AN: Woo, new fic. Go me. Majorly different from my other stuff. I've never written anything like this before, so we'll see how it turns out. cross fingers Enjoy. I don't own CCS. I also don't own the title song of this fic which, as you probably guessed, is called "The New World." It's the title song for an off Broadway show called Songs for a New World, and is therefore owned by Jason Robert Brown.
This takes place after the Star/Sakura Card saga. Our heroes are about sixteen, seventeen-ish, at the beginning of this tale. Touya doesn't live at home anymore (duh!). Syaoran and Sakura are a couple, Eriol is still in Tomoeda. The whole Kaho thing with Eriol never happened—she's still alive, though, but she's abroad, not in Japan. Okay? Okay.
Chapter One—The Birth of a LegendShe clutched her wand and looked frantically around. It was night, but the park was illuminated by the moon and the stars. It was enough so that she could see without using a Card, like she had used GLOW at the festival that one night.
The only sounds she could hear were dry leaves crunching beneath her shoes, and her heart hammering in a frantic attempt to leap out of her chest. And the faint, almost inaudible cry of the wind.
King Penguin loomed above her. Normally just a large piece of playground equipment, with the moonlight behind him, he suddenly looked foreboding and terrifying. She was scared.
Where am I? Where is everyone? Syaoran-kun?
A twig snapped nearby, and she whirled to face it, tightening her grasp on her wand. She was holding onto it so tightly that her knuckles were white, and starting to hurt. But she couldn't loosen her grasp. She couldn't back down—not now. There was far too much at stake.
Her eyes darted back and forth, searching desperately for the source of the noise. Her tongue slid over dry lips, and tiny beads of perspiration began to dot her forehead. This was worse than anything she had ever been through. And she was all alone. So alone…
A yell pierced the air, and she spun again to face the direction it had come from. There was nothing, but the trees that lined the park. She could see nothing, but her instincts were screaming at her, telling her not to trust her eyes. Appearances could be deceiving, and everything she was seeing and feeling were leading her to believe that such was the case here. There was more than met the eye…
And she never went against her instincts. Since fully coming into her magic a mere year ago and learning to use it, she had become a force to be reckoned with. Her gut feelings, fine-tuned by her magic, were almost infalliable. Very rarely was she wrong when she had a premonition about something.
Right now, that sixth sense she had so carefully developed was telling her to run as far away from that awful place as she could get. Her mind was sending up flares of the old law of the animal kingdom, the fight or flight principle. And everything within her was telling her to choose flight.
But she couldn't leave! Not now!
She could sense it. Whatever it was that was so nearby was powerful, but hiding it. But what she was sensing sent chills running up and down her spine. It was terrible, so horribly evil. But where was it?
There was a rustling noise—it was the only warning she had. Then something heavy hit the ground immediately beside her. Instinctively, she ducked away, putting several feet of space between herself and the missile that had most likely been aimed at her. Brandishing her wand, she gripped a Card firmly between her thumb and forefinger. It was warm, and she could almost feel it moving, as though alive, and more than ready to leap to her command should she summon it.
She looked down at the object that had been so close to striking her. Before she could stop herself, wand and Card fell from her gloved fingers, and she clasped both hands over her mouth, barely stifling an ear-piercing scream of horror.
She stumbled back a few steps, finally tripping and landing hard on her back as she stared at it, shaking from head to toe. One hand clambored along the ground, feeling around, until it grasped the narrow handle of her wand. But her other hand stayed clamped firmly over her mouth to hold back further screams. Waves of nausea slammed against her, almost to the point that she felt ready to just pass out. Tears streamed unbidden from her eyes, rolling down her cheeks, soaking into her glove.
Her hand moved away from her mouth enough for her to stutter out something. But in the dream, though her lips moved, she heard nothing.
A white light erupted behind her, and she spun to face it. But it was too late, and the blinding brightness engulfed her. It burned her, swallowing her in white-blue flames. She couldn't breathe or move. All she could feel was the excruciating pain, licking at her as the fire did…and she was falling, falling, falling, as the sound of high-pitched cackling echoed in her ears…
With a single screamed word, Kinomoto Sakura sat up in bed.
She gasped desperately for air, trying with all her might to force much needed oxygen into her lungs. But even her body seemed to be against her. Cold, clammy sweat clung to her; she was drenched in it, yet she felt like she was burning up. Her hair was matted to the back of her neck. Her entire body was shaking like a leaf tossed in a gale.
She knew no one would come upstairs to see what the fuss was. Her father wasn't home—he was out on an important dig all week. And her onii-chan was gone; he had moved out a few years before, after finishing college. She missed him, of course, but at times like this, is was nice to not have to explain to anyone who may or may not understand.
Touya was usually pretty good about listening to his sister's occasional prophetic dreams, but sometimes he just didn't seem to understand what a burden it could be to know when something would happen, usually something awful. She had forseen an accident on an expedition that had landed her father in the hospital for two weeks—and people who didn't have that kind of power couldn't usually understand how sickening it was to have to sit by the phone and simply wait for a phone call that you already knew was coming, and knew what was going to be said.
A little groan came from her desk, and a second later, a little golden stuffed animal flew out of the bottom drawer and perched itself on top of her desk. "Hmm…" it rubbed sleepily at its eyes. "Sakura, what'sa matter? What time it is?"
