Hi everyone! Long time no see! =D Thank you for all the reviews and sorry for the wait. The story is almost coming to an end.
Everyone: That's good because you suck balls at updating!
Me: Gah, forgive me! I think I'm going to miss this story a lot afterwards. Enough of my rambling though. Haha enjoy chapter twenty-five!
~A Love Before Time~
By silent wanderer
"You must be lonely without him. How long has it been since you smiled?"
Confused, Emike kept quiet. What did he mean when she last smiled?
"Would you stay with me Emike? Would you keep me company?"
"I-I must find me brother. I'm sorry."
He shook his head as if knowingly. "Then allow me to remain by your side until we find your brother. Together."
"Yer willin' to 'elp me? A stranger?" she hesitated. "I don't 'ave money sir."
"I don't require payment." he answered so casually that she felt her heart flip inside her chest at his confidence.
"What do I 'ave to do?" she whispered. God, she couldn't do it alone. Her brother was in danger and she probably couldn't do a thing without the help of this man. Mentally, she told herself that she would break this invisible bargain they had just seemingly conducted if she felt threatened, but for now she desperately needed someone to lean on, someone who could suppress the fear that was beginning to invade her entire being. She didn't have anything else but her brother and she was willing to take this chance.
"Your brother has been captured by another clan." Simon said, rising from his chair and approaching the shivering girl with slow, easy movements.
Emike looked up at him and blinked. "Is e' dead?" she asked, her voice barely audible.
"No. Not yet." he gave a reassuring smile, placing both hands on her small shoulders. "I ask for nothing, if not simply for your trust Emike. Can you give me that? Will you listen and follow me until the end?"
She nodded. "Yes."
He gave her another quick smile. "Then we shall free your brother from the clutches of the Li clan."
Fourteen hours to go. If Sakura hadn't been in such a heightened mood of grief, she might have applauded herself for having avoided the wedding limelight for a good two hours. But she hardly noticed anything except for how time wasn't cooperating with her, nor fulfilling its tried and true saying that it would mend her heart. And she knew it would never get better, even if she could manage to stow herself away for the last fourteen hours. In fact, if the latter were to happen, she thought she would be miserable forever.
"Simon, where are you…" she asked dully into the darkness. Maybe it was because she really wanted to leave her current body and return to her time, or maybe it was because she just had a built in mechanism inside her that refused to sit idly around when she could do something about her predicament, but Sakura got up from the large couch then and was determined to find Simon. He above everyone else could and would get her out since willing herself back to the future was obviously going to do nothing but give her an aneurism.
Sakura stood at the entrance of the library doors for a good fifteen minutes, recomposing herself, telling herself to suck it up. This whole ordeal was going to make her stronger, she knew it…she just couldn't convince herself of it at the moment.
And just her luck, as she went to put her hand on the massive lion's head that acted as the metal door handle, who pushed himself into the room but Simon. As soon as the door closed, the two of them stood staring at one another, at a loss for words.
Finally, his eyebrows furrowed. "Are you alright?"
"No, I'm not alright. Where have you been?!" she hissed. "Can we leave now?"
Simon had the gall to ignore her, glancing around the room, his gaze following the winding stairs. And seeing that they were truly alone, only then did he usher her back up the stairs, behind a large bookcase.
"Have you done something that requires you to be this sneaky?" Sakura asked flatly, not bothering to whisper any longer.
He glared at her. "What's up your dress?"
"Everything." She replied. "I just wanna go home."
And maybe it was the defeated tone she had taken that made him stop and actually consider her words, but she swore he was looking at her with sympathy. "You want to go back without your— " he couldn't finish before Sakura pounced on him. She didn't care that she knocked both of them to the floor; all she cared about was that she had stopped him from calling Li. Regardless of how that ghost may have actually hated her, she couldn't deny that he had grown sensitive to anyone around her calling him. Hell, she just had to conjure him with her mind and he was there. That wasn't exactly a good thing at the moment.
Simon however, didn't understand why Sakura currently had her hands clasped against his mouth and he glared at her as if she was insane.
Slowly, she got off him and slunk away, hoping she hadn't given him the wrong impression by her bold actions. Pulling her knees to her chest and leaning against the bookcase, she tried one more time. "I'm done what I came here to do. Can we just go back together Simon?"
Not being a complete dolt however, Simon's curiosity was piqued as he sat down beside Sakura. "Okay, princess, you gonna tell me what happened between he who shall remain unnamed and yourself or do I have to keep asking myself why you were here alone at this hour of night, crying all by your lonesome?"
Even in the dark, he was too perceptive. "We had a falling out."
"No kidding?" she could practically hear his grin. "Good." He said smartly.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, just to change the subject.
"Me? Nothing. Couldn't sleep so I decided to check out the massive library this mansion has going on."
