I haven't written a Fanfic in years
I just recently got the urge to write again.
I was six years old when the takeover happened.
People say I was much too young to remember such a thing, but they're wrong. That grave and terrible time still plays quietly in the corners of my brain. Sometimes I dream about it, and sometimes I conjure up my own images that could piece it all together. But there are dark patches, unsolved pieces.
I'm a logical person. I deal with facts, I don't fantasize about what may have happened. Therefore, my memories and dreams are not simply my imagination, they must be pockets of information struggling to align themselves in correct order, and I have to know what happened, why it happened. I'm obsessed with it.
It happened November 1st 2017. The large and prosperous, arguably too prosperous city of Tomoeda became an independent state governed by its own elected people with the common aim to work towards creating our own Utopia, our own sanctuary with no outside influence.
That's what the textbooks tell you.
But that's not how it is.
The truth is on November 1st 2017, the military claimed the city of Tomeda an independent state. We, the citizens, were voiceless in this matter. The common motto of Tomeda is 'to maintain the state of Utopia'. However, how can one maintain Utopia when there are a few rotton eggs in the mix? Easy, you divide them up, stop the contamination. Put people in their place.
There was the military of course, the iron fist of Tomeda. They establish order, make sure we're all playing our part in Utopia, and making sure no one mixed in where they weren't supposed to be. We never expected the walls to go up so quickly, it only took one night and one day to enclose us all. The walls weren't just around the city, it separated us into our zones.
At the north, you had the monarch. The royal family, who play a representative role for Tomeda. They are one of the few who can leave Tomeda. Of course, what good is it to be royalty without your upper class minions. The best of the best live in the North. Celebrities, scholars, artists, directors and many more of that sort lived there and so did their children, and their children's children and so on.
In the South is the military. The military has its own community, and its own set of benefits. Better housing, luxuries, and enough weapons to make you think twice about complaining about it.
I'm told that I am fortunate enough to be born in the East. That is where the good citizens live. Here, we have education, the chance to work, a chance to play our part in Utopia, a chance to be another cog in relentless Tomoedan regime machine.
Some people refer to the people of the West as rebels. Some older people will say they're murderers, tricksters or worst of all, anti- Tomedan. Rebels. It is a reminder to those who think twice about rebelling, it could be worse.
Who am I?
I'm Sakura Kinomoto. I am the journalist's daughter, and I will find the truth.
Even if it kills me.
"Sakura, please. Can't you just do what you're told for once?"
Sakura sighed and looked up from her notebook. Her father hadn't stopped pacing around the house since six a.m. and wasn't showing any signs of slowing down. She didn't reply and gazed back down at her notebook, disappointed at the blank page in front of her. Even she found it hard to concentrate.
"Sakura?" her father asked again, only raising his voice slightly.
She blew hot air out of her cheeks and semi-rolled her eyes.
"Dad, for the last time, no. I'm fine the way I am."
"I know you are honey, but just for today, just for the next hour can you please just …not be yourself?"
He didn't mean that as an insult, Sakura knew that. But he was also asking lot out of her. Her father walked over to a photo frame, adjusted it, then unadjusted it. Her tutted to himself with frustration. This was getting to him a lot more that Sakura thought it would.
"Dad they're not going to write us up just because I'm not wearing a dress." She said throwing her hands out in frustration.
She hated to wear dresses, or skirts or most things that threw her into the feminine world. She knew that today she'd be expected to present herself in a certain way. But she kept herself awake all night long thinking of how wrong it all was, stewing in anger.
Fujitaka ran a hand threw his hair and twitched his foot. He wasn't frustrated with her. He was frustrated with the whole situation. Who could blame him. The general was coming to their house. This rarely happened and when it did, there was certain strict protocol to follow, and Sakura was adamant not to follow. He looked over at his daughter in her rugged maroon trousers and faded grey shirt. Not appropriate wear for a visit from the general. What could he do? She was a twenty-two year old girl- strike that, a twenty two year old women. Too old to be disciplined now.
"Sakura." He said in a smaller, gentler voice. He came over and placed his hands on her shoulders. "Please." He begged.
He scanned her eyes, which were fierce, green and full of something that sometimes made him worry about her. After a twenty second stare-off, she caved.
"Fine." She said curtly. "But this is wrong. All wrong."
Her dad didn't deny it. But it was what it was.
Five minutes later Sakura reappeared into the kitchen. Her father smiled in relief when he seen her. She wore a light blue dress appropriately cut at the knee. She tamed her wild brown hair into a high bun but her rebellious fringe fell across her eyes.
