as she did. Now thoroughly confused, Sakura headed towards the girl's locker room, returning her wand to its pendant form as she went.

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Eriol remained eerily quiet for the entire rest of the day, facing forwards toward the teacher but having a strange glazed look in his eyes. Sakura chose not to pursue any details.

When the last bell rang for the end of the school day, by the time Sakura finished packing up her school bag, Eriol had already left. As Sakura turned to leave the classroom, she suddenly remembered that she had clean-up duty and good-naturedly put down her bag and walked up to the front to look for cleaning supplies. Just then she heard Miss Ling call to her.

"Miss Kinomoto, could I have a word with you?" Miss Ling asked.

"Oh yes, of course, Miss Ling," Sakura made her way to the teacher's desk, albeit somewhat nervous.

"Um, is it about my grades?" She asked when she had arrived.

"Heavens no!" Miss Ling smiled, "You're doing just as well as most students here. Tighten up on the physics and you'll do great."

Sakura sighed in relief.

"What I wanted to ask you, Miss Kinomoto," Miss Ling began, "is… is it true that you and your family are living in the Li mansion?" Sakura suddenly noticed that Syaoran and Meiling were nowhere to be seen.

"Oh yes," Sakura said, smiling happily.

Miss Ling suddenly looked uneasy, "Well... um all right." Her eyes acquired the same glazed look that Eriol's eyes had held for a good part of the day.

"Okay," Sakura said, confused, "but where are the cleaning supplies kept?"

Miss Ling seemed to not have heard her, "Miss Kinomoto, has anything… strange happened to you at the mansion?"

Sakura blinked, alarmed. Did this teacher know about Syaoran and Meiling? If so, then how? But she noticed Miss Ling studying her expressions and quickly laughed, saying, "Hahaha! What are you talking about? It's great! I love its ancient beauty. It's always a wonder to me why the mansion isn't in a museum."

For a moment, Sakura was afraid that her charade hadn't worked because Miss Ling looked quite suspicious of her when with a start, she said, "Oh …oh I see. That's good then. You know about those old houses, the ceiling beams are weak and might fall… you should be careful."

Even Sakura could tell that Miss Ling was definitely hiding something but answered, "Oh okay. Thanks for worrying, Miss Ling. But where are the—"

"Just forget about cleaning duty, Miss Kinomoto," Miss Ling said absently, now obviously distracted by something in her mind. She hastily picked up her bag and left the classroom.

Sakura looked bewildered for a moment before she too walked back to her desk, picked up her school bag, and left to go home.

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As Sakura walked down the hallway, she suddenly sensed it. It was another aura… it felt exactly as whenever Syaoran or Meiling appeared near her: a slight dampening of her senses. But she knew it was neither of her friends.

She felt it peak abruptly and stopped. Sakura looked up and found herself outside the library. Without thinking of the consequences of pursuing mysterious and potentially dangerous magical auras, she pushed open the door and stepped in.

Peering cautiously around, Sakura saw no one. But was completely spellbound.

Sakura decided right then and there that she would never see another library like the one at Hei Hua high school anywhere else. Towers and towers of books crammed on shelves packed the walls as far as the eyes could see. Elegant arches adorned the ceiling with Romanesque sculptures set in spots where intricate Baroque windows let spotlights of sunlight down from the high ceiling. It was like a page out of a fairytale book. And she wondered once again how she came to attend such a wealthy school.

"Wow…" Sakura breathed.

"Yes, it is very grand, isn't it?" A voice behind her commented melodiously.

"Hoe!" Sakura cried, jumping in surprise.

The voice laughed and Sakura turned around, surprised, to find that the speaker was none other than the mysterious lady that had earlier helped her seal the Maze card. It was Mizuki Kaho. Sakura was too shocked to say anything.

"Hello, Kinomoto-san," Kaho greeted once again, smiling mirthfully, "I'm the school librarian, Mizuki Kaho. It's nice to meet you." The casual nature in which Kaho talked to Sakura confused her. Could it have been a simple coincidence that Kaho had been there during the Maze card capture? Maybe Eriol's magic somehow didn't reach her…

"Um good afternoon, Mizuki-sa…sensei?" Sakura realized that once again her mouth had moved according to its own will.

Kaho's eyes twinkled darkly and she said, "Yes, it's been a while, hasn't it?"

"I'm afraid… I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about, Mizuki-sensei," Sakura said, but at the same time, a strange feeling was growing in her stomach. Sakura felt that from the depths of her heart, she really wanted to trust this woman and that Sakura really did know what she was talking about.

"Ah, I see I see," Kaho replied gently, then her face once again looked lively and bright and she said, "I hear you've been living in the Li mansion."

"Yes I have been living there," Sakura said, though she was feeling uneasy that she had just answered this question a few minutes ago.