He was still insisting on treating her like she knew nothing. Well he was in for a surprise. "You know Simon…I've never been in Emike's body for this long."
"How are you liking it?"
"Actually it has its good points."
"Like I'm actually realizing that I'm Emike and I know what she knows."
"And?" he asked, but past his indifference she could sense how terse he had suddenly become.
"Simon." She whispered. "Emike wasn't the bad guy. She never was."
Sakura thought if she could look into his eyes, she would have been a witness of fear. "Both of you…" she hoped he knew she was talking about him and Li. "Both of you in our time knew Emike's past. Both of you knew and you never thought to tell me. But I know now. I'm in her state of mind. I can feel her fear. I didn't know what it was before, but when you're around… I feel scared."
"But I'm not scared of you Simon." She glanced up to look him in the face, but couldn't read his expression in the dark. "Should I be?"
Simon searched her eyes for the smallest of moments. "I wouldn't hurt you."
Yes, she knew that. "But Emike's different. You'd hurt her if you had to. You would wouldn't you Simon?"
He gave an exasperated sigh. "Listen…"
"You can't deny what I'm feeling. Even in my dreams… that one time I was in your presence, I felt Emike's fear as my own. I knew you struck some sort of deal with her and until now I was trying to figure out what that was."
"You don't know what you're talking about Sakura."
"The hell I don't Simon. You've lied to me from the beginning. I knew your intentions were bad, but I can't believe you're going through with this. I can't believe you're going to kill her brother, my brother." Sakura finally stood erect, glaring down with determination. "I won't let you."
There was a soft curse that rang throughout the darkness before Simon had also leapt to his feet. "He died the last time too Sakura. You don't know what you're talking about!"
"Then tell me." She stood her ground. "How is this time different from last time?"
Simon scoffed at her question. "You all right? You're different. You changed things. You changed Emike." He stopped and became considerate. "A falling out…" he repeated. And then he was looking at her again in the most curious manner. "And you're still as oblivious as her." He whispered.
"Simon…" Sakura warned.
"What?" came his innocent reply. It was as if she hadn't just previously ruffled his feathers. It was infuriating. What was he up to?!
She just shook her head. It didn't matter. She couldn't do anymore anyways. She'd done enough. "Simon, let's just go alright?"
"No can do princess. You'll have to tough it out."
"Simon." She reasserted. "Please." And she saw her words took some effect on him because hesitation was in his movements. So she went in for the kill. "It's over. I botched things up royally, but…he won't be coming back to our time anymore. Just come back with me and we can forget about the last month or two."
"What are you saying?" he asked carefully.
Sighing, Sakura shrugged. "I'm saying I'm tired of all of this. I just want to go back to school and have you bugging me again and having my own life back again. No more ghosts, no more Emike, no more being scared." Her hand went to clasp his and she gave him a pleading look. "Can you do that for me Simon?"
He stared down at their hands and then his eyes flew to Sakura's face. The defeat in her gaze was unnerving and he stood undecided for a time. Another curse rang out loud as he debated his options. She was giving him another chance, but she also didn't know the wrongs he had to make right. But if he stopped now, he could potentially save himself from her hatred later…
"It'll be alright." He finally concluded. "You'll forgive me eventually Sakura."
"Simon!" But all Sakura could do was watch Simon pull out of her grasp and blend back into the darkness. It was mere seconds later that she heard the library door click softly before shutting and once again she was bathed in silence.
Didn't he know she was offering a truce? Now he was making things personal and worse, he had confirmed his position in this play of the supernatural. The last thing she wanted was to remain in this time and it seemed that not only was that now the case, but she had also just earned herself an enemy. A man after her own brother and sworn to ruin Emike's reputation. Simon wasn't going to win however. She'd put aside her emotions for now if it meant stopping him. She'd have to.
And without another thought, she left the library and headed straight for Li's room.
Sakura tried ignoring it, but she absolutely could not deny the fact that her hands were shaking as she entered Li's room. I mean what an idiot they would brand her, throwing a ginormous tantrum, drizzled in hysterics and then coming back just two hours later. She could only hope that they would see that she meant business and stopping Simon in his tracks was top priority…and maybe if she was lucky, saving her brother too. Some small little compartment in her heart refused to believe he had died in the past because of this silly love triangle between three individuals.
Well, one thing Sakura prided herself in was being extremely sneaky when the time called for it and as she slipped inside Li's room, not bothering to knock, her eyes grew to the size of large orbs as she witnessed the destruction that must have occurred after her departure. A cabinet to her right had been knocked sideways, it's contents lying in disarray on the carpet, the window curtains were half torn , chairs were knocked over and the main long table's fourth leg was broken, the slant of the table causing the once fresh vase of flowers to have slid down, water drenching a portion of the carpet. It was the after results of a big fight, but why in the world would those two be fighting?
