It was barely dawn when something stirred Sakura out of her sleep.

She stretched and rolled onto her back. Her eyes, content with falling back to sleep, did not open. Something touched her lightly on the cheek. Her eyes shot open in fright.

Syaoran caught her wrist and kissed it.

She flinched.

Her eyes settled on Syaoran leaning over her. His eyes were reserved, waiting for her reaction. Sakura blinked heavily rested her palm on his cheek.

She smiled.

"Morning." She whispered and teased her finger through his hair. Hey eyes flickered to the clock. It was 5:48 a.m. "Barely."

Rays of dawn were struggling to pierce through her curtains and there was not a sound of life outside.

Syaoran leaned down and kissed her softly. "I'm sorry, I really have to go." He said with regret.

Sakura wiped her tired eyes and sat up. Realizing her nakedness, she wrapped the duvet across her chest.

"It's so early." She mumbled in some sort of protest.

Syaoran chuckled and patted down the wild strands of her hair. She noticed then that he was already in his uniform with the exception of his jacket.

"I have to be back at base before 7. I don't want to raise suspicion." He said and grazed her naked shoulder with the back of his fingers. Sakura welcomed the touched. She was surprised at the neediness she felt at that moment. She didn't want him to go. The night they spent together was the best night's sleep she has had in a long time.

"That's probably for the best." She said and casted her eyes downwards to hide her disappointment.

She squeaked when he scooped her up and sat her on his knee. She barely kept her blanked over her when he assaulted her with kisses and ran his hands up her naked leg.

"Stop pretending." He said and nudged his forehead of hers. "You'll miss me."

Sakura couldn't conceal a smile. "Perhaps." She whispered and slid her arms around his neck. She buried her head into his neck, embracing his smell.

"When does your father come back?" He asked and embraced her tightly.

"Today, around 4pm."

"When can I see you again?" He asked low into her ear which made her tremble with silent excitement.

She pulled back to face him. "I'm not sure. My father doesn't go away on business much, and I'm not working at base anymore…"

"Meet me Monday? After work?"

"But how? I can't go strolling back into base-"

"I'll find you."

She pressed her mouth to his shoulder and hid a smile and mumbled an 'ok'.

Sakura brushed her fingers against his neck and listened to his breathing until eventually he planted a small kiss on her head and lowered his arms, signalling he must leave.

She watched him as he put his jacket on. She felt sadness as the man who held her last night began to fade and now he stood a soldier in front of her.

He kneeled in front of her.

"Monday?" He said again, trying to assure her answer.

She searched her eyes to find the Syaoran who whispered sweet words as he made love to her last night. In his amber eyes, she easily found the subtle fire that blazed behind them.

She nodded. "Monday."

He brought her down to kiss him again before leaving her.

She stayed upright in her bed, listening to his footsteps as he descended the stairs. Syaoran put on his boots and placed his cap firmly on his head. His hand touched the door knob but hesitated. He turned his head to see Fujitaka's office tightly shut. Syaoran gut was telling him it had answers. He could get a search warrant without any hesitation…but he wanted to treat this lightly. His eyes flickered upstairs to where she would be warmly under the covers.

For now, while she was not under immediate suspicion, he would tread lightly.

When Sakura heard the front door close she fell back onto her bed. Wrapping he naked body up in the blankets her thoughts repeated the passionate night. A faint smile teased on her face. Then all too sudden, it vanished.

She bolted upright. Shaking her head to rid romantic thoughts, she turned to her mission. She had a job to do.

X x x

They watched her for a long time, unsure of what to make of it.

"She's been like this for about three weeks." He said. "Not missed a day."

Mrs Hiirigazawa had her arms crossed and puckered her lips. She too, wasn't sure of what to say.

Part of her felt sorry for the poor girl, lugging around heavy baskets of Mirth for almost twenty-one days straight. The other part of her was annoyed, annoyed that Madison didn't just leave after the incident with Ruby.

"How is Ruby?" The man asked her, as if reading her thoughts.

Without looking at him she replied. "She's fairing much better, although she's still insisting she leaves the house more often. No doubt thanks to our 'hard little worker' over there." Mrs Hiirigazawa said nodding at Tomoyo.

"Why is she still here?" She asked.

The man shrugged. "I don't know ma'am. She showed up the day after I fired her. I told her to leave, and she asked if she could at least finish her row. She did, then she came the next day, and the next. She's still too slow, but keeps her head down and isn't too lippy. Only rests for ten minutes at a time then goes back to work."

"Hmpf."

"You're wasting wages we don't have on a useless worker."

"That's the thing ma'am, I've not been paying her."

"What? She's received no waged for the past three weeks?" Mrs Hiiriggazawa said in shock.

"That's right."

Mrs Hiirigazawa watched Tomoyo work silently under the relentless heat. She tugged at the Mirth despite glowing redness in her hands. She wondered how she could keep working without gloves. She must have even been in the same clothes for all this time.

"Madison?" Tomoyo spine straightened when she heard her fake name. She gulped and brought herself to look up.

"Ruby." She said faintly and felt her stomach knot in shame. Ruby stood with a bright smile, giving away no feeling of anger or resentment, as Tomoyo thought she deserved.

Tomoyo was relieved to see Ruby looking healthier. She was wearing a pale green dress and a straw sun hat. She looked like a character out of a children's novel with her feathery light brown hair and the faint freckled which dotted her cheeks.

"You're ok." Tomoyo commented.

"Looks like it." Ruby said and beamed a hearty smile. "Although I am upset that you haven't come by to see me in such a long time."

Tomoyo looked down at her dirtied hands. Ruby obviously wasn't aware that her husband and mother-in-law had banned her from going near Ruby or her home.

"Work." She offered as a poor excuse. "I'm sorry."

Ruby shrugged and swayed from side to side. She was oddly cheerier and breezier than Tomoyo had seen her before. "I've missed you."

Tomoyo felt a lump in her throat. She missed Ruby terribly, too. And she had thought of stopping by, but the look of hatred Eriol had left her with last time had kept her far away.

"Yeah, same."

"Great!" Ruby said clapping her hands together. "Then come by tomorrow! I want to have a catch up. No excuses!"

Tomoyo bit her lip. She couldn't say no. Not without exposing what Eriol and Mrs. Hiirigazawa had warned her of. Tomoyo nodded.

"How come you're here?" She asked, noticing that Ruby wasn't chaperoned around like she usually was.

