As of today, my dog Tsuki Hime Serenity is no longer with us. I held her in my arms to the end, but it hurt so much I decided against going to work. It's going to be a few days before I can even think of getting a new job. She's buried with the rest of her family in the unofficial 'pet cemetary' out in my aunt's yard next to her sister and the rest along with her favorite toy.

It hurts like hell losing your fur baby and favorite bed stealing buddy.

Hard to believe she was ten years old when she went.

It had been such a perfectly ordinary day.

And then a heavy hard back book hit her hard on the head.

Bending down to pick it up, she looked around for where it could have fallen. It was a very pretty book with a bright red cover and a really handsome lion-creature with wings on the front. The trim and title were in gold and had a strange clasp on the side. It was nicer than any of the other books she owned, but that was to be expected when her bullies liked to damage her things.

Hotaru Sawada walked home and went straight to her room. Her mother wasn't home today either, likely dragged off by her friends to get her to 'live a little' with little to no regard of the fact she had a daughter at home.

She didn't particularly like her mother's friends.

She was just coming back from getting a snack when she heard it. Someone or something was snoring clear as day. In her room. When there was no one else in the house.

Cautiously, she opened the door... to find nothing. The book was still on her desk, her battered school bag on the bed.

She slowly put down the snack on her dresser, and looked around. Eventually her eyes landed once more on the odd book that had nearly brained her earlier. She picked it up to see if she could find a speaker of some sort to explain the sound of someone snoring.

Except the second she picked it up more than a few inches off the desk, there was a distinct "click" sound from the side...and the clasp came undone.

As she slowly opened it, she couldn't help but be struck by the elegant beauty of the odd cards inside. Several of them caught her eye, especially the one that looked like it was on fire.

Without even realizing it, she had four cards in her left hand to look at better and a fifth in her right to try and read. Her English wasn't that great, but it was passable enough to just barely make out what the card said.

"W-win... dy. Windy?" she read slowly, sounding out the word first.

Instinctively she held onto the cards in her hand tightly as a sudden gust of wind appeared out of nowhere, blowing the other cards everywhere. Oddly, when she was able to open her eyes she couldn't see any of them. Just the five in her hands.

As if her day couldn't get any weirder, the snoring she had heard before stopped. Instead there was a bone-cracking yawn as something seemed to wake up. The cover of the book glowed as the lion-creature slowly faded and a sort of teddy bear thing emerged in it's place.

Hotaru was beyond confused and more than a little alarmed as the thing actually spoke. With an Osaka accent of all things.

"GAH! Where are the cards?!" said the bear thing.

"Um... do you mean these?" she asked, holding out the ones she had in her hand when the gust appeared.

"Yeah... where are the rest?"

"I was looking at the card at the top part and tried to sound out what it said on the bottom. A huuuuge gust of wind came out of nowhere and blew them away, except for these," she said sheepishly.

"Oh, is that all," said the bear easily... before he went into total freak out mode. "THEY WHAT?!"

"I'm so sorry! I didn't know that would happen! The book just fell on me an hour ago and opened up on it's own!" said Hotaru upset. This was just her luck... of course the school's "dame" would cause a massive mess just by reading something.

The bear seemed to sense her mood, because he stopped looking so freaked out and looked a little closer to empathetic.

"There, there..." he said, floating to her head and patting her head, stopping her sniffles. "It can't be helped... though I have to wonder what Clow was thinking putting Windy of all things on the top! At least you managed to hold on to some of the more troublesome cards when she activated!"

In Hotaru's hands were Windy, Time, Sword, Dash and of all things, Firey. Sword and Dash were a hassle, but easy to manage... but Time and Firey would have been no end of trouble to put back in the book...especially Firey.

"I was admiring the pictures when it happened. I really like the fire one though," she admitted. "And the old man with the hourglass is too cool."

Keroberos wondered how Firey would react if she knew she had a fan. Be funny when she came out.

"Well since the rest were scattered, I suppose we have no choice. You're going to have to find and collect them before they cause too much trouble."

Hotaru had a bad feeling about that.


