I thought, hey, wouldn't it be fun if Syaoran was a ninja? And this fic was born. I hope you enjoy.
Clow Card no Monogatari
The Tale of the Clow Cards
Disclaimer: Everything except the plotline is owned by CLAMP.
* * *
Chapter 1: Break In
He moved like a black shadow through the alleyway, observed only by a stray cat that watched him flash by through narrowed green eyes. He barely made a sound when he jumped to the top of the fence, the soft soles of his shoes absorbing the impact, and in one smooth motion he coiled and leapt upwards again, grasping a flagpole standing out from the side of a building over his head and swinging himself up atop it like a gymnast on the high bar. Carefully, his clothes whispering on the pole, he slid himself to the base of the pole and pulled himself bodily into a crouch on a ledge, where he froze, sharply looking from side to side. When nothing presented itself, he sighed, a bare breath against the mask hiding everything but his eyes, and dropped his eyes to the window – opened to allow in the cool evening air. He warily tossed in a shuriken and waited to hear the sound of reaction, but nothing happened; reassured, he slid through the small space and landed in a crouch on a stained industrial carpet.
Realistically, the chances of someone being on this floor at this hour were low, but it never hurt to be careful. This floor was filled with cubicles – the workplace of mostly unimportant drones – and all the file cabinets on the far wall would be devoid of the information he wanted. But one couldn't run before one walked, and tour guides didn't let visitors look through the directory files that those cabinets surely contained.
This was a technologically advanced part of China, and he kept his eyes open for cameras or motion sensors as he crossed the room Of course, regardless of whether he saw cameras or not, he knew he would be watched. There was no place in China not observed by the government. But there was only so much one could do, and it was not the government he was concerned with.
The directory was open and resting atop the cabinets; taking note of the page it was currently opened to, he flipped to the phonetic listing in the back. Huang … Xiang …. Xin. He memorized the room number and the address, and turned back to the page it had first been opened to, before retrieving the shuriken he had tossed in and making his way back to the window.
Scaling the next two stories was going to be more difficult than reaching the third floor had been; he was going to have to leave a mark. He drew a dull-shaded kunai from the small pouch on his leg and shoved it into the crumbling mortar between the bricks of the wall, and tested its strength. It would barely hold him, but that was all he needed. He leapt upwards, reaching for the ledge above him, and caught the edge barely; using the kunai for support, though, he pulled himself up over the edge. Taking a couple of deep, gentle breaths, he paused to calm the accompanying adrenaline rush before repeating the process.
Now on the fifth floor, not unexpectedly he found the windows locked. Navigating this floor would be more tricky; he had only seen the one corner during the tour. But he had to start somewhere.
Getting in was the first trick. He greased the hinges of the window thoroughly and carefully slid the bolts out, dismantling the window, and reached around the edge to undo the lock carefully. The lock came undone after a moment of fiddling, and he carefully replaced the bolts of the hinges before swinging the window open.
It was an office, and a nice one, but a quick
examination told him it was not Xin's. Setting his teeth slightly, he poked his head
in the room and located a security camera pointed at the door; a well-aimed shuriken
put that out of commission (and unfortunately marked his passing); he retrieved the
weapon and opened the door a crack.
No one. This was almost too strange. Of course, it was now only a matter of time – someone watching the security cameras would want to know why the one camera had gone blank, and someone would come up to check – but if he absolutely had to, he could take another window back out of the building. If he could get a chance to retrieve the kunai he had left, however, he would take it.
He padded down the hallway in search of room 506, and found it. A sign of congratulations hung on the doorframe, paying its respects for a recent promotion. He turned the knob. The door was locked.
A lock pick later, the door was undone, and he stole inside. There was no security camera. It would be a motion sensor, then, or something more subtle. No matter what, he would be found now. But he would not be deterred quite so quickly. He vaulted the desk and found the computer was sleeping, so he nudged the mouse. Some statistic report was on the screen.
There was a noise in the hallway. They were faster than he thought. His fingers flew over the keys, and a password box popped up.
'Xingyang.' The word formed on his lips as he typed it, and surely enough, the password box disappeared and he was treated to page upon page of numbers and data. He slipped a minidisk into the slide and started the copy.
Voices speaking in Chinese. "Is he still in there? You, check the other room." The disk finished burning, and he closed the dialogue box he had opened, replacing the disk in his pouch. He turned to the window. Time to make his escape.
"He's in here! In here!" A gun went off, and it was a lucky thing the guard had terrible aim; the bullet grazed the intruder's ribs and embedded itself in the window frame. He grimaced and spun around, letting loose three shuriken; two struck the guard in the hip and leg, and the last one in the eye. The guard began to scream in pain, but the intruder was too quick for him; he leapt forward, throwing an arm around the guard's neck, and wrenched his head violently backwards. There was a snap, and the guard was dead.