On the other hand, now that she thought about it, they had been arguing over information on Emike. The information that Emike seemed to be allowing Sakura access to the more time she spent in the girl's body…or maybe she was now learning how to tap into this other part of her mind. Either way, it was a new sensation and she couldn't say it was entirely without its good points. Actually, it gave her an advantage, one that she wasn't above using as blackmail if the time called for it.
He was alone. The past Li, outside on the balcony, leaning his hip against the marble fence, arms crossed, facing her, but staring half heartedly across the field so that she was privy only to his profile. She took the steps to cover the distance between them, when something caught her eye…blood. Sakura didn't think about her actions, she couldn't, not when it was Li's blood she was seeing. It might have been her sudden movements too, but she bore witness to his look of bewilderment just before she fled the room. It certainly didn't take very long to get what she wanted though and before he knew it; she was back inside with a warm tub of water and a clean cloth.
Without speaking, she gently urged him to the edge of the bed where she tended to his wounds. "You guys are idiots." She muttered under her breath just as she finished wrapping up his scraped knuckles and moved to dabbing at the blood from his temples.
"Sakura, I—" he was staring at her like she had grown another head.
"Look, forget what happened. Besides, it doesn't bother me anymore." When he looked unconvinced, she dabbed a little harder than she meant to. "Sorry." she said paired with a tight smile that seemed to say otherwise. "So maybe I'm not over it and maybe I never will be, but since you're problem is solved, I need something else from you."
"No." when he saw more betrayal cross her features however, he shook his head, scowling at the immediate pain such a simple action brought with it. "No, I mean yes I will assist you, but no, not before we clear this situation and have you stop running away."
"Run away from what?" she asked ever so slowly as if he was accusing her of the stupidest thing in the world. "Stop moving around." She ordered when he began rolling his eyes.
"Sakura." And the simple way he had said it had enough potency in it that she was forced to listen. "I understand my future self…that is I handled the situation earlier and even before that like a child. You see, I've never felt…uh, what I meant to say is you're different. You've always been different."
"Thanks. I think." She shrugged, deciding it would be gracious of her to accept his apology if she still wanted his help. She dabbed at the cut lip he had received at the same time she answered so took his cringe as a physical reaction more than a mental one. "Sorry, does it hurt?"
"Yes—no!" he pulled her hand away from his wounds and just held them in his. "Listen to me. When you told me you did not love me, I was angrier with myself for how I treated you than at you for having said the words."
"I'm not following." She frowned.
"I knew you were deceiving me."
"Oh." She said. Then shrugged and pulled her hands away, busying herself with re-wetting the cloth. "That's alright." Thinking about it, she supposed she would have to forgive him for that too. How was anyone in their right mind supposed to treat the person who had just rejected them?
Finally, Li gave a groan of exasperation and frustration.
"If you stopped talking and let me get to the rest of your injuries, this wouldn't be so frustrating." She felt it impertinent to point out.
At that point then, he just glared at her for a good minute. And then he kissed her.
Sakura felt her heart stop before it began going once again at twice its normal rate. And then her eyes drifted shut before she could object the way he pulled her onto his lap and before she could object the way his hand began caressing her cheek and entangling its way into her hair. The thought of sharing a kiss with Li had always brought a flush of red across her cheeks and she'd even experienced the real thing before, but now… this was a kiss to her, not Emike, not to anyone else, just a genuine display of emotion to her. Before she knew it, her arms had found their way around his neck, her heart warmed by his soft touch. And the way his tongue was beginning to tease hers was making it so easy to press closer against him.
It was only when they were forced to emerge for air that she slowly regained clarity and jumped back, knocking the tub of water to the carpet. She flinched as the water managed to hit her and for a split second, she wondered if she should wimp out and run away again or if she should look up and see the boyish triumph on his features. What was he doing holding her like not doing so would kill him, kissing her like life depended on it?
When she opened her mouth to save herself from the silence though, he came to her rescue. "Don't run away."
There was such uncertainty in his usual arrogance that Sakura paused and took to her latter option. She'd never seen that look in either Li's eyes before. It was verging on hopeful and that stopped her dead in her tracks. "What just happened?" she asked, too confused to think of anything else.
"I kissed you." He said carefully. "And you returned my kiss."
"I…I didn't mean to."
Li studied her in an odd manner for a moment and then stood. "Yes you did. The Sakura I know does not do anything she does not intend to do." He smirked. "For the most part at least."
"I'm sorry, it just happened. You started it and…look this is dumb, just forget it happened alright?"
"Sorry." He replied curtly. "Unfortunately, when a woman kisses me the way I have just been kissed, I do not forget quite as easily as you seem to be able to."
"It's just been two hours, I—I couldn't not respond back." She stopped realizing how nonsensical her words were. "Why are you confusing our relationship?"
"Dear girl, I am not the confused one. You mistake my intentions."
Sakura did her best in standing up straight. "What are your intentions?"
