The meeting with Sakura was distressingly normal. There's few things in my life that qualify as truly normal, so I suppose that's an exception in and of itself, but when you're going to meet the most powerful sorceress in the world, you kind of expect something a bit more... well, interesting. Don't get me wrong. Sakura is the cutest girl I know, but I was hoping to at least see Touya – or failing that, Keroberus since it's so much fun to wind him up.
I'm easily amused. Sue me.
The Kinomoto residence hadn't changed much since the last time I'd seen it – a new coat of paint, but that was about it. I rang the doorbell and waiting patiently for someone to answer. Thirty seconds passed, and I decided to ring the door bell again. Another thirty seconds, and I decided that three times might be the charm. I knew Sakura was home since Eriol wouldn't have bothered to send me if she wasn't. Say what you like, but precognition can be a real time saver some times. Besides, I'd bailed on dinner with my friends for this, so I wasn't about to give up easily.
My heightened sense of hearing detected the sound of running feet after my fifth attempt, and moments later the locks were undone and the door flung open. Sakura panted a bit as she tried to catch her breath. "Akizuki-san!" she exclaimed, raising a hand to her lips in surprise. "What are you doing here?"
"Eriol sent me to pick up some notes," I replied. I gave her a cheerful smile.
"Hoey! I forgot!" She said, and she stepped back from the door. "Come in, come in, and I'll get them."
I stepped into the house, toeing my shoes off as she directed me to wait in the living room. She pounded up the stairs, reminding me that Touya had always referred to her as a monster. I found myself smiling as I checked their décor.
The sofa had been reupholstered, and there were a couple more pictures on the wall, but otherwise it was the same as I remembered. There was something inviting about the home, the feeling that lots of love resided in these rooms. Any house with Sakura as a resident was bound to feel that way, but I bet Kinomoto-sensei had something to do with it, too.
I couldn't detect much of the faint "aftertaste" that marked places Yue spent a lot of time. It was there, but it felt "stale," for lack of a better term. Yue wasn't the constant presence he'd been in this home while we were in high school. Normally that would have made me a bit smug, but due to my earlier encounters with Yukito I felt more puzzled than anything else. Something to think about, providing nothing more interesting came along. Possible ammunition for my next spat with the snow rabbit, the really, really petty part of me thought.
I was inspecting the draperies – a floral pattern that I think was based on nadeshiko flowers - when another series of footsteps heralding Sakura's return sounded. I smiled at her, taking a second to evaluate my hostess.
Sakura was pretty, her body blooming with the gentle curves of womanhood. While I wasn't attracted to women in general, she was almost enough for me to call her an exception. I could feel her power, as intoxicating as fine wine, barely contained within her skin. She was a younger soul than Eriol, and more innocent. For a second I spared a moment to envy Yue his master before dismissing the thought. I loved Eriol best.
Luckily she didn't notice my distraction. I'd hate to have to explain myself, and her power levels were such that I couldn't easily lie to her. And I wouldn't want to – she's that kind person who didn't deserve any falsehoods. "Here they are, Nakuru-san!" she exclaimed, offering me a smile. "Would you like to sit down and have a snack with me?"
It's not like me to turn down free food, so I agreed. I waited for her patiently in the living room while she puttered around in the kitchen. I could hear her loudly telling Keroberus to keep his paws out of her way. The plushy-lion was quite vehement in his protests that he was trying to help. Finally I heard her yell at him to just go upstairs and play with her game console, which was probably his ultimate goal anyway. Any guardian created by Clow – or Eriol – had a manipulative streak.
She bustled back in, her smile nearly taking in her ears as she settled a tray on the low coffee table. "Here we go!" she said, setting a glass of tea in front of me. "Help yourself to the cookies – my dad made them yesterday."
I murmured a thank-you as she took the seat across from me. Obligingly, I picked up a green-sprinkled sugar cookie, and sunk my teeth in. Not surprisingly, they tasted familiar – Fujitaka-san used the same recipe as Eriol. Not only did they share a soul, but they shared the same yummy cookbook.
Sakura didn't seem that interested in her drink, preferring to talk to me instead. "I was so glad when Eriol-kun decided to move back! I was hoping I'd get to see you again – Eriol said maybe I could come to the shrine and work as a miko for a bit!"
Sakura seemed unsure about the idea, although she would have done much better than I had. She's a bit better at sticking to plans. I moved to encourage her.
"That would be fun! I'd be happy to teach you," I said cheerfully, ignoring the fact I hadn't actually performed any duties for months. It would be really fun to work with Sakura-chan. I really wanted to know her better – and being in the presence of her heady power would just be a bonus.
Thinking of power... "Is Touya-kun around?" I asked, hoping to make the visit a bit more interesting.
