AN: …hello:poke poke: Anybody still out there? Wow, I don't think I've EVER gone this long without updating a story. Wow…I'm ashamed of myself. Actually, I do have an excuse—the outline of this story was lost due to a severe computer crash. And I pouted. But I re-outlined it this summer, reworked some of it, and now I'm determined to see it through to the end. So I'm going to get back to work on this story.
Again, I'm working towards longer chapters (this is not a good example sweatdrop), and school is starting up again, so my time is going to become very valuable very shortly. I'll still update whenever I have time. Ideally, maybe once a month for this story? Is that acceptable? I hope so.
Anyhoo, if anybody's still reading, I apologize heartily for the delays. So let's go! I don't own Cardcaptor Sakura or the title song. They belong to CLAMP and Jason Robert Brown, respectively. Yay rah.
Chapter Four—The Other Side of the Coin
The twilight made Kita uneasy. It always had.
Twilight was that uncertain time, that gray area. It was not light, nor was it dark. It was in between, the bridge that connected the day and the night. So uncertain.
There was another reason this time of evening made her so nervous. Twilight was when the Guards would begin their rounds. The Slayers imposed a strict regiment and schedule on those they now controlled, and their mage-bound Guards walked the streets every night. And woe to the person who was caught outside on the street after hours.
The Guard was cruel. Few of them were even human. Most were creations, the results of years of work and blood-path sorcery. They felt no emotion, and they heeded no pleas for mercy. Ruthless, heartless, with a taste for blood, and almost no control. It was best to simply stay out of sight.
Every night, this was the time when her adoptive mother would pull her and her two older brothers back from the windows and close the curtains. They dimmed the lights and retreated to interior rooms of their home to wait out the night. Out of sight, hopefully out of mind. They were never allowed outside after night. Truthfully, Kita didn't even know what the moon looked like. She had only heard of it. It was like a story, a fable told to small children, that there was a bright circle of light in the sky at night.
And stars—according to the stories, there were thousands, millions, maybe even billions of tiny dots of light that appeared in the night sky. They were supposed to be beautiful, brightening the sky with even the small amount of light they gave off. Kita desperately wanted to see the stars, the moon. But it was a mere dream. She couldn't go outside once the twilight set in.
As she saw the orange of sunset begin to paint the sky, habit compelled her to jump across the room and pull the curtains closed, blocking the world out. She had enjoyed the brief freedom of sitting on her bed, gazing out the window at the trees. Perhaps she had let her mind wander, for when she had snapped back to herself, the sun was already vanishing behind the horizon.
Now she curled up on her bed, pulling her knees up to her chest, and stared at the white curtain. It was still swaying a little bit from her touch. She shivered involuntarily. She could look out the window now, but habit—tradition—would not allow it.
Everything was so strange to her here. These people…they were kind. They cared. They had taken her in with no credentials whatsoever. The only hint to that she had been given was Kinomoto-san's sister, the girl who had died so long ago. Kita resembled her. Was that the reason?
She sighed. It made no sense. She…she trusted them. And she didn't understand why.
She was so engrossed in her own thoughts that she barely heard the tap on the door. But then the person tapped again, and she jumped. "C-come in!" she called, perching on the edge of the bed.
The door cracked open, and Tomoyo's head poked in. "Am I bothering you?"
Before Kita had realized it, she was smiling. "No, not at all! Come in!"
Tomoyo stepped in, closed the door, and took a seat beside her on the bed. "I just wanted to make sure you're all right. You seemed a little…upset after meeting Touya-san. And I know you were already upset after seeing Eriol, so…"
Kita felt herself relaxing. "I'm fine. Really. I was just…surprised to see him again."
She couldn't bring herself to tell Tomoyo the entire truth—that surge of recognition, and the flash of images dancing before her eyes. They were split second, in the space of an eye blink, gone so fast she couldn't even discern what they were. It was as crazy as her dreams, as crazy as her sense of trust in these people she barely knew.
"And what about Eriol?" Tomoyo persisted. "Are you all right with him?"
The girl hesitated, then decided on a half-truth. "I'm not sure. He seems…nice." Again, her uneasiness showed herself in her inability to trust without reason. She couldn't.