"I'm not marrying Emike. Did I mention that?"
Such a change of the subject made Sakura almost laugh, if she wasn't so shocked by his words. "Li convinced you?" and then she cringed again hoping he wasn't somewhere now in the room listening to the conversation.
"Do not concern yourself over that ghost. I've no doubt he is nursing his injuries and regretting his words to you earlier."
Sakura scoffed. "Fat chance."
"I know you are upset."
"No I'm not."
He eyed her and frowned. "Indeed? So how do you explain the performance you gave two hours prior?"
"Let's not focus on that. Better yet, let's never speak of it again."
"Excellent idea." He agreed. "However this long list of unmentionables you are developing is getting a tad tedious wouldn't you say?" but instead of joking around further, he seemed urgent to get straight to the point. "Listen to me. Sakura, I apologize for how I've treated you. The problem at hand here is that I've…well I've…"
"Never been rejected before?" she supplied, making light of the conversation.
"Well…that too." He allowed, but shook his head afterwards. "I meant to say that I've never stopped feeling the way I feel when you're in my immediate view."
"Shall I get out of your view then?"
"No." and another eye roll came into the picture before he closed the small gap of space between them and his hands were on her shoulders. "I love you." he declared. "Too much to care about how doing so might destroy this life of mine, to care whether I will die again because that in itself is tempting if this time it is I that can meet you in your time." His hand went underneath her chin so that he brought her gaze to his. "I do not want to lose you, but if that is the case, I do not want you out of my sight for the next fourteen hours until then. After this is all over, I want to have a memory of a love we shared before your time and that will last until I see you once again."
Sakura shook her head, but even that was just a pathetic swivel left and right with Li's hand still tucked against her chin. "You want to die again?"
The soft whisper tore at Li's heart and he reassured her with a smile. "I have to. I have to see you again."
"I won't let you die again. I won't so if you do, I'll never forgive you."
"Then you will stay with me?"
She hesitated, but her bruised heart refused cooperate completely. "I-" she bit her lip to think. "I'm sorry for lying. I loved you. And forgive me for not throwing my arms around you now." She looked up and saw a sadness in his eyes. "I'm so happy with your confession. But I don't want to be happy for these last hours and then have you ripped away from me again. I don't want to say the words back if there's a chance that I will see you again in the future. A long time spans you from me. Your feelings might change." She was thinking about her ghost, but she refused to bring him up.
He sighed then and brushed the loose fringe from her eyes. "I understand. I won't force you to return my love. But take my word for what it is. I would never stop loving you above all else Sakura. I can assure you."
Sakura smiled up at him. "You're still bleeding."
"We'll get to that in a minute sweetheart. I have something else in mind as of now." His gaze falling to her lips all over again.
"Alright." She whispered, readily accepting his kiss. She couldn't remember feeling so seared by a touch, so heady and lightheaded…every time she felt his presence…but then, she'd grown used to sensing Li's presence. Would she ever grow used to this Li's presence?...
Sakura froze and sensing her concern, Syaoran looked up, frowning at his reflection who stood glaring daggers his way, arms crossed, leaning against the doorjamb.
The ghost was angry. More than Sakura had ever seen, but she also noticed he had already healed from whatever injuries he had received from his past self. Good, because she couldn't help but feel more than angry for the way he had treated her like she had never spent all that time helping him. Sakura was still convinced of his hate for her, of his manipulation of her feelings when he knew all along she had been falling in love with him. And god, he had sent Emike after her! It irked her to think Syaoran who had just confessed to her would become like that.
"Isn't this a joyous reunion." The ghost grinded out.
"It was." Syaoran replied back in the lightest of tones. As stupid as it sounded, he was somehow happy when he glanced over at Sakura and saw the indifference with which she viewed his past self.
The ghost's attention flew to the way his past self's hand had permanently seemed to attach itself to Sakura's and he involuntarily started forward only to stop at her level gaze, a warning that she was only holding her tongue out of courtesy. And if anything, he knew the sharp tongue Sakura wielded. And damn it, but after witnessing all that…he was more jealous than he had ever felt. Of himself! More importantly, if she accepted this Syaoran, did that not mean she would accept him too?
He was tired. Scared she would never realize how much he wanted to protect her and had spent the last two hours searching for her. She'd never purposely hid from him before and he'd never before known the extent of his worry when it came to her. It was something that he'd rather not want to experience ever again. Even if they were fighting, he needed to know she was safe.
"Where did you go?" he directed at Sakura before he could stop himself.
"Away." Came her reply. He was looking for her? Hah! "Don't tell me you wanted to win me back over on your side? Do you have a second method to release Emike on me?"
"What are you talking about?" both men in the room asked her at the same instant.