Fujitaka stood with his hands behind his back, his posture poker straight. Sakura fell in line beside him, imitating his stance beside him. Her heart started to beat faster with nerves. Why was she nervous? She has known this day would come for a long, long time. She even counted down the days, but she still couldn't believe it had happened. She was nervous.
Sakura scanned the house. It was immaculately clean. Family photos had been removed and replaced with tacky imitations of Van Gough's flowers. The furniture was plain and white. She noticed something missing on the bookshelf.
"Where's Toya's picture?" She asked in quiet anger, already knowing the answer.
Fujitaka sighed. "Sakura, it doesn't comply with the rules of-"
"It's Toya." She whispered. Anger bubbled inside her.
Fujitaka kept his gaze forward facing. "It's just for today. Only for today."
Before she could argue back they heard the sound of cars pulling into their drive. They both shuddered.
"Sakura, please, it's all just for today."
Sakura had no reply she nodded. It's not only for today, because after today, it would be for the rest of her life. She didn't want to fight with him. Not now that they were here. Outside she heard boots hit the pavement, getting closer and closer.
"Sakura." Her father said glancing down at her.
She met his eyes, he had a slight smile in them.
The corners of her mouth twitched up. She nodded and before she opened her mouth there came three sharp knocks at the door.
She heard her father take a deep breath before willing his feet to move towards the door.
This was it.
Fujitaka took small, careful steps towards the door. Sakura held her breath as he disappeared around the corner. Her ears twitched as she heard the door open. There were muffled voices, small talk and her father's nervous laughter. Then came the loud thud of boots on wood. Every step they took sent a nervous chill up Sakura's spine.
Her father re-emerged into the kitchen. One step behind him was General Li. Sakura's breath caught slightly. She has seen the General many times before, but never so closely. She always got glimpses of him from peeking behind a door, or through the gap in the upstairs banisters. But seeing the General there, five feet away from her, it sent a chill up her spine. He was much, much taller and more intimidating than she has remembered him to be. She could smell the leather off his boots. His light grey uniform was decorated with many badges and was more prestigious than the uniform of the lower ranking military.
The generals shaven face held a tight smile as he finished conversation with Fujitaka. Sakura could see his silver grey hair from under his black and grey military hat. His voice was deep but penetrating through his silver and black moustache. She wasn't listening to their conversation, Sakura just stared at the General with a mix of awe and anger. Then suddenly the General's steely grey eyes met hers.
Sakura's jaw tightened. The last time he looked at her in the eye was seven years ago. That's when Toya went missing, when Sakura's eyes were finally opened to the harsh reality of the Tomoedan regime.
"Ms Kinomoto." The General said slowly, pronouncing every syllable of her name clearly. The General took a small but deliberate step towards her. Sakura kept her spine poker straight. She made sure not to break eye contact. She didn't want him to think for a second that she was weak.
The General kept a smile on his face as he approached her. Sakura did not return the smile.
"My, my…." He said scanning her face. "You've grown into a young lady since the last time we've met. Although, you had more to say last time." He said with a small velvety laugh.
Instead of answering, Sakura sucked in a sharp breath and clenched her jaw. She was just about hanging onto her nerve under the General's misleadingly kind stare.
"Sakura, the General has addressed you." She heard her father whisper with slight panic.
To put her father's nerves at ease, Sakura bowed. She glanced at the General's shoes, which were so shiny she swore she could see her own reflection in them.
Before she stood up straight again the General let out an almighty roar of a laugh.
Sakura's lips parted. Had she missed something.
"My dear," He said with a grin. "A bow is only expected of men. When you address the military or the Monarch, a lady must curtsy. Maybe your father should have started with the basics?" He said looking at Fujitaka with a tight smile.
Fujitaka opened his mouth to summon up a reply.
"Not to worry, not to worry." The General said and walked away from Sakura, whose whole body began to tremble with anger. "That is what we're here for. Now." He said clapping his gloved hands loudly. "We won't worry about such trivial things for now." Then the General's eyes locked on Sakura with a hint of dominance. "You have an interview to do. And if it's been established that you truly are a good citizen on Tomoeda, and are willing to play your part in maintaining Utopia, then we will get the proceedings for your citizenship card under way."
His smile fell into a tight line, his hands clasped together. "Just answer as openly and honestly as you can. We wouldn't want to misplace you." He said with a tight smile. Sakura took it as a challenge.