She turned a little to glance over her shoulder at the clock. "It's about two-thirty in the morning,"
"What's wrong?" Keroberos, the mighty Beast of the Seal, asked with a yawn.
"I had a dream again, Kero-chan," she sighed.
"Again?" he said in disbelief.
"This one was different, though," Sakura pushed the blankets away and swung her legs over the side of the bed so that she was facing her Sun Guardian. "It wasn't like the ones I used to have, with Tokyo Tower or Tsukimine Shrine. This was worse."
"What was it about?"
Sakura's forehead creased in thought as she tried to remember what she had dreamt. "I was in the park. By King Penguin. It was night, and the moon was out, and lots of stars. I was alone, but there was something out there in the trees. I mean, I couldn't see anything, but I could feel it. It was so awful…and I kept wondering where Syaoran-kun was."
Kero rolled his eyes at the mention of the accursed "Chinese gaki" (even after all this time, he and the kid still had issues—though Li Syaoran really wasn't a kid anymore), but held his peace so that she could continue her story. But she stopped. An uneasy silence fell over the darkened bedroom.
Finally, the small magical beast's temper broke. "And?"
He was startled when she jumped at the sound of his voice. She looked at him and shook her head, confusion marring her delicate features. "I—I can't remember what happened. I think there was something wrong, but I didn't know what. I was scared…and something was happening." She frowned. "I can only remember what I felt, but not what actually happened."
"It's not like you to forget a dream like this," Kero commented as he folded his tiny arms over his chest. And it was the truth. Ever since she had come into her powers, Sakura's dreams of premonition had become more and more commonplace, and had foretold events ranging from pop quizzes at school to a recent gale that had caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to buildings and property. But she had rarely forgotten what such a dream had indicated.
"I don't know, Kero-chan," she shrugged. Immediately after waking up, she had been wide awake. Now, the more she tried to think about things, the more her mind demanded that she surrender all attempts at rational, logical thought, and allow herself to just drift back into the peaceful realm of slumber. "I'm just tired now. Maybe I'll remember tomorrow. Just go back to sleep." She pulled her legs back up onto the bed and shoved them under the covers; then she rolled over and pulled the blanket up to under her chin. "Goodnight, Kero-chan." And she said no more.
A few minutes later, her breathing had evened and deepened. The little magical creature had long since picked up on such things as sure signs that his Mistress was asleep.
But rather than do as she said and return to the drawer that was his equivalent of a bedroom, he flapped his wings a little, moved across the room, and lighted on the pillow, careful so as not to wake her up again. Although he was sure that she wouldn't stir, better to be cautious and not risk it.
He watched her sleep for a moment, as he had done so many times before in the past when something was troubling her. By all accounts, not remembering a dream that had made her wake up screaming should have had her at the very least concerned. But she seemed to be content; her expression as she slept was peaceful, and she showed no signs of being disturbed in any way. It really hadn't bothered her that she couldn't remember a dream.
Kero worried. He wasn't a worrier by nature, but he had a tendency to worry about Sakura a lot. From the time they had met, after she had opened the Book of the Clow and unwittingly dispersed the Cards, through everything up until now, he had always worried about her. Her health, her grades, her spirits, her heart, her happiness, and, on a few rare occasions, her sanity.
And right now, Kero was worried, though he wasn't exactly sure why.
It might have been the dream that she couldn't remember. But it might not have been.
The sound of the alarm rather rudely dragged Sakura from a particularly pleasant sleep. She hadn't been dreaming, that was for sure. When she dreamed often during the night, she never woke up feeling rested. But now, though she didn't want to wake up, as she stretched and rubbed her eyes, she realized she felt great, in spite of that dream.
That dream. She was a little amused to realize that she thought of it as such. That dream.
The dream she knew she had had, but couldn't remember to save her life. All she could remember was that she had been in the park, and frightened. Very frightened.
But fretting and dwelling over it wasn't going to make her remember anything. Best to not think about it right now, and focus on more important things. Like getting to school on time.
Shrugging the blankets away, she scampered out of bed and across the room to her closet, where her school uniforms were. Sometimes it was still strange to think that she was already in high school. The uniform was the same one her brother had worn when he went to Seijuu High, only the feminine version.
Sakura ran a brush through her hair, and scampered downstairs to put some breakfast together for herself and Kero. As the door closed behind her, the bottom drawer of her desk slid open, and a small animal popped its head out.
"Geez, you're too energetic this morning," he muttered, rubbing at his eyes. "Weren't we going to talk about that dream?" Then he realized that she wasn't there. "Oi, Sakura!" He flew out of the drawer, pushed down on the doorknob to open the door, and zipped down the stairs into the kitchen, where his Mistress was humming to herself as she mixed some pancake batter.
"Ohayo, Kero-chan," she beamed at him with her usual good nature. It was one of those things she had never lost—Sakura had retained her ever cheerful demeanor. And Kero was grateful for it. She was much easier to deal with when she was happy.
"Sakura, remember? We were going to talk about that dream you can't remember?" the Beast of the Seal landed on the counter by her elbow and looked up at her inquisitively.
"What's to talk about? I told you what I remember," she shrugged, pouring batter into the pan. It bubbled and made a strangely pleasant hissing noise as it sizzled a bit. "What can we discuss about it if I can't remember it?"
"It's just not like you to not remember dreams," Kero pointed out.
