16 October, 2000
By : The MOUSE...........................
The young Chinese boy frowned in ever growing annoyance at the dark haired girl walking at his side, cooing and batting her eyes at him, twirling her fingers in fake nervousness in the pleats of her knee length skirt. He growled under his breath, wishing he could just jump on his bike and ride away really fast, but he was far too polite to do anything as such. Instead he endured silently, like always.
Li Meilin Rae could be a real pest when she acted upon her never waning infatuation for Li Syaoran, youngest warrior and sorcerer of the Clow Reed Clan and her Cousin. Years ago, as a child does to a best friend sometimes, he had told her he promised he would marry her. As the years passed he began to regret having given her that promise. Later he had been given his first magical tool, a Laizen Board, a tool used for seeking objects or answers. As always, Meilin had hovered around him like a typical love stricken eight year old, asking countless questions in hopes of getting an answer from the board, not knowing that one needed magic in them to make the board respond. While she did this, Syaoran had thought up his own question for the board.
Who's the most annoying girl I will ever meet?
The board had reacted, even if he hadn't really meant to get an answer, and shot a magical beam of light at a delighted Meilin. Just as he had thought up his question, she had asked who Syaoran would really wed when he would be older. She had believed the board had answered her. Back then, Syaoran had never had the heart to tell her the truth about that incident or their betrothal, but he was sorely tempted to do so now, tightening his hands on his bike's handlebars to keep his cool.
"Please, oh please, Syaoran?" she begged him for the umpteenth time that morning. "Please, teach me how to use magic and capture Clow Cards? I promise, I can do a thousand times better than Kinomoto ever could hope of doing. Please, teach me?"
Syaoran smiled inwardly at the jealousy he heard in her voice at the mention of Kinomoto, but outwardly he kept his frown. "Meilin, magic and card capting isn't a game that can be taught just like that. It takes years of hard practice." Part of him wanted to ride away... fast!
"Kinomoto is being taught by Kero." she countered in a near whine.
"Not taught. Guided. There's a difference. She already knows how to innately use most of her magic. Sakura just needs help to bring out the rest."
Meilin growled. "You're always defending her!"
He was about to reply when a strange feeling rushed over him. A tingling sensation, pleasant, undeniable. He always got this feeling when... Syaoran looked around quickly for the source of the feeling when he noticed an auburn haired girl, roughly his age, rollerblading just ahead of them, skating ever so slowly as if she had no place to get to. She wore tight, black biking pants that only went as far as her knees and a white windbreaker over a red top. A backpack was slung over her shoulders. A helmet with matching knee and elbow pads completed the look. Her bright green eyes were downcast, staring at nothing, lost in a thought. Syaoran blinked.
"Sakura?" he questioned in a near whisper.
As if the girl had heard his whisper from so far away, her head jerked up, her eyes fixing on them both. For the briefest moment Syaoran thought he had seen something akin to sadness and exhaustion in her indescribable green eyes, but it vanished as soon as she forced a smile at the two, picking up a little speed and skating towards them.
"Hi, guys." she greeted in a forced smiling voice.
Meilin frowned. "Kinomoto." she returned simply, coldly.
Kinomoto Sakura didn't seem to mind the tone. She turned to smile at Syaoran only to find him regarding her carefully, his perpetual frown doing nothing to hide the concern in his amber eyes. She blinked, despite herself. Somehow he had always known when something was bothering her. She noted to herself how much better he looked in his weekend clothes than his school uniform. Blue jeans and a black T-shirt under an open white shirt suited him so well.
"What's wrong?" he questioned.
She averted her eyes quickly. "It's... it's nothing."
She blinked. Syaoran didn't use her name very often, but it was something in his voice that made her look up at him. Concern? His deep eyes fixed her where she stood. One look from him could usually convey whole volumes. When Sakura had first met the young warrior in her Fourth Grade class she had thought him a little cold, but had chalked it up to him being the new kid and had made it her duty to become his friend, without much success then. She later found out he too was after the Clow Cards, but for the reason that they were his by blood right. She had despised him then for his arrogance and strong self-confidence. But little by little those feelings changed to the point where she enjoyed and looked forward to competing with him for the cards. He was always a great help. Under that hard exterior she could tell he was gentle and had an incredible capacity to care. Syaoran was her secret crush, even if that description was becoming woefully inadequate as the days and years passed. But she would never be able to act on her feelings for him. The Li Clan elders betrothed him to his Cousin, Meilin, something that she knew wasn't very easy to break.
She finally sighed in defeat under his steady gaze. "I had a pretty terrifying vision last night." she finally admitted, noting Syaoran stiffen slightly. "I'm still trying to figure out what it was all about... what little I can remember."