The intruder resisted the urge to grasp the wound on his side and scrambled back to the window, attempting to open it, but the bullet had done its damage; the frame was wrenched and bent too far out of shape to move. Cursing softly, he faced the doorway again. He had to keep this clean as possible.
The two other guards came in more warily, and pointed their illegal arms in all directions without firing, looking for the intruder. But they never saw him. A figure dropped down from over the doorway and a pair of hands grasped their heads from behind, knocking them together violently; they both slumped to the floor, unconscious.
Briefly the intruder considered whether he ought to kill them or not; dead men told no tales, after all. But neither had seen his face, and he had bigger fish to fry. Sometimes spirits told more tales than living men.
He whirled and tore down the hall as silently as he could, going back to the window he had entered through, but of course, it couldn't be that easy; he nearly slammed into the heavyset man that was coming out the door of the office he had intended to enter. Both guard and intruder stared at each other for an instant, before the guard cried, 'Hey!' loud enough to wake an entire army and started to aim his gun, and the intruder whipped around his foot to disarm him. The illegal weapon skittered away, tossed from the guard's hands, and the intruder pressed his advantage, closing in quickly, and jamming the heel of his hand up into the man's nose. It had the desired effect; the man's nose broke and the bones slammed into his brain. He fainted on the spot, blood spurting from his face, and the intruder firmly cracked him on the temple. It bled slightly as the guard died.
His arm and glove were both bloody, but there wasn't time to clean up properly. He could feel the slight vibrations of feet pounding up the stairs; more people were coming. Possibly the police this time. He leapt back out through the window he had entered through and dropped one story, barely managing to catch himself on the ledge. He let out a gasp of pain as his wound was aggravated, but he had to hurry. Spurred on by fear and adrenaline, he heaved himself over the ledge and retrieved the first kunai; he let himself down more carefully to the second one to retrieve it as well.
The intruder looked up to see two policemen hanging out the window he had left by; one pointed his gun at him. "You! Stop!"
But the intruder was already jumping; he leapt out towards the end of the flagpole he had used to first get in and grabbed the flag itself. The material ripped severely as he jerked to a halt at the end of it, but it swung him outwards, over the fence. He let go at the height of the arc, flying through the air too fast for the policeman to properly aim, and landed hard, rolling to absorb part of the impact. And then he again became part of the night, a shadow moving through the darkest hours just before dawn.
* * *
"Seven times nine is …?"
The dark-haired young man with broad shoulders sighed. "No …"
"Forty-eight? Seventy-two?" the younger girl inquired – she was painfully adorable with large green eyes and strawberry blonde hair.
"Argh! Come on, monster, it's not that hard!" groaned the young man.
"Hey! Don't call me a monster, onii-chan!" The girl got up and kicked the young man in the shin.
"Ow! Hey, monster, that's exactly what monsters do, attack people!"
"I'm not a monster! Dad!"
"Hey, hey, calm down," laughed someone from the kitchen; their father, a man with brown-gold hair and a pleasant smile, came out and gave them both a gentle look. "Touya, you know better than to call your sister a monster."
"But she is one," Touya pointed out stubbornly, and earned another kick for his trouble. "Ow!"
"Meanie," the girl sniffed, and her father laughed again.
"And Sakura, don't kick your brother."
"Okay …" she moped a little. "Do I really have to know multiplication tables to become an Artisan?"
"You should've learned these back when you were 11," Touya pointed out. "How'd you pass year 12 without them?"
Sakura just stuck out her tongue at him, and their father shook his head. "The house will feel so empty without you two here," he sighed, going back into the kitchen.
"Onii-chan doesn't have to take me to Artisan," Sakura pointed out amiably. "I could fly there!"
"Oi, oi," her brother growled. "How many times have we been over this? The Clow Cards—"
"Can only be controlled by a full Artisan," Sakura sighed. "I know …"
"Then stop suggesting things that aren't possible," Touya recommended, tapping her on the head. "No matter what, I'm taking you."
"The Cards don't listen to you at all," Sakura taunted after pouting a bit.
"Yeah? That's because Mom gave 'em to you!" Touya bopped her on the head more soundly this time, just to remind her who was the older one here. "They've been in the family for generations, so you'd better study hard, or they'll go to waste this time around, monster."
"I'm not a—"
"Ahahaha!" Their father laughed. "You two just won't stop, will you? Do I have to send you both to bed without dinner? It's ready, you know."
Older brother and little sister looked at each other for a moment, and they came to a silent truce. Moments later, both were at the table eating, and there was peace in the Kinomoto household – for a little while, anyway.
* * *
Pyoiyang Xin was not the most important man alive, perhaps, but he was a man of great importance. He was the executive CEO of one of the worldwide leading companies in the Escudo market, and as such, he had a great deal of influence in not only China, but around the world. It was a position hard-earned, and it showed on his weathered face and in his sharp gaze. The man was well-versed in the course of life.
Perhaps, then, it shouldn't have been so surprising that he seemed to barely be shaken by the news that his office building had been broken into, and the intruder had escaped with barely a trace. He refused to let the police barricade him out; rather, he came into the building and observed the proceedings silently.