Ruby leaned in and whispered. "I did what you said. I told them all to back off! I'm a grown woman and I'm not gonna be treated like a child. What can they do about it? Restrain me?" She laughed lightly which made Tomoyo's heart swell with pride that Ruby had finally stood up for herself.

"Of course, that husband of mine protested." She said rolling her eyes. "Men, right?" She teased.

Tomoyo forced a laugh and ignored the constricting feeling in her chest.

"I better get going." Ruby said. "Tomorrow then?"

Tomoyo nodded, "Yeah, tomorrow."

"Just kick her out." Mrs Hiirigazawa snarled as she watched Ruby skip away from Tomoyo. Since Ruby's health improved, she has been more outspoken, challenging Mrs Hiirigazawa's decision in her health, insisting that she go where she wishes against doctors' orders, she was indeed, more independent, much to Eriol's worries. "Madison is doing no good here."

"Look, ma'am, I would but…you know more than anyone that the military is demanding more than ever. I can't afford to lose a single pair of hands. Even if they're slow hands."

Mrs Hiirigazawa was going to protest more about the girl when she heard the unmistakable sound of military vans rolling their way.

"Take cover, ma'am." He whispered to her and Mrs Hiirigazawa vanished into the equipment shed.

Tomoyo kept her head down, unobservant to the approaching two vans coming towards the fields. She wiped the sweat off her forehead and sighed. Her dizzy spells were becoming more and more frequent. She was surviving only on water and the free porridge they provided at the main village. The little money she had was already spent.

She had not been near the Hiirigazawa house since the incident that almost led to her death. Tomoyo was too ashamed. But she used that shame as fuel to keep working. Although, her determination to work has not changed her situation; she was still excluded by the rest of the villagers.

She plucked more Mirth and dumped it into a basket she was sharing with one of the children. They collectively used the basket but it was Tomoyo who lugged it to the vat.

Two soldiers stepped out from the van. From behind them, Lieutenant Colonel Mizuki climbed out and took a minute to cast her eye around the workers. Without a word, she signalled the other two soldiers to go and inspect.

The rest of the workers kept their heads down and tried to act normal, though the soldier's presence was heavy and intimidating. A child with light blond hair bumped into the soldier on duty. The soldier's eyes narrowed and he bit down on his cigarette in annoyance.

"S-s-sorry." The boy stuttered and backed away.

The looked down at the tiny child, at his dirtied cheeks and sunken eyes. He grimaced in disgust.

"You should take better care of where you are going, little boy."

The soldier puffed his cigarette and planted his boot on the side of the basket. With a sly smirk he pushed it over. A day's work of Mirth and dirt tumbled from it, causing an awful racket.

Tomoyo flinched swerved her head behind her. She stared blankly at her days work scattered at her feet.

"Here's a little lesson, so you'll never forget this little mistake." The soldier raised his rifle up and began to slam it down on the boy's face.

"Hey!" She barked and bolted to her feet. The soldier's arms froze mid-action.

Her jaw clenched and an anger redder than her palms ceased control of her. The plank of patience she had maintained over the past few weeks had finally snapped.

The soldier flinched at the harshness of her voice. He had no time to react to Tomoyo's outburst before she had closed the gap between them and swiped her palm so fiercely across his cheek that Mrs Hiirigazawa could heard it from the other side of the field.

The cigarette was spat out of the soldier's mouth upon impact. The was the unmistakable cluster of gasps that escaped from the other farmers.

"Do you have any idea how long it took me to do all of that? What the fuck is wrong with you, you imbecile!? Were you raised in a dog house or can your tiny brain not comprehend what we-"

Tomoyo's rant came to an abrupt halt when she realized all eyes were on her. The reality of what she had just done had crashed over her head. Two alerts sounded off in her mind.

The first; she had just assaulted a soldier.

The second; she feared that by exposing her face, she had given away her identity.

All around her was silent as the other labourers waited for some form of punishment to befall her. The small child at her side stared wide-eyed with awe at the woman who towered above the soldier. Tomoyo lowered her hand, which had been prepared for a second assault. The faces all around her glanced back in horror and shock. And then she saw Eriol, who stood wide eyed. For a second, she felt Princess Tomoyo, the one who could get away with almost anything, return. But she wasn't the princess now, she was a peasant, and she was in big trouble.

"I-…Apologies." Tomoyo could not conjure up another thing to say.

The soldier touched his cheek, which began to stain a deep pink. He snickered darkly and in a second he brought the butt of his rifle down on her. Tomoyo immediately collapsed backwards. When she sat up she felt her mouth instantly flood with blood. The pain came a second later. No one came to her aid. Everyone was rooted to their place, no one dared to intervene.

"Stupid bitch." The soldier hissed and with shaking hands he fumbled with the rifle and brought the barrel to her face.

Words were caught in Tomoyo's throat and she squeezed her eyes in anticipation of a bang.

"Thompson." Mizuki called in a bored voice. "That's enough." Mizuki was signing documents on a clipboard, not giving the violent situation any attention.

"With all due respect, General Lieutenant, the wench hit me."

"Yes," She said thrusting the clipboard into the labour boss's hands. "An embarrassment you can take home with you today. Maybe you should work on your agility more."

The other soldier snickered at his college. The soldier looked down at Tomoyo and clenched his jaw. He reluctantly brought the rifle from Tomoyo's face. In a last act of pettiness, he spat on her face. Tomoyo was too caught up in fear to even wipe it from her cheeks.

"Your behind on stock." Mizuki said before climbing into the van. "See to it that you catch up." She said in a monotone voice.

"Yes, Lieutenant General." Said the labour boss.

The vans drove off but no one could resume their work. No one could deny what just happened. Eriol watched Tomoyo, his heart rate trying to de-escalate. He watched, as she spat blood from her mouth and wiped the nasty spit of the soldier from her cheek. He waited for her face, which had paled, to break into tears. But it didn't.

Instead, Tomoyo wiped her face with her dress, which was soaked in sweat and dirt of the past few weeks, returned to her row and in a stunning display of irreverence, resumed working.

Eriol finally caught his breathing.

From behind her, his mother walked to his side.

"Stupid, stupid girl…" She whispered, her own voice giving away awe to Tomoyo's actions.

Eriol just nodded, but his lips remained parted in shock.

Stupid…stupid…brave girl…. He thought.

Though Tomoyo had said nothing and resumed her work, no one else could do so naturally.

"E-excuse me." Said a woman who approached Tomoyo.

Tomoyo's eyes flickered upwards, she'd never been approached by the other members of the labour force.

"Madison, isn't it?" She asked when Tomoyo didn't reply.

