Notes: First of all, I'm gonna start apologizing relentlessly for the slow update. Sorry, sorry, sorry. I was trying to get into the writing mood again. I promise I'll try and get the next chap out more quickly. I just have really low confidence in nature, and it's bad for me. Which brings us to the fact that I don't write so often as I should. (whacks self)

(!)Warnings(!): The following chapter contains mildly graphic scenes of torture, violence, language, human mortification, etc.

Additional notes: I reaaaally need to get a laptop. A PC just won't work good for me. (bombs PC)

-- Does love mean conviction ? --

Chapter Two

This was bad. This resembled a nightmare, yet it was impossible to wake up or get out.

As the auctioneer hurled me towards the group of slaves, I was forced to acknowledge that this was all true, and happening.

I could do nothing but withstand the gazes from the crowd as I stood among the other slaves.

I tried not to think of anything, but the bleak knowledge of the fact that I was nothing but a slave now haunted me to no end.

- - -

"Pull over right here, Laurence."

The car drew to a halt.

"A slaves auction, sir."

Eriol nodded his comprehension as he scanned the place. Unintentionally, his gaze settled on the only young boy of his age there, with disorganized brown hair and frayed clothes clung to him. Self-consciously, Eriol touched his own freshly-tailored ensemble lightly.

His eyes met the boy's, and their eyes locked for a fleeting moment before the brown-haired boy pulled his gaze away, thus breaking their eye contact.

Eriol's eyes narrowed slightly. Something within him went cold. "Let's go."

"Yes, sir."

- - -

I was praying madly that I would fail to be sold for today. But my prayer seemed to have fallen on deaf ears as I was almost immediately sold off to a lanky, blonde-haired man, about thirty-five, after rapid moments of auctioning. The auctioneer then hurled me towards my new owner, whom I developed an instant loathing for. He did not look affluent in the least, but he had been able to afford me, and I hated him even more for it.

My new owner gripped my hand, and pulled me away towards his waiting car. He spoke when we were already inside: "I'm Chris. What's yer name?"

"Syaoran." I made my answer as succinct as possible.

He gave me a look-over. "Ya look pretty young, lad. How ol' are ya?"

And I had thought it was rude to ask a person's age. "Sixteen."

"Neva been owned by no one?"

I was getting sick of these futile questions. "No."

He let out a sudden chuckle, but he didn't say anything else. I was thankful he decided to shut up for a while.

But for the rest of the way, I merely dreaded what was about to befall upon me in the next few hours.

- - -

That night was hell. I had thought there could be nothing worse than being sold like a cow by your own father, but I was proved wrong.

The nightmare had only begun.

The hours that passed seemed too long as I was pushed around like an animal, wrists bound behind my back, and forced to pick up bagels, which were dropped rather deliberately onto the floor only by my mouth.

The audience, which made up of Chris' gang of mildly insane friends, guffawed mercilessly as they watched me. One of them even kicked me through the ribs with a curt remark that I was too sluggish.

"What do you call yerself, a slave? Hah! You should be used as a toy instead. Hmm . . . but a limp and scrawny one like ya won't do much good, eh?"

The rage in me went wild then. A string of unpleasant words spilled from my mouth before I could stop them. That sent a round of shocked faces, and suddenly I received a firm, stinging slap. It was Chris.

"Goddamn bastard." He aimed a brutal kick deep into my torso. I failed to stifle a cry as a sharp jolt of pain seared through my body. "I'll teach you to insult my friends like that. Don't forget that you are a worthless being in the society. A total useless whore, hear? A person like you only deserves to be used and thrown away right after, son-of-a-bitch!"

As he said that, I tried to block out those words.

Those hurting, accusing words full of hatred directed at me.

But I heard them.

In fact, I heard every single word too clearly.

For the rest of the hour after a series of being kicked around like a wretched puppy, I made no further protest, but submissively did as I was told. There wasn't an option.

Every nerve in my body ached to fight; to pounce and beat the hell out of them for even experiencing pleasure in the agony of another living being. But I managed to keep my actions rationally intact. I knew I could never fight five grown-up boys at one time.