"Didn't you ask the stuffed animal?" There was worry in his voice, and confusion that she didn't remember most of her vision. She always remembered.
An almost invisible grin touched her lips at him calling the Guardian Beast of the Seal, Kero, a stuffed animal. Those two were always competing with each other for some reason. "Hai, I asked him, but he's just as confused about it as I am." She shrugged at a loss. "Too many meanings can be given." Syaoran caught her casting a quick glance at Meilin before she continued. "And the more time goes by the less of it I remember. It's like there's something in me that knows what it all means, but it doesn't want me to know or figure it out. The more I think about it, the more it hurts."
Meilin smirked evilly. "Thinking hurts? Geez, Kinomoto, I knew you were baka, but to that point?" and she laughed, looking to Syaoran for approval.
She found none, just a deeply angered glare, which promptly silenced her. Before Syaoran had learned she was the Card Captor, he had thought Sakura was cute. She was just so open and innocent, caring for everyone around her before herself. And he had sensed her powers immediately. She had strong magic within her. He then resented her for finding the Book of Clow before he could and accidentally releasing the cards, but that resentment soon turned to sympathy with the more time he watched her and got to know her. She didn't know how to fight at all and had the hardest time controlling the incredible powers she had inherited from becoming the Card Captor. He decided to take it upon himself to help and protect her at that point. The sympathy soon turned to admiration for her struggle and determination to finish the near impossible task that had been forced on her. She became one of his best friends. And finally, years after having first met this green eyed beauty, Syaoran felt the admiration shift to great affection. He loved her. But Meilin made his feelings for Sakura hard to act on. She always hovered nearby, keeping him from telling Sakura how he felt.
He looked away from the dark haired girl and back to the Card Captor. "Do you want to remember this vision?"
Sakura nodded. "I need to know more about it, when to expect it to happen... so I can stop it from ever happening."
Syaoran blinked. Something in the way she spoke about the vision told him she did remember it, she just didn't want to say anything about it out loud just yet. Why? Was it because Meilin was there? He cast a quick indicating glance at Meilin in a silent question. Sakura nodded imperceivably in confirmation. His frown softened slightly. So, he had to ditch Meilin somehow so she could tell him about this terrifying vision. Easier said than done.
"I know of a spell that can help you remember the details. At the same time it'll let me see the vision as you're remembering it. Maybe I can help you figure out the meaning to it and which Clow Cards are involved."
She blinked, her eyes momentarily going wide as she just stared at him. "How..." she began.
"Experience." he near smirked. "You always have visions about Clow Cards."
A small smile began to turn up the corners of her lips and Syaoran felt a blush begin to warm his cheeks. A smile from her was often all it took to make him go weak in the knees.
"Sometimes, Li, I think you know me too well." Sakura chided playfully.
He shrugged. "We're near the park. We can go there."
"Right, just let me get my bike." Meilin stated.
Syaoran frowned at her. "Who said you were coming with us? This spell needs only two people and absolute quiet. We can't have it with you around."
She frowned back, defiant. "I am not leaving you alone with Kinomoto for anything. Who knows what she might try." she countered, causing a faint blush to color Sakura's cheeks. "I'm going with you and you can't stop me. You can't hide from me either and you know it." and she quickly whirled around to run the block back to her house to fetch her bicycle.
"Wanna bet." Syaoran muttered. "If we move really fast we can get to the park and hide before she comes back." he told the Card Captor.
She blinked and smirked. "You make it sound like a secret rendez-vous, but okay."
He quickly got on his bicycle, ignoring her comment. "Hang on to the back."
She did as told, taking hold of the support bar under the bike's seat. She nearly fell over when he abruptly took off like a shot. With Sakura hanging on to the back of his bike for dear life, Syaoran raced through the narrow residential streets and over the crest of a long, downhill slope. He let their combined weight and momentum speed them down the hill in record time. Just ahead he spotted the carved stone gateway that marked one of the park's entrances.
"Hard left!" he called back to her over the sound of rushing wind.
"Got it!" she answered, letting go of the bike.
Both executed a perfect ninety-degree turn through the park's gate, startling a few pedestrians as they passed by so quickly. Sakura waved a smiling apology to them all, then skated hard to catch up to Syaoran who had gotten ahead of her. She saw him look back at her, as if making sure she still followed, then did something so completely out of character that it near shocked her. He reached a hand back towards her, beckoning her closer. She suddenly found herself reaching for the offered hand and blushed as she felt its warmth close around her own hand. He pulled her forward until she skated even with his shoulder, placing her hand securely on the center of his bike's handlebars.
"You okay?" Syaoran questioned in concern, noting her flushed cheeks and the slight fatigue in her features.