Tomoyo just nodded and kept her head low. She regretted what she did. She would definitely be harshly excommunicated for sure. They would practically drag her across the wall this time.

"Madison…thank you so much." The woman croaked as tears filled her eyes.

Tomoyo raised an eyebrow and sat back.

"For what?"

Despite her tears the woman broke into a smile and brought the young boy into her arms. "For protecting my boy. For intervening on his behalf. If you hadn't who know what that dirtbag might have done!"

The little blonde boy thrust his arms around Tomoyo's neck. She stiffened and clenched her fists, for she had absolutely no idea what the woman was talking about. At the time, Tomoyo saw only red, she did not see any boy, nor did she do what she did in order to protect him. But it seemed the villagers had mistaken her violent outburst as an act of heroism. The boy loosened his arms and planted a small kiss on Tomoyo's cheek.

When she looked around, the others were smiling. This was a good thing, Tomoyo knew better than to deny their assumptions.

"Well, I couldn't just stand by…" She said with a tight smile.

"Did you see her mom, she Madison was like, 'bam'!" The boy squealed and imitated Tomoyo's slap which created laughter among the workers. Many people came up to praise Tomoyo. She responded with awkward thank yous. Only ten minutes ago, these people had ignored her existence, and yet now she stands as a hero.

"That was without a doubt, the stupidest thing anyone has ever done." Mrs Hiirigazawa said with dissatisfaction. Tomoyo felt the previous praise deflate. Of course, Mrs Hiirigazawa wouldn't allow such praise to linger.

"But…it was also the bravest thing I've witnessed in a long time." She said with a touch of humour that nearly winded Tomoyo.

"Careful, Mrs Hiirigazawa, that almost sounded like praise." Tomoyo responded cocking her head to the side.

Mrs Hiirigazawa smirked. "As you were." She said, signalling to the other workers to resume work.

"Not you." She said which made Tomoyo groan. Perhaps she wasn't getting away with it. "I don't think it's fair that the others have to witness the sight of you in those gaudy clothes and unwashed hair."

Tomoyo nodded and kept her eyes down.

"I'm sure there are spare clothes in the equipment shed, just ask Lottie, she'll sort you out. Also I believe you're owed a backlog of wages. I'll try to see that they get to you by this evening."

Tomoyo gulped.

"One last thing. You should wear these," She said, extending gloves to her. "Those hands of yours are an eyesore. Use these to work from now on."

Tomoyo took them with shaking hands. It took a lot for her to remain composed. This one small gesture had a huge meaning. She was being accepted now. One of them.

"Go home. I think you deserve the weekend off." She said and walked away.

"Are you coming to 'The Shandy' tonight? We usually go there some nights after work, just to relax and have a drink. You'll join us, won't you?" The mother asked Tomoyo.

Tomoyo nodded, unable for words. She knew of their nights of community drinking, but was never invited. She would not refuse the invitation.

As Tomoyo stood clutching the gloves in hand, Eriol couldn't take his eyes from her. He watched as she brought the gloves to her face to either wipe tears or say prayers. Eriol felt something stir inside of him. He would never be able to erase that event from his mind. He would never forget how Tomoyo stood inches from a soldier's face, without fear, without doubt, just the pure bravery that Eriol almost wished he had. She had done only what he dreamed to do.

Perhaps he had underestimated her. But above all these feelings, he feared his own cowardly actions. He feared that in the absence of coming to Tomoyo's defence, he had exposed his own weakness.

The girl named, Madison…she had his respect, whether he'd admit it or not.

X x x

Passage from Nathala B. Omerson's Diary

Mahr Bratain

In English, it translates as 'Poets Gate'

But of course, that name has been fading in usage in favour of simply naming this once proud place of rich culture, 'The East'.

Us Easterners are a very proud people. And why shouldn't we be? We were the producers of Tomoeda's greatest musicians, poets and artists. We boasted the culture capital of Tomoeda. We were the expressionists, the questioners and the dreamers. Poet's Gate was truly, a world of fantasy, harmony and liberation.

With this in mind, it is understandable to say that we lost a great deal during the Regime.

We lost our culture, our music, our art, our words… and almost, our language.

We speak broken English under the command of conformism and hush our beautiful language under the safety of our roofs.

Our books, burned, our literature, banned. Our journalists, removed. And our culture, weeded out.

I would do anything to see the walls that have sectioned the East, crumble, and the former glory of Mahr Bratain, returned. And with it, the spirit of a once proud people.

X x x

Sakura could not keep her nerves under control.

Her fingers hovered over the keyboard but were unwilling to work. All around her, heads were bowed down, deep in work. Sakura couldn't concentrate.

She glanced at the large clock on the wall.

It had been three hours since she submitted her article, her 'idea'. So far, no one had come to her to speak about it. She grew more nervous by the second. Should she have approached it more directly instead of in e-mail? She should have approached him personally.

She looked up again at Yue's office, but the blinds were firmly shut, giving away no sign of movement.

Sakura sighed and buried her head in her hands. She shouldn't be idling, she had work to do, articles to edit. But her reasoning for being here rested on the reaction of higher ups.

"Kinomoto."

Sakura jumped back in her seat.

Yue stood in front of her desk, arms by his side and clutching documents. Perhaps her submission.

"Good morning sir-"

"My office." He said and left.

Sakura followed in his footsteps. Her palms were sweating and her heart began to thud in her head.

Yue's office sat on the second floor overlooking the huge office. Sakura's knees shook as she followed him upstairs and shut his office door behind him. His office was extremely simple. Grey walls, large office desk, two chairs and a book shelf. In the corner, Naoko, his secretary typed quickly, glancing at Sakura for a brief second and continuing as if she wasn't there.

He sat in his chair and signalled for her to take the seat in front of her desk.

Sakura bit her lip in anticipation. The only sound was Naoko's face paced typing.

Yue crossed his arms and looked at her for the longest time. Sakura bit her tongue, she knew she shouldn't be the first to speak.

"I have a long list of things I have to do Ms Kinomoto. This job is very demanding, beyond mere editing."

Sakura nodded.

"One thing, I didn't think I'd have to deal with, is a rogue intern." He said and tossed Sakura's earlier article submission onto the desk.

Sakura swallowed. So, he had read it.

"You had but the simplest job. Write a short summery of some bake sale that would slot into the back pages where nobody would even glance at it. Instead…you gave this." He said raising an eyebrow.

"I'm really searching for a reason not to fire you, Ms Kinomoto."

He didn't seem angry, just annoyed. Sakura preferred it that way.