"No, he's moved out." Sakura gave me a soft smile. "I miss him, but don't tell him that."
I giggled, raising my free hand to mime zipping my lips. "He won't hear it from me!" I told her, although I was disappointed in the missed opportunity. I wasn't surprised, though. Eriol had pointed out that Touya wasn't living here anymore. And what else had my master said? My all-too-perfect memory quickly supplied the answer: I don't think you'll be seeing him for a while yet.
I know I've said it before, but it warrants repeating: having a seer for a master sucks.
"Thanks, Nakuru-san," she said. She selected a cookie – one unsurprisingly with pink sugar on it, and took a bite.
"So is Touya-kun sharing an apartment with your moon guardian?" I asked curiously. This would be a really good way to get the dirt on my former crush.
"No," she said, and her eyebrows raised up toward her hairline. "Yukito still lives at his grandparents... I mean, where he's always lived."
"I would have thought they would have moved in together," I said, forgetting for a moment I was speaking to the incredibly naïve Mistress of the Cards. She's always been a bit thick about relationship subtleties – I doubted she knew that Touya and Yukito were... like that.
To my surprise, her expression grew troubled. She stared down into her glass, poking her straw around to stir the ice cubes. "They aren't like that, Nakuru-san," she said. "And I don't know why."
Apparently she was more grown up than I thought. "You mean like that, like that?" I echoed, leaning heavily on the first two words to make the innuendo clear.
Sakura blushed. It looked absolutely enchanting, and I could feel the power in the room start to swirl with her embarrassment. From upstairs, my senses could detect the Cards starting to stir, their presence glowing faintly in the back of my mind. Apparently she hadn't learned to completely control her power yet.
"My brother is Yukito-san's most special person," she answered, "and I know Yukito is his."
"So what's the problem?" I asked, even though I could fill in the blank. Obviously, the stupid moon guardian had gotten on Touya's last nerve.
"I don't know," she said, and she looked so depressed that I reached across and gave her hand a reassuring pat. Had the table not been between us, I would have cheerfully glomped her, but I didn't want to knock over our snack.
"It's not your problem, Sakura-chan. I was just being curious." It was almost, almost an apology from me.
Sakura smiled at me. "It'll be okay. Besides, I promised to kick my big brother if he made Yukito-san cry."
"Who says it's Touya-kun's fault?" I asked.
Her face puckered into a frown. "Of course it's my brother's fault. Yukito-san is too nice for it to be his fault." Then she changed the subject, asking me about how I liked college.
Personally, I thought she had things messed up a bit. But she was Yue's master, so I guess that could justify her loyalty.
The company was pleasant enough, I guess, and Sakura was charming, but I left feeling a bit annoyed. Usually Eriol didn't send me on errands unless they were important – and all I'd gotten out of the delivery was a bit of gossip and some tasty cookies. I did a good job at hiding my discontent, though, and bid Sakura a farewell half an hour later.
I was going to have to get my master to explain what he really wanted me to learn.
Eriol was seated at the kitchen table, calmly peeling apples when I arrived home. He's got the practically supernatural ability to peel them without breaking the long, thin strip of red apple skin. So many things about him speak of unconscious skill (aka anal-compulsive perfectionism). It was at turns irritating and reassuring – after all, I wouldn't be the nearly-perfect creature I am without his talents, but there was something really, really grating about the way he was always better at everything.
"Did you have a nice visit with Sakura-chan?" Eriol asked, quirking an eyebrow, baiting me.
I retaliated by dropping the notes I'd collected on the table with a loud thump, and not coincidentally stepping on his foot. Unfortunately my shoes were relatively soft-soled, and couldn't inflict much in the way of pain. Not that I wanted him to hurt, but making him know I was irate was important, too.
"Why did you send me over there? Touya doesn't live there anymore!" I exclaimed, ignoring the fact that Sakura had been a lovely hostess and springing into my main issue.
"Maybe that's why," he replied, giving the half-smirk that made people want to slap him. Myself included.
I indulged in a slight scream of frustration, stomping my foot angrily. "What does it take to get a straight answer out of you?" I demanded.
A strange expression crossed his face. "Ruby Moon, would you want a straight answer from me?" he asked softly.
It was the opening for a zinging insult, but I couldn't take it. Eriol was being serious. "No," I replied, because I could never lie to him."You wouldn't be you if you did that."
"Just trust me, then," he said, and he actually had the nerve to pat me on the cheek. But he looked sad, so I didn't yell at him for it. I could never really understand his moods.
"I do," I replied, but then shook my head. "Are you making apple pie?" I asked.
"Apple crisp," he said. "Want to help?"
"As long as we offer Suppi a big slice!" I said with a laugh, turning to the nearby cupboard to retrieve the cinnamon and sugar.