Sakura felt a familiar low growl at the base of her throat. "Look, you can stop pretending Li. I know you sent Emike to threaten me, I know you were toying with my emotions and all those times you pretended…" she swallowed and forced the tears back down. "pretended to be worried about me was a lie. I was just too dumb to realize it until now, dumb to have thought I was any match to Emike to you."
But even the past Li couldn't believe the words coming from Sakura's mouth so he looked to his future self for an explanation.
"I told you… this idiot you claim to love is the same person as me."
Sakura's mind whirled. "Let me try to understand this, earlier you were providing Syaoran with information you never told me even though you always knew I was doing my best to help you. So obviously you don't trust me. I get it, you didn't want to marry Emike, but if you two are the same people, how could you have not wanted Emike when your past self did? Was I just a nice play thing?" she took her hand out of Syaoran's. "Did you not love me before?" she redirected her question to his past self. "Why were you going to marry Emike two hours before?"
"Sakura, it was something I had to do when I wasn't sure of your feelings. I did not use you as a method to spite this ghost." Syaoran moved towards her, but was stopped by his future self.
The ghost moved forward this time. "After all this time, I trusted you to believe in me Kinomoto. You want an explanation? I wasn't going to dramatically change the future. I didn't marry Emike the last time, so I didn't plan to now. And I wasn't going to die again."
"Why not?" Sakura asked.
The ghost shot her daggers. "Because of you… this time I have memories of you."
Sakura kept quiet.
"You kept insisting me to marry Emike even though I knew full well how you felt for me. But because you were so unsure and because I knew that ethical side of you wouldn't admit your feelings for me at the expense of ruining mine and Emike's relationship, I backed down. I told you how I felt on numerous occasions and I hoped that would have convinced you, but I wasn't going to let you force me into what never was. You just never realized why. It's because I always wanted you. You made it too easy to want you."
Two explanations barely ten minutes apart and Sakura wanted to believe in both of them. She sat down and thought out her situation. She half realized how quick she had been to jump to conclusions, how stupid both had been to let her become so scared that she had really ruined their lives and how she was going to lose them both in such a short amount of time. Except when she looked at her ghost, she knew for a fact that he really had been searching all over for her. His aura which had never recovered itself was still a sickly yellow green, if not worse now that he had spent the last two hours or more exerting energy to find her instead of resting.
"Then if Emike came at me on her own accord, she must really love you." She tried to brighten the deflation in her voice.
"Emike came after you?" Syaoran asked with obvious worry. "When?" came his demand.
It was so out of character to his usual demeanor that she had to get over the initial shock before answering. "A while ago. She needed to make sure I wasn't going to sabotage your marriage." Sakura frowned. "Now that we're talking about it, I need to ask you both something."
"I'm not sure. Have you forgiven me?" the ghost seemed rather unfocused. He was definitely perturbed by her caution. "I would never hurt you Kinomoto. Believe me. Please."
Sakura looked to the floor. Did she forgive him? God, she did. Or maybe she just didn't want to think ill of the person she loved, regardless of what he had done to her in the past. "Yes, I believe you. Thank you Li. You can go rest now. I'm alright, go ahead."
"Where the hell's my confession and kiss?"
Sakura's head snapped up at the ghost's tone and his eyebrow was cocked when she met his heated gaze. "What?"
"Are we giving kisses to the selected few now?" he paraphrased. "Or does my little speech not warrant its own reward."
Sakura blinked and looked towards the past Li and his appalled expression that seemed to say, are you for real? brought a solemn smile to her lips. Looking back at her ghost, she swallowed. "You two are embarrassing." She was blushing furiously now. "Yes, I do have feelings for you too. I'm sorry I never said it before, but I'm still confused to what will happen after today. I don't want to think about it." The back of her eyes felt alarmingly hot then. But her breath caught because it had been so long since her ghost had bestowed that warm smile devoid of his usual indifference on her. The smile she had loved from the very beginning and which was proof of the kind warmth of his former past self.
The past Li however, was un-amused and cleared his throat. "If you touch her, I'll not be judged for my actions."
Sakura laughed, despite herself. Everything was alright now. It always was when she was on good terms with Li. And darn her, but she wanted to revel in the warmth of being loved by the man…men she loved in return for a bit longer. It was a short victory on her part however because they almost immediately became all business now and she begrudgingly switched back to tactic mode.
"It would be too late to call off the wedding now." The ghost stated. "So we can deal with that when the time arrives. Where's Touya?"
Sakura's heart flew up her throat. "My brother! He is here. I knew it. Is he alright? Why did Simon say your clan kidnapped him?"
"We did no such thing." Syaoran appeased. "He fell into the black business in the village with Simon's clan."
"Touya would never stoop that low."
"Perhaps." The ghost intervened. "But he had Emike to care for. And the Donovan clan is quite prominent."
"You saved him?" she looked up at the two individuals almost admiringly.