Sakura began to laugh. "That was fun! Let's do it again!"
He actually chuckled. "Maybe later. Right now we have to disappear before Meilin finds us."
She looked at him strangely. "You really do know, don't you?"
"We've been partners in this too long for me not to know when you don't want someone to hear something."
"So where exactly are we going?" she smirked.
"A place I know. It's quiet and not easy to find."
"Which leaves me to wonder how you ever found it."
He winked. "Trade secret."
"Hey, it's my trade too, you know." she grinned.
"I know, but I'm better at it."
"Kinomoto! You better not be anywhere near my Syaoran or else!" a voice screeched across the park.
Both Syaoran and Sakura nearly lost their balance in shocked surprise, stopping at a small stone bridge to look back down the path they had followed. He thought he saw apprehension in Sakura's eyes as she scrutinized her surroundings.
"Wow, she can sure project her voice." she quipped lamely, her voice trembling slightly.
Syaoran frowned back down the path. "Doesn't she ever give up?" he questioned no one in particular.
"Syaoran? Oh, Syaoran? Where are you, Syaoran? Syaoran?" Meilin sing-songed over and over again, her voice getting louder as she got closer.
Sakura turned away from the path in time to see Syaoran lowering his bike over the side of the bridge into the thick reeds below. All it took then was a look from him for her to understand his intent. Just as Meilin's voice came even closer, the card capturing duo jumped over the stone railing to the stream soaked ground below. Not having had the time to remove her rollerblades, Sakura felt her blades sink into the soft ground slightly, making her topple over against Syaoran crouching at her side. He merely covered her mouth with his hand to silence her before she could apologize, keeping an arm around her waist to keep her still and steady. She blushed fiercely and swallowed hard, unconsciously closing her eyes. His arm felt so warm around her, the skin of his hand smelling like autumn leaves. Syaoran's attention was split. Part of him was attentive to Meilin's approach, cautious not to make any noise to alert her of their location. The other part was completely engrossed in the feel of Sakura's back pressed to his chest and the faint odor of heather and cherry blossoms from her hair. He was sorely tempted to bury his face in her auburn locks, but fought the feeling back. On the bridge above them passed a raven haired Chinese girl on a bicycle, calling out Syaoran's name and cursing Sakura's. They watched her disappear on the other bank and sighed in relief.
"What did I do to her to make her hate me so much?" Sakura questioned the silence softly.
"You talked to me." Syaoran answered as he reluctantly moved away from her to his bike.
"So, to Meilin and her twisted little world, that's all it takes to label you a threat. I think she's jealous of you."
"Jealous? Of me? But... why?"
He shrugged slightly. "You might want to change out of your rollerblades, the ground's pretty soft around here. You risk getting stuck." he told her, hoping to change the subject.
It didn't work. "Really, Li, why would she have any reason to be jealous of me?"
He paused, watching her balance perfectly on one blade of her skates to change footwear, then sighed. "Because you're the Card Captor."
Sakura looked up at him from putting on her other sneaker. "She wanted to be the Card Captor?"
"No, she wanted me to be it, that way she could tag along in a more... official way."
"I don't understand."
"Cotton fluff never explained all of this to you in detail, did he? Okay, c'mon, I'll explain on the way. Meilin might still spot us here." and he easily picked up his bike and laid it on his shoulder as he began to walk along the stream's bank. "You can ask the stuffed animal if this is right later. But legend has it that when Clow Reed created the Clow Cards he made it so there could only ever really be two people at the very most, a male and a female, who could catch and control the cards: The Card Captor and a back-up."
"You are hardly my back-up, Li." she countered with a smirk as she sidestepped a frog.
"Maybe, but as it is it's only supposed to be you and me catching the cards since I'm the last descendent of the Clow Reed Clan and you released the cards making you the Card Captor. Tomoyo's okay since she's only videotaping what's going on, though I still think there has to be a rule somewhere that says she can't."
"Then you try to tell her that. When she sets her mind on something, nothing will change it." she retorted ruefully.
He frowned in defeat. "You'd think she would've given up taping by now. We must have cost her a fortune in tapes."
"That's just a small dent in her family's finances."
"Anyway, Meilin doesn't have any magic so she can't catch or use the cards. And, even though she's an amazing fighter, she only really gets in the way. We either end up saving her or she gets seriously hurt. Fighting a human and fighting a Clow Card is very different. The thing is if I had become the Card Captor then, to protect her, I would've transferred all my old magic to her and she would've become my back-up. I think that's part of the reason she's so jealous of you. You and I form a team in this and she knows she doesn't have a right to be a part of it."
"And the other part of it is she thinks she's going to lose you through the cards. Poor Meilin. She should have more faith in you. Afterall, you're her fiancé--"
He stopped dead in his tracks. "No, I'm not." he muttered adamantly.