"I am going to give you one chance to explain yourself, and the content written in this article. And it better be a good explanation, or it will cost you your job."

Sakura's mouth became dry. But she had to convince him now. It meant more to her than the Tomoedan Mirror.

"I did initially write what I was told…but I discarded it in favour of a more…interesting story."

"So, you disobeyed a direct order, from me, in favour of some gut feeling."

"I didn't mean to offend. It's just, I saw an opportunity that could…" Sakura forced the next words from her mouth. "benefit Utopia."

Yue said nothing and let her go on. Naoko had stopped typing. She too, was curious of this 'opportunity'.

"I heard that there were some rumours that were effecting the sales of Eastern products within the East. Many people believe that the westerners…spoil the products before it's shipped to the East."

"So, you wrote this based of hearsay."

"Not at all. I did the research. Trade between the West and East is continuing to decline over the past three years. People on the Eastern side of the wall are losing trust in specific western products. Not only that, but it's creating tensions to relationships on both sides of the walls."

Yue crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow. Naoko's eyes bulged behind her glasses and her head went from Yue to Sakura. "And what do you plan to do to stop it? " He asked.

"A full coverage story. In depth interviews with the western civilians themselves. We can show how the product is made from farm to table and every process involved. If done right, we can restore the East and West relations. Which of course, is important coming up to 'Utopia day', isn't it?"

Sakura's heart was beating so fast, but her face remained determined, giving away no hesitance or doubt.

"And I suppose you will be the person carrying out these interviews?" Yue asked and tilted his head to the side.

"I think people would trust it more coming from a citizen of the East. People in the East don't…understand the West or it's culture. If we can educate them on it, they will have a clearer understanding of it. Easterners are very conservative people. They don't trust what they don't know. As you know yourself." She took a gamble with that last sentence.

Yue raised his eyebrow and stared at her intensely. He held his gaze, not backing down. He could see it, he could see him in her eyes. She had his determination, his strength. There was no doubt that she was a Kinomoto.

"The west can be a dangerous place. How will you report on any… unpleasantries that you may encounter?" he challenged.

"Well, if that were the case…then we would just have to omit those parts…wouldn't we?" Sakura felt her gut twist when she said this. But she had to convince him this was for Utopia, that she was determined to do what was necessary for Tomoeda.

"I'll think it through." He said after a moment.

Those four words made her giddy with hope. He was considering it.

"Even if I agree, I can't ensure that 'Base' will give you a temporary visa, given your family history, of course." He said bluntly.

"I understand."

"Sir," Naoko whispered. "Are you sure that's a good idea?"

"Back to your desk." Yue said, ignoring her. "And Kinomoto," He said, narrowing his eyes which froze Sakura to her seat. "Don't ever disobey and order like that again. Are we clear?"

"…Yes, sir." She said before rising out of her chair with shaky legs.

Nobody watched her as she returned to her seat. She felt wobbly and light-headed. She pushed herself to finish her edits and drove away the thoughts flooding into her head.

X x x

Yue went to the small balcony and lit up a cigarette.

He inhaled and held the smoke in his lungs for a while and slowly exhaled. In his other hand, he twirled his phone slowly in his hand, pondering on how to approach this.

He didn't expect Sakura to act so brazenly. It scared him, but it also lit a fire under him. He looked out onto the clean square houses of the south, with their lush gardens and Southern flag flapping unashamedly in the wind.

He thought about calling him first, but decided against it. He was being needy now, he had to give him space to do his thing. Instead he dialled a different number.

There was something he needed to know.

X x x

Syaoran was in a ridiculously good mood.

It was only eleven-thirty but he was powering through work more efficiently than ever. Enough for Mizuki to even give a brief nod of approval.

He knew why. It was Sakura. When his mind naturally wandered to her, he struggled to conceal a smile. It had only been two days since he'd seen her, but he was already planning on how he'd find her again without arousing suspicion.

Syaoran left his office and went for an early office, opting to take the longer route to where the cadets were training. To his surprise, training was the only thing they were not doing.

As Syaoran neared the fence of the training field he saw the cadets lazing around. Some were stretched out basking in the sun's rays, other sitting in groups on the ground chatting like they were on recess in high school. This stunned Syaoran. The cadets were to be professional at all times. His father would have a stoke if he saw such a sight.

One of the cadets saw him and bolted up, signalling the other to do the same. Syaoran scanned the cadets until he located Chiharu.

He signalled her over.

"What the hell are you all doing?" He asked her through the fence.

Chiharu wasn't even wearing her uniform jacket. They should be in the middle of morning drills.

Cadet Chiharu shrugged. "Sorry, sir but we don't really know what to be doing. No one is supervising us."

"What? Where is Lieutenant Meiling?"

Cadet Chiharu casted her eyes away in guilt and shrugged. "Lieutenant Li hasn't shown up before ten at the latest."

"Are you serious? Why?"

Cadet Chiharu gulped kept her lips pressed firmly together. Syaoran knew she was keeping something from him.

"Chiharu-"

Chiharu's spine snapped straight and she backed away from the fence.

"She's here, I better go. She'll kill me again if I'm seen talking again."

Syaoran looked over to where Meiling was coming from. Meiling, who was usually the shining example of what a Lieutenant should look like, trudged onto the training field looking like she had a rough night.

The Cadets fell into sharp rows in front of her and saluted. Meiling snarled her lip and gave a pathetic wave off as signal to start their training. She then sat on a bench under the shade and threw her head into her hands.

"Hangover." Said one of the lower ranking soldiers who came up beside him. "Apparently Lieutenant Li has been hitting the soldiers bar pretty hard these past few nights." He said with a sneer that pissed Syaoran off.

"Something you need, Lieutenant?" He said, ignoring what he said.

"Um, yes sir. I've been instructed to tell you that you must go to the West tonight and address the representative of the West. Formalities, I suppose."

Syaoran nodded but kept his eyes on Meiling, who looked like she aged since she had her case removed from her and given to Syaoran.

"Understood."

"Also, Tsukishiro Yue from the 'Tomoedan Mirror' is on the phone for you. Should I tell him to call back?"

Syaoran furrowed his brow, he wasn't expecting any calls from Yue. It was unusual to even hear from him.

"No, I'll take it."

X x x

"Yue."

"Sorry to call you over such a trivial matter Lieutenant Colonel, but there is something I wish to speak to you about."

"Involving what?"

"Involving Ms. Kinomoto Sakura."

Syaoran's spine stiffened at the mention of her name. There was a brief pause before Syaoran replied. "What about her?"