Syaoran's face was the first to soften. "Save your admiration sweetheart. He was caught by Donovan's men and tossed at our steps. Donovan required a bargaining tool in order to earn Emike's trust."
"Well what did he hope to achieve by throwing him in your hands?" her first thought was that Touya had experienced horrible tortures up until now, but her heart squelched the very thought. Syaoran would never have hurt one of her loved ones. But then, he hadn't known then had he?
"Relax Kinomoto, neither of us allowed anyone to lay a finger on Touya." He looked at his past self. "I'm feeling insulted by you even thinking it."
"Quite insulted." Syaoran added and smirked.
"Two against one, that's not fair." Sakura crossed her arms.
"No, what's not fair is that you can turn either one of us against the other with very little expenditure of energy on your part." Syaoran pointed out.
"Don't give me ideas now." Sakura grinned. "Can I see him then? My brother?"
The two men exchanged looks. Was it even possible to refuse the precious girl?
Syaoran did not understand the emotion eating away at his chest while he waited impatiently outside his own room for Sakura and his future self wrap up their conversation. His own room! And frankly, he knew nothing of what they could possibly not want him to hear. If it hadn't been for Sakura's assurance that his leaving was only to assist in saving her face and personal embarrassment, he would never have left. And damn it all, but what embarrassment?! Just the thought of that ghost placing his hands where they certainly did not belong unnerved him. He didn't even realize how tightly his hands were clasped until a passing maid inquired to his odd disposition. Twice now he had had a terrible urge to press his ear to the door and would have done so if looking like a complete fool wasn't the last thing to be done on his to do list.
Inside the Room
"I'm sorry, I didn't catch that last request."
"Li." Sakura said, exasperated. "I said you can't come to see Touya with us."
Li was sitting on the bed and looking very casual as he glanced around the room and frowned. "I never realized how deplorable my taste was in furniture."
Sakura felt like stomping her foot, ripping her hair out, at least punching him in the stomach…if he looked like he could have taken it in his current condition. "Li, I know you're staying here for my benefit. But I don't want to be the reason your aura looks so sick right now."
"You're not. I'm here because I refuse to leave."
"No, you listen Kinomoto." He cut in. "My reasons are more selfish than you think." And he was staring down at the carpet, a pale red on his face.
His expression piqued her curiosity. "What? You don't wanna leave me with yourself?" she teased.
"No." he answered, still focused on the floor. "I don't want to leave you period."
"Why? I told you I'll be fine. I'll call you if anything happens." When he failed to look convinced she added "I promise."
"No, I…" a familiar vein jumped at his jaw before he blurted "I want to spend all the time I have with you while you're still here with me. You have no idea how I felt just now not knowing where you were, knowing you were crying somewhere alone. Knowing it was my fault you were crying."
Sakura blinked at the confession. To save him from feeling any more uncomfortable however, she closed the distance between them and cupped his face gently. "Thank you Li."
His hands gently encircled her wrists as he glanced up. "For what?"
"For always being so blunt with me." She laughed. "For wanting to be with me."
"You don't make it very hard." He pointed out, a certain scowl on his face.
"I hope not." But she still smiled. "Listen to me just this one time? I'm not above crying to get my way."
His next look was unreadable. "That's sick."
Sakura bit her lip to stop from laughing. As much as her ghost had adapted to her world's modern language, his attire never seemed to match his words. Still, she didn't want him to think she was laughing at his expense so instead she simply shook her head. "Just until after I see my brother."
"He's not your broth-"
"He is as long as I'm in this body." She said with no room for him to say otherwise.
He ignored her. "I'm going." And his eyes challenged her to continue their argument.
Sakura blew the hair from her eyes. "There may be a chance that Touya can see you."
"That's a risk I'm willing to take."
"Li, just what can I do to stop you from being impossible?"
To give her credit, she was trying really hard to convince him and his heart softened for her reasons why. But she didn't understand how much it was tearing at him that she would soon be gone from his life. And then as soon as the thought had entered his mind, realization struck him hard in the face. If he died this time around, would he return as a ghost? He had no reason to, but to see Sakura again. Would that be enough? If time spanned the distance between them, he would be fine with remaining a spirit by her side forever. Just the potential in the idea had the potency to alleviate his melancholy.
"Li, are you listening?" Sakura growled this time. "You don't have to be a jerk about this. It'll only be a few minutes and then I'll call you back."
Li smirked. "Alright, fine. Do as you like."
"Really?" Sakura couldn't suppress her confusion. "What changed your mind all of a sudden?"
"Not your ability to convince." He pulled her arms so they circled his neck. "I've come to a conclusion just now that you might be interested in."
Sakura could feel her heart pounding in her ears. And whatever sense she still had left made her ask just what it was she should be interested in. She saw his eyes grow light or maybe it was her eyes playing tricks on her and in the next instant, he had pulled her into his embrace so that she fell right into his lap.