And Tomoyo's next statement convinced Kita that the woman had the ability to read minds. "You still don't trust us, do you? Or can you?" The girl's eyes widened before she could clamp down on her reaction, and Tomoyo nodded; one hand moved to the girl's hair. "This, too, will pass. Don't worry."
Kita nodded, believing for reasons she was at a loss to explain. And finally, something broke. "Tomoyo-san, why?" she half-sobbed. "Why are you all so good to me? You don't know me!" To her horror, tears broke through.
Arms were around her in a heartbeat, pulling her into a warm embrace; her face was buried in the soft blue fabric of Tomoyo's sweater. "Shhh…shhh…it's all right. Daijoubu." She sighed. "Kita-chan, you were in trouble, and you asked one of our own for help. Touya-san and Eriol-kun protected you. What were they to do then, just throw you back to the wolves? Never." One of her hands traced little circles on the girl's back. "They brought you here, knowing you would be safe."
Kita nodded. The old battle was waging itself inside of her. Trust versus tradition. She knew she could trust them, but everything she had learned throughout her short life had taught her never to do that.
Kita pulled back and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. She looked up at Tomoyo through red-rimmed eyes, and her bottom lip quivered only the tiniest bit as she whispered, "I don't know why, Tomoyo-san, but…I trust you."
"Are you sure about this?" Tomoyo asked desperately. One hand frantically threaded through long blue-black tresses, tugging at them absently. Her face was flushed with panicked anger over the news she had just been given.
"I'm quite sure," Eriol replied, his tone quiet. "It needs to be done." His hands absently moved over the ornate pink cover of the Book. Housed within this book were the Sakura Cards. They were held almost as sacred relics by the Resistance, and they knew the Slayers would have given half their power to hold the Cards and their power. The book and its inhabitants were carefully guarded.
"Eriol-kun, I don't understand how you can be sure!" she persisted.
He held up the book. "The Cards, Tomoyo-san. The Cards are awake. They're reacting, moving around. The seal has been broken again, which means that the Master has awakened."
Tomoyo's jaw dropped. "But that means…Kita is…"
"I'm sure of it. It's all there, it's just buried so deeply…" Eriol shook his head. There was a thump as he dropped the book back on the desk. "I don't know if anything can bring it to the surface. But the fact remains that I have to do it."
"Eriol…" Tomoyo began softly, her voice a tiny bit unsteady, "there's one other thing I don't quite understand. If she is…then what about…him?" It was a question she was almost afraid to ask, and she could not bring herself to say his name.
The sorcerer stiffened almost imperceptibly. It was a dead giveaway that he had completely forgotten about him, the other part of the puzzle. There had been two, the opposite sides of the coin. Without one, the other was all but helpless.
Eriol's expression darkened. "We have to find him. It will be easier said than done, but…" One finger traced over the line of the letters that spelled out the Master's name on the book cover. "They're the only ones. We have to find a way to bring them together, and bring them back."
It couldn't get any worse, he had decided.
Kinomoto Touya stared out the window, not because he was at all interested in what lay beyond the window, but because it was the most convenient place to look. He wasn't feeling too well as of late.
He sighed. So much for solitude. "You have bad timing."
Tomoyo rolled her eyes. "I just wanted to tell you what Eriol told me a little while ago."
"I'll assume it has something to do with the girl," he said; it was a statement, not a question.
"As a matter of fact, it does concern Kita," Tomoyo told her. "Touya…it is her. Eriol's certain of it. And he says something must be done about it immediately, if not sooner. He's worried." When she got no response, she went on. "Touya-san, we have to find him. He's got to be here somewhere. We need to bring them back together."
Again, no answer. Tomoyo sighed. "I know it's not easy, but it's our best hope. For the world, and for them. It's been ten years, just like she said. It's happening now. I'm not letting it slip away." And she was gone, leaving him alone once again with his thoughts.
So it was her…damn. Instead of making things easier, it made them even more unbearable.
She didn't trust him. And he didn't know her anymore.
Damn, damn, damn…
"She looks just like her," Rika confided sadly.