"She's currently doing an internship here at the 'Tomoedan Mirror', She's shown potential, but I'm weary."

Syaoran leaned back in his chair and rubbed his cheek. He prayed she didn't do anything stupid before he could intervene.

"What exactly are you weary about?"

"She's doing a special expose on the West. Before I apply for her visa, I wanted to know what you thought about it. Given her family's history…do you think it's wise to allow her into the west?"

Syaoran clenched his jaw. So, she was determined to go through with it. Syaoran pinched his chin and weighed up his options. Yue was a trusted man, very dedicated to Tomoeda. If he had suspicions about Sakura, he'd have cut her off immediately. The thought of her going into the West worried him, but it may also lead him to better answers.

"I don't think you need to worry. She has the all clear." Syaoran lied. He didn't want to give Yue his full opinion yet. "But, I will have some military escort her around while she's there. And don't worry about the visa, I'll have that approved by tomorrow."

Yue was silent on the other end of the phone.

"Understood." He said before hanging up.

Syaoran hung up. He rubbed his tired eyes and pulled out the article he was reading yesterday. He glanced at it and felt his mind ping pong from one opinion to the other.

Kinomoto Sakura….

He just couldn't make his mind up about her.

The article in his hands was probably one of very few copies in all of Tomoeda. He read the headline.

'Sex, silence and bribery; The Working Woman's Work Dilemma - written by Kinomoto Sakura.

Syaoran read the article again that Sakura had written during her University years. Incidentally, it was the last one she wrote before dropping out of her course and switching majors. She wrote passionately about how a girl, Kimura Nene, was sexually assaulted during an interview for an internship.

The assaulter, a higher up from the South, walked away without any charges. It was one out of hundreds of examples where Eastern women were assaulted in order to get higher status. Some accepted it, others who rejected or spoke out about it, faced consequences. She blamed the government for not intervening, that was her mistake.

Her article was blacklisted, she was banned from writing for the University again. It went against Utopia to criticise it's government. Syaoran made an oath when he joined the military to uphold and protect Tomoeda from such slander.

But his heart tugged at him…

Because somewhere in his mind he knew…she was right.

X x x

Eriol's thoughts were circling around too many things. Ruby was running out of medication, Touya was becoming even more insufferable and the pressure to assure the villagers everything was alright was too much to deal with alone. He stared into his glass, unable to soak up the lively atmosphere around him.

The bar was filled with regulars. Men sang songs and tables were crowded with people slugging back their beers with smiles and laughter. The lighting was a mix of candles and bulbs which casted a warm and welcoming glow. Even the woman had cast away their working clothes in favour of gossip and chatter.

"This seat taken?" He heard from beside him.

He looked up. Tomoyo stood beside him with a coy smile that betrayed other intentions. She looked better than she did earlier. Her hair was let down, cut off at the shoulders and eating decent meals again gave her skin a good glow. Before she came the ladies in the dormitory had given her a simple grey dress. Tomoyo thought it as royalty in comparison to the rags she wore nonstop over the past three weeks.

Eriol said nothing for a second. Of course, he hadn't forgotten about her. Even when he tried.

"Help yourself." He said.

Tomoyo slid into the seat beside him. He continued to stare into his glass, not in the mood to converse with her. Tomoyo smiled wickedly to herself, she was determined he wouldn't ignore her this time.

"So, I don't know if you've heard, but I'm kind of a big deal now. Some people are even saying I'm a hero." She said twirling a piece of hair around her finger and waiting for his response.

Eriol couldn't help but to smirk. "Yeah, I've heard. Do you want some praise?"

Tomoyo's breath caught when he smiled. He seemed to be loosening up around her. This encouraged her to continue.

"Praise? No, that wouldn't really be like you." She teased and tilted her head to the side. "What I would like, however, is to buy you a drink."

Eriol raised an eyebrow. He was humoured by her. He laughed and shook his head.

"And why do you want to do that?"

Tomoyo flicked her hair and puffed her chest out with pride. "Hmm, you're really not up to date on me. That's disappointing. I'm a rich woman now. I've just received three weeks of wages, I feel like sharing the love."

Eriol scratched his neck and sighed with a smile.

"I'm taking that as a yes." She beamed and called over the barman.

Eriol noticed the red pigment still glowing under her palms. There were scars between her fingers as evidence of her hard work over the past three weeks. The corner of her lip showed signs of deep bruising that was yet to come after the soldier's attack. In the pit of his stomach he wondered if she went through this suffering because of what he said to her.

And yet, there she stood as poised and undefeated as ever. He knew, he was wrong about her. He felt guilty.

Two beers were placed before them and Tomoyo lifted hers to cheers.

"What's the occasion?"

"No occasion. Just two friends, sharing a drink together."

"We're friends?" He asked raising his eyebrow with a humoured smile.

"I certainly hope so." She said leaning her head in.

He said nothing and clinked his glass against hers.

Tomoyo smiled winningly. She was breaking him down slowly. Tomoyo humoured him with her blunt manner. With every question and reply he gave her, she sank into a warmer bliss. She was caught up in he gave the slightest of nods as she spoke to indicate he was listening, how he looked directly at her when he spoke, the small twitches of his mouth when he was trying not to laugh at something she said.

"Ow," Tomoyo winced at the small pain in her hand. Her right hand was healing slower than the left.

Before she could look at it, Eriol had taken it into his.

He lightly traced his fingers over the healing cuts. Her hands were so thin and delicate, Eriol sighed thinking about the torture she put herself through in the fields with no protection wear. He couldn't imagine Ruby doing something like that in her delicate position. Then again, he thought, Tomoyo was not like Ruby. No, they were very different.

"Why did you do it? Work so hard?" He asked keeping his eyes on her hand.

Tomoyo struggled to answer. She went into shock at his touch. Her delicate hand began to subtly shake in his rough tanned hand. He was touching her. She gulped.

"I…wanted you to accept me…no matter what." She whispered, her voice almost lost in the background chatter of drunk men and woman.

Eriol looked up. Her answer made him feel uncomfortable, but he kept her hand in his. He never saw eyes so icy and blue like hers. They were delicate, but also fearless, enough to stare down any soldier.

Coming back to reality, Eriol let her hand go and grabbed his drink to escape that awkward moment.

Tomoyo flinched and tried to explain herself in a way that made her seem less desperate. "When I say you, I meant, the village, everyone." She muttered and grabbed her drink.