"Whatever happens, I'll always come back to you."
Sakura felt Syaoran's eyes on her all the way down the long winding stairs in the far end of the servant's quarters. As she pretended to take in the area, it's damp cold air swathing her and drawing shivers to her spine, she half expected him to end the silence with his suspicions. She couldn't forget how he had cocked an eyebrow at her in question to her slight flush after emerging from his room. But, to give him credit, he was probably more gentleman than brute and he refrained from asking.
The tapered path they took appeared to stretch further down than she had originally thought and it continued narrowing until only one body could fit in the space at a time. She had fallen back to follow Syaoran, staying close because it was still rather dim even while the heavy torches sat in their niches against the stone wall. It occurred to her to ask just how well Touya could have been treated in this dank and horrible place they were heading to, but she held back her tongue.
When they finally came to a room that marked a dead end, she stopped a few steps back to see a watchguard emerge from the shadows. She hadn't even noticed the man. He took a long silver key from the inside of his overcoat and slipped it into a large rusty lock. Sakura held her breath as she heard the loud click of the lock reverberate in their small enclosure. The man cast her an odd look and she watched as Syaoran exchanged a few quiet words with him before turning to her. Placing a finger to his lips, he seemed to caution her from making a sound. Then he waved her over.
Sakura felt like they were uncover agents in the overly dramatic moment. Since he told her to remain silent however, she obeyed.
"Wait for me and I'll call you in."
"But-" she began, forgetting her oath of silence.
He stopped her with a kiss and not a small peck of the lips either. Sakura glared at him, telling him she didn't care for his disregard to their company. Good lord, and she was supposed to stand alone with this watchguard after having him see that?
"He's not expecting you." He whispered. "Let's use that to our advantage." And then he disappeared into the room.
Sakura crossed her arms in frustration. Advantage to what?
Touya set his book down on the table upon hearing Syaoran enter. There was something different about his benefactor today. And he couldn't help noticing the way he had been smiling when he first entered.
"Why the smile? Have you achieved your goal?" it had taken him a while, but with some tutoring, he had rid himself of his street rat accent.
Syaoran leaned back against the door. "That's the first time you refrained from acquiring about your sister first."
Touya ignored the dig. "How is she?" he whispered all the same though.
"She's well." He studied the older man for a moment's time. At first he had had the idea to come clean with him, but the long walk down the stairs had gotten him thinking. The reason Touya had remained civilized during this entire ordeal was because he had no reason to believe he was trustworthy and all reason to believe he wasn't. The man was at an impasse so he'd resigned to accepting that Syaoran held his sister's best interests at heart. Which mind you, Syaoran did. Except just now, he also had Sakura to win this man over to his side. It would have been impossible without her, as stubborn as Touya was proving to be and he would have had to reveal all his plans to him. Now, it was different.
"Did you simply plan on standing there looking at me?" Touya glared.
"Actually, yes." He smirked. "You seem to be faring well."
"Under the circumstances I'd be quite lenient to agree."
"I gave you your time. Did you have a chance to think about what I said?"
"A chance?" Touya glanced around the room. "Among resting, eating, reading, getting to some personal thinking, no I'm sorry to say I didn't get a chance."
"Splendid." Syaoran scowled. "For your interest, I'll have you know Donovan is a guest here at the moment."
You could feel the anger emanating from him then. "Why?"
"The wedding. You do recall my wedding Emike?"
"No, I try not to."
Syaoran rolled his eyes. "Come off it. There's no reason for you to act like I single handedly destroyed your way of life."
"Indeed." Came his dry reply.
"Bite your tongue. I loved Emike."
"Regardless, he will find you here eventually. And he'll confirm his suspicions."
"Suspicions that you haven't already killed me."
"Yes." And Syaoran now knew why Simon was so determined to finish the task himself. "He's desperate, else I don't believe he would have gone to such great lengths to manipulate Emike, merge our clans."
"You are sure you assured him of my death?"
"I can assure you that he doesn't believe me."
"Is Emike…" he almost choked then. "does she reciprocate his feelings?"
Syaoran hesitated. "I couldn't say." As far as he knew from the ghost, Emike had had feelings for Donovan to some extent. It was only after her marriage to him that she realized what a mistake she had made. And without Syaoran, she had had no one to protect her brother. God, he just didn't have the courage to tell that to Sakura. That her brother had died because he had decided that nursing his broken heart, his ridiculed pride was far more important than the livelihood of anyone else in his clan. Than Touya.
"She would like to see you."
At once, Touya straightened and his hands flew to the arms of his chair as if ready to push himself off at any moment. "You told her of me?" to say he was surprised wouldn't have done him any justice.
"I have. Would you see her?"