Naoko took her glasses off and gently massaged the bridge of her nose. "I can't believe it…"
Word was passing quickly around the compound—news of the child who was a dead ringer, if the pun could be forgiven, for the long-deceased Card Mistress. The gossip had reached the ears of everyone except for the girl in question. It had been made quite clear that Kita was not to know the entire story. She had been told of her resemblance to Kinomoto-san's sister, and that was all she needed to know at the moment. There was no argument allowed on that point.
For some, the news was harder to digest. Those who had been classmates or friends of the Cardcaptor had to deal with memories whenever they glimpsed the reclusive child. It wasn't any help that Kita acted nothing like their lost friend. Whereas Sakura had been bubbly, outgoing, and more than a little trusting, Kita tended to be more withdrawn, desperately shy, and wary of everyone.
Naoko was having difficulties. "Why? Is this some kind of bad joke?" She replaced her glasses on her nose and gave her friend a glare that would have withered weaker people. "They take her away and then pull this kind of garbage?"
"I know, I know…" Rika murmured softly, not at all affected by the murderous Look. "But I talked to Tomoyo. She's worried. If someone sees her and thinks she's…well, the results could be disastrous, and most likely fatal. So Eriol decided it would be best to take her someplace away from Tomoeda, for her own protection."
"Will he take her to the others?" Naoko asked.
"The Safe House," Rika nodded. "The way I understand it, he's already gotten in touch with Yukito and everyone there. I don't know how much he told them, but Touya-san and Tomoyo are going as well." She paused. "Do you think something might be up?"
"Who knows?" Naoko shrugged, brushing aside a stray strand of brown hair. "But I get the feeling there's something below the surface. I just don't know what."
It was a rare occasion when Eriol went out in the city. He didn't like to anymore, and it was extremely dangerous for him. But he needed to get away from the compound for the moment, just to walk and clear his head a little bit. It was a little chilly out, so he pulled his navy coat a little tighter around him and kept moving.
Two nights ago, he and Tomoyo had argued about his plan to take Kita to the Safe House. But he couldn't yield on this. It was too important. So no matter how much it grieved him, and no matter how much Tomoyo might be upset with him for it, he had to carry through. Kita wasn't safe anywhere near Tomoeda for the moment.
And there was another reasoning behind this adventure, as well. It was a bare hope, but maybe, just maybe, surrounded by old friends, something would resurface. It was a long shot, but much of the past decade had been spent grasping at straws like that. And sometimes, the most insane of concepts could have enormous payoffs. Nothing was taken for granted.
A simple spell, much like the one he'd placed on Touya, kept him from being recognized. He blended into the crowd with relative ease; nobody gave him a second glance. Few even gave him a first.
It had already been five days since Kita had fallen into their lives, and already, there had been a monumental change. It was Tomoyo's handiwork, he knew that easily. But some of the shyness and distrust had already lightened. Not much, but every little bit counted. They had actually coaxed her into laughter a few times (usually by Tomoyo getting angry and inflicting some sort of damage to Eriol's person), and the music of it filled the house in a way that nothing else could.
But she was still so shy. That kind of shyness was not natural. Had something happened to her? It wasn't unheard of; even at her young age, there were still a plethora of things that could have happened, leaving her with potentially permanent scars. Still, the small amount of progress that had already been made left him with hope. Maybe they would be able to bring her out of her shell yet.
One thing he had noticed: she was considerably warmer towards him. Kita was closest to Tomoyo, by far, but she would actually speak to him without averting her eyes. Was she remembering? Or had she simply accepted that she was safe around them? He wasn't sure, but he wasn't about to drive her away, not that they had finally gotten her to open up even a smidgen.
He was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't notice a small form darting out from around the corner, out of an alleyway. He did notice, however, when the person rammed right into him. Apparently, the kid hadn't been paying much attention either. The force was enough to knock him to the ground.
"Watch where you're going!" a young, male voice snarled at him before the kid got up and started back on his way with a little more hurry in his step. Without thinking, Eriol got up and followed. He began weaving in and out of the crowd.
