May 31, 2001

Gomennasi for taking so long, but seeing as I had to do some research to get some of the scenes just right you can hardly blame me. But if you have to blame me, then go ahead. It just means I'll be even slower in putting out a next story if that moment should ever arise (evil laugh).

The traditions portrayed in this chapter are by no means the ONLY ones in existence. Chinese traditions vary from region to region, sometimes even from village to village. Do not take what I have written down as being the only possibility for this tradition.

I'd like to give a hearty ARIGATOU to all of you who have read, commented, or simply enjoyed my series. Without you all constantly pushing and badgering me to finish it I would have never put in so much hard work into this oeuvre.

Arigatou to WingZer0 Z (Ken) and FireflyAngel426 (Irah), who unknowingly inspired me to write Sakura and Syaoran the way I did. You two are just so kawaii, no matter what your folks say ^_^

Arigatou to BCzeon27 (Ben) and Digidynasty (Alexis), true fans and true soul mates if ever I met any and some of the most romantically creative people I know ^_^

And arigatou to Chu-kun, for being such a great sounding board for ideas when I hit my walls ^_^

But now I MUST drop out of sight to work on the biggest project of my life: revising a manuscript for pending publishing ° _ °

Domo arigatou, minna, and ja ne!! ^_^

Card Captors

"Dimensions II - Test of Evil"

Censored Version – Epilogue

(Uncensored version available at The MOUSE Hole website)

By : The MOUSE............................

All of Kinomoto Sakura's senses surfaced all at once, her Spring green eyes fluttering open to take in her surroundings. All the colors and shades were soft, designed to calm and relax a person sleeping within. A motif of peonies and bamboo greeted her eyes. She blinked in the room's dimmed light, confused, feeling the tropical heat of the air caressing her face and neck. The cool silk sheets caressed her skin gently. Her memories were vague as to how she got to this bedroom, her assigned room on the Li Clan's estate. Her last conscious memories had been of being within Mummaro's Gate as it crumbled down onto her, then of being cradled tenderly in Li Syaoran's arms within the estate's Reception Hall. How she had gotten there, and everything that happened afterwards, was a total blank. Her nose reported the delicate scent of burning sage and lavender wafting through the room.

Healing herbs.

Turning her head towards the scent and the window she saw that a small prayer altar had been set up in her room, complete with miniature idols of healing deities and smoking incense on it. She frowned slightly.

Aren't I supposed to be dead?

"How're you feeling?" a tiny yet familiar voice questioned from her other side.

Sakura turned her head away from the window to find a small, yellow, winged rodent-like creature hovering at her bedside with an expression of worry on its tiny face. She blinked at it.

"Kero?" She then smiled. "You changed back."

He smirked and shrugged. "Hai, I was getting tired of being ridden all day long by so many kids. This way I can fly out of reach." He then looked at her carefully. "You had us all worried. Are you okay?"

She smiled gently. "Hai, now that I'm out of that place. How did I get out?"

"Life, Earthy and Death got you out magically. When it was sure you were going to be alright, the Life Card sealed itself and settled in the book."

"And Syaoran?"

"The gaki's in the same boat you are, hurt but recovering. He woke up a little over two hours ago. He really wanted to come here, but the healers insisted you should be allowed to rest. I think his Okaa-san and Sisters led him off to one of the terraces."

Sakura smothered a giggle. "My poor Syaoran."

Kero snorted. "That gaki can survive being away from you for a few hours. Hey, what're you doing?" he suddenly exclaimed as the sorceress threw off her covers.

She struggled with stiff limbs to sit up on the edge of the bed. "What's it look like? I'm getting up."

"But why?"

She grinned. "Syaoran may be able to survive being away for a few hours, but I can't."

"You still need rest." the Guardian Beast protested.

"Kero, I feel fine. Besides..." She glanced at the ornate antique clock sitting on her nightstand. "It's almost eleven. It's time I got up."

She teetered for a moment on wobbly legs as she waited for her sense of balance to return to her, then hobbled towards her dresser for a change of clothes. On the way she passed the full-length mirror and froze, stepping back in front of it to see herself. She was dressed in her pale pink slip now instead of the gown she had worn at the dinner party, but that wasn't what was so surprising.

Where were the bruises?

Where were the scars and bandages?

Her body showed no sign of the countless injuries she should have been riddled with. She looked to Kero with a very puzzled expression.

"Magic, right?" she asked him, indicating her lack of injuries.

He suddenly looked sheepish as he sat on one of the bedposts at the foot of the bed. "Hai, magic can heal like that, combined with, um, two weeks full rest." he answered hesitantly.

Sakura rounded on him. "Nani!? Two weeks!?"

"They had to make sure you would heal properly and completely." he amended quickly.

"But two weeks!?"

"Kero, what's going on in here?" Li Meilin Rae demanded anxiously as she and a concerned Daidouji Tomoyo burst into the room.

Bright amethyst and fiery terra cotta eyes lit up with sheer joy and relief at the sight of the Mistress of the Cards up and walking on her own. Tomoyo let loose a delighted squeal before launching herself at her best friend to enfold her in a tight hug.

"Yokata! You're alright!" she cheered.

"She won't be for much longer if you don't let her go." Meilin warned, having seen Sakura's wince of pain.

The teen videographer quickly released the sorceress with a gasp of remorse. "Gomen ne, Sakura, I got carried away."

The recovering teen rubbed her still healing side with a reassuring smile. "It's okay, Tomoyo. Had it been me I would've probably done the same thing. It also lets me know what injuries I still have to be careful of."

"You're sure you're alright?" queried the Chinese girl.

"Hai, Meilin. A good shower and a change of clothes and I'll be as good as new."

Tomoyo suddenly smiled brightly, clapping her hands in supplication. "Oh, let me pick out your clothes?" she near pleaded desperately. "Let me, onegai, Sakura?"

Both Meilin and Sakura couldn't help but laugh at the stars dancing in their friend's eyes as little Kero groaned in dismay at the girl's exuberance when it came to clothes. Sometimes that teen could be far too fashion happy.

* * *

"Kawaii!" joyfully exclaimed Li Syaoran's four Sisters as if they had one voice.

Li Lerae gazed at her Son sitting across from her on the private terrace, both enjoying the calm and a warm sunbeam tempered by a gentle sea breeze. Part of her marveled how much he had grown in the last five years. His tan slacks and white shirt perfectly chiseled a body shaped and defined from years of hard training and fighting at his sorceress's side. Lerae fought hard to stifle the elated smile that threatened to spread across her lips from his news. She was sorely tempted to have a reaction much like that of her Daughters now babbling excitedly. This was fantastic news her Son had given her. His amber eyes shone with hope for her approval.

"Are you certain about this decision, Xiao Lang?" Lerae asked of him.

Li Syaoran nodded. "Hai, Ma-Ma, I have no doubts."

"Kawaii!" his Sisters exclaimed again.

Syaoran frowned at them.

Part of Lerae's smile broke through slightly. "And this will be done according to the old ways?"

"Hai."

"Kawaii!" the Sisters exclaimed again.

Again he frowned at them. "I was thinking of asking Ann-Lee to be my spokesperson for this."

"Kawaii!" they exclaimed yet again.

More of Lerae's smile snuck past her barriers. "Your Aunt will be most honored to speak on your behalf for this. A wise choice."

Syaoran smiled. "I know she can be very convincing in her arguments when she needs to be. And for this she'll have to be."

"Kawaii!" his Sisters exclaimed again, receiving a glare from their little Brother.

"Not to worry, my Son. Ann-Lee is a master negotiator. She will be successful. Do you wish them brought here upon reaching an agreement?"

The warrior paused in thought for a moment, then nodded slowly. "Hai. It would make the rest of it much easier."

"Then I will arrange it."

The Little Wolf's eyes smiled. "Arigatou, Ma-Ma. You don't know how much your approval of all this means to me."

"Kawaii!" his Sisters exclaimed again and Syaoran growled low in growing annoyance.

Lerae smiled gently. "Anything to make you happy, Xiao Lang."

He fought back the blush trying to warm his cheeks. "Arigatou." he voiced again.

"Kawaii!" his Sisters exclaimed yet again.

"Will you four magpies just shut up already!" the warrior exclaimed.

Feimei merely smiled brightly. "We're just so happy for our little Brother."

Fanren grinned. "It's not everyday he personally requests this."

Syaoran growled at their seemingly innocent expressions. "Don't you have children to take care of?"

"Their nannies are doing that." Fuutie replied.

"They go annoy your husbands and leave me alone!"

Shiefa's expression turned devilish. "That's actually not a bad idea." The other three seemed to suddenly understand and grinned.

"Fine, then go!" and the warrior rose from his seat to physically chase them off the terrace.

His four Sisters ran away screeching in mock terror. This done he returned to his seat and leaned back on the settee to lounge comfortably, a smile appearing on his lips, both satisfied and whimsical. He was silent for a moment, enjoying the sun's warming rays, before sighing softly.

"It's all up to Ann-Lee now to convince them. I'll have the list and the final details for everything else for you by dinner tonight."

Lerae nodded silently.

"What final details?" a sweet voice suddenly questioned.

Startled, both Okaa-san and Son jumped visibly in their seats and turned in the direction of the voice. There stood Tomoyo and Meilin, both looking amused. Kero was sitting comfortably on violet-eyed Tomoyo's shoulder, his tiny eyes carefully scanning his surroundings for danger that was not present. And slightly before the two girls and the Guardian Beast, stood a confused Mistress of the Clow Cards. Sakura wore a light, short sleeved white sweater and a dark grey, wrap-around skirt that seemed to be made of a felt material. It was a degree more elegant than the jeans and simple T-shirts her two friends wore. The Li Clan's future leader felt a smile spread across his face at the beautiful vision the love of his life made, her confused expression making her almost painfully adorable. He held a hand out to her in beckoning as he lay back on the settee once again.

"You must have been in a really deep conversation to not have noticed us walking up." the sorceress smiled sweetly as she took her soul mate's offered hand and sat at his side on the settee.

"Heaven forbid I even become that absorbed ever again, my Ying Fa." he murmured warmly against her ear, wrapping an arm around her slender waist to keep her close.

She shivered pleasantly and snuggled against his side willingly, listening to his strong heartbeat. "Syaoran, what final details?" she insisted softly.

Li Lerae chuckled at the obvious devotion the young couple showed for each other. "Xiao Lang and I were merely discussing the plans to an upcoming event he wishes to put into motion."

Meilin blinked as she sat in a nearby wicker chair. "Event? What event?"

Syaoran shrugged slightly. "Nothing over the top. The last Clan gathering we had got ruined by Mesuinu and Higato so we're going to try this again with no interruptions this time."

Stars lit up in Tomoyo's eyes at the chance to design another fabulous evening gown for Sakura to wear, a thousand and one designs already dancing before her mind's eye. "When is it going to be held?"

The warrior looked to his Okaa-san. "I'm thinking four days?" Lerae nodded in confirmation. He turned back to his friends. "Hai, four days from now. It should be enough time for a few special, extra guests to arrive."

The three teen girls looked confused as Kero scrutinized the sorcerer suspiciously. Syaoran had a secretive, almost devilish grin tugging at the corners of his mouth and shining in his warm ocher eyes. The Guardian Beast immediately knew he was planning something, but whether it was a good or bad thing he couldn't yet tell. With a thoroughly amused smile at the whole scene unfolding before her Li Lerae stood and bowed slightly, elegantly to her guests.

"I must go inform Ann-Lee to prepare if she is to have time to get her needed belongings together. She will leave the moment she receives your instructions tonight, Xiao Lang."

"Arigatou, Ma-Ma."

Then Li-san walked away.

"Why is Aunt Ann-Lee leaving tonight?" Meilin queried of her Cousin.

He gave her a very pointed look. "She's to be my spokesperson... in Japan."

She raised a puzzled eyebrow, cocking her head to one side. "Spokesperson? In Japan?"

Meilin met Syaoran's gaze spark for spark, then blinked when he, too, arched an eyebrow in a you know exactly what I mean expression, a smirk working at the corner of his mouth.

"Oh... Oh!" she exclaimed when realization finally sank in.

Her hands quickly clamped over her mouth, her face contorting as she struggled desperately to hold in her squeals of glee or comments that would give away the revelation. It was plainly obvious to her that her Cousin wanted to keep this wonderful news a secret from the Japanese cheerleader. It was to be a surprise for her. The two remaining girls and the Guardian Beast gave Meilin strange looks, silently questioning her as to the reason of her strange reaction, noting how her face was turning purple from her effort to restrain herself. Feeling she would crack Meilin quickly grabbed Tomoyo's arm and Kero's tail to drag them both into the house.

"I bet Kero is hungry, let's go to the kitchens and see if we can't find him something for him to eat." she lied quickly as a cover for her rushed retreat with the two.

Sakura sat up in puzzlement and watched Meilin drag Tomoyo and Kero away. She blinked in wonder. "Well, that was wholly unexpected of her."

"But not unwelcome." Syaoran smiled coyly.

She smiled at him from over her shoulder. With a giggle she returned to his welcoming arms, sighing blissfully as they enfolded her in a tight embrace. There was no greater sense of security than the feel of his strength and his warm aura wrapped around her. The world just melted away when he held her this way, tenderly and lovingly. Sakura would have given anything and everything she had to remain exactly where she was. It was well worth it to just hear the steady lub-dub of his heart and listen to his gentle breath rising and falling in his chest.

Syaoran felt both blessed and intoxicated by her presence. He was completely addicted and she was his drug. Her aura blending and intermingling with his was like no other sensation in the world; comforting, enticing, innocent. And her scent, that sweet and delicate scent of cherry blossoms that seemed to follow her everywhere she went, was euphoric. He could saturate his senses with that scent and still never get enough of it. He suddenly felt her lithe arms tighten around his chest, feeling her bliss change to some sort of fear. He looked down at the top of her head, her honey auburn hair hiding her face from him.

"Sakura?" he questioned softly.

"I was so afraid I'd never see you again." she stated in a shaky whisper.

Syaoran slid down a bit to be at Sakura's eye level, laying a warm hand on her cheek. Tears threatened to spill from her emerald orbs. His thumb glided over her smooth cheek in a tender caress, tightening his other arm around her to pull her closer against himself.

"Shhh, that's in the past now." he soothed gently. "I'll never ever leave you."

Sakura's gaze met his as she held up her pinky finger to him. "Promise?"

He gave her a shivery warm smile at her adorable look of innocence, hooking his own little finger with her. "Hai, I promise." he assured. "And this is a promise I intend to keep no matter what."