"Killed by a blow to the temple," one coroner observed as pictures were repeatedly snapped of the security guard in the hall. "His nose was jammed up into his brain. The murderer must have killed this guy by hand."
"A skilled blow," Xin observed coolly, drawing the coroner's attention.
"Ah, yes, sir – expert, really. Very cleanly executed."
"Interesting." Xin strode past the coroner and moved on towards his office. Just inside the doorway was another body, but this one barely bled at all.
The coroner followed him, eager to assist any way that he could. "This man was killed by—"
"His neck is broken," Xin said curtly, and the coroner fell silent. "Any fool could see that."
"Yes, that's true," the coroner agreed, subdued.
"What were these wounds caused by?"
"Shuriken, sir. We've already taken them to the lab."
Xin's eyebrows shot up. "Really?" He bent down to examine the wounds. "Interesting …"
"And the bullet, too, sir – we're—"
"It seems the intruder was shot, once – there was a bullet with blood on it embedded in the window frame, sir. We've sent it to the lab."
"Hm." Xin nodded slightly, to himself, and stood. "Very interesting." He smiled slightly. "You've done well, young man. Now, please, hurry this investigation along. There is much to be done, and a large corporation such as this can't be held up because of one fool's actions."
"Of course, sir!" the coroner hurried off to the second body again.
But Xin, arms crossed, stayed where he was, and considered.
After all, a man like him wasn't without enemies.
Nor was he without allies.
Some investigations, he thought, are best conducted without police involvement.
* * *
If Xin was one of the most notable men in the world, Xiao Lang Li was almost totally unnoticeable. He lived, barely, with a guardian, who was never home – not that Xiao Lang was ever home, either. A delinquent child, the 15-year-old had been caught out after curfew and trespassing repeatedly and showed no interest in repenting. The best that could be said of him was that he attended school most of the time, and did well in class when he was there.
So on the night Xin's office was broken into, it was of no especial note that Xiao Lang dragged himself into the apartment at four o'clock in the morning, tossed most of his clothes in the trash and threw them in the burner, and threw up mightily before finally going to bed. It wasn't until the morning, when the sun shone in his eyes and some birds were singing, that he got up and properly dressed the narrow, dried wound on his ribcage. His guardian, Wei, had stopped asking about such wounds long ago. Xiao Lang never answered, anyway.
There were days, however, when the old businessman put forth a bit of effort towards the whole parenting routine. He just seemed to pick the worst days to do it.
"Xiao Lang! You have school today, don't think you can sleep through it! Your English teacher called last night and told me you haven't been in class for two days!"
Xiao Lang, who had just flopped back into bed, grunted. "Up."
Wei clicked his tongue – something he did only when irritated. "Such a stubborn boy! You knew your mother – didn't she teach you any manners?"
Xiao Lang ground his teeth, but didn't rise to the bait. "I threw up last night. I think I should stay home."
But Wei would have none of it. "And what did you throw up from? Drinking too much?"
If only you knew. "No, sir …" He sat up and rubbed his eyes. "I'm getting up."
"Good." Wei gave a wrinkled smile; it was hard to tell if he was genuinely pleased or faking it. "I'm late for work now. Don't let me hear about you getting in more trouble, boy. I've got enough as it is." And with that, he was gone.
Normally, after a night like his, Xiao Lang would have gone back to bed. However, today he had to go to school, and for a number of reasons outside of his academics. He took a cold shower, dressed in his uniform, palmed 400 Yuan(1) from Wei's safe (fair payback, he reasoned, for the crack about his mother), and hopped the city bus for a ride to the school.
Chinese schools being what they were – especially schools for those with no 'magical' talent – there wasn't much time for a social life, nor was there much tolerance for one. Xiao Lang barely had one, anyway – he wasn't in school often enough to establish himself. But he did have a few acquaintances …
"Oi, Xiao Lang." A relatively tall girl with her hair swept back into twin braids greeted him, managing to look bored. "You look sick."
"Thanks, Meiling." Xiao Lang rolled his eyes. "I was looking for you." He took her hand in his, slapping the 400 Yuan into her fingers. "Hey, I was at your place last night, right? I can't remember. The whole night is fuzzy."
Meiling's smile was crooked; she pocketed the money smoothly, the movement practiced. "You sure are a forgetful drunk, boy. You were at my place till what? Three-thirty? Four?"
"Sounds about right." Xiao Lang yawned. "Thanks for the verification. I get nervous sometimes."
"Like a snake." Meiling snorted. "You're in some deep shit, aren't you? Wait, why am I asking? You always are."
The boy made no answer. She was right enough, after all.
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(1)Yuan – Chinese currency. 8.1 Yuan = 1 US dollar.
Author's Notes: Xiao Lang is Syaoran in Chinese Romanization. I think it's more appropriate in this plotline to call him by his Chinese name. Feedback appreciated.