"Oh I'm sure she will do just fine." Her father said, the nervousness in his voice was obvious. "She belongs here no doubt General Li, where her home is."
The General nodded but didn't take his eyes off Sakura. "We'll see."
"Would you like to do the interview in the living room General?" Her father asked gesturing behind them.
"Whatever the interviewer feels comfortable with." The General replied in a casual tone.
"Oh?" Fujitaka said and fixed his glasses. "You're not doing the interview General?"
Sakura could feel the panic in his voice. For the past few weeks Fujitaka had been couching Sakura on what to say in the interview. The General may seem pleasant, but he has a hard line on what separates the good citizens from the bad. She knew every answer for every question, she knew how to differentiate between trick questions and how to involve every aspect of the new regime into her answers. The thought that someone else, another interviewer with perhaps a different idea of what kept you in eastern Tomoeda could be problematic.
"No, no," The General replies as he made his way into the kitchen, inspecting the pictures on the wall, "I've stopped doing all the interview malarkey a while back. I'm just here to see you my old friend." The General said.
Fujitaka laughed nervously but the panic was still in his eyes.
"You remember my son, don't you Kinomoto-san?" The General said and gestured towards the man standing by the hallway that Sakura up until now, never noticed.
Sakura looked at the man standing at the door. He was staring back at her. He wore the same impeccable uniform as the General, but with less badges. His face was sculpted the same as the General's. He has the General's height and jaw but his eyes were amber, a stark contrast to the greyness of his uniform. He wore a pokerface, giving away no emotion.
"Ah, yes, Syaoran. My God, you've changed a lot since the last time I've seen you. I heard you've been promoted recently."
The man, Syaoran, broke his stare from Sakura to Fujitaka and with a polite bow he answered. "Yes sir, promoted to Lieutenant Colonel last spring sir." To Sakura's surprise, his voice came out softer than she expected.
The corner of Sakura's mouth tugged down slightly in distain.
Military bastards, she thought.
Sakura concluded that he couldn't be much older than her. Maybe he was less experienced. Sakura felt her shoulders relax, maybe this wouldn't be so bad. But she couldn't shake the frustration of the generals comment off her. Who did he think he was?
The General, Sakura, that's who he is. There's a reason his portrait is above every fireplace.
The General and Fujitaka engaged in light conversation about recent bills that were passed at 'The Base'. Sakura glanced up at the young Lieutenant. He was staring back at her with a strange expression. Sakura cocked her head to the side and ran her eyes over his face. Would he be the next general? The heir of this little Utopia?
The Lieutenant shuffled uncomfortably under her stare and averted his eyes to the ground.
Yeah, she thought. This should go well.
"Well then." The General clapped his hands again, directing our attention towards him. "You two should get started. Fujitaka, show me these renovations you spoke of."
"Of course, Sakura," Fujitaka extended a hand towards the living room. "Please show Lieutenant Li to the living room."
Sakura pressed her lips into a hard line. Taking one last look at her father she came to a numbing conclusion. If she didn't perform well within the next hour, there was a chance that she would not see her father again. But, if she did what she was told, she could stay in the East and assist in maintaining Utopia.
….She didn't know which was worse.
Everything was prepared perfectly.
Simple, undramatic furniture was feng shui-ed around to look exactly like the display room featured on the front cover of 'Tomoeda Today'. Magazine. The bookshelf faced west towards 'Base' while Tv's and mirrors reflected towards the North, towards the Monarch. There were two sturdy chairs on either side of the brass table which in Sakura's opinion, was far too out of place. It took the help of two neighbours help lift it from the office upstairs and into the living room.
This just reminded Sakura of how painfully staged this whole thing was.
Sakura walked around the table and slowly turned to face the young Lieutenant. He stood awkwardly at first, his eyes searched the room as if there could be traps. His large, black boot stepped inwards and he gave an awkward lopsided smile.
Sakura's face remained stony, unwavering towards Syaoran's authority. He shuffled nervously before opening his mouth to speak.
"You have a very nice home-"
"There's tea in the pot. Help yourself." Sakura interrupted before opting to sit.
Syaoran looked from the teapot to her before shaking his head. "No, thank you though." He said trying to smile again, but her eyes faced the living room window.
Sakura took a deep breath in as she listened to the Lieutenant shuffle around some papers. She risked a side glance at him. She noticed underneath his grey cap he had strands of chocolate brown hair. He had a sharp nose, his father's nose.