"I know, I know, and I know I should be worried," she said calmly. "But for some reason, I'm not. Who knows, maybe I'll remember something else as the day goes on." She looked down at the browning batter in the skillet. "I'll ask Syaoran-kun and Eriol-kun if they picked up anything strange. Maybe they'll know something. So don't worry so much." She smiled. "I think I was the only one in the dream, though. I don't think anyone from my family was there."
She flipped the pancakes. "Do you want some?"
With a sigh of defeat, Kero nodded. Sometimes teenagers were just impossible, even Sakura.
"Ohayo, Tomoyo-chan!" Sakura said cheerfully, all but bouncing into the classroom.
"Ohayo, Sakura-chan!" Tomoyo replied, waving at her best friend as she entered the room.
"Are Syaoran-kun and Eriol-kun here yet?" Sakura asked, dropping her backpack down beside her chair. "I need to ask them something."
"I haven't seen them, but that doesn't mean they're not here," Tomoyo replied, absently twisting a strand of long, dark hair around her finger. "What do you need to ask them?"
"I had a dream last night, but I can't remember it," the auburn-haired young woman shrugged and fished a pencil from her bag. "I just want to see if either of them picked anything up. That's all."
"It's not like you to forget your dreams," Tomoyo said in an echo of Kero's opinion from earlier. "But I'm sure if something happened, those two will be able to help."
As if on cue, a tall young man strolled in. Predicatably, he was holding a rather large book in front of his face, obscuring it. But that was normal.
Sakura giggled. "Eriol-kun, do you ever stop reading?"
He lowered the book enough that he could peer over the top of it at her. His eyes danced behind his glasses. "Why? Is there something better going on?"
"I need to ask you a question. It's kind of important, I think."
Immediately, he closed the book and dropped into the desk behind Tomoyo—which, ironically enough, was his true seat. He set the volume—which was extremely thick, to Sakura's mind—down on the top of his desk and then focused his full attention on her. "What's wrong?"
"I had a dream last night," she began. "And I don't remember much of it. Not enough to be able to tell what's going to happen, anyway. And before you ask, yes, I'm sure it was one of those dreams. Did you sense anything? Anything at all?"
He tapped his chin thoughtfully with one finger as he thought back; slowly, he shook his head. "I don't remember anything. But that doesn't mean it wasn't there. I mean, we're only human." His forehead creased as he pondered it. "Well, now you've got me curious." He shrugged. "I don't think anything happened. But if something comes up, you'll be the first to know." He picked up the book and opened it, then paused. "But it's really not like you to forget dreams."
"Would everyone stop saying that? First Kero-chan, then Tomoyo-chan, now you," Sakura threw her hands up in mock annoyance. "If Syaoran-kun says it, I might have to strangle him." She made a fairly decent attempt to look menacing, earning a laugh from her friends.
The door slid open, and another young man entered. "Ohayo," he said automatically as he dropped his bag on his desk and dropped into his seat. He ran a hand through his shock of brown hair and sighed. It was then that he realized everyone's eyes were on him. He glanced around, suddenly looking very much like a deer caught in a car's headlights. "Nani?"
"Ohayo, Syaoran-kun," Sakura chirped. "Did you sense anything strange last night?"
"Why?" he asked.
"I had a dream, one of those dreams," she emphaszed the word 'those,' as she had before with Eriol to make certain he knew what she was talking about, while at the same time preventing others from being able to know what she meant.
He immediately looked concerned. "What was it about?"
"I was in the park, it was night, and I was scared," Sakura said shortly. "That's all I can remember about it. So I wanted to know if you knew of anything."
One brown eyebrow arched. "It's not like you to forget your dreams."
With a little growl of feigned anger, she threw a ball of wadded-up notebook paper at him; it bounced off his forehead. Eriol and Tomoyo laughed, while Syaoran looked genuinely confused. Had he done something wrong?
The teacher came in then, and all conversation came to a screeching halt as class began. But as Eriol turned his attention towards the instructor at the front of the room, a presence brushed his mind.
:There was something.:
He managed to keep from jumping outright, but instead replied, :What happened: Out of the corner of his eye, he shot a glance at the mental speaker.
Li Syaoran met his sideways glance carefully. :I'm not sure.:
:What do you mean:
eyes drifted forward, not betraying the mental conversation that was flying
through the air by means of a magical connection. His expression was neutral,
and the voice that floated into Eriol's mind was equally flat, deceptively
calm. :I can't
remember my dream either.:
Eriol stared straight ahead. Everything about him gave the impression that he was an attentive student, engrossed in the teacher's lecture, carefully logging every nuance of information away to be gone back over later. But this was merely an illusion. He had long since mastered the art of not paying attention while making it look like he was. It really wasn't that hard.
This was a history lecture, something Eriol could have quite easily done without. After all, he had actually lived through many of the events covered in these classes—in his past life, of course. Although some days it was amusing to listen to the lecture or read the text and see what they had gotten right and which parts had been butchered, today was not one of those days.
Sakura's story had been troubling enough, but Syaoran's had compounded it. Whereas Sakura dreamed fairly often and rarely forgot what she dreamt, Syaoran's foretelling dreams were much rarer, and he never forgot them. Ever.
Every once in a while, he shot a sideways glance at Syaoran and Sakura. The latter was studiously taking notes on the teacher's lecture. Though Syaoran looked as though he was paying attention to what was being said in the lecture, someone who knew him well could read quite plainly that the young man was troubled, and had far more on his mind than a review of some history book.