"Yes." His voice came out hoarse and he felt his throat go dry as Syaoran pushed himself off the door, opened it and gestured to someone he couldn't see from outside. She was standing before him immediately. In her dress, she was beautiful, but he had always thought she was. Her hair was longer than he remembered, her expression, softer. He couldn't move.
"Touya?" Sakura grinned. He was dressed in a simple linen shirt, tan breeches and black boots. She'd underestimated Syaoran when he had said her brother had been well taken care of. Indeed, the room was a little space of luxury hidden in the deep dreary pits of the mansion. And he looked well. Healthier than she could have imagined given the circumstances.
Still, he made no motion towards her and she wondered if he had forgotten her during his time here. Her wavering heart made her glance over at Syaoran. His eyes were unreadable as he studied Touya, but catching her gaze, he smiled warmly. She gave an uneasy smile in return and turned back.
"Touya?" she tried again. "It's me, Emike." She frowned. The words had come out so easily. Not because she was adapting to her body, but because she couldn't call herself otherwise to this man in front of her. Because Li was right. He wasn't her brother, but Emike's. It hit her then and her stomach felt queasy. Yes, identical in all ways to her Touya. But put them together and she would have staked her life on the fact that she would have been able to pick out her real brother. And this man before her very much likely could too. It was also then she understood Syaoran's earlier look. His perception left him very little to miss and he'd immediately caught on to Touya's suspicion.
He was staring at her with so much intensity now that she felt waves of guilt crash down on her. "You know don't you? I know you do just by looking at you."
Touya remained seated in his chair. "Who are you?" his eyes narrowed.
"I'm Sakura. I'm not from your time."
"Where's my sister?"
Well how was she supposed to explain this one? "Well, funny thing is…" she could see her brother's temper rising. Was he going to lecture her? She hated it when he became serious and wasn't about to give him the chance. "Look. I'm in her body okay? And no it's not permanent, so stop glaring at me before I hit you in the head!" as soon as the words came out however, she couldn't suppress a groan. Oops.
His reaction wasn't something she could have predicted. In replace of his anger, she saw a familiar smirk twitch up one side of his face. "I might have believed you as Emike, I miss her so." He stood now. "If not for your questionable accent. You two are quite similar."
"So I've been told." She growled. "Well anyways, I'm here to make sure you're okay. If Touya knew I deserted him in the past, he'd never let me live it down."
"Touya?" his interest peaked. "You mean your brother in the future?"
"Sure do." She grinned. "He's a bit on the mean side and has a weird sense of humour and teases me a lot, and it's just a hunch, but I think you two would hit it off."
"Hit it off?" he echoed.
"You know, enjoy each other's company."
"Ah." He said. And then he was hesitant. "Sorry, I find this all very hard to take in. Actually, it's insanity." He looked up at Sakura. " Sorry, I hope I'm not too forward. I've forgotten how blunt I am with my sister and you two are so alike."
Sakura shrugged. "It's alright. As long as I'm forgiven when I call you names."
"You'll know when you hear them." she replied. "And I know it's hard to believe, but you will believe me when you meet Li. He's a ghost, but he's really cool. A bit cold sometimes though, but I have a feeling you'd be able to see him."
Touya opened his mouth, not knowing where to begin with Sakura, but was interrupted from behind. Syaoran cleared his throat. "It didn't cross my mind that he would recognize you as someone else."
"You thought I incapable of recognizing my own sister?" Touya asked. He blinked. "Tell me you recognized this girl for who she was when you met her."
Syaoran avoided Sakura's knowing look. "After a while." He was forced to answer.
"You will marry her today then?" his anger was returning. "Posing as my sister and fooling the masses, where do you people get the idea that I'd allow you to play puppet with my sister's future?"
He had a point. And Sakura's expression said just that as she glanced over at Syaoran for an explanation.
"Would you be fine if Sakura wasn't here? If your sister, well aware of the circumstances, would choose to wed Donovan?"
Touya's eyes fell to the ground. "That would be her choice."
"At your expense?" Sakura asked, her heart breaking at her brother's expression. But in her heart, she could feel Emike's feelings. Given the choice right now, she would choose Donovan. But unlike Emike, Sakura recognized this feeling as guilt to remain by Simon's side which the girl only mistook as love. There was a fear in Emike when Simon was around. She didn't trust him, but she couldn't afford not to with her only potential access to her brother through him. So she followed him and his words had somehow convinced her just the slightest that he really had feelings for her. "Does Simon love Emike?" she had to ask, but earlier he had all but told her he didn't. And she knew he would hurt Emike if he had to. So what she was really asking was whether the Simon of this time actually loved Emike. Did he?
And all three of them spun around to face a very smug looking Simon.
Well how was it? I had to drag the beginning a bit because it just didn't feel right continuing on with the plot with the entire Sakura and Li relationship falling apart. Wonder what's gonna happen next…0.o
Thanks for reading as always and don't forget to review and let me know what you think on your way out. Ja ne!