Sakura blinked. "But... she said...?"
"I was five when I promised I'd marry her. I had no idea what I was really doing or saying. About a year before I came here I went to the Council of Elders to have that promise dissolved. I told them that no one that young should be bound to a promise they didn't fully understand. They actually agreed. Meilin doesn't know yet." and he began walking again.
"You don't want to break her heart."
He nodded silently. "She's a good friend, despite being so annoying."
"They you'll have to tell her sometime soon. By dragging it out like this you only risk hurting her more."
"I know. I just don't know how to tell her there's some--" He suddenly stopped, catching himself before he said too much.
But he said enough to peak Sakura's curiosity. She began to grin, despite a growing pain in her heart. "Tell her that there's someone else you like? The great warrior sorcerer of the Li Clan is in love?"
Syaoran blushed a deep crimson and continued walking.
She laughed despite her sorrow. Her heart's love was in love with someone and, in all likely-hood, it wasn't her. "He is! Li's in love!" she crowed teasingly, running to catch up to him. "C'mon, you can tell me. Who is it? Is it Jessie?"
She smirked playfully, then a menacing grin appeared on her face. "Tell me or I'll use the Truth Card on you."
He faced her with a knowing, frowning smirk. "You wouldn't dare."
She pouted. "I don't find it fair that you know me that well. At least tell me if she goes to our school?"
"She does." and he turned away to continue walking.
"Do I know her?" she chased after him.
"You do, and that was your last questioned allowed. Topic closed." He looked up to a large tree now blocking the stream bank and smiled. "We're here." he announced.
A puzzled frown crossed her features as she looked at this grouping of massive trees. She didn't remember them being there before, but I had been a while since she had gone this deep into the park. Their span crossed the narrow stream, allowing just enough space for the water and skippers to pass in some places. Some sort of stone wall seemed to be near buried under the mass of intertwined trees and branches.
"In there?" she questioned as she watched him shove his bike through a wide enough space under the tree. "But... there's no way to get in."
"Sure there is. Up and over."
She blinked and looked up to the wide branches so far above. She frowned. Climbing was definitely out. She would have to resort to magic. Sakura took out a small, key-like pendant and looked around quickly to make sure no one else was about, then closed her eyes in concentration. The key began to glow and floated out of her hands, reacting to her powers. Syaoran had to smile at the sight. No matter how many times he saw her do this it still amazed him. She showed such control and such grace.
"Oh, key of Clow,
Power of magic, power of light,
Surrender the wand,
The force ignite.
At Sakura's chanting call the small key began to glow brightly, morphing and expanding in a four foot long, pink wand topped with winged bird-like head. It hovered before her, waiting for its mistress to claim it. Her eyes still closed, Sakura's hand instinctively grasped the wand, twirling it like a majorette's baton in thought. Which card to use? The Float Card to float her up and over? No, it was too uncontrollable. Windy, to carry her up there? Again, no, Windy was just too wild. She frowned.
"Jump Card?" she asked Syaoran.
"Jump Card." he confirmed.
From her backpack she pulled out a Tarot like card and held it before her, eyes once again closed in concentration. "Jump Card, release and dispel." In a lightning fast move she tossed the card out before her and hit it dead center with her wand. "Release!"
The card glowed brightly and changed into two massive arms of smoke, swirling and curling around her feet. When it all settled a pair of small, white wings now adorned the ankles of each of her sneakers.
"Ready?" Syaoran asked her.
She checked her feet and nodded. "Let's do it. Jump!" she ordered the small wings, giving herself an added boost as well out of habit.
Syaoran was right with her, using his years of skill and intensive training to jump the near impossible height to the branches above in a single bound. They landed on the branch together and, moving as one, they leapt off the other side to drop to the ground, facing the massive tree. The drop was a few seconds longer than the jump had been. They were now a good three to four feet lower than Syaoran's bike was, hidden under the tree. As he pulled it free and leaned it against a massive tree root, Sakura turned in place to take in her new surroundings. She couldn't help the loud gasp that escaped her lips at the sight.
It was a shallow, water formed chasm with numerous small cascades trickling over its sides to feed the limpid pool below. Jagged protrusions of moss covered shale jutted out from various locations, creating all sorts of variously sized ledges. Moss and lichens grew everywhere. The canopy of trees created a high dome of branches and leaves, large gaps allowing sunlight to filter through to the ground. Golden leaves of fall fluttered down from the canopy, drawing Sakura's eyes down to a cluster of trees bathed in sunlight. A grouping of cherry trees. What was more surprising was they were in full bloom in the fall. Cherry trees only bloomed in the spring.