Why wouldn't they be able to remember? The both of them, no less? And yet he had experienced nothing, sensed nothing. Something was wrong here.
Ever since returning to Japan, Eriol had settled into the routine of a calm, normal life. Rarely were there opportunities or necessities for magic, and it was quite nice that way. Oh, there were the occasional pranks on Li that required him to make strange things magically appear, but even his practical jokes had toned down a bit. It was nice for the reincarnation of Clow Reed to be able to live his own life.
Yet now it looked like the peace they had enjoyed for the past several years may be in jeopardy. And somehow, Sakura and Syaoran were involved; they were definitely going to be important to whatever was to come. He was sure of that. It was everything else that was uncertain.
Lunchtime could not possibly have come soon enough. A time of freedom, to sit, eat, and talk with friends, with no teachers peering over one's shoulder in the middle of an important conversation.
Eriol had joined the rest of his classmates in the rush out of the classroom. But on his way out, he managed to catch Syaoran's eye. The latter nodded, signalling that a meeting had been set up without a single word being spoken between the parties involved. And he had no doubt that the message would be passed along to those who needed to know.
And just as he had expected, within a few minutes he was sitting with Sakura and Tomoyo as well as Syaoran; they were shaded beneath the boughs of their favorite tree, their usual spot.
Tomoyo and Sakura were their usually talkative, cheerful selves; it was quite evident that Sakura was giving no further thought to her mysterious dream. Syaoran, on the other hand, seemed fairly tense, obviously waiting for Eriol to say something and let the axe fall.
And Eriol was not one to disappoint.
"Syaoran-kun, I would like to ask something that's been bothering me all day," Eriol began conversationally. After all this time, the four of them were all on a first name basis. He sounded like he was speaking of the weather or some such mundane topic.
"Nani?" Li's tone was equally calm, although his posture tensed up a bit more.
"Would you please explain what you meant when you said that you couldn't remember your dream either?" Eriol asked. Having thrown it out into the open for everyone to hear, he could now sit back and enjoy the fireworks a bit.
"Nani?" Sakura yelped in surprise. She gave her boyfriend a confused look. "Syaoran-kun, you had a dream too? Why didn't you tell me? I even asked!"
"Like he said, I can't remember most of it," Syaoran shot a murderous glance Eriol's way as he replied. "But it's didn't really bother me until after you said you'd forgotten yours."
"It's not like you to forget your dreams, Syaoran," Sakura said, half teasing for everyone's earlier comments about her own nighttime visions. "But what do you remember?"
He set down his Bento box and crossed his arms; his brow knitted in thought as he tried to remember everything he could about the mysterious dream. "It was night, and I was outside. You know the trees around the park? I think that's where I was, but I'm not sure."
Sakura felt her blood run cold. This sounded vaguely familiar.
"I couldn't see anyone around me, but there was someone out there. Hiding," he was speaking slowly, as he dredged up every last detail he could from his memory. "And it wasn't anything little, either. This thing was powerful, and evil. I think I was even starting to get a little scared." He paused to think, and after a moment, he finally sighed. "That's all I can remember."
Tomoyo looked pretty concerned.
Eriol looked somewhat skeptical.
Sakura looked downright frightened.
Li picked up his chopsticks. "So, what do you think?" he asked, popping some rice into his mouth.
"I'm really not sure," Eriol shook his head. "Sakura-san, what was your dream." But when he looked over at the young Card Mistress, he was startled to see that she had gone nearly white. Her hands were clenched into fists in her lap. "Sakura-san?"
"It was the same, except I was by King Penguin," she said shortly, not lifting her eyes. Suddenly, nobody wanted to talk much. The conversation pretty much died; from that point on, lunch was a silent affair as everyone privately pondered what it could all mean.
With a sigh, Sakura let herself fall backwards onto her bed. She was relieved; another day was over, and she was free for the night. Sleep sounded inviting. For some reason, she was exhausted.
Okay, maybe sleep wasn't really an option. Kero was here, after all.
"Nani?" she murmured, rolling over onto her side. She really wasn't in the mood to deal with him full force, so she opted for letting him yell at and lecture her back, rather than her face.
"Did you figure anything out about that dream?" the Guardian Beast demanded. There was a small amount of pressure as he lighted on the pillow next to her head.
She closed her eyes. She had known he would bring that up, no matter how much she didn't want him to. "Not mine. But I found out Syaoran-kun had a dream too."
"Oh? What was his about?"
"He can't remember either most of it either. But what he could remember was almost exactly the same as what I could remember from mine."
Surprisingly, there was silence. Sakura could almost feel Kero's surprise.
Finally, he spoke. "Sakura…I don't think you realize how not good this really is," he was speaking softly, which made her realize that he meant it. He was being serious, and that happening tended to signify a big problem on the horizon.
Now curious, she sat up and looked at him. "What do you mean?"
"If it was just you, I might be able to accept it," Kero explained; his eyes were closed, and there was no sign of his usual energy. "But the gaki doesn't forget. He doesn't dream often, but he doesn't forget. And the same dream, remembering the same parts? No, Sakura, this isn't normal. And it's not good."
"But what does it mean?" she persisted.
"I don't know."