It took him a moment, but he caught up to the kid and grabbed his arm. "What do you think—"
Two very hard, angry amber eyes glared at him. "Let go of me!" A fist swung at Eriol's head, and he barely had enough sense left to dodge backwards; he felt the air move as the blow missed him by a fraction of an inch. And he was inordinately proud of himself that he managed to not let go of his arm. And one word escaped his lips, almost to spite him. "Syaoran…"
This kid didn't seem too pleased with that, either the blow missing its target or the use of a Forbidden Name to address him. "What the hell is wrong with you? You trying to get me killed? Now let go, or I swear I'll—"
Desperate, Eriol made a split-second decision, and used magic. Just the barest hint, something no one would notice unless they were looking specifically for it. Which he sincerely hoped they weren't. And it was a simple spell: a spell of paralysis. It permitted him enough time to pull the kid into a convenient niche between buildings.
Once there, he dropped the spell, positioning himself between this thus-unknown person and the exit that led back out onto the street. The child glared at him, and it gave him a chance to get a second look, a little better look than the first time around.
It was a shadow from the past. He looked to be about ten or eleven years old—a child, though everything about this person said that he was anything but that. He behaved like someone older, even in the smallest movements. Shaggy chocolate-colored hair hung down over those furious golden-brown eyes. His posture was tensed, and his hands clenched into fists. Neither were good signs.
"Who the hell are you?" he demanded.
"I think I could ask you that question first," Eriol said calmly. It didn't matter that he was screaming inside, getting worked up wouldn't help his situation any. "What's your name?"
The kid studied him for a minute, an uncanny stare. Then he answered, slowly. "You can call me Kenji." It wasn't his true name, but that didn't matter; it was a start. Besides, if he was truly a child of the streets (which Eriol strongly suspected, based on appearances alone), then it might very well be that he didn't even know his birth name.
"Kenji…" Eriol murmured.
"Now answer the damn question. Who the hell are you?"
Eriol could barely keep himself from smiling. "Do you want my real name?"
"What do you think?" Kenji snapped.
The sorcerer allowed himself a smirk. "Eriol. Hiiragizawa Eriol."
The look on the child's face proved that he had, indeed, heard the name, and knew what it implied. He took a step back, eyes widening in something akin to shock. Eriol saw his opportunity, and seized it. He wasn't fond of doing this, but he couldn't let the moment escape. He reached out not with hands, but with magic, into Kenji's unprotected mind.
And he saw…
Kenji let out a strangled sound as he felt the invasion into his thoughts, but there was no time to fight it. Sleep, Eriol ordered directly into his soul. There was no resistance; Kenji's eyes slid closed as he fell straight forward—
—into Eriol's waiting arms.
He looked down at the now-slumbering form. The kid, Kenji, didn't look half as tough when he was asleep. In fact, he looked rather innocent, more like the child he actually was. It was surprisingly endearing, Eriol thought, as he shifted the weight and scooped the unmoving figure up. Tomoyo had been right—they were to be brought together.
He returned to the base in a flare of magic, not caring too much if the Slayers sensed it or not.
He already had the sinking feeling that if Tomoyo wasn't too shocked by this new arrival, she was going to lay into him royally for carrying off another child by basic force.
Tomoyo might have been shocked, but there was nothing that would stop her from telling Eriol exactly what she thought. "What is this? Are you making kidnapping into a hobby now?" she shrieked. They were standing outside a room; within those walls was the newest arrival, the boy Eriol had brought in a short while ago. He was the cause of this uproar.
Kita was watching from around the corner, eyes wide. When Tomoyo noticed, she turned and smiled. "Kita-chan, could you give us a minute, please? I need to punch Hiiragizawa in the face, and I don't want you to have to see his nose getting broken."
The girl giggled the tiniest bit and obeyed, trotting off down the hall towards the safety of her own room. She wandered these halls regularly now, and just like any child, had occasionally been found peeking around where maybe she shouldn't have been. But no one minded much.
As soon as they heard the door close, Tomoyo rounded on her reincarnated friend. "Now that we're alone, where the hell did you find him?" Her voice dropped in volume, lost most of the angry edge, and took on a slight note of panic.