An awed smile touched the sorceress's lips. This adamant vow was one of the many reasons she loved him so much. He always knew exactly what to say at any given time to make her feel better. The warrior's fingers carefully curled under her chin and tilted her face up to his own. His gentle smile sent thousands of shivers racing up the length of her spine. Silently she thought it was such a pity that the handsome sorcerer didn't smile more often. He has the most beautiful smile.

I only smile for you, My Love, his mind whispered into hers.

Another pleasant shiver gripped her and she leaned upwards, her lips brushing his in a tender kiss. His lips parted in response to accept the kiss, his eyes closing, his callused fingers soft upon her cheek.

"Aishiteru, Syaoran." she whispered against his lips, then ducked her head beneath his chin to mold her body to his.

He cradled her head against the side of his neck, caressing her back from her nape to the small of her back. "Aishiteru, Sakura." he murmured against the skin of her forehead. "Now and always."

* * *

Tomoyo videotaped the young couple lounging on the terrace, a bright smile on her lips. Meilin had just explained the reason for her previous reaction and it was so sublime. And to think she would actually be present to capture every wonderful moment and detail on film. It was beyond her wildest dreams. Kero hovered just over her head, also watching, also smiling. Despite all past grievances and name-callings between him and Syaoran, the warrior made Sakura happy. He could forgive him the rest for that alone. If anything Kero wanted his Mistress happy. Tomoyo giggled excitedly and looked to Meilin.

"You're absolutely sure about this?" she asked the Chinese teen.

"Positive." she replied. "Asking Aunt Ann-Lee to be his spokesperson is a dead giveaway. It's part of our traditions for it."

"It won't be easy for your Aunt to convince them."

Meilin smirked. "It won't be easy to say no to Ann-Lee. I think that's why Syaoran chose her. Then he'll announce the results at the banquet."

"So that's why he wants to have the second banquet." Kero grinned. "I got to admit, the kid has flair; dramatic and romantic."

"Sugoi! I get to design a totally fantastic gown for my Sakura to wear for that then."

"Nothing overly frilly, Tomoyo." Meilin warned.

She looked mortified. "Of course not! Frills are so passé. I see something of satin, silk or lace... or any combination of." Both the Guardian Beast and the Chinese girl groaned softly at this. "Tell me more about this tradition. I don't want to miss a second of this."

"Over a snack." Kero added quickly. "I'm starving!" to which the girls laughed.

* * *

A calm and quiet evening descended on the island of Bing Di Lian. Attendants went about preparing the Li Clan's estate for the night for when its occupants would decide to retire. The guards assigned to the evening watch began their rounds to ensure the safety of all those within the estate. A fine cool mist hung over the grounds, adding an air of mystery to the already magical place. Sakura sighed silently as she watched from the window as the night settled peacefully on the island. A smile adorned her lips. She thought about how wonderful it could be if she could stay on this estate all her life. She could learn so much about magic here, about Clow Reed and the cards he had created. But, most of all, she could forever stay with her adored soul mate. The thought sent goose bumps along her flesh pleasantly. Her smile grew slightly wider as she continued to watch the night, reminiscing about the day she had just had.

Anyone else might have considered that day a complete waste of time, but to Sakura it was just as memorable and magical as the island and the one she had been with. She had spent the entire day in the company of Li Syaoran alone, though she had been positive a certain camera happy teen had followed them just to spy and film. The Li warrior had taken the young sorceress on a tour of the island, showing her his old hideouts and some of the more spectacular locations the island had to offer. At one such location he had thought it best to return the Book and Key of Clow back to their rightful owner, the Mistress of the Cards. She had thanked him properly for the considerate gesture. She knew he could have very well kept the cards, but he was far too kind to her to do such a thing. A blush crept up the Mistress of the Cards' cheeks as she remembered how they had interrupted their own tour numerous times with sweet moments of tender kisses. It had felt as if they could never get close enough though. Chances were that was exactly the case. Silently she hoped that would change between them.

"Not if we can't stop Tomoyo from taping us at every turn." Syaoran stated softly as he came up behind her to tenderly grip her shoulders. A smile was in his voice.

She nestled herself back against his chest with a blissful sigh, her smile softening lovingly. "Eavesdropping?"

His arms slipped around her waist. "No."

"Then, how...?"

He chuckled. "You were broadcasting like a radio antenna, My Love." and he placed a gentle kiss on the back of her head. "I could hear you without even trying."

She blushed. "Gomen ne."

Syaoran nuzzled the back of her ear warmly. "Who says I didn't like it?" he murmured.

A tiny gasp escaped her lips as her knees threatened to buckle from his gentle breath on her skin. Sakura wondered if he knew just how seductive he was sometimes. His arms tightened slightly around her slim waist to keep her close. To the teen sorceress it was incredible how one man could make her feel so impossibly safe.

"Arigatou." Syaoran grinned.

Sakura giggled. "Now you were eavesdropping."

"Gomen, gomen." he chuckled. "C'mon, dinner's about to start soon." and he gently tugged her away from the window.

She pressed herself against his side, her arms wrapped around his torso, her cheek to his shoulder as they slowly walked down the corridors of the estate's main house. The warrior kept both his arms around her, feeling that if he ever dared to let her go that he would lose her this time.

"Ne, Syaoran?" she finally questioned after a long silence.

"Nani?"

"Are you ever going to tell me what you have planned for the banquet in four days?"

He smiled. "Now where's the surprise in that?"

She pouted. "Mou, Syaoran--"

The sorcerer gently warmed the sorceress's lips with his own to silence her protest. "Patience, Sakura. Trust me, I do believe you'll like this surprise."

They arrived at a set of double doors where an attendant stood unwearyingly. He bowed to the approaching Card Captors in much respect and opened the double doors for them to enter the room beyond. It was a small room, large enough for ten people to comfortably sit around a rectangular table and still have room for a few sparse antiques for decorations. The Clan's matriarch was already seated at the head of the table, entertaining Kero, Tomoyo and Meilin as they waited for the Card Captors to arrive to beginning the evening meal. There was one more person sitting at the table that Sakura hadn't yet met. She was a rather pudgy woman for her tall and broad stature, with very black and very attentive eyes that sparkled with a devilish mischief. She was an impressive woman, a shock of auburn streaking her salt and pepper hair, wisdom clearly seen in her wrinkled face. She smiled brightly, almost proudly, at the young couple as they walked in arm in arm.

"Ah, and here is the happy pair now." the woman exclaimed.

"Did we make you wait long?" the warrior queried with a look of apology, holding his girlfriend's chair out like a perfect gentleman for her to sit.

"Not very long." the woman assured. "Lerae and Meilin were just telling me more about your three friends here. Simply fascinating people." She smiled at Sakura. "So, is this the lovely tao?"

Sakura blinked in confusion and looked to Syaoran as he sat. "Tao?"

A small frown creased his brow. "Guess not all words are being translated." He looked at his partner with a gentle smile. "It means peach."

Again she blinked. "Peach?"

He merely winked with an amused grin in response. "Aunt Ann-Lee, meet Card Mistress Kinomoto Sakura." he introduced.

The sorceress bowed in her seat to the woman. "An honor, Li-san."

"The honor is mine, Card Mistress." Ann-Lee returned.

"Ne, you're the one Syaoran is sending to Japan on some business for him?"

"Hai." she smiled.

"I don't suppose you'd tell me why?"

Ann-Lee's smile grew a little wider. "He trusts in my abilities."

"To do what?"

She chuckled. "To tame a tiger."

"Tame a tiger?"

"There is no use trying to pry the contents of my mission out of me, little tao." she chuckled. "Xiao Lang has expressed that this is to remain a secret, for now."

Sakura slumped slightly with a pout of defeat, hearing her friends snicker softly at her failed attempt to learn this tight secret. She turned to her boyfriend only to find him smirking at her in amusement.

She smiled sheepishly. "Patience?"

"Patience." he confirmed, giving her hand a gentle squeeze.

She sighed softly, knowing she would never convince anyone of his family to tell her what it was he was planning, as the attendants took their unspoken cue and served the evening meal. Syaoran used this opportunity to pass a small rolled-up scroll to his Aunt through one of the servants. The aging woman accepted the message, carefully unrolling it and reading over its contents. She raised only her eyes from the document to look across the table to her nephew. Sakura listened carefully to glean any clue possible to figure out what this important event would be.

"You are offering quite a lot to them." she told him.

"I owe them a lot, infinitely more than what's there."

She smiled knowingly, raising her head. "Hai, I suppose you do. And this list down at the bottom here?"

"To be brought back here as well upon reaching an agreement with the principle party involved."

The elder woman nodded thoughtfully, returning her eyes to the scroll. "Hai. Six hours to get there, maybe two days of negotiation and getting the rest of your list ready for departure, and six hours back. That leaves a day and a half to iron out any problems that might arise. Hai, this will do nicely."

"Arigatou for doing this, Ann-Lee."

She waved a hand absently as if in a dismissal. "Save your domo arigatou until all this is settled." She paused. "But this should not be too hard."

Lerae smiled at her Sister's confidence and looked to her niece who was struggling hard not to laugh at the Card Mistress's confusion. "Meilin, perhaps in the morning you could take both Tomoyo and Sakura into town."

"Hai, that's an excellent idea, Ma-Ma." the Clan's sorcerer agreed. "Take them shopping, show them the sights of the Island City."

The sorceress looked a little disappointed. "You're not coming with us?" she asked her partner.

He shook his head in a negative, a look of genuine remorse on his face. "There's a ceremony I have to attend here. A private, family ceremony that's going to last the vast portion of the day."

"Tradition?" she queried further.

He nodded. "Tradition."

"Don't worry, Sakura." Tomoyo grinned. "Meilin and I will keep you so distracted that you'll never notice time fly until we have to come back."

The Mistress of the Cards looked apprehensive about leaving her partner's side for so long. Their last prolonged separation had not turned out for the best, nearly resulting in their deaths and the destruction of the world. But part of her mind agreed that she had to do something to occupy herself while her Little Wolf attended to his family's traditions. The more time she spent on the estate around his relatives, the more she learned about her beloved warrior. About how he grew up and lived before coming to Japan and just how important traditions were to his family. And she would accept all these rituals and ceremonies. They were a part of the man she loved after all. So if this was private and only family oriented, then so be it. Sakura bowed her head and nodded, reluctantly agreeing with the arrangements.

We can spend the night together until then, if you want, Syaoran suggested gently in her mind.

She blinked in surprise and looked at him from the corner of her eye, fighting off a smirk. You make that sound naughtier than it really is, she sent, casually taking a morsel from her plate with her chopsticks and popping it in her mouth deftly.

She heard him chuckle coyly in her mind. What if I'm suggesting that very thing?

A fierce blush colored her cheeks as she nearly choked, turning sharply to face him in shock. "Nani!?"

He laughed. "Gotcha."

She frowned, then playfully slapped his shoulder, getting caught up in his mirth. I'm going to get you for that.

His golden eyes sparkled in seductive mischief. I'm counting on it.

She giggled another blush. Libidinous, she accused.

Can you blame me with such a lovely angel as you at my side? he told her in all innocence.

Now you're a sweet-talker, she smiled.

Can you blame me for that too?

No, but I can try, she teased.

Then, suddenly noticing the silence in the dining room, the pair blinked back to reality and looked to their friends and family. Five broad and intrigued grins, five pairs of curious eyes, and one video camera lens greeted them. The Card Captors looked from one face to the next in puzzlement, twitching slightly at their almost intense scrutiny.

"Nani?" the warrior demanded of the five.

"We just think your bond is so kawaii to watch." Kero teased as he munched on a rice ball.

Syaoran stiffened slightly and looked to Sakura with a sheepish expression. We got carried away.

She merely smirked at him. That seems to be happening a lot these days, and he chuckled in amused agreement.

"So how long ago did you guys find out about this... this... well... link?" Tomoyo queried, intrigued.

Sakura had a thoughtful look as she recollected her memories. "Um... at school the same day Li-san showed up at Syaoran's apartment." she answered.

"We actually found out by accident." Syaoran added. "We got brief flashes throughout the day, bits of feelings, and a few sentences. They were fragmented at first, but everything got clearer and stronger the more time passed."

"And, just now, this was a silent conversation between the both of you that we witnessed?" asked Ann-Lee.

""Hai."" the soul mates replied in unison.

"Can we know what you were saying?" Meilin probed, a glint of pure curiosity in her terra cotta eyes.

""No."" they again replied together with a knowing grin.

Li Meilin Rae responded with a pout to which all the occupants of the dinning room laughed.

* * *

Li Ann-Lee walked daintily through the thick snow of Japan's Tomeda District, aware of the strange glances passers by gave her and her four attendants as they passed. She had to admit to herself, they must have made a very strange sight, a group that seemed to consist of one noblewoman and four men laden with numerous boxes each. But all these boxes were necessary. There were the items and gifts she would use to negotiate with. Turning another corner in this maze of small streets, Ann-Lee and her cortege finally arrived at their destination. She gazed at the quaint two-story house fondly. Love and peace simply radiated from it. This must have been an amazing place for a child to grow up in. She only hoped its occupants were still there. The elder Li woman had made it a point to get here early to catch the residents before they left for their daily routine. At seven in the morning they had to still be in. Steeling herself she walked up the narrow path to the front door, attendants in tow, and rang the doorbell. Barely a minute passed before a smiling, middle-aged man opened the door. He blinked at the sight of the quintet standing before him.

"Konnichiwa. May I help you?" he greeted as a younger man stepped just within sight down the hallway.

Ann-Lee and the attendants bowed in deep respect. "We have been sent to you by Li Xiao Lang to offer you, on his behalf, his most important request, Kinomoto Fujitaka-sama."

* * *

Li Syaoran woke to the crystalline song of a sparrow from somewhere beyond his open window. He inhaled deeply as he woke and smiled as his nose was filled with the delicate scent of heather and cherry blossoms. He could feel a small and soft body breathing gently under his casually draped arm. He curled that arm slightly, to tug the lithe form closer, and opened his eyes.

There, sleeping peacefully at his side, was the love of his life, Kinomoto Sakura.

Syaoran just lay there and watched her sleep. Her mouth was open only the tiniest bit and curled into a slight smile, a few strands of her auburn locks falling against her silky cheek. The gentle morning light played on her face, making her skin seem to glow with the same light as her silk slip that she still wore. The young sorcerer smiled whimsically. Waking up next to her like this was definitely something he could get used to. He didn't dare move, not wanting to wake the ethereal sorceress from such a peaceful sleep. He looked to the clock just beyond her on his nightstand. He had to squint to see the numbers in the morning's light.

It was just past six thirty.

Syaoran smile broadened a bit. His Aunt was probably engaged in the negotiations in Japan. If she were convincing enough, that bit of work would be done soon. All that was left for this day was for him to get up soon to attend a very decisive ceremony. He had no doubt in his mind as to the outcome of that event, but he hated the thought of having to get up and be away from his Cherry Blossom's side. He sighed silently and gently kissed her bare shoulder. Sakura's smile broadened as she woke slowly, a tiny moan breaking from her lips. She turned to her side, facing him, and snuggled against his chest. The Little Wolf chuckled.