Awkwardness fell between them. Was it obvious that Tomoyo lusted over him? She didn't come over with that intention. She just wanted him to…not hate her anymore. Perhaps she'd done the opposite.

"We do." He said after a while.

Tomoyo looked over with a confused expression.

"We do…accept you here now. Well, at least, I do." He muttered.

Tomoyo concealed her smile into her glass. She told her heart to stop racing and remain composed. The hard work had finally paid off. Tomoyo felt the sting of jealousy, how Ruby could see him, hold his whenever she wanted.

The moment of awkwardness had passed between them but had not gone unnoticed by Touya, who watched silently from across the bar and witnessed the suspiciously tender moment between them. Touya smirked to himself. This was an unexpected twist, one that could possibly work in his favour.

Suddenly the front door of the bar burst open.

"Military! Military is on the way here!" Someone shouted.

Sighs and mumbled filled the room as everyone instinctively put their heads down.

"How many?" Someone asked.

"Not many, just one military car."

That was enough for Touya to decide to leave. He couldn't be risked getting caught. He was not alone. Mrs Hiiirigazawa too, made a speedy exit. As this was happening, Tomoyo swerved her head around. She couldn't get caught either. She began to panic. The side door was too far away and crowded to get to. The military would come through the front door at any second.

Eriol registered her panic and grabbed her by the elbow. "What's wrong?"

Tomoyo gulped, her hands began a light quiver. She couldn't tell Eriol for obvious reasons, but she had to get out.

When she didn't respond, Eriol tugged her elbow and she followed towards the end of the bar, where Eriol opened up a closet door.

"Just keep quiet, they won't check in here."

Tomoyo obeyed and got into the closet, which was very narrow and shallow with just enough room for her. She couldn't even bend her knees. There were gaps at the hinges of the door where she could poorly see Eriol go back towards his stool.

The front door opened and silence dominated the bar. Three soldiers entered, their presence killed the last remaining vibe in the room. Tomoyo heard boots, slowly walking into the centre of the bar and a voice boom; "As you were."

A slow gathering of hushed mummers filled the rooms. Two of the soldiers took a seat by the other end of the bar and snapped their fingers for beers, which they had no intention of paying for.

Tomoyo could see Eriol with his head down, uninterested in the soldier's presence. The third soldiers had made his way towards Eriol. Eriol didn't even glance up.

"Are you Hiirigazawa Eriol?" He asked.

Tomoyo felt the voice was familiar, but strained to hear.

"If I am?" He asked, putting cold distance between them.

"Then we should talk. There are some issues we need to discuss."

Eriol now turned his head to eye up the soldier, who's uniform was a fancier variation from the other soldiers. Eriol looked him up and down before returning to his drink.

"I only discuss matters with the South through Lieutenant Meiling Li. I don't know you."

The soldier stood calmly, not reacting to Eriol's indifferent attitude.

"Lieutenant Li has been transferred. All matters dealing between the South and West now go through me. I'm Lieutenant Colonel Li."

Tomoyo slapped a hand over her mouth to silence her gasp.

Syaoran.

Tomoyo's stomach dropped. Why was Syaoran here, in the West? Tomoyo felt a longing to see her old friend again, but not here. Never here.

"I wasn't told about this." Eriol said in annoyance.

"Apologies. It was a sudden transfer." Syaoran said smoothly.

Eriol clenched his jaw and exhaled angrily.

"What is it you need?" Eriol asked.

Syaoran glanced around the bar before answering. He took a brief second to scan every woman's face before returning to Eriol.

"Nothing. Yet." Syaoran placed his cap on the bar, he wanted the tension to ease. "I thought it would be god idea to meet, considering we will be working together from now on."

Eriol side glanced at Syaoran. His face was seemingly genuine, but Eriol was keeping his guard up.

"I do have a few questions." Syaoran said.

At that moment, the other two soldiers stood up and casually began to walk around, inspecting the face of every woman in a not so subtle manner.

"You know of the recent attack on Tomoeda asylum? Many crossed into the Western border."

"I don't know anything about it." Eriol said, opting for ignorance.

Syaoran nodded and casted his eye around. Tomoyo was watching, her heart thudding so loudly it was a wonder Syaoran couldn't hear it. She realised then what the other two soldiers were doing; they were searching for her.

Tomoyo's chest tightened. She never imagined that Syaoran would care enough to actually look for her. Guilt crashed down on her. She imagined the worry she must have been causing him. She wanted to burst out from the closet and tell him it was alright, to just go home, she was fine, stop worrying abut her…

"Maybe you don't know anything about that," Syaoran said calmly, "But perhaps you know of any new civilians who've crossed over. Anything you remember at all would be of help." At that moment, Syaoran slid over a small box towards Eriol.

Eriol furrowed his brows and opened it.

"I hear your wife is sick." Syaoran explained. "I hope this medication helps her."

Eriol pushed the box away from him.

Tomoyo held her breath. She surprised herself, she didn't want him to rat her out, even if it was Syaoran. She didn't want to leave. Not yet. Not when she was finally apart of the West.

"Like I said, I don't know of any new civilians. And as I told Meiling, I can't be bribed into lying."

Tomoyo sighed in relief and felt a warm heat rise in her chest. He was protecting her, even at the cost of Ruby's medication.

Syaoran nodded. He looked behind him at the other two soldiers. They both shook their heads. Tomoyo wasn't here.

Syaoran sighed, not that he expected to find her here, but it was worth a try.

"And what do you know of Kinomoto Touya?" He asked.

Eriol tensed inwards. He was so fucking sick of hearing about Touya.

"I don't know who that is." Eriol responded.

Eriol didn't like Syaoran. He was too calm, too at ease around him.

"Well, then. Until next time." Syaoran said and fixed his cap back on.

"You forgot something." He said picking up the box Syaoran had given him.

"It wasn't a bribe." He said and looked him dead in the eye. "I am not Meiling. I want us to get along. Consider it a peace offering."

Before Eriol could respond Syaoran had signalled the other two soldiers it was time to go. Eriol stared at the small box of medication. This was enough to get Ruby through another month. But Eriol was still sceptical of Syaoran. After at least five minutes, Tomoyo emerged from the closet, her face white with fright except for the bruise on her lip, which was deepening.

"Let's go." Eriol said and gulped back the last of his drink. "There's a dead vibe in here."

X x x

Eriol and Tomoyo walked home in silence.

Tomoyo hadn't uttered a word since they left the bar. Her mind was swimming in thoughts that troubled her. Syaoran was looking for her. She could feel the guilt eating her up. It was selfish to hide from him. But she wanted to stay.