"The Clow Cards have a mind of their own, and without a master or mistress to reign them in they can cause all sorts of damage and havoc. Take Sword for instance! If you hadn't managed to hold onto it, it could have attached to some poor sap and made them go completely berserk while holding a bladed weapon! Or Firey, who has always been temperamental, she could have caused fires to spark all over the place!" said Keroberos.

It took him a minute to register the rising panic levels of the poor kid who had unleashed the cards. He caught several odd phrases, like 'bitten to death' and 'he is going to be so mad about this'.

The Sun Guardian couldn't help but wonder who the girl was that afraid of, if the thought of the cards causing trouble immediately brought someone specific to mind in terms of punishment. And what it had to do with being "bitten to death".

"Well, what will you do? If the cards aren't collected a disaster will befall the world...they're really powerful and in the wrong hands..."

"Um... how do I collect the cards?" she asked timidly.

"Cheer up! If the book opened, that means you must have enough magical power to be able to use the cards properly! It wouldn't have picked just anyone!" said Keroberos, trying to bolster her confidence level. He could tell she desperately needed it.

Keroberos pointed at a relatively clean spot on the floor... Windy's stunt had caused a bit of a mess.

"Stand here," he said simply. "What's your name?"

Hotaru did, wondering what was going to happen now, before replying "Hotaru Sawada."

"Pretty name," said Keroberos, which made her perk up a little bit. "Key of the Seal, here stands one who wishes to enter into a contract with thee. A girl named Hotaru. Key, the girl stands before you, Release!"

The odd key-shaped pendant started to become much bigger.

"Hotaru-chan, take the staff!"

Without thinking too hard about it, she grabbed the middle of the staff which settled into her hands. She felt something latch onto a power she could only vaguely remember in her dreams...back before she became the "no-good, useless" girl in school. When she could still remember being warm and clear headed and things were better.

Keroberos preened.

"Ta-da! It's the birth of a Card Captor!" he said cheerfully.


Two hours later...

"Kaa-san, I found this odd animal wandering around our house. Can I keep him?" asked Hotaru with wide eyes.

"How adorable! You'll have to take good care of it, okay Taru-kun?" said Nana without even thinking too hard about it.

Keroberos, or "Kero-chan" as Hotaru had decided to call him, stared at her in disbelief.

"Seriously? Just like that?" he said to Hotaru without thinking.

"Oh it talks too! How cute!" said Nana.

Kero face-planted on the table.

"Told you she wouldn't bat an eye," said Hotaru setting the table.

"I thought you were joking," he hissed at her so her mother wouldn't hear. "And what's with 'Taru-kun'?"

"I wear mostly boy clothing. I think she's honestly forgotten she had a daughter since my father wanted a son and not me," she replied back in a voice that said she had long since come to terms with this fact, even if it still hurt. "Because of the complications of my birth, she can't have any more kids."

Kero winced hearing that.

"At least you won't have to hide around the house. Mama won't really pay much attention so long as you don't cause too much a ruckus."

Kero perked up at that.

"What about when your friends come over?"

Hotaru flinched.

"I... don't have any friends."


He was promptly distracted by dinner, and Nana was perfectly content to ignore the fact there was a floating bear-thing in her home that talked in an Osaka-accent that her child had decided to keep as an odd sort of pet.

"What do you mean you dropped it?!"

"I didn't even realize it was gone until I made it here."

"You mean to tell me that you let something that disruptive to the peace of my territory loose?!"

A shudder.

"It seems the Guardian that was attached to the book has awakened and chosen his candidate."

"They're loose?! Annoying carnivore I will bite you to death for letting those things out here! You know once those pathetic herbivores catch wind of the fact they are here that they'll send someone!" hissed the other voice.

"Relax. As the one who caused this mess, I am obligated to stay around and insure that the cards are properly collected and the Final Judgment is properly completed."

"You're staying?!" said the first voice horrified and beyond pissed. "Annoying carnivore, for causing this mess I will bite you to death!"

"Bring it on, nephew," said the second voice cheekily.