"Konnichiwa, my Ying Fa." he murmured.

She pressed closer to him with a groan of protest. "It's too early."

He smiled down at her. "I know, but we both have a busy day so the sooner we start it the sooner it'll all be done."

She looked up at him, her bright eyes glowing in the morning light. "I guess you're right." Then a bright smile illuminated both her face and the room. "Konnichiwa, Xiao Lang."

He wound his arms around her and cuddled her close, laying a gentle kiss on her brow. "This is going to be one impossibly long day." he whispered.

"Can't everything be postponed?" she murmured into the hollow of his throat.

He sighed. "What that I wish it could, but no. Besides, I think Tomoyo is dying to see the latest Hong Kong fashions on you."

"And no doubt managed to talk your Sisters into coming along for a girls' day out."

Syaoran couldn't help but chuckle. "My sympathies."

"Arigatou." Sakura giggled softly.

Then, for a moment, she just stared at him intently, her eyes seeming to twinkle with a kind of wonder. The warrior blinked in confusion from her gentle scrutiny.

"Nani?" he asked.

"Just thinking."

"About?"

She grinned. "About how the hardest thing about sleeping in the same bed as you is getting up in the morning."

He smiled. "And that's a bad thing?"

"Of course not." she cooed, lightly brushing her lips to his.

A light tremor gripped the young warrior from her soft action. "We... we really should get up." he faltered.

She pouted. "Even if we don't want to?"

"Even if we don't want to." he confirmed. "It would be safer."

Sakura looked at him, blinking in uncertainty. Then his meaning hit her and she blushed fiercely. "Oh." she said with a sheepish grin.

He held her close one last time before kissing her lips. "I'll see you tonight, My Love." he promised.

She sighed a small smile. "Until tonight then, Beloved."

Then the sorcerer reluctantly released his sorceress from his arms. She slid out of the warm bed and into her silk nightrobe, padding to the door on bare feet. Once there she paused. She turned her head to her boyfriend and found him sitting on the edge of the bed, just watching her leave. Sakura smiled at him one more time, then disappeared out of the door to return to her room. Syaoran stared at the closed door for a little longer. With a broad smile he let himself drop to his back.

Life is good.

* * *

Nothing said at the intimate breakfast, or during the long ferry ride, nor even during the car ride into town, had prepared the teen sorceress or her fashion designer friend for what greeted them at the entrance to the first mall they stopped at on their mini shopping spree.

Reporters.

Photographers.

Throngs of them!

They all clambered about the long black limousine, desperately peering through windows and trying the locked doors to get a picture or a comment to quote from members of the elusive Li Clan. Tomoyo blinked at the crowd through the window and clutched her camera preciously to her chest, knowing that these paparazzi would snatch it from her if given the chance. She remembered the scene at the airport when they had first arrived in Hong Kong, but she had dearly hoped these reporters would have left them alone since Li Syaoran was not with their group. Afterall, he was the important one now of the Li Clan.

"Now we know why Kero wanted to stay at the estate." she voiced.

"Hai. With so many reporters he would've been spotted for sure." Sakura agreed.

Meilin sighed in annoyance at the reporters and photographers. "We go through this each and every time we leave the island. It gets old fast."

"I can imagine." the sorceress nodded absently as she continued to stare out the window rather nervously. "What do they want?"

Fuutie sniffed at the ruckus the paparazzi were causing. "An interview mostly. They are simply fascinated about our Clan and the people who associate with us."

"But they are not ready to know the truth about us just yet." Shiefa added.

"The guards have a path cleared for us." Fanren announced. "Time to run the gauntlet."

Feimei took both Sakura's and Tomoyo's hands. "Stay close to me." she instructed as they prepared to rush out of the vehicle.

Taking a bracing breath the seven women burst out of the limousine and ran towards the massive mall's front entrance, ignoring the reporters as much as possible. It was a maddening rush of flashing lights and a jumble of questions from those who made news their livelihood. As soon as the Li women, the two Japanese teens, and their attendants crossed the doors, mall security shut the entrance tight, preventing the reporters from following.

Tomoyo suddenly giggled breathlessly. "I pity poor Li. He's missing out on all this fun." she quipped in sarcastic humor.

Meilin smirked. "I bet he's having just as much fun at that ceremony."

"What exactly is he doing anyway?" Sakura queried.

"Picking an appropriate day." Feimei answered absently.

The others quickly hushed her with hisses and glares while the Card Mistress looked on in confusion.

"Day?" the auburn haired cheerleader asked further.

Shiefa nodded quickly in answer. "To... to conclude his business. Very important. The day must be just right, just perfect to ensure proper success in this."

"Oh, hai!" Fuutie agreed. "Proper business is just as important as Fate and tradition. He must save face."

Sakura nodded slowly. "Hai, I guess."

Fanren bobbed her head quickly. "Hai, hai, but right now our business is shopping!"

The sorceress saw her sudden enthusiasm and groaned softly, dropping to her knees when the other three Sisters joined in. And she had thought Tomoyo was exuberant. Seeing the female Card Captor fall to her knees the Li Sisters gathered around her in worry.

"No, I'm fine." she waved sheepishly, dismissing their flurry of concerned questions.

As soon as she said this she immediately regretted it. They grabbed her arms to haul her back to her feet, then dragged her off into the mall towards one of the nearest clothiers. Tomoyo and Meilin were close behind them, both smiling in conspiracy.

* * *

Mighty Keroberus, once again transformed into his large lion-like form, lay silent and off to the side of the group kneeling in the center of the estate's private temple. He was a quiet observer for this. Thick clouds of pungent incense hovered near the ceiling from prayer offerings burning on the altar. At the front of the small group knelt Li Syaoran and his Okaa-san, both had their eyes closed in quiet contemplation, dressed in their ceremonial robes of green and gold. The seven Clan Elders knelt behind them, also in their ceremonial robes and colors. They had all been praying this way for the last six hours, showing no sign of fatigue. Keroberus allowed himself a smile. It was nice to see that the old gods and goddesses still commanded respect even in this day and age. An old man suddenly entered the temple, his arms laden with many scrolls. He paused at the sight of the mighty Guardian Beast of the Seal lounging in the room, then went to kneel before the praying group. Kero cocked his head.

A priest?

He scrutinized the man's robes a little more carefully and blinked.

No, a Fortune Master! Ah, it's been a while since I saw one of those.

The wizened man bowed to the hierarchy of the Li Clan and set out his scrolls before him. "Do you have both candidates' eight letters?" he asked them.

Li Lerae nodded and placed two strips of papyrus before the Fortune Master. Keroberus could barely make out the characters neatly inscribed on each. He squinted for a better view. Eight characters each: year, month, day, and time.

Birthdays?

The old Fortune Master bowed in thanks and began to carefully examine his numerous scrolls, every so often looking to the two strips of papyrus as if in reference. The next few hours passed by slowly as the Fortune Master did his strange and mysterious research, scrutinizing astrological charts of seemingly every kind. Through it all Li Syaoran kept his eyes shut as if in silent prayer for a favorable outcome. Finally the old man sat back on his heels with a pleased smile.

"Never have I seen such eight letters match each other so well. Fate smiles down upon you in this, Li-sama. I see nothing wrong."

Syaoran sighed in relief and finally opened his eyes. "What of the day?"

"I will require the eight letters of all else involved, Li-sama."

The warrior nodded. "You'll get them in a day and a half's time."

The aged fortune telling master bowed in agreement to this term.

* * *

Sakura was already exhausted from all her hard work and from precious little rest from the previous day's shopping marathon with Syaoran's older Sisters, but she wouldn't let her fatigue show to her sensei. She wanted to show him she could be strong. The morning sun was already high above the horizon, the last few hours having just flown by unnoticed. The sorceress blew a sweat-dampened lock of hair from her eyes and took a more decisive stance before her sensei, her Bo staff held before her. She drowned out all sounds and all other sights except for the person standing in front of her. She saw his stance shift ever so slightly and she braced herself for what would come next, narrowing her eyes. Her opponent charged at her wordlessly, taking a low swing at her side with his own Bo staff. Due to her previous long hours of practice, Sakura blocked the blow with rather ease.

The attacker's Bo abruptly changed direction, suddenly aimed at her neck.

Again she blocked it.

The Bo swung several more times, each swing blocked almost effortlessly. Finally her opponent just stopped and nodded a very pleased smile at the lithe cheerleader.

"Well done, Sakura." he praised.

She smiled, not yet relaxing her stance. "I had a great sensei, Syaoran."

Syaoran chuckled and straightened. "And I had an excellent student."

She blushed with an innocent giggle as she, too, straightened. The Card Captors formally bowed to each other, calling an end to this practice for the day. Then, as an attendant took away their weapons, they turned to the other pair sparring not far away on the same grassy terrace. Meilin swung her Bo low to knock Tomoyo's feet out from under her, but the surprisingly nimble videographer managed to jump out of the way. Sakura smiled at her two friends vying for a weakness as he boyfriend came up behind her and gripped the young sorceress's shoulders. Syaoran kissed the back of her head tenderly and she smiled blissfully.

"Arigatou for also teaching Tomoyo." she told the sorcerer.

"The least I could do." he murmured in her hair. "Even with all her bodyguards, she should learn to defend herself. There'll be times when neither you or I or Meilin will be around to protect her."

The sorceress nodded absently to this.

Meilin and Tomoyo's Bo staffs swung by in a blur and collided with each other with a loud snap, both girls going still for a moment. A frown crossed the Chinese teen's face.

"Hai, you can really tell Syaoran taught you how to fight." she voiced.

"How's that?" violet-eyed Tomoyo queried.

"You're actually beating me."

"Does that mean you're done for this morning?" Syaoran interrupted, smirking at Sakura's attempt to smother a giggle.

"Hai." Meilin agreed grudgingly, both girls lowering their weapons and then bowing to each other in respect. "I get the feeling that I'll never win a sparring match." she complained, surrendering the Bo to the attendant.

Her Cousin frowned slightly. "That's just it. It's a sparring match. There isn't supposed to be a winner or a loser."

She waved it off casually. "Details."

The Card Mistress shook her head at her friend in patient disbelief just as movement from the Main House caught the corner of her eye. A pudgy woman, her graying hair visible even from this distance, was waddling out of the house towards them, a broad grin plastered on her face. The sorceress blinked in hesitant recognition.

"Isn't that your Aunt Ann-Lee?" she voiced.

A small frown appeared on the warrior's face as he nodded in confirmation. "She's back early. I hope that means that nothing's wrong." and he walked forward to greet his relative. "Ann-Lee, is everything alright?" came his cautious query.

The elder woman beamed proudly. "All is well, Xiao Lang. Better that well. Better than that even."

Syaoran blinked. "Then... they both agreed?"

"Hai. The younger one needed more convincing, as expected, but all is settled now. And all of your guests are in the Master Study waiting for you and your lovely tao."

He smiled. "You're the best."

"Hai, hai, so everyone says." she quipped.

The Clan's future leader hugged the old woman warmly in gratitude, then turned to smile at his adored partner in card capting. "Sakura, it's time you saw the first part of your surprise."

Jade eyes blinked in confusion. "The first part?"

"Meilin, Tomoyo." and he motioned them over to him. "Go to the Master Study." he whispered low so only they would hear. "Tell everyone there to be quiet until we arrive." The two ran off giggling as Syaoran once again turned to his soul mate, holding a beckoning hand out to her. "Ready?"

She stared at his hand for a moment, then met his warm sunset colored eyes. They twinkled with obvious mirth, with the excitement of a child about to play a favorite game. Pure curiosity shone within the emerald depths of her eyes at this. He chuckled gently at how adorable it made her seem, so lost and innocent that he wanted to wrap her in his arms and hold her forever to protect her from the world. Taking her hand he lightly tugged her away from the dispersing crowd of on-lookers and back towards the house.

What are you planning? the warrior heard her think intently, feeling her mind brush against his.

He soothingly pushed her mind away. No peeking, he chided playfully.

"Mou, Syaoran..." she pouted. "I'm horrible with surprises."

"Just a few short minutes more, Sakura." he responded quietly, pulling her close to himself and placing a light finger on her lips to silence her. "You'll like this first surprise."

She relented with a tiny sigh. A tender smile touched his features as he cupped her cheek in one hand. Following an impulse that was too strong to deny, he leaned in and warmed her lips with his own in a heart-aching, loving kiss. The sorceress melted into the embrace willingly. A loud howl suddenly erupted from the Main House, pulling the soul mates apart. Sakura turned to her warrior for an explanation only to find him staring at the house in apprehension. She cocked her head to one side.

"What was that, Syaoran?"

He frowned at the house. "Part of your surprise."

"Is it dangerous?" she asked in trepidation.

"Only for me." he sighed.

They continued to the house, the Mistress of the Cards still pondering her sorcerer's last sentence.

What had made such a horrendous howl?

Why was it only dangerous for Syaoran?

What was this mysterious surprise he was presenting to her in parts that everyone seemed to know about except her?

She pushed those thoughts away as they neared the estate's Master Study. A few meters still from the door the warrior stopped.

"Close your eyes." he instructed.

"Nani?"

"Trust me." he merely smiled in response.

She closed her eyes, feeling his hands take her shoulders to guide her the rest of the way to the study. He was being ever so careful to make sure she didn't bump into or trip on anything. She was turned into an open door where she heard some shuffling and hushed, giggling voices. Then the warrior's hands disappeared from her shoulders. Sakura froze in some fear.

"Syaoran?"

"Open your eyes." he replied, a smile in his voice.

Still a little fearful of what she would see she slowly blinked open her eyes. A near strangled gasp escaped her throat. She looked from face to smiling face as if making sure she wasn't dreaming.

Yukito-san...

Rika-chan...

Naoko-chan...

Takashi-kun...

Chiharu-chan...

Her Great Grandfather, Amamiya Tsukishiro-san...

Tomoyo's Okaa-san, Daidouji Sonomi...

Otou-san...

Onii-chan...

They were all there, smiling with impish amusement at the expression of pure shock on Sakura's face. The Japanese cheerleader suddenly squealed in utter delight and rushed to each and every one of the newcomers to hug them all in welcome. Syaoran hung back from the babbling group that now included Meilin and Tomoyo as well. He sported a tiny smile at the pure joy written on his soul mate's features. He swore to himself then and there to do whatever it took to make her smile that way every day of her life. Before her knew it she abruptly threw her arms around his neck to embrace him tight, her face pressed into the crook of his neck. His arms reacted in instinct and crushed her close.