The conversation was interrupted when Sakura's cell phone rang. She was beyond grateful for the interruption, and immediately jumped up to answer the call. "Hai?" She listened for a minute. "What do you mean, I don't—" She stopped. "I understand. Are you sure?" Another pause. Kero strained his ears, but he couldn't hear anything from the other end of the line. Suddenly, she burst out, "You can't!" Silence again. "Okay. But don't go alone. I'll be there in five minutes." She pushed the button to turn the phone off, breaking the connection.
Kero waited expectantly for some sort of explanation, but none came. Instead, his teenaged Mistress began running around, grabbing an assortment of things: her jacket, first, into the pockets of which she shoved her phone, her house keys, and the book in which lived the Sakura Cards.
"Sakura, what's going on?" Kero asked, but he was ignored as she ran around.
Finally, she threw her Star Key out in front of her, and the magical circle flared on the ground around her as the key began to glow.
Key which hides the power of the stars
Show your true form before me
I, Sakura, command you under our contract
In a flash, the key stretched itself out into the wand, and landed neatly in her outstretched hand. Her mission apparently accomplished, she ran out of the room, nearly knocking the door from its hinges by the force of her passing.
"Sakura!" Kero zoomed after her, catching her just as she was halfway out the door. He managed to dive in front of her, stopping her momentum. "Oi, what's going on?"
"That was Syaoran-kun on the phone," Sakura explained hurriedly, as though she didn't seem to think there was time for explanations. "There's something going on. If you want to help, go get Yue-san and meet me at the park, okay?"
With that, she ran past him; he literally bounced off her shoulder. Kero watched his Master take off at top speed down the street.
"At the park?" he repeated softly. Wasn't that where the dreams had happened? Suddenly, Kerberos had a very bad feeling about what was going to happen. All he could do was hurry.
It was a clear night, complete with an enormous moon and billions of stars. By that simple, natural illumination, Li Syaoran could clearly see around the park. It was the same as always—the playground equipment stood tall and proud, in stark contrast to the slightly waving trees that encircled the park.
His eyes shifted back and forth with a hawk's glare. One was not a Li without learning the ability to see things that the average person would miss, and being able to use that knowledge. Furthermore, their senses were trained to the highest possible use. Almost nothing could escape the scrutiny of a Li.
And right now, Syaoran's senses were screaming. Every fiber, every nerve was alive with tension. There was something out there, lurking, waiting, watching. Waiting for him. Watching him. And whoever or whatever it was had shields up. They had magic, and they were trying to hide it. But the shields themselves were borne of magic, and they made the air tingle with a feeling that was almost electric.
A twig snapped, and he jumped back, spinning to face the direction the sound had come from. It was closer than he had thought. And he saw something—something silver disappearing into the trees.
Without really thinking of any except finding out what was going on, Syaoran began to run. He gave chase, dashing through the trees into the small forested area that surrounded the park. But whatever he was chasing was faster than he had thought, and he soon lost it. He couldn't even find a trail.
Syaoran slowed to a walk, then came to a stop. He was standing below an opening in the treetops, a spot where the moon shone through to the ground, bright as day. It was like standing in a spotlight.
Somehow, that wasn't a very comforting thought right now.
His hands tightened around the handle of his sword. Something was out there, and he wasn't going to let it get away again. If he could only find it. But he didn't want to make himself an easy target, like he probably was right now, standing in the circle of moonglow.
He was a Li. They were taught to be fearless. But no one at that moment, in that situation, could have possibly been completely unafraid. Every tiny little sound seemed to be amplified a million times over as it reached his ears; he jumped at everything, something he normally wouldn't do. One hand fumbled for a moment before his fingers finally closed around an ofuda. He had never before wanted to just turn tail and run as much as he did at that moment.
And this all felt strangely familiar. Like he had gone through this before. But how? He didn't generally spend a lot of time in the forest around the park. The swings were still one of his and Sakura's favorite talking places, but otherwise, they really didn't frequent even the park itself much anymore. So why in the name of Clow Reed would this seem—
Syaoran's blood froze. This had been his dream.
He took one unconscious step backwards. There was no way he could handle this on his own. Sakura had to be here by now. Together, they could easily wipe this thing out. It was okay. He just had to get back to the playground, and it would all be fine. Strange, though…he couldn't sense anything at all. Normally, he could just sense Sakura or the plushie without even thinking about it. Now they were nowhere to be found. It was almost like there was a shield thrown up between them, or something…
That thought fled his mind as he heard a rustle behind him. And the air prickled with suppressed power. His eyes widened as the magic was suddenly let loose, at what he guessed to be nearly full strength. And it was close—too close.
Li Syaoran spun around—and barely had time to scream.
Kinomoto Sakura skidded into the park, Star Wand in hand. Syaoran had said that he would meet her there, and they would see what was up. But to her surprise, she didn't see him anywhere. Normally, this wouldn't bother her a whole lot, but right now, it was night, and Kero's warnings about the strange dreams were still fresh and clear in her mind.
But then reason decided to come back from its lunch break and go back to work. Syaoran was trained and disciplined, but he did have an occasional tendency to be a bit impulsive. Chances were that he'd gone off on some tangent somewhere, maybe trying to chase something down. He would most likely be back soon, she would chastise him gently, and they would get down to business.
So everything really was okay, but the more she looked around, the more difficulty she had in believing that. King Penguin loomed nearby. Usually a simple piece of playground equipment, at that moment he looked menacing, foreboding. She shivered inwardly, but quickly steeled herself. She wasn't a kid anymore, and she was the Card Master. Why should she be scared of a slide?