No more words were said as the first voice vented their anger and annoyance at the situation by trying to cave the skull in of the second voice. Not that he managed it, but still.

Kero was trying very hard not to cackle. The first time Hotaru-chan had used Firey and Time, the two had actually looked embarrassed and rather pleased that she had managed to hold onto them and not one of their siblings. Firey had actually blushed when her new mistress had called her pretty!

Dash had happily settled in her lap, looking every bit the content rabbit. And Sword seemed to pick up on something in the town, because it looked almost disappointed it couldn't go out and explore. It perked up when Hotaru found out it could turn into a pendant... she didn't mind if the card wanted to hang out of it's standby form by staying on her collar. At least until it found out what had caught it's interest.

Not even Clow humored his cards this much... he treated them more like his children than anything.

Kero was both happy that the cards had found such a kind, gentle person to latch onto...and openly seething about things he couldn't change even though he really, really wanted to.

He had thought Hotaru was just a shy, gentle soul with a low amount of self confidence that needed a little encouragement to succeed. The first time he congratulated her over capturing her first card without causing too much damage, she had smiled so brightly it was like looking into the sun!

Then he followed her to school and had to hold himself back from ripping the idiots around her a new one.

On an unrelated note he finally found out why she was so concerned about being 'bitten to death'. Finding out he was firmly in the Hibari clan's territory under the protection of a particularly territorial Cloudy Mist teen with a penchant for violence had come as a nasty shock.

Fortunately his Mistress had no contact with that boy...she only went to the same school and the most this "Kyouya" had done to her for being late was give her a light thump on the head and a warning.

That had honestly been the kindest interaction Hotaru had the entire school day.

She was being actively bullied and harassed by her classmates who seemed to take particular enjoyment in targeting her. And it wasn't just the students who got into it... he had counted no less than four teachers who went after her specifically during class and then put her down when she couldn't answer the question correctly.

Not a single one bothered to encourage her at all. In fact some of the snide comments had really pissed Kero off.

So yeah, he wasn't going to comment on the fact she took comfort in the cards around her. And if he was livid, then they were beyond angry at the abuse their Mistress was put through on a daily basis.

And he had wondered why she was so timid. He was of the firm opinion that being the Card Captor would be good for her... capturing them and growing her collection of 'friends' would only bolster her limited self confidence.

"So what's the deal with that Hibari kid?" he asked, trying to make small talk. In his opinion this town was the worst possible environment for the gentle girl.

Hotaru perked up.

"Hibari-sempai runs the Disciplinary Committee. He's a bit scary at times, but he's actually a lot nicer than people think."

"Nice?" said Kero incredulous.

"He only really goes after the meaner bullies that target the other students simply because they're bigger or have some form of influence. He never really hurts students like me who just try to keep our heads down in school. If we're late the most he does is give us a little minor bruising and a stern reprimand to be on time."

"'Minor bruising'?" repeated Kero incredulous.

"Considering some of my previous bullies left me with sprained or broken bones before he cracked down on that sort of thing, and the worst I have to deal with is the snide comments and a few disruptive pranks..." shrugged Hotaru. "Our school is honestly safer than most of the others in town because Hibari has a zero- tolerance for bullies and 'fake carnivores' in his words. It's the only reason I even bother to go to school, because I know he'll go after anyone that tries anything too serious in a heartbeat the second he finds out about it...and his people are always patrolling the grounds."

"And the 'bite to death' thing?" asked Kero. It wasn't good, but it was far better than he feared. It seemed this kid was big on maintaining the peace and order of the area, rather than dominating everyone like he expected.

"Everyone has their quirks," shrugged Hotaru. "Besides, he only really challenges people who actually have some skill in fighting."

Kero relaxed at that. From the sound of things and the limited information he had gathered during the past three days since waking up, this Hibari Kyouya was an honorable sort, one who was in dire need of a proper opponent he could match himself with. However he wasn't so desperate that he went after those weaker than him...instead he seemed to take on the role of a protective lone wolf, keeping the area safe for the smaller, weaker animals in his territory like Hotaru.