"How did you know that I already missed them so much?" she whispered against his skin.

He pulled back slightly to smile at her. "Do I really need to answer that?"

She giggled in understanding. "No, I guess not. Aishiteru." and she kissed his smiling lips.

""Kawaii!"" squealed Rika, Naoko and Chiharu as Touya growled low in a clear menace.

Syaoran dropped his face to Sakura's shoulder with a small groan. "Great, more people who think we're kawaii."

Sakura giggled as she nuzzled his ear. "That's because we are kawaii."

He pulled his face back, favoring her with a seductively sweet smile. "I know you are."

She tapped his chest in playful chiding. "How will I ever thank you for everything you've done for me?"

"You'll think of something." he chuckled low.

"Ah, there you are!" a voice sounded from the door to the study. "Li-san and the Elders wanted to know if you wanted breakfast now or not." Keroberus relayed. He raised an eyebrow at the Card Captors obviously shocked expressions. "Nani? You look like you've seen a ghost."

"A... a talking lion...?" came Rika's near terrified whisper.

The Guardian Beast glanced almost casually to the voice, then turned to stare long and hard in growing shock Seven new pairs of eyes were looking at him, were seeing him when he should not have yet been known to those who knew nothing of real magic. His face became panic stricken as he struggled with a way out of this awkward situation he had just created.

"Um... Ah... Just a dream! Hai, you're all just dreaming! Heh, heh... See? Just a dream!" he stuttered quickly as he gestured wildly.

"Kero..." began his Mistress, reluctantly pulling herself free of her boyfriend's arms.

Keroberus winced. "Gomen ne, Sakura, I didn't know."

Syaoran sighed. "It's alright. This was bound to happen sooner or later."

"I was kind of hoping for later." the Beast mumbled, hanging his head.

"Matte, you guys know... um..." But, for once, Takashi couldn't finish his sentence.

Meilin groaned. "I sense a really long explanation on the way here."

"We can explain everything and answer all your questions over breakfast, ne?" Tomoyo announced.

Daidouji Sonomi blinked. "Oh, because you're involved?"

"Hai, of course I'm involved. Just give us the time to freshen up a little and we'll join you in a few minutes."

"Kero, can you lead them to the Dining Hall and let Li-san know what happened?" the Card Mistress queried of her Guardian. Then, when the new guests made no move to follow the lion-like creature, "It's alright, Kero's harmless."

"Hey!" he protested.

"Well, you are... unless you're a desert item." countered Syaoran.

"Don't start with me, gaki."

"I'd like to see you try something, cotton fluff."

"Kero! Syaoran! Onegai!" the teen sorceress admonished. "Onegai, Kero, we'll be back in a few minutes."

The magical creature grumbled in agreement and began leading the reluctant group of newcomers out of the study and down one corridor while the Card Captors, Meilin and Tomoyo left in the opposite direction. Sakura spun around as she walked, a broad smile illuminating her face.

"I can't believe you brought them all here." she giggled to her adored soul mate.

He gave her his most disarming smile as he pulled her close to tuck her against his side. "Anything my Ying Fa may want, my Ying Fa will get." and he kissed her temple.

"You're too good to me." she sighed blissfully, nestling against him.

"And you guys are so full of sappy sweetness that I'm about to become a diabetic just from standing near you." Meilin mock grimaced.

"I think they're simply kawaii." Tomoyo contested, her video camera having suddenly appeared in her hand to record the cuddling duo. "I could tape them forever." she sighed.

"But you can't." Syaoran smirked.

"I can't?" Tomoyo blinked, confused. "Why not?"

Sakura, too, smirked. "Because this is your room and you have to get changed. Ja."

Pouting, the violet-eyed Japanese girl watched her favorite filming subjects walk away from her and Meilin. Then she began to grin slyly.

"Do you think she suspects anything?" the terra cotta eyed teen questioned.

"Not a thing. My Sakura can be kind of dense in situations with this much subtlety. That and Li has her... distracted."

"Hai, very distracted. Won't she be surprised tomorrow night." she giggled.

* * *

Kinomoto Sakura generally prided herself on having much patience towards her more fashion frenzied friends, but today those same friends were putting that patience to the test. She silently thanked her lucky stars for having chosen to sleep in her own room the night before. She would have never heard the end of it had her friends discovered her sleeping in Syaoran's bed next to the handsome warrior. Her foresight had warned her something would happen. That morning she had been shocked awake by the squeals and giggles of ten women bursting into her room. Her school friends, Syaoran's four Sisters, and Sonomi nearly assaulted the young sorceress awake, literally threw poor groggy Keroberus out of the room even despite his size, then proceeded to bury the hapless sorceress in mounds of material. As she tried to dig herself out from under the pile, part of Sakura's mind marveled at how well Rika, Naoko and Chiharu had adapted to all of the previous day's explanations. Tomoyo's vast video library had helped convince them that this fantastic sounding tale of magic was the absolute truth. She would never forget the looks of sheer awe she got from them all when they saw just how many times she and Syaoran had courted death and won, nor would she ever forget the look of terror on both Touya and her Otou-san's faces at that either. Sakura peeked out of a pile of chiffon at all the bustling women. Seeing her chance she leapt from the bed and dashed into the bathroom, locking the door behind her.

Peace at last!

Are you alright, Sakura? she heard a gentle voice whisper in concern in her mind.

She smiled. Hai, Syaoran. I'm just being attacked by a horde of females on a fashion rampage.

The young warrior chuckled. My poor Ying Fa. Buried in fabric?

No. Locked in the bathroom for now. Just long enough to steel myself and then I face the mob.

Good luck.

Arigatou. So, what are you doing?

Finalizing a few details for tonight with the help of your Otou-san.

She blinked. Otou-san is in on your secret?

Hai, and it's amazing how much he knows about our customs.

She giggled. He is a University professor.

In archeology, he corrected.

Details. Then, she sighed. I guess I should go face the fashion police now.

Knowing them, you'll probably be stuck there for the day, but the final product should be worth the torture, ne? I'll see you at tonight's banquet.

I'll miss you.

I'll miss you, too.

Sakura felt herself swoon slightly in bliss at the incredible mental caress her warrior gave her as he reluctantly slipped away from her mind. She swallowed hard the lump of sadness that built in her throat. She always felt a great sense of loss when they parted, either physically or mentally. It brought forth thoughts of what would happen when the day finally came when she would have to return to Japan and his Clan's Elders would most likely forbid him to return with her. She needed to be near him. She pushed the thoughts away with a quick shake of her head.

Genki thoughts, Sakura, she told herself. Smile, everything will surely be alright.

She quickly brushed the tangled out of her hair, squared her shoulders bravely, and then re-entered her noisy bedroom. Her friends immediately surrounded her from all sides with fabric and measuring tape in hand. The Mistress of the Cards groaned silently to herself as she was measured and wrapped in yards silk and lace.

This is going to be a long day.

* * *

"I have to admit, Li, this entire place and your family is pretty impressive." Yamazaki Takashi voiced as he gave the vast Reception Hall an appreciative glance. "It kind of reminds me of a book I read on the history of banquets. There was one about the Hahn Dynasty where the Emperor kept building larger and larger rooms in his palace to accommodate all his guests. That was actually the origins of palaces, you know. Everyone used to try to surpass each other in the way of party sizes and the number of guests one could house at any given time. It's said the Great Wall of China is actually the outer battlements of the world's largest palace that got swallowed up by an earthquake."

Li Syaoran raised a skeptical eyebrow as Kinomoto Fujitaka, Kinomoto Touya, Tsukisiro Yukito and Keroberus blinked repeatedly at Takashi's small monologue. The way he had said it, so professionally, left even the archeology professor wondering if this was really true. But, due to years of experience from being around the Japanese teen in school, Syaoran doubted the validity of this story. He gripped Takashi's shoulder firmly with a stern look.

"Yamazaki, my friend, what would your dear Chiharu say to you right now?" he questioned in a scolding tone.

"I'd tell him to stop lying, that's what." an amused voice announced from behind the creative teen.

He whirled around in surprise to face a lovely girl with bright red hair. She was dressed in a sleek black gown. Slim spaghetti straps draped over her shoulders, a long slit revealing most of her right leg. A simple strip of black velvet hugged her throat. Takashi felt his mouth go dry at the sight of his long time girlfriend. Chiharu giggled at his expression.

"Now here's something I never thought I'd see. Takashi at a loss for words." she quipped, enticing a laugh from the small group of men.

Takashi blushed. "Hai, hai, I get the message in that. Close my mouth before I drool or say something stupid, ne?"

"Hai." she giggled, fixing the lapels of his black tuxedo.

"Ah, speaking of messages..." Syaoran suddenly stated as he fished out two rather bulky envelopes from his suit jacket. "These are for you." and he handed the items to Touya and Yukito.

Eternal smiling Yukito looked puzzled. "What are these?"

"Those are brief physical descriptions, home addresses, and phone numbers to nearly all my eligible female Cousins,... as per their insistences." he ended in a mutter with a sidelong glance at the Hall.

Touya blinked. "They're what!?"

The warrior chuckled. "You two have turned quite a few heads. Just a small warning though. We Li are a stubborn lot. We can wait for as long as it takes to get what we want."

"Is that what you did with my Imoto, gaki?"

"Touya!" Kinomoto-san admonished.

"No, Kinomoto-san, it's alright." the young sorcerer placated. "He'll obviously never forgive me for hurting Sakura all those years ago. Kami-sama knows I haven't yet forgiven myself. But that's something I've learned to accept from him... for Sakura's sake. No, Touya, I didn't sit by and wait for Sakura to come to me. In fact, and don't ask me how that's possible, I hated her. I hated her for being the Card Mistress. I wanted nothing to do with her, but we were fighting for the same thing so we kept running into each other. I didn't wait for her, she won me over just by being herself, by not trying to be more than just my friend. I love her more than anything and would die rather than let her be hurt ever again."

The elder Kinomoto sibling stared at him long and hard, gauging the weight of his words. "You promise that?" he finally asked.

"I promise and swear it."

"You're still not forgiven, but I guess I have to let my Imoto make her own mistakes."

"Speaking of Sakura, where is she?" Fujitaka thought to ask in an attempt to change the subject.

Chiharu smiled smugly. "Daidouji-san and Li's Sisters insisted for a dramatic entrance. Didn't take much to convince the rest of them. They should be here in the next few minutes. Tomoyo really out-did herself with this dress, even if she says it's a copy of one Sakura wore before. Be prepared to be floored."

As if her words had been a signal, the massive mahogany doors to the Reception Hall opened and in giggled Syaoran's four Sisters, Daidouji Sonomi and Tomoyo, Meilin, Rika and Naoko. They were all grouped close together to conceal someone in their midst. Everyone gathered in the Hall turned to peer at this group in curiosity. Then, after being satisfied that indeed everyone was watching and with much dramatic flair for Tomoyo's ever present video camera, the women peeled themselves away to reveal the individual standing at their center. Soft gasps and murmurs of appreciation rippled through the vast crowd of Li Clansmen at the now blushing Mistress of the Clow Cards. It was the same model as the last ball gown she had worn, only this time it was made of silver colored crushed velvet. Syaoran felt his heart begin to race at the sight of his much-loved Cherry Blossom standing there, looking adorably bashful from all the attention she garnered from his many relatives.

With an amused smirk, Chiharu gave Syaoran's shoulder a slight shove. "Go on, Romeo, your Juliet awaits."

The sorcerer blinked back to reality, lost for a moment. "Nani? Oh right!" But he stopped in mid-step and turned to bow in respect to Fujitaka. "By your leave, Kinomoto-san."

Fujitaka chuckled silently to the young man before him and returned the bow. "Of course, Li."

Straightening with a grateful smile, Syaoran turned and walked briskly to his ladylove. She smiled at him shyly, almost demurely, as he approached. The sorcerer tenderly took Sakura's hands in his own to tug her just a little closer, sharing a loving gaze with the ethereal sorceress. He couldn't resist the urge to touch her, gently cupping her cheek, gliding his thumb across her cheekbone. Her delicate hands curled into the lapels of his tuxedo's jacket, tugging ever so slightly to keep him close. He looked so regally handsome in the dark formal attire.

"I risk dying from lack of breath." he whispered.

Her features became endearingly confused.

"Each time I see you, you take my breath away." he explained, gently gripping her chin.

Emerald eyes smiled and blinked in awe as a deep rosy hue spread across her cheeks.

Syaoran chuckled. "And again."

Sakura giggled softly. "Exactly when did you inherit such a honey coated silver tongue?" she quipped.

He shrugged. "I always had it, I just never had a reason to put it to use until you entered my life."

A thrilling shiver raced up the young sorceress's spine from his soft admission and the look in his dark amber eyes. Sakura always felt the warmest of sensations when she looked into those fiery orbs. At that moment part of her didn't care what the guests would think of her, she just wanted to drag him away from so many watching eyes to be completely alone with him.

She stopped herself before any more ideas could form. Emotionally, those were painful wishes to have. She wanted to laugh out loud at the cruel role reversal that this situation had now become. Only a few short weeks ago Syaoran had been the one dreading the day he would have to leave her to return home. Now she was the one who would someday leave. More than anything she wanted to stay. The original reason she had come here had been to find out more information and stop Mummaro's Gate. That was done now. There was no real reason left for her to stay. She forced herself to smile nonetheless. This was supposed to be a happy time for him, he had put so much time and effort into making this night special for a reason she didn't yet know. But she wouldn't ruin it for him with her sad thoughts. She saw his expression change slightly and realized that it didn't matter what kind of brave front she put on, he would always be able to feel what she felt. His brows began to knit together in concern.

What's wrong? he whispered in her mind.

She smiled sweetly. Ask me again sometime.

Thankfully he didn't press the subject, feeling her reluctance to talk about it just yet. Instead he took her hands once again and led her towards the lengthy banquet table. The other guests followed the young pair's lead and began to take their seats as well. Sakura noticed how the seating arrangements were almost identical to the first banquet she had attended on this island estate. All her family and friends were seated near the head of the table as well, next to the hierarchy of Syaoran's Clan. It was quite an honor for them. Silently she wondered if they realized this. Just off to her left she could see her Otou-san and Syaoran conversing in hushed tones about something indeterminate.

What are you two planning? she questioned silently.

The warrior paused in his conversation suddenly and turned to smile at his soul mate. "Patience, Love." and he gave her hand a gentle squeeze.