As he placed a pen on the table she took note that his hands were unusually dainty, soft. Not the hands of a man who is involved with military action. After a while her eyes floated back towards the window. She could see the almost naked trees. The crisp leaves that had fallen were probably already swept away, leaving nothing but the perfect clear sidewalk. Winter would descend soon.
"Um…" The Lieutenant grabbed his pen and pulled out a blank piece of paper. To his left were documents written in English. Sakura's English was quite good, but she couldn't make out what they said from her side of the table.
"So the interview is divided into three sections. Section 1, Personal details, Section 2, Aptitude and Section 3, Open Discussion. " He stopped and looked up to make sure she understood.
Sakura gave a slight nod but kept her eyes on the window. At any moment, Mrs Walkins would walk past with her Chihuahua and try to sneak a glance into the Kinomoto household.
"Is that ok, Ms Kinomoto?" He asked again.
"Yes Lieutenant." She said, trying to muster up some sort of smile.
"Excuse me?" She said in slight confusion.
The young Lieutenant hesitated for a bit. What was wrong with him? Not the brightest spark in the military.
"Um…Li. You can call me Lieutenant Li…if you so choose."
Sakura blinked, heavily stuck for something to say, "Ok…..Lieutenant Li."
Syaoran shuffled uncomfortably in his seat. He shuffled some papers around again and cleared his throat.
"Commencing the interview for permeant citizenship of Sakura N. Kinomoto. Date is October 29th 2033, time, 12:30 a.m. Interviewer: Lieutenant Syaoran James Li."
Sakura raised an eyebrow and wondered who he was announcing this to, there wasn't even a voice recorder.
"Section 1, can you please state your full name." Lieutenant Li said, with a bit more control over his voice.
He was met with silence and raised eyebrow from Sakura. "With all due respect Lieutenant…Li. Surely that's something you already know."
The Lieutenant opened his mouth and closed it. Sakura thought she noticed a slight smile play on his face.
"Yes, but I need you to state it. It's just protocol."
Sakura tried hard not to roll her eyes as she stated her name. "Sakura Nathala Kinomoto."
"Nathala…." Syaoran whispered to himself. He furrowed his brow. "Nathala….as in… Nathala B. Omerson, the writer?"
Sakura lowered her chin and peered up at him. She predicted her birth name would stir up some questions. But she was prepared. "No, as in Nathala Smith who joined the first unit of volunteer nurses during the great suffering. I'm a big fan." She said and managed not to vomit through that ridiculous lie.
"Oh…" He said. Sakura sensed a hint of disappointment. Maybe he was annoyed that he couldn't use that to give her a red strike.
"Please state your age and D.O.B."
This time Sakura couldn't help but to roll her eyes. "Surely you already know that? My exact age is the reason we are conducting this interview after all isn't it?"
Syaoran let out a short laugh. "Again, protocol."
"I'm 22. Born October 1st 2011."
"Recently graduated, currently unemployed."
"What did you major in?"
"Maths and Science."
"Was that always your major? It says here you switched from journalism."
"Well then, I guess you already have the answer to that then Lieutenant Li." She said in a deadpan voice contrasted with a tight smile.
The Lieutenant cleared his throat and studied her face. Sakura sensed he was getting tired of her subtle back talk. His amber eyes were sharply focused on her. The atmosphere changed.
"I changed majors after my first year. I found the journalism course to be…..difficult to make sense of." She drifted off for a second, thinking carefully about how to word her meaning as to not insult Tomoedan media. "I guess I lack the…imagination and words to work in journalism. I switched to Math and Science. It was more logical and straightforward. It makes sense."
Lieutenant Li nodded. Despite the fact she was staring out the window, she could feel his amber eyes on her face.
After a few more frustrating questions, they moved onto section 2.
"How do you think others would describe you, in one word?"
"Thoroughly unlikable." She said with no hint of humour that the Lieutenant was searching for.
"In one word, Ms Kinomoto."
Again, Sakura thought carefully. "Honest."
"What do you think about the ruling of the current government? Do you think the government is doing its part in maintaining a Utopia that caters for all and encourages every citizen to play their part within the great nation of Tomoeda?"
Sakura suppressed a titter. She couldn't help but to notice how the Lieutenant sounded like a tape recording. She wondered how many times he's asked this questioned to uncertified citizens. How many times has he heard the same answers recited back to him? She wondered how he would react if she stated how she really felt?