But so many things had happened in this park. From capturing Clow Cards to the strange situations that had led her to change the Clow Cards into Sakura Cards, Penguin Park had been the site of many a magical occurrence. That slide had seen more than most normal people.
A breeze brushed past her, scooping up a few dry leaves from the ground and making them dance as they floated by. And suddenly, the air leapt to life. It tingled with restrained magic. Someone nearby had extreme power, and it wasn't an aura she recognized. She glanced all around her, searching frantically for any sign of life or movement.
A rustle in the trees caught her eye, and she spun in time to see something vanish into the foliage. She didn't get a very good look at it, but she thought it was silver. She waited, but saw nothing else.
And it dawned on her that she couldn't sense any presences. Not Syaoran's, not Kero's, not Yue's, not even Eriol's, and his was pretty hard to miss, now that he wasn't hiding it all the time. Why couldn't she find any of her friends? What was going on here?
She was more and more beginning to doubt her plan to come here alone. She had expected Syaoran to be there, but she should have thought things through a little better, something she had never been very good at doing. Maybe she should have brought Kero with her…Yue probably would have sensed what was happening and come on his own. Or maybe she should have called Eriol before she left. He could have gotten there in record time… Actually, that was something she still could do. She had stuffed her phone into her pocket, just in case.
She pulled the small pink cell out and dialed a number she had long ago memorized. Slowly, she pressed the phone to her ear and listened as it rang. Once…twice…three times.
Finally, someone picked up the other end of the line. "Hai?"
Sakura almost had to smile. "Nakuru-san, is—"
The Card Mistress held the phone a few inches away from her ear to save her eardrums from being ruptured. She sometimes forgot just how loud Akizuki Nakuru could be when she got excited. Gingerly, she eased the phone back against the side of her head and spoke into it again. "Nakuru-san, is Eriol-kun there? Please, it's important."
"Awww…" the cherry-eyed Moon Guardian sighed in disappointment. "Yeah, he's here. Hang on, I'll see if I can drag him out of the library. I think he said he was reading a new book about medieval torture. Something about needing new ideas to use on your little boytoy or something like that." Sakura made a mental note to smack Eriol. There was a sound, like a door opening. "Hang on."
There was the sound of conversation—Nakuru high pitched bubbling, Eriol's slightly calmer tone, and finally, he came on over the line. "Sakura-san?"
She could have screamed with relief. "Eriol-kun, I don't have much time," she dropped her voice to a whisper, glancing nervously around. The air was getting heavier, and the feeling of wrongness was growing. "Come to Penguin Park. Now. As in put the book down, put being evil on hold for a little while, and run. I need help."
"What's wrong?" he sounded concerned. She could hear noises in the background; it sounded like he was running already.
"I'm not sure. But there's something here. Just hurry."
"I'll be there in five minutes or less, or the next one's free," he joked, but his voice was serious.
A push of a button ended the connection. She pocketed the phone and heaved a sigh of relief. Help was on the way. All she had to do was wait for Eriol to get here, and Syaoran to come back—
She paused halfway through that thought. Where was Syaoran, anyway? She'd been here for a decent amount of time, long enough for him to have come back a dozen times. What if something was wrong? What if something had happened to him? What if—
A yell pierced the night air, making her jump in midthought. At the same instant, the magic that had been prickling in the air suddenly peaked, as though someone had let loose their power, and then it vanished again, as though once again dampened.
She spun to face the direction from which the sound had heralded, but she saw nothing. There were no further sounds; the cry had only trumpeted for a couple of seconds before being cut off, and the sound had almost instantly faded into the night, leaving only the silence of the grave.
Sakura gripped her wand so tightly that her knuckles began to ache. What had she seen? Where was the magic coming from? And where was Syaoran? She didn't like being alone, not in this kind of situation. And why did this feel so strangely familiar…it was like déjà vu, she had experienced this somewhere before…but where…
Realization hit, and she gasped. Just like the dream…what I remember of it.
She couldn't remember exactly what was to happen, but she knew that it was nothing good. And the more she thought about it, trying desperately to recall what would become of this, the more sick she felt. Whatever would happen tonight, it wasn't good.
There was a was a sound nearby—the rustling of tree branches and bushes as something moved amidst them. Then something flew through the air, flying right at her. It was moving fast, fast enough that she had to literally jump back out of the way. It missed her by a scant few inches, landing with a loud crunching sound on the ground beside her.
She instinctively grabbed a Card and held both it and her Star Wand out in front of her, ready to defend herself against anything that might decide to attack her. Her eyes landed on the thing that had nearly crushed her, the missile launched from the nearby bushes.
For a minute, it didn't register what it was. But finally, her eyes were able to discern the crumpled mass. Her brain didn't seem to want to work at first. But realization came in a flash as she noticed an object on the ground beside the heap. A familiar object.
She dropped both Card and Wand; the latter clattered against the pavement as it struck the ground. Her hands flew to her mouth, barely getting there in time to stifle the heartwrenching shriek that tore out of her mouth. She stumbled backwards in a panic, but she tripped and ended up falling flat on her back; still she dug her heels into the ground and pushed, in a frantic effort to put more distance between herself and the heap on the ground before her.
Her hand flailed, feeling desperately along the ground for her Wand. She kept her other hand clapsed tightly over her mouth to prevent much more sound from escaping. But her voice had become almost incapable of producing anymore noise. Finally, her hand bumped into something, and she quickly grabbed it, feeling the narrow pole of her Star Wand against her palm.