"How grand that must be, indeed," Kaho said, a hushed tone to her voice as she clasped her hands together. A black ring on her right pinky glittered as it caught the sunlight.

"I do love the house very much," Sakura smiled, a bit relieved that the librarian had not continued on with strange questions as Miss Ling had done. And as she continued chatting with Kaho about the house, she gradually relaxed and eventually, trusted her completely.

After a while, Kaho asked Sakura, "Kinomoto-san, you live in the Li mansion yet do you know the history of the Li mansion?"

"Why, yes," Sakura replied, slightly puzzled that Mizuki-sensei didn't think she knew such a famous legend and part of Chinese history, "It is one of the most enigmatic mysteries in history. The wealthy Li family was a very mysterious clan who kept to themselves throughout the centuries they survived. However, one day, a new head of the clan decided to invite young intellectuals from neighboring countries to enrich his children. It would prove to have disastrous results when the family completely disappeared after that. No one ever knew what happened to them and the house is the only reminder that they ever existed." Sakura had always felt a twinge of sadness when she read the story in her textbook. A whole family… gone.

"I see you are well-informed, Kinomoto-san," Kaho said, her amber eyes flashing and then, "but there are many things that they don't teach you in school. I'm sure you know that."

"I suppose," Sakura replied thoughtfully, "but my father is an archaeologist and he is studying the mansion as part of his research here. He hasn't been able to come up with anything yet."

"Ah…" Kaho said and her entire face held an expression that showed that she knew more than she let on. She began strolling among the shelves of the library and Sakura followed, intrigued by her mysterious air.

"There have been many, many theories involving that mansion," Kaho began, "Some include that the young intellectuals that the head invited became jealous of the power of the clan and plotted together to bring about its downfall. Others say that the whole invitation was a conspiracy… that the head wanted to eliminate competition. And even some say that he invited them solely to find suitable spouses for his children!" Sakura found that this subject was becoming very engrossing to her.

"The most famous legend, however," Kaho said, resting a hand on a beautiful marble bust of a woman resting on a table, "is the one that involves a Japanese princess." A chill suddenly encased Sakura from head to toe and she felt very uneasy. Why… why in the world did she feel like she knew this legend when she had never even heard of it before?

"The head of the clan, as you know, invited prestigious young people into the mansion. A young Japanese princess was supposedly one of them," Kaho's eyes gleamed as she noticed Sakura's eyes looking distracted, "Her family had been one of the few who were personal friends with the Li clan and the princess, in fact, was very close friends with the heir to the Li clan. Some have even claimed that they were in love." Sakura was now enraptured in the story and Kaho happily noticed this as she continued.

"But a conflict soon broke out… the heir to the Li clan was determined to marry the princess but the clan did not approve, especially the head of the clan. He banned the lovers from seeing each other but they continued to meet in secret," here Kaho's voice sounded sad, "And ultimately… he had the princess murdered. The heir was furious and he went after the head. Needless to say the clan was ripped apart and the family eventually moved away and scattered to different countries," A pause, "Such a tragic story, ne Kinomoto-san?"

When Sakura didn't respond, Kaho glanced at her.

A tear dripped down Sakura's face to the ground. She jerked up at the sound of her name, her eyes wide and touching her face to suddenly realize she had been crying.

"I-I… I," Sakura stuttered.

"Kinomoto-san…?" Kaho reached out a hand to her, concerned. But Sakura whipped around and ran out of the library. Kaho heard her footsteps echo down and away from the library.

The auburn-haired lady then turned and looked out through a large stained glass window at the sun beginning to set below the horizon, the sunlight bringing out red-gold highlights in her long hair.

And smiled.

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As soon as Sakura left the school front gates, Syaoran and Meiling suddenly appeared in the air above her.

"Li-kun! Meiling-chan!" Sakura said, surprised, as she tried to hide her red eyes, "Um… where have you two been?"

"Oh uh… nowhere," Syaoran said unconvincingly. But he suddenly noticed the way she shielded her eyes and glided down close to her face. With a quick swipe of his hand, he forced her slender arm away from her face and gasped softly when he saw her eyes, as she pointedly tried not to look at him.

"What happened?" Syaoran demanded. Meiling came down then and her face melted into an expression of worry as she saw Sakura's puffy eyes.

"I um… nothing," Sakura couldn't even figure out the reason herself, "It was nothing, really."

"Sakura…" Meiling noticed the distressed look in Sakura's eyes and knew that they should not press the matter. Syaoran was about to say something but Meiling gently put a hand on his arm and he looked angry, mostly at himself Meiling noticed, but remained silent.

"Let's just go home, 'kay?" Meiling said to Sakura.

The jade-eyed girl blinked and smiled, "That sounds good."