The meal continued pleasantly to the gentle sounds of music and intelligent conversation and the tantalizing scents of a sumptuous meal. Chiharu would pinch Takashi's arm every so often to silence another tall tale while Naoko pressed Keroberus for more information on magic and himself as the Guardian Beast thoroughly stuffed his face with food. Rika spoke with some of Syaoran's Cousins and his Okaa-san amiably about life in general. Sonomi and Sakura's Great Grandfather conversed with Tomoyo and Meilin, asking for more details about the sorceress and the two girls' obvious involvement in Card Capting. Touya and Yukito tried desperately not to come into eye contact with most of the single women in the room, while Fujitaka and Syaoran continued their secretive planning. The Elders seated at Sakura's right kept the young sorceress sufficiently distracted from that hushed conversation going on at her left with questions about her Okaa-san and her life in Japan. It was only when someone began tapping their knife on the edge of their glass that Sakura brought her attention back to her Otou-san and her boyfriend. Fujitaka had been the one to tap his glass to get everyone's attention. Both men were standing, looking a little nervous.

The sorceress blinked.

Her Otou-san never got nervous in front of a crowd.

"For those of you, honorable hosts, who don't know me, I am Kinomoto Fujitaka. I am Kinomoto Sakura's Otou-san. A few days ago I received the visit of Li Syaoran's spokeswoman, Li Ann-Lee, to negotiate on his behalf for something extremely precious to me. Both I and my Son, Touya, were reluctant to give up our precious treasure at first, but we knew that in the end if we refused we would be destroying our delicate flower."

Confused, Sakura watched her Onii-chan stand as well and bow with her Otou-san to the direct descendant of Clow Reed.

"We accept your offer and give you our permission and blessings in return." Fujitaka continued. "Now you must ask her for her permission."

The sorceress frowned ever so slightly.

Her permission?

Who was this her?

Syaoran bowed to the family of his adored Cherry Blossom, paused to take a deep bracing breath, then turned to the living angel still seated at his right. He couldn't help but smile lovingly at the absolutely adorable puzzled look she sported. He gently took her left hand in both his own, caressing it unconsciously as he struggled inwardly with something. Sakura could easily feel his overwhelming sense of nervousness, but couldn't understand why he was feeling this.

What was going to happen?

The warrior suddenly squared his shoulders. A small chuckle broke from his lips. "You know, I've practiced this a million times in my mind and now I can't seem to find the words anymore."

A light ripple of laughter moved through those seated at the table, only serving to confuse the young sorceress even more. The Little Wolf swallowed hard in resolve and smiled down at the Mistress of the Cards.

"This is the second part of your surprise, my Ying Fa."

Her head tilted to one side slightly as she watched him go down on one knee, still not quite understanding what he meant.

She could feel his hands trembling slightly as they held hers. Deep amber eyes met emerald green, seeming to bore to her very soul while baring his all to her. She felt every delicious emotion rushing through him at that moment in time, burning herself on their incandescence.

All his love.

All his loyalty.

All his devotion.

And especially his nervousness.

Part of her mind noticed how silent the Reception Hall had suddenly become, save for the soft whirring of Tomoyo's video camera.

"Card Mistress Kinomoto Sakura." Syaoran began, his tone formal, his cheeks flushing. "Would you do me the immense honor and great pleasure of accepting to be my wife?"

Sakura's hand shot up to her mouth with a surprised gasp. She could barely believe it, could barely wrap her stunned mind around what she had just heard spoken from his very lips.

A proposal!

He loved her so much that he wanted to spend every second of the rest of his life with her. He wanted to be with her and only her. Awed tears misted her eyes at seeing the true depth of his emotions, a joyful smile spreading across her lips. Everyone in the Reception Hall began to shift anxiously in their seats, straining to hear what the Mistress of the Cards' answer would be to their Clansman's question. Syaoran watched her attentively, hopeful for a favorable answer as her hand lowered to her lap. And then, as if a light had just been lit in the dark, he knew. He could feel her acceptance and could see it written on her beautifully smiling face, but he still wanted to hear it. He still wanted to make absolutely sure.

One word.

All she had to say was one small word.

A happy, languid tear trailed down her smooth cheek. "Hai."

Syaoran blinked, unsure whether he had heard her right. "N-Nani?"

"Hai." Sakura repeated a little louder, a giddy giggle forcing its way out from her throat.

"H-Honto ne? H-Hai?"

She near laughed at the stunned elation flitting across his face. "Honto. Hai."

"Yokata!" he shouted in joy, leaping to his feet.

Congratulatory cheers and applauds ran through the crowd of friends, relatives and attendants for the happy new couple. The young warrior gently tugged his sorceress to her feet and enfolded her tightly in his arms. She buried her face in the crook of his neck, breathing in deep of his scent of autumn and incense. Every sad thought she might have had was now gone. She didn't have a reason to be sad anymore. She would get her wish. She would be able to stay with her adored Little Wolf. There were no words to describe what she felt at that moment. Happy was too inadequate a word. Elated was still far too tame a description. Euphoric didn't even come close. Rapturous would have to do until a new word could be found.

Arigatou, he whispered warmly in her mind.

For what? she asked innocently.

Syaoran pulled back slightly to look into her mesmerizing green eyes. For making me happier than I ever dreamt possible, he smiled.

She returned the smile. You did the same to me just by asking that question. Arigatou.

He gently kissed her lips, heart achingly soft. Aishiteru.

Aishiteru, and she pressed closer to him to deepen the embrace.

Sonomi sighed a blissful smile at the sight of the two kissing teens. "Aren't they just so kawaii?" she cooed.

Tsukishiro nodded thoughtfully, a small frown creasing his wrinkled brow as he watched the fiancés sit. "There's something about them though." he voiced, stroking his short white beard.

"Tomoyo, make sure you capture every last second." Sonomi instructed her still taping Daughter. "What something, Grandfather?"

"If you watch them you can see them have complete conversations without once saying a word."

"Isn't young love grand that way?" she sighed.

"No, I don't think it's that, having to do with love that is. It's more than simply lovers' eye contact. I may be seeing things, but it's as if they really are talking to each other."

Sonomi chuckled lightly. "Now, Grandfather, you know as well as I do that what you're suggesting is impossible."

A grin snaked across Meilin's lips. "Not for them it isn't."

Both adults looked in confusion at the Chinese teen sitting on the other side of Tomoyo. "What do you mean?" Daidouji-san queried.

"You didn't notice it on Tomoyo's tapes?"

"Notice what?"

"Remember the tape where they fought the Death Card? Remember them merging, their eyes glowing white?"

The adults nodded.

"Sakura and Li are soul mates." Tomoyo continued. "The merging they did back when Li was a spirit just kick started what they always had. What they always felt. They told us once that it didn't matter where they were in the world, they could always feel where the other was. After the battle, little by little, they started to be able to feel what the other felt, to hear them. They're linked."

Tsukishiro and Sonomi stared at the cuddling pair across from them in slow realization. A smile spread across the elderly Japanese man's face, his thoughts drifting to Nadeshiko, his Granddaughter and Sakura's Okaa-san. He knew she would have loved to know just how happy her Daughter was now in the arms of this young Chinese man. Sakura and Li were soul mates and they were deeply in love. One usually never lived long enough to see such a beautiful sight. He felt blessed beyond words to have been able to witness this. His Great Granddaughter was getting married. Tsukishiro had regretted not having attended Nadeshiko's wedding, his reason having been blinded by his anger and resentment of young Kinomoto sensei that had swept her away so completely. He hoped attending this wedding would make amends.

Sonomi's mind was working feverishly to try to understand what it was her Daughter and Meilin had told her. The young fiancés were soul mates. They had been destined to be together since the moment they were conceived. And, due to their powerful and growing magic, they could feel it when the other half of their soul was near, could hear their very thoughts. She smiled almost whimsically. Their attraction made sense now. She had met the young Li warrior five years ago, had seen how competitive the two had been towards each other. Now that she thought about it, she saw that they were really trying to impress each other, not be enemies. She now understood why it was Sakura had tried so hard to get the reclusive youth to open up and be her friend. As soul mates they were naturally drawn to each other. Subconsciously, they were already in love.

"Kawaii!" she sighed in bliss for the two.

Tomoyo giggled at her Okaa-san. "Now you know why I was trying so hard to get them together. I just knew they were supposed to be in love."

Through her viewfinder she suddenly saw the Card Captors stiffen and examine their surroundings carefully. Keroberus, too, was giving the Hall a cautious glance, now ignoring the pastries before him. Tomoyo knew this look.

"Uh-oh."

Before anything could be said, the Card Captors leapt from their seats and raced to the terrace doors. Confused and curious, the gathered guests followed suit, preceded by the Guardian Beast of the Seal who had been a little slower in his charge due to an almost full stomach. Everyone stood at a relatively safe distance from the magical duo, watching them visually and magically scan the dark grounds. The young warrior already had his sword in hand, staying just a step in front of his sorceress to protect her. The estate grounds were shrouded in darkness from the depth of night, the stars being the only source of light. The soft chirps of crickets were the only other sounds heard.

Syaoran frowned at the pitch. Don't you just love it when they hide like this? he quipped darkly, tossing his jacket to an attendant.

Hey, nobody said Card Capting was easy. A few light bubbles abruptly flew by. "Nani? Bubbles?"

"It's the Bubble Card!" Keroberus called to them.

The sorcerer looked to the Beast. "What exactly does it do?"

"It can create bubbles of any size!"

"And?"

"That's it!"

Both Card Captors blinked, dumbfounded. What kind of a card was that for Clow Reed to have created?

Guess that means it's an easy capture, Sakura sent her fiancé.

It feels a lot stronger than just a whimsical card, he replied.

Playing a hunch, Sakura let her senses open up and focus on the strange multicolored auras all the Clow Cards seemed to possess. Sure enough there was the weak, buoyant ripple of magic that belonged to the Bubble Card, but there was another card's aura with it. There was another card.

No, two more cards with the Bubble Card.

Her green eyes flew open in surprise at this. "Three cards!"

Syaoran growled a curse. "What is it with these cards suddenly tag-teaming?"

Deeming it safer to be prepared, the young Mistress of the Cards held her key-like pendant out in front of her. It began to glow in response to her concentrated thoughts.

"O Key of Clow,

Power of Magic, power of Light,

Surrender the Wand,

The Force ignite!

Release!"

Magic and light began to swirl around her in a mad spiral of power, the tiny key metamorphosing into the Clow Sealing wand. She twirled it expertly like a majorette's baton, a look of sheer determination appearing on her lovely features.

"First things first, capturing the card we do know." she stated.

"The Bubble Card is a friendly card!" Keroberus called out. "It won't put up a fight!"

"That's good to know." the warrior grinned in relief. He then gave an exaggerated bow to the Card Mistress at his side. "After you, my Beloved."

She giggled. "You are just too sweet, my Little Wolf." Sakura took a few steps away from him and stood tall, her shoulders squared, her back straight. "Bubble Card! Reveal yourself in your true form!" she ordered into the night.

The slowly drifting bubbled began to swirl together wildly, coalescing into a form. At their center appeared the shape of a woman dressed in a fanciful blue gown, her light green hair up in twin curly pigtails. The more the woman twirled and laughed, the more bubbles would be blown into the wind. Sakura smirked at the card's physical representation.

"Bubble Card!" she called to it gently.

It stopped twirling and smiled down at the sorceress.

The teen crossed her arms over her chest in a scolding manner. "You've caused a fine mess." she chided it patiently.

Bubble bit its fingertip in genuine remorse, still smiling though more sheepishly now.

"It's time to go back now, Bubble."

The card nodded in happy agreement and easily floated down to stand tamely in front of its Mistress.

"Onegai, before I seal you, tell me do you know who the other two cards are?"

Bubble nodded and mimicked as best it could what the remaining attacking Clow Cards were, its face contorting in slight frustration as it tried to come up with a proper motion. But Sakura understood and smiled in thanks to the helpful card. She held up her wand and gently tapped the magical being's forehead.

"Return to your power confined. Bubble Card."

In response to her soft chant a glowing rectangle of magic materialized at the tip of her wand, almost crackling with energy. The still smiling Bubble Card dissolved into a swirling mass of mist and willingly entered the shimmering form before it. The geometric shape then floated into Sakura's waiting hand, Clow's magical circle dimming from sight. She turned to Syaoran, holding up the card and smiling proudly. He smiled in return.

"What did it say the other two cards are?" he queried.

"One is Cloud. The other is--"

But, before she could answer, a sheet of torrential rain fell from the sky only above her, therefore drenching only the lithe cheerleader. Then, as abruptly as it had begun, the rain stopped with a light, tinkering giggle, leaving behind one very soaked sorceress.

She groaned, annoyed. "The other is the Rain Card." she sighed.

She shook her head to clear away some of the excess water from her face and hair just as she heard an amused snort. Looking up from wringing her dress of surfeit water she saw Syaoran trying vainly not to laugh at her predicament, hiding his grin behind his hand. She frowned at him, a small grin threatening to turn up the corners of her lips.

"You're not helping." she complained.

"Gomen." he snickered. "Need a towel?"

Just as he said this the sky seemed to open up above him and drench the young warrior in a powerful downpour. Sakura had to laugh at the sudden role reversal and at how pathetic her proud fiancé now looked when thoroughly soaked.

"You were saying, Love?" she quipped.

A tiny pair of almost crystalline voices laughed in pure enjoyment of what had just occurred.

Syaoran looked up at the overcast sky and growled low in menace to the two cards still hidden up there. "Right, I'll keep Cloud busy while you seal Rain." he instructed.

She nodded in agreement. "This shouldn't be too hard... I hope."

* * *

Dressed in a warmer bathrobe than the previous nights, Sakura plodded out of the bathroom on bare feet. She felt frozen to the core from the card battle only hours before. Even after her hot shower she continued to shiver. As it turned out Syaoran had gotten the easier of the two cards remaining, Cloud not really having any sort of annoying attack. Rain, on the other hand, could come very close to drowning a person with its endless supply of rain. But all that water had given the young sorceress an idea. A water element card had to be able to do something against another water element card, maybe even contain it. So she had tried the strongest water element she had in her possession: the Water Card. It had done the job perfectly, encasing the Rain Card in a liquid bubble, keeping it trapped for the sorceress to seal it. Syaoran had sufficiently weakened the Cloud Card by that time to make that capture infinitely simpler, but instead of floating to the Card Mistress's hand that card went to the warrior. She didn't contest it. Afterall, he had done all the work for that one.

"That capture was so incredible to watch first hand like that." Naoko voiced as Sakura sat on the edge of the bed.

"Easy for you to say." replied the sorceress. "You weren't the one getting soaked every few seconds."

Rika and Chiharu were going through the captured cards in the Book of Clow, marveling at each design and how much power they imagined each contained. Tomoyo sat with them, explaining each capture as she remembered them, spending more time describing each of the battle costumes Sakura had worn during each. At the head of the bed lounged mighty Keroberus, near dozing, with Meilin using his side as a pillow. The terra cotta eyed girl seemed to be completely engrossed in an old book propped against her up bent knees.