"Was your life so bad?" Eriol asked quietly.

Tomoyo looked at him. "Why do you ask that?"

"You don't want to go back home. Why is that? Surly your life in the East is better than anything offered here." Eriol didn't speak with judgment, just curiosity.

Tomoyo looked away. She didn't know what to tell him. It's not like she could have told him the truth.

"I wasn't happy at home. I felt like a stranger…so I left. Is that hard to believe?" She asked feeling her chest tighten when she thought of the castle, the veil.

"You're happier here? Picking Mirth?" Tomoyo could tell he was growing suspicious.

"Yes." She said and stopped walking.

Eriol turned in surprise. She looked at him intensely. "And if you're gonna tell me I should leave again then-"

"I wasn't," He said matching her tone. "But I meant what I said at the time. Ruby-"

"I knew it! You're still mad about that aren't you?" Her anger erupted suddenly. She was still on edge after seeing Syaoran. She also wanted to deflect the conversation away from Tomoyo's presence in the West.

She took a brave step towards him. Her temper suddenly erupted. Eriol, as tall as he was, was only two inches taller than she. "I made a mistake. I know what the consequences could have been. I'm sorry. I only told Ruby what I did because you want her to stay locked up all day like some house cat."

That comment hit a sore spot with Eriol.

"You think you can tell me how to treat my wife?" He said closing the gap between them even further.

"You don't treat her like your wife. You and your mother treat her like a child. You don't even ask her what she wants. Of course she went out and did what she did, she's gonna go god-damn insane locked up in that house! She needs freedom!" Tomoyo didn't realize she was shouting until she finished and her echo rang out and died a few seconds later.

She blinked and took a step back. Swallowing a lump in her throat she felt her words eerily resonate with her own life in the North. Being told what to do, when she could do it. She seen it in Ruby, she didn't want Ruby to live like that. Tomoyo ended up in an insane asylum because of it.

Eriol's fists were clenched. This woman infuriated him.

"How the hell would you know what she want's? What are you to her?"

"I was her friend!"

"You were the maid. One of many. You've no idea what's it's been like to watch her get worse and worse over the years!"

"And your solution is to keep her at home all the time?"

"It's for her own good!"

"Her own good, or for your peace of mind? If that's the case why don't you just strap her to her bed? Then you'll never have to worry about her health or her ever being happy!"

Eriol turned away from her. He wasn't used to displaying this much passion or emotion. He preferred to bottle it up, but she made him so angry. But with all that anger in him, it simply fizzled out. He crossed his arms and sighed.

"I do what I do to protect her." He said in a calm voice that admitted some form of defeat. "She's so sick and…there's nothing I can do to stop that. I just want to…protect her, in any way possible."

Tomoyo saw sadness cloud his eyes. She was harsh with her words. It killed her to know it but, Eriol was just trying to be a good husband. And maybe Mrs Hiirigazawa was trying to be a good mother-in-law. Maybe that's what her own parents were trying to do with her. By locking her up in the castle, she was technically safe. Their intentions may have been in the right place yet, look where she ended up because of it.

A light breeze blew through his hair. Tomoyo wanted to hold him, to tell him that he was a good husband, probably too good.

"I'm sure you do. But, maybe the more you try to protect her, the shitter her quality of life's gonna be." Tomoyo said honestly.

To her surprise, he nodded.

He smirked. "You know, when she woke up, one of the first things she asked about was you." He said.

Tomoyo swayed with pretend coyness. "Well why wouldn't she? I'm hard to forget."

"You really are something." He said with a small chuckle.

Tomoyo became serious. "You know, I do care about Ruby. A lot. I'd be devastated if anything happened to her... I just wanted to be her friend. I'm not stupid. I know I tend to run my mouth off about things without thinking…"

Eriol nodded and sighed. "Yeah, she think's the same of you."

He began to walk again and Tomoyo fell in suit behind him. "So…is the Madison ban on the Hiirigazawa house lifted?" She asked and risked nudging him with her elbow.

Eriol smiled shyly, something he was doing more often around her. "I guess so. For now."

Tomoyo thought of leaving the West many times during her labour on the farm. When the pain was too much or the heat was too intense or the tiredness pushed her to the edge of tears. But for Eriol's smile, for his approval…she'd have done it all over again.

Thought she couldn't stop her wicked and lustful thoughts about him, she had to prioritize her friendship with Ruby.

For now, she and Eriol would only have to be friends.

She was content with that.

X x x

The evening sun was cooling off as Sakura made her way to the train station.

The day had been a let-down. Yue had walked past her desk several times but never stopped to look or speak to her. It had only been a day since she proposed her idea of going into the West but he gave her no feedback, no update, nada.

She sighed. Her father would be home today and she had no idea of how to tell him she had switched jobs again. She was afraid of giving him a heart attack. If he had his way, she'd still be working at Happy Books or somewhere within a five-mile radius of their home.

In the midst of all these thoughts Sakura didn't notice the black car pulling up beside her.

"Excuse me, miss?"

Sakura flinched and looked over at the driver who was leaning his elbow out from the window.

"Something I can do you for you Lieutenant?" Sakura asked with the corners of her mouth twitching up.

Syaoran drove at her walking pace.

"It's a bit dangerous for you to be walking by yourself at this hour, miss." Syaoran smirked.

Sakura raised an eyebrow and continued walking. "Thank you for your concern Lieutenant, but the train station is but two minutes from here. You don't think I can manage that all by myself?"

"There's a lot that can happen in two minutes miss. Perhaps you should let me drive you, just to make sure you'll be safe, otherwise I won't be able to sleep right tonight."

Sakura laughed and felt all the worry and stress from her day evaporate. She looked around her and saw that they were alone. Before she could let the dangers of them being seen together cloud her judgement, she giddily got into the car.

Sakura felt excitement as he drove off, she rarely got to be in a car.

"How did you find me?" She asked.

"Not easily, you're a hard woman to track down." He said with a wink that made her feel like a school girl.

He parked the car in front of a lake. There was no one else there, just them.

She unfastened her seatbelt and as soon as it was off her his lips found hers with hunger. With the strength of one arm he lifted her onto his lap. Her fingers weaved into his hair and his hands felt their way under her shirt and moved up her bare skin. His kissed moved from her lips to her neck Her hands fell to his chest and started to unbutton his shirt.

With each kiss and caress, the stress of their problems was temporarily muted.

X x x

"fulfilled?"

Sakura shook her head. "No, not that."

Syaoran scratched his head and thought. "Satisfied?"