"Oh, Li, it's absolutely beautiful." she breathed softly, afraid her voice would shatter the perfect scene. "How did you find it?"
"Remember that night a while back when we were hunting the Mirror Card and your Brother, Toya?"
"Hai." she replied, unable to tear her eyes away from the surreal sight before her.
"Well, remember, I stayed behind when the ambulance picked you two up. I sensed something nearby, something powerful."
She blinked and faced him. "Another Clow Card?"
His cheeks took on a red hue in slight embarrassment. "Um... I'm not sure."
"I'm not sure if it was really a card or this place." He closed his eyes and stretched his senses out around him. "This place... it feels..." He looked at her. "Can't you feel it?"
Sakura cleared her mind and looked out at the chasm. Colors seemed to flare to life before her eyes, writhing, pulsing and undulating in a very organic way as an incredible sensation flooded her senses. There was no way to describe it. The closest she came up with was it felt like... life. She swooned slightly from the feeling, then quickly shook her head to recover from it.
"It... it feels... alive."
"And very controlled."
She looked at him in confusion. "Controlled?"
"Whatever this place is, whatever's here, won't let you go in certain places where the power's the strongest. That plateau over there, with the cherry trees, is one of the safe zones, but only to six feet from the edge."
She smirked at him. "Looks like you played detective."
The blush returned to his cheeks again. "I was curious about this place. But don't we have a conversation to finish?"
"Nani? Oh, yeah, my vision." Her tone sounded a little apprehensive about revealing it.
"C'mon, we'll be more comfortable to talk on the plateau." and he led the way along the rocky ledges.
Syaoran waited patiently as Sakura settled herself comfortably on the cherry blossom petal covered moss, watching her sigh softly, a longing look entering his eyes. She looked every bit as beautiful as the Japanese cherry blossom that had lent her its name. He now understood the dreamy looks she got from the male population at their junior high school. And the jealous looks he got from them when he was talking or walking with her. Sakura lay her cheek on her hands, her green eyes closing to the world as she relaxed, lying on her side. The moss beneath her felt like the softest mattress, the air just warm enough to be comfortable and was hinted with the smells of autumn and the perfume of cherry blossoms. She was perfectly content here, in the presence of the best company she could think of. She smiled. Syaoran almost felt guilty to have to disturb her perfect peace.
"So, what did you see in your vision?" he questioned ever so gently. "Was it a Clow Card?"
A frown knitted her brows. "Hai, a dark, evil one... so cold... so..." and she trembled, diving her mind into the memory of the vision. Her eyes opened. "There were two cards."
His frown deepened. "Two? Working together?"
"No... not really, but they didn't oppose each other either. The evil card watched a lot, as if waiting for the other card to act before it took its turn... waited for a weakness."
"What did the first card do?"
She thought for a moment, fear glowing in her eyes. "It... swallowed things, people. Swallowed them." She sat up suddenly, hugging her knees close to her chest as a terrified shiver gripped her.
"Let me see the vision you had." and he held a hand out to her.
She first looked into his deep, dark amber eyes that almost pleaded with her, then she looked to the offered hand. He had never offered to help this strongly before. Her hesitant hand finally took his, timid green eyes meeting his steady gaze.
"What must I do?" she questioned, her tone unsure.
Syaoran actually felt a very tangible twinge of pain in his chest at her uncertainty. She was scared. Part of him resented Clow Reed for giving the power of vision to the Card Captor. He softened his frown at Sakura, just enough to reassure her.
"Just close your eyes, think of the vision you had last night... and trust me."
Her grip on his hand tightened as she closed her eyes and began to concentrate. Using his clan magic, Syaoran began to gently push his way into Sakura's mind, certain of the immense beauty that had to reside there. She was just too pure to have any darkness within her. He felt her resist, suddenly afraid, but he managed to gently, patiently coax her mind into granting him access. It was a warm, inviting place filled with light and bright colors and happy thoughts. Childhood memories, wishful dreams, it was all there to see, but she hid some of her more personal thoughts from him. He didn't pry. Syaoran felt at peace there for the first time in his life while his mind blended with hers if only for a short while. He smiled as his tensions just seemed to lift away.
Sakura felt her shoulders droop slightly, her whole body beginning to relax. Most movies and television shows she had seen, even the books she had read, had all said a mental intrusion was painful to endure, even if it was welcome. But there was no trace of pain here. Syaoran was being extremely careful, ever so gentle with her. There was no sign of rush or urgency from him. Sakura could feel he was giving her all the time she could possibly want or need to get used to having him in her mind. He was letting her choose the moment to show him anything. She liked having him so close this way. It was so perfect.
Then the vision began.