"What are you reading, Meilin?" Sakura queried as she leaned back against her Guardian's shoulder.

Meilin blinked, surprised out of her reading. "Nani? Oh, I'm just brushing up a bit."

"Brushing up?"

"Hai. On the more traditional wedding ceremonies."

Immediately all other conversations stopped to better concentrate on Meilin and her book. "Oh, tell us! Onegai!" pleaded Chiharu.

"Well, according to this book, everything will be decorated in red. Even the bride will be dressed in an elaborate red kimono."

"Nani? Why red?" queried Rika.

"In China, red means good luck, joy and wealth." the Chinese teen explained. "There are tiny traditions you and Syaoran will have to do before the wedding day, Sakura, to ensure good luck, but on the day itself you might get bored from all the pomp and circumstance."

"No, I won't!" Sakura protested. "I only get bored if I don't pay attention or I don't take something seriously. For this, I will pay complete attention and I will take it all very seriously."

Meilin grinned. "Even through hours and hours of ceremonial praying to the gods and our ancestors?"

"Hai."

"And through serving tea to all the elders of both of our families?"

"Hai."

"And through the seven day banquet?"

"Hai."

Keroberus's head snapped up. "Seven days of food? Sugoi! I've died and gone to the Celestial Temple."

All the gathered teens laughed at this. Naoko then reached over and took the ancient looking tome away from Meilin, adjusting her glasses to better read the characters neatly inked on each page.

"I absolutely adore that translation spell Li-san used on us." she grinned. "Let's see... On the day of the wedding the bride isn't allowed to touch the ground until after she's married. She's carried everywhere by servants until then... The groom can't see her face until the wedding night... And during the banquet she and the groom are not allowed to sneak off to be alone until after the guests leave... That even extends to when they're in the bedroom. According to this family members sometimes play tricks on them until either the spokeswomen throws them out or the groom charges at them to scare them away."

Tomoyo giggled. "Knowing Li, he'll scare them away. What does it say about the planning?" she then asked, her violet eyes sparkling.

Meilin grinned sympathetically. "That's all up to Li-san, Kinomoto-san, and the Elders. Neither Syaoran nor Sakura, nor anyone else has anything to do with those plans unless so asked. The happy couple just agree."

A small smile appeared on the Mistress of the Cards lips. "The good thing about that is that it takes away all the major worries from us."

"And the bad thing?" Chiharu probed.

"We have to suffer through Tomoyo bemoaning about the dresses and decorations she could have designed for this." answered Meilin as she pointed to a moping videographer.

"I just better be allowed to videotape everything or I am seriously going to get ticked off, Elders or not." this one grumbled, making those with her laugh a little nervously.

* * *

Li Syaoran felt cold.

Very cold and alone.

He could feel Sakura's presence just on the other side of the wall above his head. She was asleep now, her aura at peace now that her friends had finally left her for the night. He had been able to hear most of their conversation until then. It had been about the wedding and the preparations for it. He allowed himself a smile, still not quite believing what would happen within the next week. He would marry the girl of his dreams, the only woman he knew he was meant to be with. The warrior could feel the magical aura belonging to Keroberus in the same room as Sakura. At that very moment in time he felt jealous of the Guardian Beast of the Seal. He could be with her night and day, could lie next to her at night without a care in the world and no one would worry about it. Where as if Syaoran did this he was either deemed obsessed or out to get lucky, as Chiharu had so cleverly called it. The warrior flopped over to his back from the tight ball he had been curled into and just stared at the ceiling. Life seemed just a little more unfair now that he was engaged to his angel. He wanted nothing more than to be with her, to hold her, to breathe in her intoxicating scent, but those around them were far too afraid that it could lead to something traditionally best left until after the wedding.

Damn traditions sometimes, he sighed.

He reached out with his senses and let his aura gently brush the soothing presence of his adored sorceress. It reacted unconsciously to him, allowing his presence to blend with hers. Silently he wondered how it was that, even though his beloved was in the next room, she felt so incredibly far.

Was it because he longed to be near her?

Hai, he did have that longing and many more that made his blood boil and his usually chaste thoughts of her turn hentai. But the feeling he was presently experiencing was due to something more than just longing. It was something deeper. A horrid thought occurred to him.

Did this feeling mean their link was fading?

Sakura's aura shifted against his senses and he winced in remorse. His horror at the thought of losing his link with her had woken her from her peaceful sleep.

"I have to stop thinking so hard at night." he muttered ever so softly to the silence, his eyes closing.

But I like to hear you thinking, Sakura's sweet voice whispered into his mind. I like hearing your voice. It makes me feel safe knowing you're always nearby.

I woke you up though. Gomen ne.

He could feel her smile gently. It's okay. There was a slight pause where he could feel her debating with herself about something. May... May I come over?

He smiled kindly to the empty room. You never have to ask me that.

Her presence in his mind seemed to light up with the most incredible smile from her, a smile that chased away most of the cold he still felt. She was simply amazing that way. Through the wall he faintly heard her bedroom door open silently, then close again just as gently. Mere seconds later her heard his own door open and close, the faint scent of delicate cherry blossoms wafting to his nose as he heard her pad across his carpet on bare feet. His smile broadened by a fraction. He was certain that there would never come a day when he would ever tire of that sweet scent from her. The bed shifted ever so slightly as she settled at his side on the King sized mattress.

"You look content." Sakura murmured to him, a smile in her voice.

Syaoran opened his eyes to see her sitting on her hip comfortably, leaning on her hand. She seemed to glow, even in the dark. "I have every reason now to feel content." He then crooked an eyebrow teasingly at her appearance. "Flannel?"

She grinned shyly, toying with the hem of her oversized pyjama's shirt. "Tomoyo nearly had a fit when I refused to wear one of her lacy nothings she had created."

"I can imagine." he chuckled lightly.

"But I was and am cold so I opted for warmth instead of wispy."

"We had the same idea then." and he gave his own warm pyjama's collar a tug. "Though I think I would've really enjoyed seeing you in those lacy nothings she designed for you. I bet they were real eye candy." he smirked roguishly.

She took a playful swipe at his shoulder with a mock pout, unable to stop her giggle or her blush. "Oh, hush! I didn't feel like turning into a Smurf--"

"Smurfette." he corrected.

"Whatever. Besides, you'll get to see all of that on our honeymoon..."

She trailed off abruptly, a strange look crossing her face and entering her eyes. Syaoran didn't recognize this look nor the feeling he felt arcing across to him over their bond. It was almost like a mixture of everything and nothing at once. He sat up quickly and faced her in worry.

"Nani? What is it?"

She began to giggle uncontrollably. In the evening darkness he saw her cheeks turn a deeper shade from a blush. He blinked repeatedly at her in confusion. He couldn't understand why she was blushing or giggling.

"Our honeymoon." she finally tittered in response to his expression.

Again he blinked, then a slow smile crossed his lips. "Oh, is that all." and he lay back down, his arms behind his head casually.

It was her turn to blink. "It that all? Is that all?" she exclaimed in disbelief. Sakura leaned over him to peer into his innocently grinning features. "Do you realize that you and I will be spending the rest of our lives together?"

"Ah, the bliss!" he quipped, flashing a smile.

"Do you realize that in a week you and I will be getting married?" she insisted.

He simply grinned against, impishly. "Hai, I know. I'm the one who set all this in motion, remember?"

"Mou..." she mock frowned at him.

She could feel his own nervousness at it all, but he wasn't allowing himself to show it. He was tense, afraid she would suddenly back out of this at any given time. She could easily feel his deep, underlying fear of losing her. Then a devilish smirk turned up the corners of her lips.

"Turn over." she instructed, nudging his side.

He eyed her cautiously. "What for?"

"You'll see, now turn over."

He did so, lying as comfortably as possible on his stomach, chin resting on his arms. He felt his mattress shift again slightly as Sakura moved closer to him and was greatly surprised when he felt her unexpectedly straddle his waist to sit on his rump. A small frown marred his handsome features as he turned his head to see her in his periphery.

"What're you doing?" he queried, mystified.

"Shh, you need to relax, Syaoran." she soothed.

Before he could even question what she meant by this or what she was planning, he felt her press her palms firmly into his shoulder blades and start to move her hands in slow circles. The tension release that followed her actions was almost painful so much it felt so good. The warrior groaned long and low in pure enjoyment. He could feel every knot, every stress just melt away from her ministrations. Her thumb pressed into the junction of his shoulder muscle and the back of his neck next.

"Oh, yeah, that's the spot." he moaned into his pillow, his body melting under her hands.

She smiled, pleased at his reactions, and continued lower along his back. "Meditations may be great and good to calm the mind and spirit, but nothing beats a massage." she whispered to him, lavishing attention to every muscle in his back.

A goofy grin appeared on his face. "Especially when it's given by the most incredible of angels." he mumbled.

"Sweet talker." she accused quietly, placing a tender kiss in the hollow behind his ear.

Syaoran groaned again in enjoyment when her fingers found another sore spot. "Where did you learn to do this anyway?"

"Years of practice giving Otou-san back rubs."

"Mmmmm, lucky man."

"He was always so wound up and tense after he came home from a dig or a lecture."

He nodded into the depths of his pillow, barely able to speak anymore. He couldn't remember the last time he had felt so impossibly relaxed and at peace. He never saw the positively devilish glint that entered her lively green eyes at that moment. She pressed her thumbs firmly along his spine, enticing another pleasured groan from the warrior. Sakura grinned. She liked having this kind of control over him. She leaned over him slightly to bring her lips closer to his ear.

"Syaoran?" she cooed softly.

"Hmmm?" he acknowledged sleepily.

"You left your defenses down, my Little Wolf." she whispered.

"Hmm? Nani?" he drawled.

Syaoran barely felt her light fingers trail up and down his sides teasingly so much he was nearing sleep. He made a small sound, halfway between a moan and a grunt. Sakura's touches then became a little more deliberate and definite. He huffed an unbidden smile in response as a breathy giggle escapes her throat. Sunset gold eyes brusquely snapped open in almost dreaded realization. This was no longer an incredible massage or a gentle caress. He raised his head off if his arms and looked at her from over his shoulder.

"Sakura?"

"Hm?" came her innocent reply as she smiled.

"You wouldn't...?"

"Wouldn't what, Syaoran?" she asked, her fingers tracing his sides ever so lightly.

He squirmed a bit, swallowing a laugh. She giggled again and that was when he understood that their link was allowing her to share in the torture she was causing. He wondered if she knew this. Syaoran tried to scramble out from under her, but she merely squeezed her knees together at his waist to keep him in place beneath her.

"Sakura, don't you dare!" he warned, his voice rising a notch in apprehension.

She grinned maliciously. "Umm... I dare!"

Her nimble fingers easily found all his most ticklish spots and launched an attack on each one mercilessly. The helpless warrior couldn't help but laugh in reaction from the onslaught, squirming and wriggling wildly in an attempt to get away from his sorceress. She, too, laughed uncontrollably from the sensations she felt from him, that she caused, across their link. It was an amazing experience. She could almost truly feel fingers traveling along her sides and worrying at pleasantly sensitive ribs. Both the sorcerer and the Card Mistress began feeling lightheaded from all the laughter, their lungs beginning to burn for more air than they were getting. At last, in a supreme effort over his laughing fit, Syaoran managed to roll out from under Sakura still seated on his waist. He sat up quickly, grabbed hold of her wrists to pull her roaming hands away from his sides, and twisted her around to pin her back against his chest, letting himself drop back down to the mattress as he held her arms against her. She struggled for a moment, then settled down when it was obvious he wouldn't release her so long as she was still a threat to his ticklish spots. They panted for breath, slight giggles and chuckles escaping them still.

"Holy terror." he smiled breathlessly against her ear.

A light titter gently shook her frame. She shifted a bit, freeing her wrists from his restraining grasp, then turned to face him. A sweet smile adorned her lips, a loving gaze in her emerald eyes. His amber eyes easily returned the gaze. Syaoran felt blessed beyond words that such an angel loved him as much as he loved her. He had once believed himself to be cursed to live his life alone, to pine away for the enchantress for the rest of his life and never have her.

Not anymore.

He pulled her closer to his chest, ever so lightly brushing his lips to hers in a sensual tease. She shivered pleasurably, as he had anticipated. He was quickly learning what she enjoyed him doing to her.

"Have I told you how much I love you?" he smiled softly against her lips, his voice a bare whisper.

She grinned. "Not since you proposed."

He chuckled. "Then let me make amends to you, my Ying Fa. Aishiteru." he whispered against her cheek before placing a soft kiss there. "Aishiteru." and his lips brushed a kiss on her other cheek. "Aishiteru." and he claimed her lips in an ever so tender embrace.

The mixture of a blissful sigh and a pleasured moan escaped her throat as her lips parted to deepen the embrace. Her hands slid up the planes of his chest to allow her arms to wrap around his neck. Both would have to fight with themselves to keep from going too far, but this night neither of them would get much sleep.

* * *

Daidouji Tomoyo fidgeted slightly as she, Li Lerae and Daidouji Sonomi dug through mounds and mounds of fabulous red fabrics. Off to the side of them lay three more piles of cloth they still had left to sort through, each colored pale green, light blue and soft pink of various prints and textures. The three women had been up since the very crack of dawn to begin this task. Only the most perfect shades of each of the four colors could be chosen for the next step.

"You're sure it's alright with you, Li-san, that I design Sakura's wedding kimonos?" Tomoyo queried nervously.

Lerae looked up from the swath she was examining and smiled gently. "It is quite alright, Tomoyo." she answered. "From what I have seen during Sakura's stay with us and from what I have seen on your video tapes, the clothes you design are very lovely. And you seem to take great pleasure in creating these designs. I would never dream of depriving you of this joy."

"My Tomoyo is going to make an absolutely fabulous fashion designer someday soon." Sonomi beamed proudly.

"Only because Sakura is such a great model for me." her Daughter protested.

"Nonsense! The Amamiya women are tenacious and creative workers and thinkers. You're following in a long line of business women." Sonomi fished out another swath of cloth from the pile. "What do you think about this shade of red?"

The teen looked over the selection critically. It was a fabulous shade, not too bright and not too dark, not too purple and not too orange. The right balance of every color. Faint, intricate patterns were interwoven into the cloth in gold thread. Tomoyo's mind worked quickly, imagining various makes and models of kimonos using this fabric. As the twentieth design crossed her mind's eye a slow smile appeared on her face.

"This one will be perfect to make the ceremonial kimono." She looked up suddenly. "Unless you already have a ceremonial one for her to wear?" she questioned Lerae. "You know, a traditional one?"

