Sea of Dreams:
Chapter 4: Bowing to Three Women
"Come on, Syaoran, you can run so much faster than that! Come on! Pump those arms! You call that a run?! My grandmother can walk faster than that! Come on, you're almost there! Just a bit further…"
Syaoran sighed. Sakura, though she was the best friend he'd ever had, worked him as hard and ruthlessly as a taskmistress.
"Not now, Sakura," he groaned, "my feet feel as though they're going to fall off."
She eyed him sternly. "That's what you get for lying around lazily. You realise that you haven't practised for three days! No wonder your legs have gotten all stiff! You haven't been working them out as often as you used to. What have you been doing all this time? Spouting Shakespearian poetry and chasing after To – "
"Well, what's all this?"
Tomoyo walked onto the race track and surveyed the scene interestedly: Syaoran, lying on the grass, panting heavily, and Sakura, standing on the bench, hands on her hips as she chastised him.
Sakura looked at her sharply.
"Nothing! Syaoran's getting lazy and he's got a track race coming up tomorrow and I've no idea how he'll come in first place, that Kintaro's done ten laps in 43 and a quarter seconds and Syaoran's only got 45 seconds flat, I've no idea what'll happen, Kintaro's going to come in first and you're going to come in second and this is your last year in the running, you can't let him win, because you'll never hear the end of it; how will Yelan take it, I've no idea, you've been dreaming of this ever since you were eight, remember all that, Sakura, one day I'm going to be the fastest runner in Hong Kong, whatever happened to all that, you got lazy, that's what happened and so don't come crying to me when that rookie Kintaro beats you, you're so – "
"Whoa, Sakura, take a break," Tomoyo said, breaking Sakura's rant off. "You know, it's nice to have a sharp tongue, but if you sway it the wrong way, it can cut off your neck!"
Sakura smiled sheepishly. "Right. Syaoran, do you want some juice? Juice?"
Syaoran got up and walked toward the juice pitcher, and gratefully poured himself a cup.
"So…" Tomoyo said thoughtfully, "you and Syaoran are best friends, right?"
"Uh-hunh," Sakura said, not looking at Tomoyo, "we've been best friends ever since we were little – "
"Then aren't you in love with him?" Tomoyo asked.
Sakura gaped at Tomoyo, her emerald eyes wide.
"Hello," Syaoran said, breaking off Sakura and Tomoyo's conversation.
"Hi Syaoran…oh! You've got to visit your relatives! Don't you do that every Friday? It's Friday, you're going to miss the bus!"
Syaoran smiled at Tomoyo.
"That's okay, I can afford to not go this time – "
"I won't hear of it!" Sakura declared. "What will Yelan think? You must go, now! Go!"
And she pushed Syaoran off in the opposite direction.
Tomoyo made her way to the local church. She knew exams were coming up, and she wanted to pray for a bit. So, she decided to make her way to the church. It attracted her to it; its quiet beauty, its attractive solitude…somewhere away from the boisterous pandemonium of the college…
Or so she thought.
As soon as she sat down in front of the chapel and closed her eyes, she could hear whispers…coming from right beside her.
"Please Mother, there are exams coming, and you know that I am a bit weak in Japanese, so I'll just leave the rest to you – "
Tomoyo giggled silently to herself.
"Hello?" she prodded him gently on the shoulder.
Syaoran looked up slowly, and then his eyes registered on Tomoyo.
"Y…you?" he asked slowly, horror stamped across his features.
Tomoyo nodded, a smile playing on her lips.
"Don't look at me, look at her!" Syaoran commanded.
"Oh yes." Tomoyo closed her eyes in silent prayer, facing Mother Mary.
Taking advantage of Tomoyo's distraction, Syaoran scrambled to his feet and ran out of the church, silently vowing to himself that he would never, ever set foot in there…
"Where are you going?"
Sakura paced her room in the hostel, in deep thought.
It's so obvious…Syaoran's in love with Tomoyo…but then…what did he mean in English…love is friendship…
Sakura sat down on her bed, her hands cupping her cheeks, elbows on her knees, puzzling over Syaoran's odd statement.
She remembered the way Syaoran had looked at Tomoyo in the band competition the previous day…
"…the main singers can't make it here, there's been a curfew in their area, we need two other singers, a boy and a girl…" Professor Daidouji had said.
Sakura and Syaoran had been horrified. "What?!"
"Face it," Professor Daidouji said. "You two are the best singers we have. Now, unless you'd like to fail your year…"
Professor Daidouji had walked away.
"But!" Sakura had called, "we don't even know the song!"
"Don't worry," Professor Takaishi had assured them, "Sonomi has a tape of the rehearsals. All she'll do is play that tape, with the voices already on it. All you two will have to do is move your lips in time to the voices!"
"Have you ever heard of a plan where so many things could go wrong?" Syaoran had muttered to Sakura.
Syaoran and Sakura stood up on stage. All of a sudden, music turned on…
"…you are a foreigner…you won't be here for long…" a male voice blared over the speakers. So Syaoran had mimed it.
"Hey, Sakura!" the guitar soloist whispered in Sakura's ear. "This is the wrong song!"
Sakura closed her eyes in frustration and panic.
"Hey!" someone in the crowd had cried.
"What the heck is going on?"
"This number sucks!"
And then, the power went out. A beautiful tune could be heard playing on the guitar. It was someone in the audience, making their way up onto the stage. It was a girl, with long dark hair, wearing a very short, sparkly, sequin-covered light purple dress that had spaghetti straps, a back made of crossed strings and a short skirt coming up to her mid-thighs.
In her arms was a guitar, which she was playing quite expertly.
"I found someone," she sang softly, and beckoned with her eyes for them to improvise along with her.
"I found someone," Syaoran echoed.