Well, I believe that the government is doing a fine job in the suppressing, enslavement and censoring of its people. I believe that the separation of loved ones into different sanctions, separated by an eighty foot wall is not only barbaric, but serves it's purpose of reminding us all, that we do, in fact live in an overcrowded prison maintained by the regime and dictatorship of General Li, to be succeeded by yourself, Lieutenant Syaoran Li. I believe that I'd rather die in the west with the rest of the god forsaken 'bad' citizens, than to live out the rest of my life in the East, where I can live under fear until I die.
Sakura decided against that. So, she said the speech that her father made hear learn off well over a year ago.
"I believe that our government does an incredible job in the maintenance of our Tomoedan Utopia…"
"That concludes section 2. Of the interview. Ms Kinomoto, if you have any questions to ask. Please feel free to do so."
Sakura felt heavy. There is was. Her faith decided in fifty one minutes and forty two seconds, by a man who may only be three years her senior.
She didn't know the outcome. She wasn't even sure what she wanted the outcome to be. To stay in Tomoeda, or be an outcast in the west. Instead of a weight being lifted from her shoulders, she felt like a rock was sinking into the pit of her stomach. 95% of all those who were born in the East were kept in the East. Only in extreme cases were you relocated. Some who were exceptional human beings were 'invited' to live in the North, those who show to have good physical strength and loyalty towards Tomoeda were invited to join the military, which came with a lot of benefits.
But a majority, the normal everyday people, were allowed to remain here. Here in the perfect, flawless law-abiding East.
Only the outliers were banished to the West. What happens there, She was not quite sure. Sakura read in various magazines that it is a place where people can 'reconnect' with nature, to 'find their way' back to the path of the righteous citizen. Some people even go on retreats there. She heard a rumour once that they don't even have cars there.
Sakura snapped out of her thoughts.
"Do you have any questions?" Syaoran asked again.
Sakura glanced out the window again. As if on cue Mrs Walkins and her rat-sized Chihuahua walked by. Like clockwork.
Sakura took a slow breath in.
"What makes people bad?"
Syaoran looked perplexed. There was silence for a while. He too glanced out the window at the seemingly idyllic scene. They sat in silence and watched a leaf danced in the wind before disappearing again.
"Badness stems from frustration. Frustration stems from injustice."
For the first time in the whole interview, Sakura's face softened in disbelief. She looked a Syaoran's side profile, his strong jaw, broad shoulder, his medals. She parted her lips to ask, how could a high ranking Lieutenant come to know one of the lines from blacklisted dissident author Nathala B. Omerson novel?
They both flinched as the beeper went off. Syaoran switched it off and placed it gently back on the table. He looked at her again, perhaps a second too long before speaking softly.
"Well, Ms Kinotmoto, that concludes your citizenship interview. The results should come to you within a few days."
The General shook Fujitaka's hands as he praised Fujitaka's upkeep of their house. He particularly admired the portraits of the Tomoedan military positioned in key locations throughout the house. Strategically placed, of course.
Sakura's eyes floated back up to the General's son. She was surprised to see that he was staring out the window. His body was in military pose yet she knew his mind was elsewhere.
Daydreaming isn't very military like. She thought.
The Lieutenant caught her stare but he didn't flinch. She couldn't erase his words out of her head. How would he know such a minimal line from Nathala's book?
"We'll be off." The General said and then peered down at Sakura. Her eyes left the Lieutenant and reluctantly brought themselves to the Generals. "As for you, young lady, I hope the Lieutenant wasn't too harsh on you." He said with light humour.
Sakura grinded her teeth. "No, General."
"Very good then. And if your results come out the way we'd hope them to, then maybe you could try out for our administration programme. We'd love to have a young girl such as yourself joining us."
Ugh, as if I stood a chance. Sakura thought bitterly. And as if I want to the personal assistant or the secretary of some military bastard. Fuck you and your offer.
"Thank you General. That's very kind." She replied with not a hint of gratification on her face.
Although the General nodded, his smile never touched his eyes. His presence seemed to grow more intense and intimidating by the second. She wished he'd just leave already.
After a few more pleasantries, the General and the Lieutenant saluted them. Sakura and Fujitaka did the same. The General was the first to leave. The Lieutenant stood a second longer and gave a half smile. Sakura thought it was almost apologetic for the General's brashness.
Sakura didn't hear or see him walk out, she was already in her own world. As the door shut, Fujitaka collapsed into the chair behind him and released a loud breath.
"Thank God that's over."
Sakura crossed her arms and walked towards the window. She peeled back the curtains with a finger and watched the General's car drive off. Wherever she ended up, she hoped to never have another encounter with the military again.
Sakura's eyes darted towards the street where she caught Mrs Walkins, peeking through her own curtains at Sakura.