Lerae shook her head with a tiny smile. "No. That one was unfortunately lost in a fire when Xiao Lang was but three years of age. It was a terrible accident in the kitchens that we could not control fast enough. Since then all the women entering our Clan have been allowed to design their own unique kimono for the ceremony."

The girl's eyes lit up brightly. "Sugoi! I'll make her something totally spectacular to wear. May I design those for the rest of the wedding party too?"

Both Sonomi and Lerae smiled at Tomoyo's energy and exuberance when it came to making clothes of any kind. She was a force to be reckoned with.

"Of course you may." Lerae near chuckled.

Tomoyo nearly leapt for joy. "Arigatou!"

* * *

The week flew by quickly due to all the hectic preparations for the fateful day where the Mistress of the Clow Cards would enter into the Li Clan. A momentous occasion required everything to be absolutely perfect down to the minutest detail. For the entire time leading up to that day the young soul mates were kept separate from each other. It was a long-standing Clan tradition that every couple had to be kept apart to ensure nothing would happen until after they were wed. Sakura was moved out of her room next to Syaoran's and was relocated into the estate wing where all her friends and family from Japan were staying. It had been hard of the young couple to be apart this way. To love someone as deeply as they loved each other, but to be forbidden to physically be with them for even a moment was torture. Occasionally they would catch a fleeting glimpse of each other as they passed in the hallways, but never once would their escorts allow them to come near each other. The only contact they had left was their unique link and they put that blessed gift to good use. Every night they would let their minds and hearts reach out over the expanse dividing them and meet halfway in a ghostly embrace. It was the only way they could somehow be together when all of their family and friends followed the tradition to keep the bride and groom apart until the wedding day no matter what.

Tonight was no exception.

Sakura's breath was slow and steady, her eyes shut to the world around her as she kneeled on the carpeted floor of her bedroom, her hands folded neatly in her lap. She stayed perfectly still in the dark of her room. Keroberus lay on her bed, watching her carefully, marveling at the control she showed with her newest of abilities. Only moments ago she had bathed and changed into some new lace nightwear of an emerald green that Tomoyo had supplied her with. As soon as she had been given this item she had been left alone for the night. Before her bath she had lit some incense on a small prayer altar set against one of her room's walls, the incense's pungent aroma now soothing her nervousness as it filled the room in near invisible smoke. Sakura was kneeling facing the small altar, but she was neither praying nor meditating. She was communicating with her soul mate, her beloved Little Wolf, as she had done every night for the last week.

Are you nervous about tomorrow, Sakura? Li Syaoran's voice drifted gently into her mind.

Nervous, terrified, excited... Take your pick, but I'm loving every second of this, she smiled. And you?

Hai, but I think I'm more anxious than nervous... unlike your Onii-chan. From what I hear he's becoming more and more irritable the closer we get to tomorrow, he chuckled lightly.

That's putting it mildly. He won't let me out of his sight for a second unless he's sure I'm locked away in my room and can't get out.

Again Syaoran chuckled. The case of the over-protective Onii-chan. I just hope he doesn't plan to camp out in our bedroom afterwards.

Sakura giggled softly. I like the way that sounds.

The way what sounds?

Our bedroom.

She felt him smile seductively, the gentle feel of phantom hands trailing up and down her bare arms. Hai. Our bedroom,... with our bed,... with our rumpled sheets.

Sakura shivered. Onegai, stop, being away from you is torture enough, Syaoran.

Gomen ne, he apologized in genuine remorse.

The sorceress winced at his reaction. She hadn't meant for that to happen. She had to make amends. Carefully she focused her mind on her fiancé, picturing her arms wrapping him in a warm and loving embrace. His mind sighed ever so softly at her ghostly touch. Spectral arms wrapped around her form, holding her tight. She was almost able to pick up his familiar and soothing scent so much the sensations felt incredibly real. Focusing her mind again she saw herself gently kissing her partner in Card Capting. He responded easily and willingly. It was as if she could truly feel his lips on hers. Her spiritual self clung to him, reveling in the sensations he woke in her. Meanwhile the mental projection of his hands began to drift across her back to grip her arms. But then he suddenly stopped, pulling himself away from her, leaving the Card Mistress dizzy. Her physical self was left breathless.

Why... why did you stop? she finally questioned when she had recomposed herself enough.

She could feel him struggling with himself for control before answering. As... as much as I would love to see and feel just how far we could go like this, it would be safer if we waited still.

She smiled softly in understanding. Hai, you're right. No use getting impatient now, is there?

Sakura felt him smile. Hai, he answered.

After tomorrow, you and I will have the rest of our lives together, she cooed mentally.

Infinite eternities wouldn't be long enough, his voice whispered, causing her to shiver pleasantly. Aishiteru, Sakura.

She allowed her mind to brush his in a loving caress. Aishiteru, Syaoran.

With a lingering smile, his presence faded from her mind just as a soft knock sounded on her bedroom door. It opened before she could acknowledge it. Opening her eyes she saw her Otou-san peering in at her, his eternal Fatherly smile on his face.

"'Tou-san?" she questioned.

"One of Li's Cousins is here for the hair combing ritual." he told her.

The cheerleader nodded to him and got back to her feet just as a humbled woman stepped into the room. She bowed to the sorceress and indicated a chair near the window for her to sit in. Once Sakura was seated, bathed in the pale glow of the thin crescent moon, the woman picked up a brush from the vanity table and approached her.

"This is truly an honor for me to have been chosen to do this, Card Mistress." she fidgeted as she carefully removed the ties that held Sakura's hair in two tiny ponytails.

"What's your name?"

"Low Ma, Card Mistress."

"Low Ma, onegai, just call me Sakura. Tell me about this ritual?"

The woman smiled ever so slightly. "It is meant to symbolize your and Li-sama's adulthood." she explained as she delicately brushed the teen's honey auburn locks. "The hair needs to be combed four times, each time consisting of forty nine strokes for extra luck. Each combing has a special meaning."

"Tell me?"

Low Ma chuckled softly. "The first combing symbolizes from the beginning until the end. The second symbolizes harmony from now until old age. Sons and Grandsons all over the place is what the third combing symbolizes. And the fourth combing wishes good wealth, health and a long-lasting marriage."

A whimsical smile appeared on Sakura's lips. "How beautiful."

"In this tradition, every action has a specific meaning. In the morning, Card Mistress, you will be immersed in a custom that is far older than even our Clan. I have always seen it as a romantic ceremony."

Sakura smirked. "Nothing against a little romance."

Low Ma, too, smirked. "No, of course not. I pray that you and Li-sama have many long years of love and romance."

The sorceress smiled at the night. "I know we will."

* * *

The morning sun crept slowly over the horizon, announcing the beginning of a most joyous day. As the great celestial orb warmed the isle of Bing Di Lian, raising wispy banks of mist along the ground of the vast estate, attendants began the final preparations for the day's events and the days that would follow. Shortly after the attendants woke did the rest of the Li Clan estate awake as well. Spirits were high as everyone got ready for a day that would always be remembered until the end of time. In the guest wing of the estate's main house, all of Kinomoto Sakura's female relatives and friends from Japan were gathered around the young sorceress to help her dress for the happy occasion. She was now wearing the fabulous red kimono Tomoyo had designed for her. It had been purposefully designed to mask every feminine curve the Card Mistress possessed.

"It's to drive Li wild." the Daidouji teen had explained with a mysterious Cheshire cat grin.

Everyone else was dressed in kimonos as well, each one wearing a color that flattered them the best. Sakura stood as still as she could while Rika and Chiharu styled her hair simply yet elegantly. Tomoyo was occupied putting the final touches on the hem line while Sonomi and Naoko prepared the ornate and beaded Phoenix headpiece that would hide Sakura's face with a bright red, near opaque veil. Meilin busied herself coaching the nervous Mistress of the Cards on what she had to do during the actual wedding ceremony, reassuring her that everything would be fine. The men were allowed to watch these last finishing touches from the door to the bedroom, standing proud in their own ceremonial kimonos. Keroberus, in his full form, lounged on the end of the bed, watching the women fuss over his Mistress.

"Nadeshiko must be proud of her little girl." Tsukishiro murmured, squaring his shoulders with pride.

Yukito nodded in agreement. "No doubt about that. You can almost feel her smiling down on all of us."

"Hai."

Touya smirked playfully at his Imoto. "Well, look at that. The kaijou's all dressed up."

Sakura shot him a half-hearted annoyed glare. "I am not a kaijou."

"Touya, be nice to your Imoto. This is a special day for her." Fujitaka chided as he approached his Daughter. He cupped her face gently, the hint of tears playing in his smiling eyes. "My little girl... all grown up."

Sakura had heard his voice quiver ever so slightly and it brought tears to her own eyes. Her Otou-san was afraid that he was losing his only Daughter to a new family and new land. She threw her arms around her Otou-san's waist, burying her face in his chest to hide her own threatening tears.

"I'll always be your little girl, 'Tou-san." she very nearly sobbed. "You're not losing a Daughter. You're gaining a Son."

"A wise man once said a family is never diminished by a wedding." Takashi stated seriously. "A marriage only makes a family grow."

"For once, he's telling the truth." Chiharu nodded in agreement.

Wiping the mist from his eyes, Kinomoto Fujitaka smiled at them in thanks. "I'm being overly sentimental today, I guess. I can't help it. It's not every day that your little girl gets married."

"And what a beautiful bride she makes." Sonomi smiled, securing the elaborate headpiece to Sakura's head.

A gentle knock sounded on the door to the Kinomoto family's suite. Yukito went to answer the door while everyone began to gather in the main room for pictures of the happy bride hidden behind her veil. At the door stood Li Ann-Lee dressed in her finest midnight blue silks with bright leaf prints. Behind her stood a grouping of attendants, four of which were carrying a sedan chair decorated in good luck charms, tokens against bad or evil influences, and endless yards of red silk. With them stood a procession of musicians. They all bowed to those within the suite.

"We are here to bring the Card Mistress to the temple." the elderly woman announced eloquently.

* * *

Li Syaoran, mightiest sorcerer and warrior of the powerful Li Clan, stood stoic and still as he stared out of the open temple doors to the estate ground beyond. Red silk floated in the wind from every possible location, adding an almost surreal quality to the day. In a few minutes his wife-to-be would be carried up to that very door and then she would glide gracefully towards him. His Cherry Blossom, Sakura. Outside, Syaoran was the picture of calm, not a twitch or nervous habit showing. Inside was a much different story. He was a raging bundle of nerves ready to burst at any given second from the immense joy he felt in his heart. He could barely believe it. His angel would soon be his wife. It made him tingle all over pleasantly in anticipation. He looked to his Okaa-san discretely and found her grinning in amusement. He blinked at this.

"What's so funny, Ma-Ma?" he whispered.

"Your attempt at remaining calm, Xiao Lang." she near chuckled softly. "You are becoming the color of a ripe tomato."

Syaoran looked away quickly, now feeling the warmth of the blush darkening his cheeks. "I never knew I'd be this nervous." he admitted. "I guess I really shouldn't be surprised about it considering who it is I'm about to marry."

"If it is any comfort to you, I once heard you Otou-san felt much the same way as you on our wedding day."

He glanced at her with a smirk. "The Li men are lucky then."

She blinked. "What has led you to believe this?"

"So far we all married beautiful women."

Lerae looked at her Son, noting his impish grin as he stared ahead of himself. She gave him a grateful, Motherly smile before returning her eyes to the doors as well. The Card Mistress had indeed been a positive influence on the once reclusive young warrior, teaching him that it was perfectly acceptable for a fighter to show his feelings to the world every so often, that it was not a weakness as he had been taught.

"I must match the color of my robes now." Lerae heard her Son quip softly.

She stifled a chuckle as the din of gongs, drums and firecrackers filled the air. The bridal procession had arrived. The Clan matriarch and the teen sorcerer watched as the attendants carried the sedan chair up the short steps to the temple doors where the came to a stop. Another attendant appeared to lay a red mat in front of the sedan as the carriers carefully lowered it enough to allow the red clad Card Mistress to disembark. The mat was to prevent her from touching the ground before she crossed the threshold. Syaoran felt his heart begin to thump loud and fast. Frozen in place all he could do was watch Sakura begin to walk towards him, her family and friends filing in behind her to join his own relatives already seated along the walls to witness the ceremony. He caught sight of Tomoyo filming the entire event with her ever present video camera, a broad grin plastered on her face in giddy enjoyment. Sakura came to stand before Syaoran and his Okaa-san and bowed deeply to them in respect, which they reciprocated. The male Card Captor could have sworn he felt the warmth of her million-watt smile shining through her opaque veil. When the Mistress of the Cards straightened Li-san stepped aside to allow her to take her place at Syaoran side. Together, the young couple approached and knelt before the Li Clan's family altar to pray and pay their respects to the Heaven and Earth, the Li ancestors, and Tsao-Chün, the Kitchen God. Keroberus sat a few meters behind his Mistress in his function of Guardian Beast of the Seal of Clow and as her Guardian. It was his duty. Tedious hours passed, the Card Captors not moving from their kneeling position, seemingly completely engrossed in their prayers of favorable outcomes and good health and fortune.

Tomoyo did it on purpose to make your kimono so bulky, didn't she? the groom suddenly sent to his bride.

Syaoran, you're supposed to be praying, she admonished with a mental smile.

I am praying. Praying that this ceremony ends soon.

She giggled in his mind. My turn to tell you to be patient.

A week of not being able to see you or hold you is a little more than I can stand.

Again she giggled, more gently this time. Is this how you were when we were apart back in Japan?

Hai.

My poor, beloved Little Wolf.

Before he could answer, a temple priest and his acolyte, carrying a small platter and a goblet, came to stand in front of the Card Captors. The priest motioned the pair to turn and face each other. He then took the platter from his acolyte and held it between them. On it were two bite-sized pieces of sugar molded in the shape of roosters. The young warrior could feel his beloved's confusion at this particular ritual.

The rooster is for longevity, he explained as he picked up one of the sugar effigies. The sugar is for sweet relations between our two families and us.

He carefully raised the sweet to where her lips would be behind the veil. In response Sakura raised the red silk just high enough to allow him to feed her the carved sugar without yet seeing her face. Syaoran gently brushed her soft, parted lips in the act, sending pleasant tingles up both their spines. Their first physical contact in a week. When he finally took his hand away she reached down to take the remaining sugar rooster and held it up for him to eat. He kept his eyes fixed on where he could feel her eyes gazing at him from behind the veil, allowing her to see and feel every ounce of love he possessed for her and her alone. The platter was then removed and then the goblet was placed between them. Both could see it was filled with a rich, red wine.

I've never had wine before, Sakura stated in his mind as he reached down for the goblet.

Neither have I, he admitted. But this is part of the ceremony, to consecrate the whole act. Just take a slow sip.