After a moment of quiet walking, Meiling said, "Well I guess we should tell you what we were doing while we were gone." Sakura perked up at this while Meiling looked to Syaoran.

Syaoran grunted and started explaining, "Well, we were trying to follow Hiiragizawa to see what connection he had with that woman. We were certain that he was going to go find her after school."

"So we concealed our auras," Meiling continued, "and followed him. We thought he couldn't sense us but he must have because he entered the music room but we found that we couldn't follow him any further."

"He set up a barrier," Syaoran said, frustrated.

"Oh, I talked to her after school!" Sakura declared then added upon seeing their confused faces, "The beautiful lady that helped me capture the card, I mean. She's the librarian at our school. Mizuki Kaho." But then she suddenly looked troubled as if maybe her tears had been caused by that talk…

At that, both Syaoran and Meiling looked very concerned. Mizuki Kaho… what was she up to now?

"Well," Meiling hesitated for a moment, "What did you talk about with her?"

"We um…" Sakura looked at the ground, "she told me the legend about the Li mansion." And like a lightning flash, she realized that these two ghosts were living proof of the legend! Perhaps they could tell her whether or not it was true.

She looked up to see both Syaoran and Meiling with strange looks in their eyes and said quickly, with regret, "I'm sorry for bringing up something so painful… but I'd really like to know what happened."

Both Meiling and Syaoran obviously did not want to explain this to Sakura and then commenced a furious staring and gesturing conversation between the two until a disruption thankfully came along.

"Oi, kaijuu!" Touya called, coming out the front door towards Sakura, "Talking to yourself again?"

Sakura stuck her tongue out at him and ran inside the house with a cheerful "Tadaima!". Syaoran and Meiling began hovering upwards towards her room when suddenly Touya looked straight at them. He almost seemed to see them… but then scratched his head and walked back into the house, whispering something about college work getting to him.

Syaoran was still rather shaken-looking when he and Meiling both appeared in Sakura's room and Sakura came in. He had had bad experiences with overprotective brothers in the past…

"Sakura," Meiling said, a very interesting look on her face, "I wonder if you know that this was Syaoran's room a long time ago."

"E-e-ehh?" Sakura's entire face lit up in a blushing shade of pink and she nearly dropped the slice of strawberry cake in her hand. Saying that Syaoran was blushing as well would have been a serious understatement.

"Um, did you want me to go to a different room?" Sakura asked tentatively, "If you think my being here is making you uneasy…"

"Just stay!" Syaoran said gruffly, and crossed his arms over his chest, "It's not like… I need a room now anyway."

"Haaaaa… it was a good nap!" Came a sleepy-sounding voice suddenly and Kero popped up from the bed and landed on Sakura's shoulder. She giggled as he stretched his small arms cutely.

"So the stuffed animal decides to come back alive," Syaoran said flippantly, crossing his arms over his chest.

Kero pointedly ignored Syaoran and began to ask about Sakura's day.

"Ah, nothing much happened, Kero-chan," Sakura said, "Though I did capture the Maze card and I talked to Mizuki-sensei and Eriol acted weird and so did Miss Ling…"

Kero looked shocked and sent Syaoran and Meiling a look that clearly asked Did you know about this? They both put up their hands defensively.

"Miss Ling asked me a lot of questions about the mansion," Sakura said, frowning as her thoughts lingered to their conversation, "like 'Has anything strange happened?' and she seemed really distracted and worried about something."

"Wait… Miss Ling is your homeroom teacher right?" Kero asked, his eyes narrowed, "What does she look like?"

Syaoran and Meiling suddenly seemed to realize something and became completely still.

"Blonde, lavender eyes," Sakura described, "And—"

A happy laugh.

"Blonde, lavender eyes, and the sweetest teacher there ever was!" She bounced happily, her long brown hair waving… waving in the wind…

"Lina," Meiling gasped and suddenly the door to Sakura's room banged open.

"Oi, kaijuu!" Touya held a phone in his hand, "Yuki wants to talk to you."

"Ah Yukito-san!" Sakura lit up and reached up for the phone. Her denseness didn't allow her to see the dark look that passed over Syaoran's eyes.

"Sakura-chan, how are you?" Came Yukito's cheerful voice.

"I'm perfectly fine! It's so wonderful here in China," Sakura replied wholeheartedly.

"Ah, that's good to hear!" Yukito said, "Your friends here miss you very much, especially Tomoyo-chan."

"Aww… I miss them very much too," Sakura said, her voice trembling a little.

Yukito went on to recount many tales about her friends and then went on to tell her some very exciting news.

"Yukito-san, you're coming to visit? In China?" Sakura gasped, her mouth open, "Why that's wonderful! I can't wait until you get here! Ahh okay, you take care too. Hold on a sec." And with that Sakura passed the phone back to Touya and he went back out into the hallway, closing the door behind him.