"I found someone," Sakura echoed, altering the tune a little.
Yet…in those three words, Sakura could tell Syaoran meant every word of it. The way Syaoran had pointedly danced only with Tomoyo…
What about her, though?
For some reason, hanging around with Syaoran seemed to be more fun than usual, and she was noticing lots of odd things happening…
For the first time in her life, she'd noticed his piercing amber eyes, that messy chestnut hair, that delicate nose, those cheeks which were red more often than not…
For the first time, she noticed butterflies in her stomach every time she thought of him…
For the first time, she noticed her breath catching in her lungs every time she saw him…
For the first time in nineteen years, she realised the rush of blood flowing to her face was not there for the mere purpose of circulation…they were there for one, and one only…
I love you, Syaoran…
Syaoran faced Tomoyo who had stood up in front of the chapel and was now facing him.
"So…your relatives live here?" Tomoyo asked, with the slightest suggestion of laughter in her voice.
Syaoran looked at the ground. "Yeah…"
"I mean, no…I just come here every Friday…"
"Oh…" Tomoyo nodded. "So, Syaoran Li comes to the church every Friday."
"How sweet!" Tomoyo smiled.
"Don't call me sweet!" Syaoran said.
"Then why did you lie at college?" Tomoyo demanded.
"Well…the thing is…boys don't normally go to the church…if I told the truth, they'd all laugh at me…except Sakura, of course…but she keeps my secret…anyway…I just say I visit my relatives…it makes more sense that way…"
"Oh…" Tomoyo nodded again, "so you're scared that people might laugh at you if they found out that you visit the church?"
"How sweet!" Tomoyo said.
"Well, actually, to tell you the truth…" Syaoran started, "my father used to tell me this before he died…it was a long time ago…he used to say that a man should bow to three women. The first is Mother Mary. The second is Mother. And…"
"And?" Tomoyo asked, enchanted.
Syaoran shrugged, smiling. "And. Anyway, I have to get back to college. See you, Tomoyo!"
"Wait, Syaoran – " Tomoyo started, but Syaoran had already run off.
Tomoyo was lying on her bed, immersed in a small paperback book. Red lettering spelled out The Terrorist. She was so immersed into the little book that she didn't even hear her name being called to her from the window.
Tomoyo whipped around...and almost screamed – for, at the window, was Syaoran Li, leaning on a ladder.
"Syaoran?" she hissed, and ran to the window. "How'd you get here? Who lent you the ladder?"
Syaoran shrugged. "The manservant. He said he'd give me anything if I gave him a new lunchbox."
Tomoyo giggled. "Yukito is a bit dense, I should have known he'd be behind this."
"He's a nice guy, you know – "
"Do you want to come in?" Tomoyo asked.
"Well, that's alright, but, if you insist – " Syaoran climbed into the room. He picked up the book on Tomoyo's bed.
"Are you reading this?" he asked her with interest.
"Yup," Tomoyo answered, snatching it away from his grasp.
"Oh…" he said and read the back of the cover. "Oh! Isn't the book where the girl's brother gets blown up by the girl's friend because she wanted his passport to escape to America to avoid getting married to this 50-year-old guy?"
Tomoyo closed the book. "Thanks," she said, clearly annoyed.
"Oh, no problem," Syaoran said. "Actually, you shouldn't waste your time reading books like those. Any questions, just come to me, and I'll tell you everything."
"Okay," Tomoyo said. "So how does the story go?"
"Oh, well the boy gets handed this package bomb, and it explodes and he dies and his sister goes crazy trying to figure out who did it, and then her friend invites her to a slumber party and then she asks for the brother's passport because – "
"No!" Tomoyo interrupted. "Not this story. The other story."
"Other story?" Syaoran asked. "What other story?"
"The one you told me at the church – "
"What church?" Syaoran asked indignantly.
"The one you go to every Friday."
"You were telling me a story there – "
"Yes, about a man bowing to three women – "
"One is Mother Mary – "
"The second is Mother – "
Syaoran looked at her, puzzled. "And?"
"And," Tomoyo looked at Syaoran expectantly.
"And?" Syaoran took no hint.
"Syaoran!" Tomoyo cried.
"Tomoyo," Syaoran said.
Syaoran shook his head and pointed to the door.
"Mother?" Tomoyo asked, horrified.
"Grouch," Syaoran replied.
"Shut up! Syaoran you've got to leave – "
"A man bows to three women – "
" - Mother's coming, she'll have a field day if she finds you here and – "
" – one's Mother Mary, one's Mother and – "
" – and – "
" – and – "
Syaoran grabbed Tomoyo's shoulders, silencing her. Without a word, he closed his eyes and inclined his head, in what was unmistakeably a bow.
"And," Syaoran said. Then he made his way to the window and climbed down the ladder.
The manservant of the Daidouji household, Yukito, ran outside wildly.
"Okay then," he said to himself, "the thief has gone up into the little mistress's room, using this ladder! Now, I'll use this ladder to climb into the little mistress's room and catch him myself!"
He climbed the ladder stealthily. Syaoran, who was already on the ground, tapped him on the shoulder.
"Flashlight," Syaoran said.
"Toss it here!"
Syaoran tossed it into Yukito's outstretched hand. Then, he ran quietly away.
Yukito suddenly whipped around.
"A ghost gave this flashlight to me!" he said to himself. "That's okay! I'll just…cover myself up and become a ghost too! That way, the ghosts will become scared of me and run!"
He covered his face with his cloak and tried to climb, but his feet kept missing the rungs.
"Have – the rungs turned into ghosts too?" he asked himself.
Sonomi walked in on this strange scene.
"Yukito!" she cried, whacking him on the back. "Why are you sneaking into your own house?"
Disclaimer: I own nothing.