But her eyes remained glued to the horrible sight before her. Her hand dropped away from her mouth a few inches, enough for her to stammer a single audible word.
"S-Syaoran-kun…" Her voice cracked on the last syllable as the first sob broke through.
It was. Li Syaoran, in his traditional robes, sprawled in an untidy mess on the concrete; his sword was on the ground beside him. The blade was spotless, and it looked like he really hadn't had a chance to use it. Sakura ran to his side and rolled him over onto his back. He was covered in blood, most likely his own; a thin trickle of blood was running from one corner of his mouth down his chin. His eyes were half open, and staring blankly towards the sky.
Waves of nausea slammed against her; she felt sick to her stomach. The sobs came harder now, uncontrollable. She pulled him close, heedless of the blood, and cried and cried. Her heart wasn't broken—it was annihilated, smashed into a billion miniscule pieces that no amount of time or healing would ever be able to pull back together. Her partner, her friend, and her love—gone. Stolen away from her by something that she didn't have a name or face for.
It was reaching far beyond the unfair. Was this punishment for something? Had she done something so terribly wrong that she was condemned to this? She really didn't know. All she could really do was let her heartbreak and grief pour out in a seemingly endless flood of bitter tears.
But finally she lowered the lifeless body to the ground, taking great pains to lay him out carefully, with the dignity he had always been so careful to safeguard while he had been alive. She took one more look at his face, feeling her shattered heart attempt to keep beating, and then raised one hand and gently lowered his eyelids over the unseeing eyes.
Still crying, she rose to her feet and looked around through watery eyes. Where had the bastards gone? She knew they were still nearby, but where were they hiding? And why was this situation so horribly, terribly familiar to her?
Suddenly, she remembered. It hit her in a flash, like lightning. Why she remembered it then, she didn't know, but it didn't matter. She knew. She knew.
This had been the rest of her dream. Down to almost every detail.
Too late to do anything.
A white light erupted behind her; she whirled, already knowing what was coming.
This had been her dream, her vision, her foretelling. She had foreseen her own death. And now here she was to face it. Alone.
The light shot towards her. There was no time to run or to defend herself. Even if she tried, she doubted it would do any good. She knew what would come of this.
She was engulfed by the blinding whiteness in a heartbeat. But there was something that hadn't happened in the dream—pain. There had been pain in the dream, but nowhere near this level. This was mortal agony. The light was flames, a white-blue blaze, swallowing her whole. It seemed to meld with her flesh, melting into her, like a wild animal devouring her alive. Even the air in her lungs burst into that white-hot fire. Time stretched out as her perception of it was skewed. A second ran into a century; they were one and the same, and the pain seemed neverending.
Sakura heard an unearthly sound then. A terrible, high pitched sound, like the last screech of a fallen angel. After hearing it for a moment, though, she came to a frightening revelation: the shriek was being torn from her own throat. It was her voice, letting loose that unholy scream.
And a voice broke into her mind, through the haze. :Farewell, Card Master.:
She didn't have time to respond; she barely even had time to process the implications of those three words, forced into her mind. The light vanished; the fire went away. But the pain remained.
Kinomoto Sakura fell, ending up in a heap on the cement. She could feel herself bleeding.
Crumpled on the ground, she pushed herself onto her back; even that small amount of movement cost her so much pain. But she could see the retreating backs of their attackers. She could barely make them out, though, through the red haze that had clouded her vision. She couldn't even give any description of the figures she saw leaving. A part of her was surprised that they had left, but another part didn't seem bothered. Their mission was undoubtedly accomplished. Why bother hanging around?
She could hear other footsteps as well, but these were thundering towards her, not away. But the people causing those footsteps were out of her range of sight. She didn't know who it was.
Four different voices called her name. She recognized each of them, and her heart dropped a little more with each voice.
Kerberos—in his full form, judging from the depth of the voice.
They were all here. And this was how they found her—a bloody heap, huddled on the ground, unable to move without pain like liquid lightning searing through her.
She hissed in pain as someone gathered her up and pulled her tight against them. She forced her eyes open, and saw her brother's face, looking down at her. His coffee-brown eyes were frantic with worry and fear. Beside him, Kero-chan, with a similar look of panic. Tomoyo, crying. And Yue, who actually looked frightened. She had never seen her somber Moon Guardian like that…
"Onii-chan…Kero-chan," she said each of their names in a voice hoarse from crying and screaming; the words felt strange, like they were being physically forced from her throat. Speech was difficult. "…Tomoyo-chan…Yue-san…"
"We're here, we're here," Touya shushed her; his voice cracked.
"They—they killed Syaoran-kun," Sakura felt another sob rising, but she didn't have the energy to let it out. She was tired, so very tired.
Tomoyo let out a little cry. Without thinking, she fell to her knees and slid one arm under the lifeless shoulders, pulling the unmoving form closer. She just had to look at him to know it was true. He was gone. One of her best friends was already gone. And the other…
The other was dying.
"Sakura, what happened?" Kero demanded. "Who did this?"
"Not…sure…" she gasped. "I didn't…see anything, and…I'm tired." She closed her eyes; it was so much easier than trying to keep them open. "I'm really tired…sleep…"
"NO!" Yue's voice yelled at her. She felt someone take her hand, and she lifted her eyelids just enough to see who it was. It was, indeed, her Moon Guardian, his usually expressionless face twisted into a rictus of worry and fear. He was holding one of her hands tightly, as though maybe by holding on tightly enough he could keep her there.