After he had gone, before Sakura could re-announce the news, Syaoran asked, "So… who's Yukito?" Though he knew exactly who he was. He was curious though…

"Ah Yukito-san is a family friend and my brother's best friend," Sakura smiled, "I used to have a teensy weensy crush on him but I only see him as another brother now." At this Syaoran looked visibly relieved and Kero smirked.

"So he's coming to visit, eh?" Kero said. This had to be the work of destiny.

"Yes he is," Sakura said happily then looked thoughtful, "though he told me Tomoyo-chan had a surprise for me too…"

Then with a start, Sakura blinked and looked around, "Oh were we talking about Miss Ling?"

"Yes, there's nothing suspicious about her," Syaoran said quickly, "You shouldn't worry."

"Oh, okay that's good," Sakura smiled but Meiling and Kero were both giving Syaoran very pointed looks, which he was trying to ignore.

"Well," Meiling began slowly, "earlier you mentioned the legend of the Li mansion. But before we tell you anything, I'm curious to see what you have heard. You must know that people make up legends all the time."

"All right," Sakura consented, "Well Mizuki-sensei told me that the head of the clan invited prestigious young people to the mansion and one of them was a Japanese princess. The heir to the clan wanted to marry her but the head opposed it and in the end she was murdered," Sakura always felt her heart grow heavy as she recounted that part, "The clan then dissipated."

Meiling's look was unfathomable.

"…But that's not right, is it?" Sakura whispered, wide-eyed as both Syaoran and Meiling turned away. Syaoran looked too stricken to talk.

Finally, Meiling answered softly, so softly, "No it's not. It was much, much worse."

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Meiling never did tell Sakura anymore that night after that but she now had more things to worry about. Tryouts for the cheerleading team were coming up and she hadn't practiced for a few weeks. The next day, all Sakura could think about as Miss Ling made morning announcements (and Sakura was actually on time so that she could catch them) were the baton routines that she would have to unearth from no practice. Sighing, she finally turned her attention back towards the front of the room just in time to catch the end of Miss Ling's announcements.

"…another new transfer student!" She smiled at Sakura, "And I believe if Miss Kinomoto stops daydreaming, she will recognize her."

And with that, a slender pale girl stepped into the room. A sheet of violet blue hair cascaded down her back, ending in smooth ringlets and her lavender eyes scanned the room excitedly.

Miss Ling neatly wrote the student's name on the board, "May I present Miss Daidouji—"

"Tomoyo-chan!" Sakura cried, overjoyed. She hopped out of her desk and bounded up to the front of the desk. Then without a moment to lose, she wrapped her best friend in a tight hug.

"Sakura-chan!" Tomoyo said, happy as well, "Did you get my message from Tsukishiro-san?"

"Wow, I didn't think this would be the surprise!" Sakura was nearly bouncing with energy and joy. Tomoyo laughed at her excitement.

"Okay, Miss Daidouji," Miss Ling took out a seating chart, "I think you shall sit …hm… I guess in front of Miss Kinomoto."

"Yay!" Sakura cheered and began to lead Tomoyo towards the back to her seat. Murmurs of admiration erupted as she walked there and she smiled demurely in response.

"Ah, here's the nice guy I was talking about, Tomoyo-chan," Sakura said as she faced Tomoyo towards Eriol, who was calmly sitting at his desk next to Sakura's.

As her eyes landed on the charming smile, the azure eyes, the low sweeping bangs, her smile froze in place.

And as his eyes landed on the silky hair, the mesmerizing amethyst eyes, the milky white skin, his eyes flickered.

"It's Eriol-kun, Tomoyo-chan," Sakura introduced but then said, "Hoe? Do you two know each other? You look like you recognize him, Tomoyo-chan."

"Oh…" Tomoyo's voice trailed off and she found that her thoughts were unable to connect. Images were flashing through her mind as if she were watching a movie on fast forward. This young man… she knew who he was…

Thinking back, Tomoyo had literally jumped on a plane to get to China, to attend the school where Sakura was, where he was… because he would have the answers to all her dreams, which were sometimes horrifying but sometimes so sweet that she could almost feel the warm sun on her face. She had come for answers.

But then her usual bright smile snapped in place and Eriol was his usual suave self again.

"It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Daidouji-san," Eriol said, smiling.

"No, no, Hiiragizawa-kun," Tomoyo replied, her face beaming, "The pleasure's all mine."

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I know, I know, what a boring chapter… but hopefully it tickled your curiosity since I dropped some hints about what might happen later. :P The ExT bit is really weird, I know, but I tried not to make it all love at first sight-ish which is really dumb. Anyway, until next time!

And see how I brought Yue in and swung the fic around to be an ExT (though they had a weird moment in this chapter)! XD

DreamerDust