"No." Sakura racked her brain but she couldn't think of the word. "It's like…everything is how it should be…like, you're just right. Like, you don't need anything else at that moment."

Syaoran blew air out of his cheeks.

"You mean…content?"

"Yes! That's it. Content." She said. "I forgot that word."

Syaoran chuckled and she nudged him.

"Don't laugh. English is hard."

"I know," He said bringing her closer sweeping the fringe from her eyes. "It's just, you're so...cute."

Sakura raised an eyebrow. "When you're not being scary." He said correcting himself and kissed her until she laughed with him.

"Why were you thinking of that word?" He asked.

She smirked and shook her head. "No reason." In truth, she forgot that word because Sakura hasn't felt so content in a while. Perhaps content was too mild a word. She felt light headed, elated when she was with Syaoran. But she was too afraid to use those words, as if admitting to herself she felt so happy would only bring misfortune to her. So she settled on content.

They were sitting on the bonnet of his car. She sighed and leaned into his chest.

"I thought someone as important as you wouldn't have the time to be rendezvousing." She teased and looked up at him.

"All work, no play." He said and traced his finger over her cheekbone. Even in the night shade, her eyes still glowed a sparkling green.

"But," He said and sighed, lifting his arm from around her. "Speaking of work." He said and took out a brown envelope from his pocket.

Sakura took it hesitantly and opened it. She read it twice before she could understand.

"It's…" she looked at him to finish her sentence.

Syaoran nodded and took her hand. He was afraid by giving it to her, she'd interoperate it wrong.

"It's your visa, to go into the West."

Sakura stiffened. She didn't know what to say. Should she own up to her intent to go into the west? Then again, he already must know to be giving her a visa. She said nothing put the visa back into the envelope.

"Sakura," He said softly and pulled her by the waist close to him. "You need to start trusting me, like I trust you." He lied. "If you want to go to the West, I have no reason to stop you. No one does." He tipped his forehead against hers. "Just…be safe. Ok?"

Sakura looked into his amber eyes, she couldn't see dishonesty in them, or maybe she just didn't want to. She bit her tongue from asking questions. This was too good to be true. She would go into the west, she'd find out its secrets, no matter how bad.

"…Thank you." She said and kissed him.

As they got into the car Sakura was so overwhelmed she thought her head would float right off.

"Anyway," He said starting the car. "It's not like you'll be alone."

"What do you mean?"

"I'll have my men escorting you at all times. For your safety."

Sakura's face dropped. She quickly recovered a tight smile before he looked at her.

Of course there was a catch.

But, no matter.

She would be able to make it into the west.

With that much, she was content.

X x x

Looooong chapter!

I hope you liked it. :)

X x x

"Explain to me again, one more time. Tell me exactly, exactly what you were told."

"My God, mother for the last time, that's what they told me. They didn't elaborate." Eriol said grinding his teeth in annoyance.

Eriol scanned through the documents he had to have prepared. He knew why his mother was so agitated, this request came out of nowhere.

Mrs Hiirigazawa followed him into the kitchen and pestered him for more information. In the living room Tomoyo raised an eyebrow tapped Ruby on the shoulder.

"What's the big deal? It's only a reporter. Why are they so worked up about it?"

Ruby brushed her hair in the mirror with an old comb. Tomoyo noticed that Ruby was even dressed up more so than usual today. Ruby turned her head to make sure Eriol was still in the kitchen and whispered.

"The whole thing is just really strange." She said and held out her wrists to Tomoyo. Tomoyo helped her with the cuff buttons. "Like, all of a sudden a reporter is coming into the west for a cultural expose. It's very fishy. The rest of Tomoeda never cared for us, so why now?" Ruby turned around and Tomoyo began to plait her hair for her. They became closer with each passing day.

"So why does this reporter want to meet with Eriol?"

"He's been the go between between the West and the South for a while now. Also because he's trusted by the villagers, it probably just makes sense. And why wouldn't it?" she gushed.

Ruby turned around and beamed. "My husband is amazing."

Tomoyo nodded, ignoring the weird feeling of envy every time Ruby mentioned Eriol.

"So, what does the reporter want to talk about?"

"That's just it." Ruby replied and took out the ironing board. "We don't know. Could be about farming, the wall, our lives, Utopia day...anything. That's why Mrs Hiirigazawa is so nervous. Now, come here and I'll show you how to use this."

In the kitchen, Mrs Hiirigazawa paced.

"Mother, please. Will you just go? It'll be hard for you to pretend you're dead if they catch you here."

"Disaster!" She bellowed. "A Southern reporter coming here, our rations being taken left, right and centre, Touya and his rouge's causing mayhem wherever they go and a maid who doesn't know how to god-damn iron!" She said throwing her voice over to Tomoyo.

Tomoyo put a hand on one hip and pointed the steaming hot iron at Mrs Hiirigazawa. "Hey! I'm trying, ok?"

Ruby put her hand on Tomoyo's writst to lower the hot iron.

"Mother, leave her alone. Your frustration has nothing to do with her." Eriol snapped.

Ruby's head flinched towards him. Tomoyo, too looked at him with some shock. The same thought went though both of their head; Why was he defending Madison?

Tomoyo kept her head down and ironed the sheets as her cheeks burned. She didn't dare look at Ruby. She focused on the ironing, which she was poor at.

"That's it. You've got the hang of it now." Ruby said in a weak voice and a forced smile.

It wasn't Tomoyo's imagination, Eriol's comment went down strangely with Ruby too.

Before Mrs Hiirigazawa could reply, the doorbell went off. They exchanged looks with each other before Mrs Hiirigazawa disappeared into the upstairs bedroom to be hidden from sight.

"They're early." Eriol mumbled.

Ruby walked over to join her husband's side. She slid her hand into his and gave it a small squeeze. As she did this, she looked back over at Tomoyo and caught her eye.

Tomoyo turned around and began folding sheets. The awkward moment had yet to pass.

Eriol walked over to the door and opened it. The first person he saw was a soldier accompanied by another. He then looked down to meet a pair of wide, emerald green eyes staring back at him.

The girl blinked and adjusted her handbag at her side. A small notebook was clutched in her hands and a pencil poked from her breast pocket. Eriol was confused. For some reason, he had expected a male reporter oozing arrogance and superiority.

The woman was petite, a child compared to Eriol's huge, built frame. But in her delicate face there was no coyness, hesitance or timid-ness.

She took a step forward and extended her hand out.

"Kinomoto Sakura, reporter for the Tomoedan Mirror. Nice to meet you."

X x x