Her eyes fell shut. "But…I'm tired…Yue-san…I'm really tired…I'll just sleep for a little…while, that's all…I promise…just…a little…"
"No, no, no," Yue insisted; she could feel his hand shaking. Nearby, Tomoyo was sobbing.
Something warm and damp fell onto her cheek. She forced her eyes to open, and saw that it was from her brother. Touya was crying. Sakura had never seen her onii-chan cry. Her brother was too tough to cry. Yet here he was, sobbing into her hair, holding her as tightly as he could. And she didn't even feel the pain anymore. She was almost entirely numb.
"Onii-chan," she started, but suddenly, her tongue took on a life of its own. She didn't control the words that came out of her mouth. "This isn't goodbye forever."
Those gathered around her stared at her.
"Things will be difficult for a while, but you have to be strong. It won't last forever. This is goodbye, but only for a while," Sakura intoned as her vision waivered. She could see a light floating above her. It was so beautiful, so very beautiful.
"What do you mean?" Yue demanded; his voice actually cracked. He had lost one Master, one he loved, and now he was about to lose another, one he had come to love. It was almost too much to deal with for the Moon Guardian…
Sakura's eyes took on a peculiar shimmer to them—a distant look. "Ten years."
Kerberos was frantic. "Ten years? Ten years what?"
"Ten years," she repeated calmly; she couldn't say anything else. "Ten years. Ten years." That was all she said, growing softer with each repetition, until finally her lips moved, but no sound came out. Her eyes fluttered closed. The hand Yue held clenched into a fist, then relaxed, and fell limp in his grasp. Her chest rose; the breath held, and she shuddered as she let it out. There was no further movement.
Touya gave his sister a shake, sobbing, crying her name, but it was to no avail.
Kinomoto Sakura was dead.
A few yards away, Tomoyo was cradling the body of Li Syaoran. They had both been taken, her two best friends. She held the unmoving form close and cried.
Footsteps came thudding closer. No one looked up as three figures came sliding to a halt beside the group of mourners. One normal-looking person, a second, taller person with butterfly wings, and a third creature that looked remarkably like an enormous black panther, also with wings sprouting from its back.
Eriol had opened his mouth to say something, most likely something containing a large number of curses, but the words died on his tongue at the sight before him.
Li Syaoran. His traditional robes blood-soaked, his head hanging at an extremely unnatural angle, and a thin trail of blood running from one corner of his mouth. His eyes were closed, and Tomoyo was cradling his head, sobbing as though her heart was broken.
And Sakura. Equally blood drenched. Sprawled lifelessly in her older brother's arms. Touya was crying. Kerberos was crying. Yue's back was turned, his hands clenched into fists at his sides; it was doubtful that he was crying, but everything about his posture suggested misery.
"What…happened?" Eriol said in a strangled voice.
"We don't know," Yue was the one who answered, surprisingly enough. His voice was strained in a way strongly reminiscient of the day Clow had died. He was still kneeling on the ground, one of Sakura's lifeless hands still held in his own. "We got here, and they were both…like that."
Kerberos took over; he more than anyone sensed that Yue was actually reaching a breaking point. "Sakura was still alive, but the ga—Li was already dead."
Ruby Moon started to cry, and Spinel hung his head.
"So…no one knows what killed them?" Eriol asked. He suddenly felt very faint.
Kero shook his head mutely.
"She said something before she died," Tomoyo hiccuped suddenly. "Sakura-chan, I mean. But it was strange. It didn't make sense."
"What did she say?" Eriol demanded. For the first time in all the time that anyone there had known him, he looked…well, lost. Confused. As though he really didn't know what to do next. And chances were that he really didn't.
"Ten years…" Touya murmured, holding his sister closer.
It would be the last time he would ever do so.
AN: Candyland looks around eagerly Well, what did you all think? Good so far, bad so far? What, what? Tell me, I want to know! And remember, this is only the FIRST chapter. That means that there's a lot more to this story then just what happened. So don't kill the author just yet!
Well, I think it only fair to tell y'all that this is more of a teaser than anything else. I'm up to my elbows in my other fics, and I don't like to have more than one major fic going at the same time. Yet right now, I've got three. So…yeah. Let me know what you think of my first chapter, pretty please, and maybe, just maybe, I'll update again within a reasonable amount of time.
Actually, before I make that kind of promise, I think we might need to iron out a clear cut definition of 'reasonable.' I spent over two weeks on this chapter alone. Then again, I hadn't expected it to end up being anywhere near this long! Whew! Also, let's consider something: I go nuts if I don't update for too long.
I have a vague outline of what will happen in the coming chapters. Yes, I tend to outline my fics. Otherwise I completely lose track of what's supposed to happen or what needs to happen, and then I go crazy…er... But I still take suggestions, thoughts, ideas, and constructive criticisms. Anonymous flames will be used to keep warm, as I live in Iowa, and we're due for a blizzard this weekend.
Wow, this was a long, rambling author's note. Is anyone still reading this thing? If you are, congratulations! You win the fabulous prize—I'll email it to you as soon as I figure out what the fabulous prize is, though. It might take a while…
Until next time, wuvs! Ja ne!