All the bright colors became dark and cold. The time frame in the vision was night, the time when most of the Clow Cards came out to do the most damage or mischief. Details were not at their best in this vision. The Syaoran and Sakura from the vision stood back to back in the very same park they were in now, only a different part of it, both scrutinizing their surroundings carefully. He was wearing his clan's colors of green, yellow and white, his sword in hand. She wore some sort of green outfit accented in red at the boots, waist, cuffs and collar. She held her wand at ready before her. Tomoyo was off to the side, videotaping the whole scene as usual while holding on to the back of Meilin's fighting costume to retrain her. Both the young warrior/sorcerer and the Card Captor turned to face the same direction as a dark, shapeless mass came rushing towards them from the bushes. The vision's Syaoran pushed Sakura out of the way and the dark form engulfed him, leaving only his sword behind. The real Syaoran felt Sakura try to pull her hand away to stop the vision, but he held on. He needed to see more.
The vision continued, showing the future Sakura screaming in protest and suddenly attacking the dark cloud, tears in her eyes. The dark mass was sealed into an unknown card, but the future Syaoran never reappeared. The future Sakura dropped to her knees and cried uncontrollably. The real Syaoran felt pain in his heart at seeing her so devastated, but wondered why his disappearance would affect her so much. The vision shifted timeframe and location. It was the schoolyard several days or weeks later. The day's bright blue sky was suddenly blotted out by the thickest, blackest clouds imaginable. Everyone at the school ran for cover while the Sakura from the vision held her ground defiantly, facing the clouds. No one stood with her. A determined look was in her eyes. Syaoran could almost hear her think either I defeat and capture this card... or I die trying. Her wand was in one hand, Syaoran's sword in her other. A shapeless, evil mass descended from the clouds and charged straight at her. Before she had a chance to move or seal this unknown card, the cloud produced a long scythe-like blade. It continued its charge at Sakura with the blade and--
"No!" he cried out.
Syaoran broke the vision quickly, pulling his mind back from hers before he could see what would happen next. He didn't want to see it. He kept his eyes shut tight and clutched at his heart as he struggled for breath.
No, it couldn't happen!
Not to her!
Not to his Sakura!
She had seen her own death. No, he had to prevent it somehow.
But what of the first part of her vision?
Did it mean he would die as well?
That part was ambiguous. He opened his eyes and found Sakura hugging her knees, her tearful eyes shut tight as she trembled. Who's death was she crying for? It hurt him to see her so terrified. He had to do something to make her smile return to her lovely features. One smile from her was enough to turn even the darkest day bright again. He swallowed his pride and quickly enfolded her in his arms. He felt her jerk slightly in surprise, but she didn't pull away. She turned her face to his chest and clutched at his arms as if that alone was enough to prevent her vision from ever coming to pass. Syaoran rested his chin on her head, rocking her gently, enjoying a moment he knew would be far too brief.
"You've had visions like this before, some of them were far worse than this one. But we beat Fate over and over again." He gripped her shoulders and pulled back to force her to look up at him. His expression was confident. "We'll beat this one, just like all the others." he reassured.
She stared at his frowning and adamant features, silent. A small smile tugged at the corners of her lips, his confidence beginning to rub off on her. She squared her shoulders bravely, wiping away her tears. "You're right, Li. Fate can be changed. We make our own destiny."
"Right." he agreed, his heart singing at the sight of her smile. He sat in front of her, releasing her shoulders. "Now all we have to worry about is figuring out what those two cards are."
"Um... I think we already figured out what the second card is."
He scowled at the memory. "Yeah... the Death Card." he growled.
Her delicate hand slipped into his to get his attention. He looked up at her pleading green eyes and blinked. "Li, how do I beat that card?" she asked.
"You won't be fighting it alone--"
"But if I am..." she interrupted. "How do I beat the Death Card?"
He hesitated. "Clow Reed said that, because the Death Card controlled all the other elemental cards, only real magic could stop it, not the other cards. He added something about two mortal souls in one body could beat the Death Card. I don't know what he meant by that."
She kept a loose grip on his hand as she pondered the meaning of his words. Two mortal souls in one body. That was impossible! Did that mean that beating the Death Card was also impossible? No, Clow Reed would have never created a card that couldn't be controlled. That was far too dangerous. Two mortal souls in one body. This would be something to ask Kero later. She sighed.
"Then let's concentrate on the first card. No Clow Card takes my friend and gets away with it." she stated defiantly.
"Figuring it out might be a little tougher. There wasn't a lot of detail in your vision."
Her shoulders slumped. "I need a focus lens in my dreams." She let herself drop to one side with a defeated sigh, releasing his hand. "I know I'm going to have the killer of all migraines before this day is over." she groaned.