As it turned out, Chris was no better than my father.

I came to a conclusion that love isn't an easy thing.

At least not for me.

I decided not to succumb to love anymore. I didn't want to.

To me, love was merely an illusion.

To love or be loved, what was the dissimilarity?

What mattered?

Outside, the sound of falling rain seemed all too loud even for my ears. I had been so absorbed in my distress, I hadn't even noticed that it had started to rain.

- - -

Inside the Hiiragizawa mansion, Eriol gazed impassively out of his bedroom window as the raindrops continued to taint the window pane, a cup of steaming coffee in his hand. His thoughts traveled back to the slaves auction in the market, where he had seen another boy not far from his age. And yet, that boy had looked so young, so innocent.

Unlike him.

Eriol wondered distantly what had caused the naïve-looking boy to be at the auction, but dismissed the thought soon after. He probably won't be seeing him anymore after this.

Setting the coffee cup down on a nearby table, Eriol moved towards the door. He still had to go to Sakura's house and hand her a certain document before it was too late. And the rain was only making things complex.

Reaching for the cordless phone, Eriol dialed Sakura's number. On the fourth ring, a young female voice answered it.


"Hello, this is Hiiragizawa speaking." Before he could continue, the female voice interrupted.

"Eriol-kun! Thought you'd never call. You have the document ready?"

"…Yeah. I'm coming over right now." With that, he hung up.

He caught sight of Laurence arranging coats downstairs.

"I'm going over to Sakura's house for a minute, Laurence. I'll be back in a jiffy."

"Shall I drive you over, sir? It's raining rather heavily."

Tugging on a raincoat, Eriol replied, "No, that's okay. It's not far; a few minutes walk is all."

"Are you sure you'll be all right, sir?"

"Yeah." Eriol is already out the door before Laurence could say a further word.

- - -

My eyes jerked open at the overwhelming heat of the room. The air reeked of hard liquor and cheap beer. How long had I been asleep? I lifted my hand to my temple, and winced instinctively. My limbs hurt tremendously everywhere; my head was practically drumming off its walls.

Gathering a vast amount of energy, I finally sat up. The long piece of white cloth beneath me was too big to be a tablecloth and yet too small to actually be a blanket of some sort. The room was dark; almost vacant, if I hadn't been in it.

Then suddenly, it hit me. I dragged myself to the window, and looked out. A few dark figures loomed in the shadows below, followed by the sound of a car engine starting.

Chris' friends were leaving. A thousand thoughts clouded my head.

I knew I had to think fast. Think!, my brain shrieked. Think like you've never thought about anything else before.

My eyes fell upon the bulky tree just outside the window. It looked accessible.

There might not be another chance like this.

Perhaps, not ever.

But I knew one thing for sure: a chance is just waiting for me to grab it.

When I had made sure the car was out of sight, I made my move.

- - -

The rain kept falling, knifing through the damp air in heavy torrents as Eriol sauntered his way to Sakura's apartment. He cautiously avoided walking into mud puddles, for that would mess up his raincoat.

Occasionally glancing over his shoulder, he kept an eye out for anyone suspicious who might be following him, and clutched the document in his raincoat tighter.

He did not notice the blind figure sprinting toward his direction. The deafening patter of rain drowned out any sounds of movement.

He flinched when his body came in contact with another in a violent momentum, but managed to regain his balance. He heard a faint male voice mutter 'Sorry', and looked down to see an utterly drenched boy, who had fell to his knees, hands palming the wet ground.

"It's okay. I apologize for my part." Eriol answered evenly. The boy wasn't getting up. Eriol realized the latter's hands were trembling. "Are you all right?"

The boy glanced up, and time seemed to halt as Eriol's eyes met his. Despite the thoroughly wet bangs falling into the boy's eyes, Eriol knew they were all too familiar.

Notes: (guilty look) The next chapter won't take too long. I just need some time. And yes, Sakura and Tomoyo are in the story, but they play fairly minor roles. Well, big minor roles. The reason Eriol has to go to Sakura's place will be revealed soon.