And he demonstrated by placing the goblet between both his hands and taking a slow sip from it. The wine was warm and sweet on his tongue, unlike what he had expected it to taste. It was actually quite drinkable. He then held the wine out to the sorceress. She hesitated for a moment, then raised her veil, as she had done only moments ago, to allow him to raise the goblet to her lips and help her drink. The wine was then taken away to begin the next and before final part of the wedding ceremony: the wedding tea ceremony. Seeing the immense size of the Li Clan, Sakura and Syaoran had been allowed to ask their friends for aid in serving tea to every family member present. They began with Li Lerae, humbly offering her a cup of tea in which had been placed lotus seeds and two red dates.

Lerae smiled at the sorceress, accepting the cup. "Welcome to our family, Li Sakura, Mistress of the Li Clan." she whispered so only the girl could hear.

Sakura bowed low to her in thanks, a thrilled smile hidden behind her veil on her lips. Her title had been given. She was now an accepted member of the powerful Li Clan.

Moving from family member to family member, the bride and groom, with the help of their friends, offered tea to each and everyone present. In return they all received red envelopes, known as lai see, filled with either money or jewelry. Tomoyo was allowed to videotape the proceedings of the tea ceremony, much to her delight, on the promise that she made a copy of her video for everyone present. She happily agreed to have this opportunity. She managed to catch every secreted touch and glance between the young couple, as well as every smile the warrior offered to the veiled sorceress when he believed no one was watching.

"Kawaii!" she breathed ever so softly.

Finally, when everyone had been served, the young couple stepped back to the center of the temple and bowed to everyone collectively. Then they turned to the family altar and bowed to the elements, gods and ancestors in respect for being witnesses to the ceremony. At last they faced each other and bowed again. Before they even had a chance to straighten the crowd in audience erupted into applauds. Surprised, Sakura looked at everyone as they leapt to their feet to smile, cheer and applaud her and Syaoran.

It's alright, Sakura, the warrior soothed. They're just congratulating us. The ceremony is over now.

He felt her mind light up brightly from the happiest smile he had ever sensed from her. It was a heartwarming sensation that warmed him to his very core. One more reason he loved her so much. Those blessed smiles of hers that could be felt even from miles away. Lerae approached the married pair at this point, smiling proudly at both of them. She bowed slightly from the waist.

"Allow me to be the first to formally congratulate you both on your nuptials. Also allow me to invite you to partake of our celebratory feast prepared in your honor."

Taking hold of each other's hand to remain close to each other, the wedded sorcerer and sorceress bowed in acceptance of the offer.

* * *

Keroberus spent most of his time walking around the large Reception Hall, stopping here and there to speak to some of the Li Clansmen or just answering questions from his Mistress's friends. They still had quite a few queries to pose him regarding his presence, the Clow Cards, and Sakura's involvement in it all. He had done this for the last week of this celebration now. It was a grand affair, reminding the Beast of the old days. All the tabled were set very low, everyone seated on plush pillows of the ground. Delicate music wafted through the air, a gentle contrast to the delicious aromas coming from all the succulent dishes served to the revelers. Standing next to his Mistress and her husband was Li Ann-Lee. Keroberus had to smile at the elderly woman. As spokeswoman it had been her duty to arrange that both Sakura's Otou-san and Onii-chan accept this wedding to the young warrior. Not an easy task, knowing Kinomoto Touya. And now it was Ann-Lee's task to make sure the banquet went smoothly for all the guests. Seven days and she showed no sign of tiring, or running out of words of wisdom and blessing for all her toasts to the happy couple. This seemed to be a recurring trait in the Li Clan, their seeming lack of need for sleep. Many times during this elongated celebration, the Card Mistress's friends and blood relatives had dozed off many times, as well as Sakura herself. Keroberus had yet to see even one Li yawn, though he was starting to see wary circles form under eyes here and there.

He looked to his Mistress and his new Master seated at the place of honor at the traditional feast. Sakura's head was resting against Syaoran's shoulder to rest a little while the warrior spoke with some of the Elders seated at his side. Keroberus smiled again. Even if he couldn't see her face behind her red veil, he knew she was comfortable with the sorcerer. In the sever days that the banquet had taken place the young sorceress had been urged to change kimono a total of twenty eight times, four times each day. This had thoroughly pleased Tomoyo since it had meant her friend got to wear each and every item she had designed specially for her. Presently the dozing Card Mistress wore a white silk kimono on which had been embroidered delicate clusters of cherry blossoms. She still wore the elaborate Phoenix headpiece as required by tradition. She would only be allowed to show her face when she and Syaoran would finally be alone. With another small smile curling up the corners of his lips, mighty Keroberus approached Li Lerae, sitting at the honor table, and nudged her arm gently with his nose to gain her attention. She met his golden eyes in curiosity.

"Keroberus-san?"

"Li-san, I think it's about time to call an end to the party." He motioned out to the guests with a jerk of his head. "Some of your guests are falling asleep in their plates. Others are just now starting to look pretty tired. Seven days is a long time to be awake. Even Sakura is nodding off over there, though I doubt Li minds."

Lerae nodded. "Perhaps this was a little extravagant. I merely wished this to be a grand celebration banquet befitting of my Son, the Card Mistress, and their union."

"Well, you succeeded wonderfully."

"Arigatou. But you are right, Guardian. Enough time has passed."

"Hai. As Card Captors they need their sleep to be alert and have enough energy to catch the next Clow Card that pops up."

"And to produce many heirs to their line. Lack of sleep merely hinders this process. Onegai, will you tell Ann-Lee of this decision?"

The Guardian Beast of the Seal looked across the Reception Hall to the toasting dajin and nodded in acceptance before walking off towards her. He bumped his shoulder into Ann-Lee's leg to get her to look down at him. From the corner of his eye Li Syaoran saw his Aunt speaking with the Guardian Beast and immediately knew the content of their conversation. They were about to call an end to the festivities.

At last!

Truth be known he, too, had begun to feel a little fatigued. Seven days was sorely testing his limits as a warrior and a sorcerer. He was also anxious to finally be alone with his angel, his wife, though he doubted anything would be done this night. He could feel her exhaustion from having willingly forced herself to stay as awake as possible after so much time. It pained him to have to rouse her. Being ever so gentle he woke his bride with a slight shake. She mumbled something incoherent, halfway between the waking world and the dream world.

"Sakura." he called softly. "You have to wake up, Love. It's time to bid our guests goodnight."

"Bid out guests goodnight?" she muttered sleepily.

"Hai, then we can go get some sleep."

She nodded drowsily and he carefully helped her to her feet, steering her towards the door while supporting her.

"Attention, minna!" Ann-Lee announced in a clear, loud voice. "The bride and groom, and their respected families, would like to thank you all for being witness to their wedding and for joining them during these seven long days of celebration! But now, seeing as it is getting rather late... again... they wish to bid you all goodnight and good rest! Oyasumi!"

Standing near the door the exhausted Card Mistress was barely aware of all the people filing out before her or of the well-wishings and blessings each gave as they passed. She was much too tired. It took everything she had to merely remain standing and also to bow to each guest in some semblance of acknowledgement. Syaoran easily felt this from her and kept a watchful eye on her reactions and movements just in case anything happened. So when the last guest left and she began to topple over, he was right there and ready to catch her to break her fall. Both his Okaa-san and her family gathered in close around them, worried about the lithe cheerleader he held.

"She's alright." the warrior reassured the group. "She's just exhausted." and he carefully lifted his wife into his arms, cradling her close to his chest. "Trying to stay awake for a week long party is a little too much for my Ying Fa."

Sonomi blinked. "Ying Fa?"

"It means cherry blossom." Meilin explained patiently.

"Very appropriate." Tsukishiro smiled.

Fujitaka smiled down at the young man holding Sakura ever so tenderly in his arms. "Take good care of my little girl, Li."

"That means behave." Touya snapped with a frown.

Tomoyo almost glared at him. "Touya, they're married now."

"Your point?"

"They don't have to behave!"

Syaoran chuckled silently at them, then returned his attention to his Father-in-Law. "She'll be well cared for, Kinomoto-san. I plan to grant her any and all wishes she might have."

Yukito chuckled. "Sakura always was a hopeless romantic at heart. She'll like that."

"She be spoilt rotten every single day of our lives together."

"Of that we all have no doubt." Lerae smiled, then placed a gently kiss on her Son's forehead. "The house has been prepared for your arrival. Ann-Lee will take you there."

"Arigatou, Ma-Ma."

"I'm coming too." Tomoyo suddenly announced. "There's no way I'm missing a single kawaii moment of the Universe's most perfect couple." and she chased after Ann-Lee and the newlyweds already stepping out into the depth of the night beyond the doors.

The groom raised a wondering eyebrow to his friend. You do know nothing will happen tonight, not that you'll be allowed to film if anything does happen."

"I know." she grinned. "But I can always hope to capture some sweetness between you, ne?"

"Hopeless." he muttered with a shake of his head.

"So what's this house your Okaa-san mentioned?"

"It's a residence that was finished just last year. It hasn't been lived in yet since it was meant for me after I got married. You know, a private home away from the main house of the estate. It's pretty secluded from everything."

She sighed in bliss. "How romantic."

"It's a very lovely home for our Xiao Lang and his bride." Ann-Lee added, then looked at her Nephew. "Will you be wanting attendants living there full time in the servants' quarters?"

He winked with a roguish grin. "I'll let you know."

They continued on the rest of the way in silence, following a meticulously kept path of interlocking cobblestones that cut through the lush foliage of the isle of Bing Di Lian. Small lanterns set along the path were the only source of light to see by. Going around another bend in the path the small group came upon a gate made of iron set into a tall, lengthy stone wall. Beyond the wall lay an immense single level house built in the traditional Chinese design. Everything of this edifice was made either of paper, cherry wood, red clay or white washed stones. Tomoyo could tell that this house would be incredible when seen in daylight. Ann-Lee let the way over the thriving grounds and through the house's main door. The house was wired with electricity for convenience and comfort, the lights kept dim to add more romance to the ambiance. It was an elegantly designed interior, colored in simple whites and pale bamboo. After the entryway, one had to walk up a step to enter the vast living room with its plush cream colored and cherry wood furniture. A cozy dining table had been set up near a bay window, an island counter dividing this eating space from the kitchen. Tomoyo got a chance to see the rest of the house in fleeting glances as she followed her friends to the master bedroom at the back of the dwelling. A den, a training room, a dining room for entertaining more formal gatherings, and five guestrooms that would no doubt someday be converted into children's rooms. Ann-Lee opened the door to the dimly lit master bedroom, revealing bamboo trimmed white walls and a burgundy red bed set in a cherry wood frame. Syaoran walked over to the bed and carefully set his wife down on the downy mattress.

She stirred lightly. "... Syaoran...?"

"Shh, I'm right here, Sakura. We're... home." He couldn't help but smile at his own words. His home was now her home.

With a barely perceivable nod, Sakura sat up drowsily, her hand reaching for the Phoenix headpiece she had worn all this time. He caught her hand in his to stop her and set it aside as he kneeled before her. She didn't have the strength to resist. With Tomoyo's help Syaoran cautiously removed the pins holding the headpiece in place and too it off Sakura's head, veil and all. The warrior smiled at his sleepy sorceress, then delicately cupped her cheek. Her green eyes fluttered open at his touch and looked up to glow lovingly at her soul mate. He ran a hand through her silky hair, favoring her with a gentle smile.

"Why don't you go take a hot shower. It'll help you relax and you'll sleep better." he told her, keeping his voice soft.

She nodded blearily, feeling his lips touch hers in an almost ephemeral embrace.

"I'll be back in a bit, I'm just going to show Tomoyo and Ann-Lee out, okay?" he continued.

"... Okay..." she near slurred.

Syaoran aided her back to her feet, then steered the tired Card Mistress towards the adjoining bathroom. Once he was sure she would be alright he closed he door and returned his attention to his guests, motioning them back out of the room.

"Arigatou for all your help, Ann-Lee." the warrior stated. "I would've never gotten Touya's permission for this without you."

Li Ann-Lee waved it off casually. "It was my pleasure, Xiao Lang. It is a real joy to see you so happy with the woman of your choosing, not the Elders. You cherish quite a bit and she loves you dearly."

He smiled and looked to Tomoyo. "And you. Friend, nuisance, support and confidante all wrapped into one neat package with a video camera. I'm actually going to miss you being around and taping us every second."

The Daidouji teen grinned impishly. "Not to worry, Li, I taught your Sisters how to use a high resolution digital camera."

Syaoran groaned. "I should've known." He suddenly smiled at her. "But domo arigatou for always being there at our best and our worst."

"Just take care of my Sakura and you can call it all even." she told him, giving her friend a quick hug.

He chuckled when she released him. "Deal."

Bidding him a final goodnight, both women finally left the nuptial residence to return to the main house of the Li Clan estate. Moving back into his new home Syaoran paused at each room, first to dream of the future these rooms would see, then to turn off the lights for the night. The walls would someday echo with the sounds of children. He smiled to himself at that thought. They would be beautiful children because of Sakura rich innocence and allure, and magically strong due to both of their magic. And they would be their children. He returned to the room he would share every night and morning with Sakura and stopped at the door. His sorceress had already finished her shower. She was lying in bed, facing the door, and was sound asleep. She wore a white, nearly sheer lace nightgown that fell in a loose skirt to her mid-thigh. The collar scooped low and the cuffs puffed loosely on her forearms. Syaoran smiled at the adorable picture she made with her hand tucked under her cheek. Silently he made his way to the bathroom, his nose immediately struck by the sweet scent of honey, heather and cherry blossoms as he crossed the door. The warrior took a quick shower to wash away seven days of weary fatigue, his mind and body relaxing to the heat of the water. He could feel his skin tingle pleasantly at the thought of what the future now held for him and his beloved soul mate. When he was done washing up he slipped into a pair of light cotton pyjama pants and silently re-entered the bedroom. Sakura hadn't moved. A small smile came to his lips. The last week had been truly exhausting for her. She wasn't used to the Li discipline of remaining alert and awake for days on end. As silently as possible he crept into the bed next to his new wife and gently pulled the silk covers up over the both of them. He snaked his arm around her slim waist and pressed up close to her back, inhaling her ever-present sweet scent. A small cry escaped her parted lips as she slept on, nestling herself back against her husband's chest. It was a purely unconscious move on her part, but it warmed Syaoran's heart to know she was this comfortable with him around. He held her close, nuzzling the sensitive spot just behind her ear. The days that would follow would be amazing, but none more than in the morning.

Tomorrow would be their first real day as husband and wife.

Syaoran smiled, closing his eyes as sleep began to take him. He kissed Sakura behind the ear tenderly.

"Aishiteru, Sakura... Now and always."

THE END!!!


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