He scrutinized her face carefully and his frown deepened in concern. "You didn't sleep last night because of that vision, did you?" he asked carefully.
She looked up at him. "How can you tell?"
"You look exhausted. Did you sleep at all?"
"No." she sighed. "Each time I closed my eyes I would see it happen all over again."
"Why don't you try sleeping now?"
"Now? As in, right here now?"
"Yeah. It's quiet here and I don't think you'll have the vision again."
She met his eyes. "You sure you don't mind?"
"I don't mind. Besides, what good is a partner who falls asleep in the middle of a capture?"
She chuckled. "I guess you're right. Good thing it's Saturday. Dad isn't expecting me back until at least supper time." She settled herself comfortably on her side, facing him. "Don't know how much sleep I'll be able to get though."
"You'll sleep." he assured.
"How do you know?"
He silently reached over to her and pressed his index to the center of her forehead. Sakura felt a slight, pleasant tingling sensation invade her senses, a sort of drowsy humor, then all went blissfully black. Syaoran smiled gently as her eyes closed under the influence of his newest spell. It was something his mentor had recently taught him, but that Syaoran hadn't gotten a chance to use yet. He couldn't think of anyone who could benefit from it more.
He carefully smoothed her soft hair away from her face. "Sleep without dreams, Sakura." he whispered as he traced the edge of her face with gentle fingers. "Sleep in peace."
The sudden urge that gripped him was just too strong to deny anymore. She would never know. He leaned down towards her and placed a feather light kiss on her parted lips. She sighed and mumbled something he couldn't quite hear, but she stayed asleep. For the hours following Syaoran just watched her sleep, not tiring of this motionless and silent meditation. He sat against one of the cherry trees, one knee pulled up to his chest for comfort as he gazed upon a living goddess. She had to be a divine being. No one woman could look or act as she did without some form of supernatural origin. He wanted to memorize every detail of her face, every nuance of her features. He wanted to remember how the light caught the dark coppers of her hair and the light rosy cream color of her skin. To him she was mesmerizing. All around her fell the petals of her namesake, not daring to touch the sleeping Mistress of the Clow Cards. To wake her would be to break a fantastic dream. But one petal soon became bold enough. Its path directed by the random air currents, the lone pinkish white petal landed on Sakura's cheek. Her dark lashes began to flutter as she woke from the light touch. She blinked a few times, then sat up to stretch with a yawn. Syaoran almost couldn't stop his chuckle at how adorable she was when doing that. She rubbed her eyes of sleep and looked to him sitting not too far away.
"Hey." she greeted sleepily.
"What was that you used on me?"
"A sleep spell. It's supposed to only be used when doing an intense healing, but I figured you needed it just as badly."
"Mm, I did. Thank you. You stayed the entire time?"
He shrugged. "Had no place better to go. This is one of the few rare places in the city that Meilin-free."
She chuckled and stretched again. "So you take advantage of them for as long as you can, right?" He merely nodded. "How long did I sleep?"
"How long is a while?"
He looked at his watch. "Almost five hours."
"Nani? Five hours! Oh, Meilin's going to kill us!"
"Well, that would be one way to beat Fate on your vision." he quipped softly.
She faced him in shock, only to be greeted by a playful glint in his frowning amber eyes. She suddenly understood and began to giggle. The giggle soon turned into a laugh and she lunged at the young warrior/sorcerer. She caught him off guard and easily pinned him on his side to the ground. He blinked a surprised smile and looked at her. There was a demonically playful glint in her green eyes.
"Are you ticklish, Syaoran?" she suddenly giggled.
He froze, his eyes going wide. "Don't you dare!" he warned.
She pretended to mull the threat over in her mind with a playful grin, enjoying the look on Syaoran's face. "I dare!" she laughed. "Tickle attack!"
* * *
Li Meilin Rae had searched all over the park without success for the last five hours. Syaoran and Kinomoto had to be somewhere, they had said they were coming to this park. She decided to retrace her steps. Turning a bend in the path on her bike she came upon the small stone bridge near the park's entrance. And there, her head just poking up from over the edge, was Kinomoto Sakura. The Card Captor pulled herself over the edge, then turned to reach back down for something. Meilin squinted to get a better view.
Syaoran 's bike!
I knew it! I knew she was going to do something horrible to my Syaoran!she raged, preparing to race over for a confrontation...
... just when Syaoran leapt up from over the side of the bridge to land on the stone railing. Meilin blinked. He was fine, no sign of injury anywhere. She saw him say something to Kinomoto as he stepped down from the ledge. She responded by holding up a bobble like pendant hanging casually from her finger. Meilin gasped. Syaoran 's pendant! The one he used to call out his Clow Sword and control the elements. How did Kinomoto get her hands on it? She saw Syaoran lunge towards Kinomoto, who promptly backed away, laughing playfully as she dangled the pendant tauntingly before her. Meilin allowed herself a little evil smile.
You're in trouble now, Kinomoto! Syaoran doesn't let anyone near his pendant. I tried this trick on his once and nearly got my head chopped off for it.
Syaoran lunged again.
Now you're dead, Kinomoto!
But much to Meilin's surprise he didn't attack the Card Captor or yell at her. Instead he merely tried to grab his pendant away from her while she tried to keep it out of his reach. Both were laughing. Meilin blinked. Syaoran never laughed. He wrapped an arm around Kinomoto's waist from behind, to keep her from retreating, and reached again for his pendant. Still she kept it out of his reach, her face taking on a deep blush from his proximity. Kinomoto freed herself from his arm, running a little ways off to the grass, and once again taunted him by dangling the pendant before her. He took a swipe for it, but she pulled it away before he could grab it and stuffed it down the front of her shirt.
* * *
Syaoran was shocked still as he just stared at her, trying not to look at her chest where his pendant obviously was. "Sakura!?"
She laughed softly, a blush touching her cheeks again. She hadn't even expected herself to pull off this stunt, but it was done. All she could do was follow through. "You want it, Syaoran, you have to go get it."
"I am not sticking my hand down your shirt." Not that I don't want to. He then blinked when his mind caught up with what she had just said. Syaoran. She never called him that. This was the second time she had used that name.
"Then you're not getting it back." she taunted.
She heard him growl low only seconds before he lunged at her, knocking her down to her back in the soft grass. He pinned her there by straddling her hips, holding her wrists down on either side of her head. She looked up in surprise only to find him frowning a playful smile down at her. She smirked in an attempt to hide her blush.
"What are you doing?" she chuckled. Oh, wow! He's even more gorgeous up close!
It would be so easy to kiss her right now, his mind suggested in temptation, but he shook it off. "You're not giving me much of a choice to get my pendant back, are you?"
Her blush returned full force at the thought of him going for his pendant. "You wouldn't dare, Syaoran." she taunted too confidently, squirming slightly.
He grinned, deepening her blush. "Oh? And why wouldn't I?"
"Because Meilin is standing right over there watching us." she told him, indicating the direction with her eyes.
He looked over quickly and groaned at the sight of Meilin riding over to them with a shocked and more than confused expression on her face. He sat up, still keeping the Mistress of the Cards pinned to the ground. Then he looked down at her, finding her arms crossed over her chest in slight defiance, an I told you so look on her smirking features.
He sighed in defeat. "Hey, tell me something."
"Why did you start calling me Syaoran?"
"No specific reason." she blushed, averting her eyes.
"Oh." was all he could say, unable to stop the grin. "Sakura?"
She looked up at him, liking the way her name sounded from his lips. He so rarely used her name. "Hai?"
"Can I have my pendant back now?"
"Maybe." she taunted.
"Maybe? What do I have to do then?"
"For starters... let me up."
Syaoran quickly did as told, pulling her up to her own feet in the process. She turned her back to him and reached down the front of her shirt for his magical item. She turned back to him, but didn't give his pendant back just yet, holding it in a tight fist.
"What else do I have to do?" Syaoran questioned, willing to get her all the stars in the sky if only she asked.
Sakura glanced at Meilin who was still riding towards them. "Tell her you broke off your engagement to her."
His eyes widened almost imperceivably in apprehension. "I can't..."
"The longer you drag this out the worse it'll become. She has a right to know."
"You're right." he sighed. "Won't be easy."
She smiled in sympathy and held his pendant out to him. "It never is."
"What never is?" Meilin demanded when she finally neared, shooting daggers from her eyes at Sakura.
Syaoran's perpetual frown and stoic expression returned, but Sakura spoke before he had a chance to brush off the subject. "Well, I better be getting home. My Father's probably wondering where I am so he can dump a whole new set of chores on me." she stated while she forced a smile. She looked to Syaoran and her expression softened on it's own. "Call me later?"
The tiniest of smiles touched his lips. "I will." He reached for his pendant nestled in her palm. "Thanks."
She smiled brightly, causing him to blush. "What are partners for?" and she quickly jogged off.
Meilin rounded on Syaoran, frowning in clear jealousy. "Alright, what was that all about? You two were being very cryptic just now. And where were you all this time? I spent the last five hours searching the entire park and I didn't find you anywhere. What did she tell you?"
"I want to know what you two did and talked about!"
"Meilin, can you shut up for about five minutes!" he snapped. Then, "C'mon, we have to talk and you're not going to like what I'm going to tell you."
To Be Continued...