"In the city," he hissed back. "We ran into each other. Literally." Quickly, he recounted the details of their meeting, and his subsequent subduing of the young man and the return to the compound. "He said his name is Kenji. Whether or not that's true, I don't know."
"But—oh my God…when I said—I didn't think it would…oh good God…" Tomoyo suddenly lost her ability to form a coherent sentence.
Eriol reached out and touched her shoulder gently. "It's all right. We're going to leave tomorrow. Now that we have both…well, there's not much else we can do. We have to get them as far away from Tomoeda as we can." He paused. "I didn't mean to, but I called him Syaoran. He went ballistic. I think it best not to tell them the whole truth just yet, Tomoyo-san. They've been taught never to say those names, and I see no reason to go against that at the present. It'll just make them more nervous."
Tomoyo nodded silently, and Eriol's attention shifted to the only other person in the vicinity—Touya, who was standing directly in the doorway, leaning against one of the doorposts. "And what about you? Are you all right?" A sharp nod. "I know you didn't like him very much, but…"
"It's fine," Touya sighed. He turned and walked away without another word, disappearing up the stairs. They watched him leave passively, and then Tomoyo turned to Eriol.
"Perhaps it would be best if I tried to handle things when he wakes up," she said in the sort of tone that brooks no arguments. "He probably won't be very happy to see you. So would you please leave for a while?" Now she was using a voice that makes a order out of a request. Eriol nodded and obeyed, absenting himself quickly.
As he walked down the corridor, he heard a soft whisper. "Can I come out now?"
He smiled down at Kita, who peered at him a bit apprehensively; she had her door open the tiniest crack. "I think it's safe now. Tomoyo-san has calmed down."
She opened the door a little further. "Is your nose broken?"
He chuckled. "Not quite."
Where the hell was he?
Kenji pushed himself into a sitting position the instant he realized that he didn't recognize this place. His first tip-off had been that the surface beneath him was soft. That was in no way normal. His eyes had flown open, and he found himself in a very unfamiliar room.
He unconsciously took a quick mental check on himself. The coat he'd been wearing was gone, and he briefly wondered if his captors had found the dagger. He always carried it, hidden within a secret pocket on the inside of that coat. He was still in his loose white shirt and brown pants. But he had the sinking feeling that he was completely unarmed, and that unnerved him to no end.
What had happened to him? He searched his memory, desperately clawing for those last few moments before the darkness. On the street. A man in a dark coat. Being unable to move. Pulled into an alleyway. He had heard a Forbidden Name, and then…that man.
"Are you all right?"
The female voice nearly scared him out of his skin, and he jumped off the other side of the bed, ending up flat against the wall, one hand clutching for a concealed knife that was no longer there. The tiniest bit of that anxiety melted away when he saw the speaker, but it wasn't enough by any means to make him relax. She was an unknown to him, and as such, was not to be trusted.
Tomoyo smiled gently. "What is it about kids these days? They're all so jumpy!"
"Who are you?" he asked warily. He was keeping himself under careful control until he knew where he was and if there were any escape routes; best not to anger one of his captors, for that's who he assumed she was.
"A friend. I know you won't believe that, but it is the truth," she said calmly. Well, this sounded familiar. Wasn't it only a week earlier that she had said almost those exact same words to Kita? And the effect was the exact same as it had been with Kita: zilch. Complete and total disbelief.
"Where the hell am I?"
One thing Kenji was known for on the streets was a particularly razor-sharp wit that managed to manifest itself at the most interesting of moments. Now was one of those times. "What, did you go to school at Vague University or something? Answer the damn question!"
Tomoyo couldn't help herself. She laughed. "Oh, you've got spirit!" She calmed quickly and said, "If you must know, you're in one of the Resistance compounds, outside of Tomoeda. You had a small run-in with one of our men, and he brought you here for safety."
Comprehension dawned as the memories finally returned. "Hiiragizawa…" he breathed the name, almost in awe. One of the two most wanted men alive had…kidnapped him? Why in the world would someone as notorious as Hiiragizawa Eriol take a common street urchin? It didn't make sense.
"Why am I here?" he asked, now more dazed then angry.
"Because we need your help, Kenji," she said softly.
Something snapped. This had to be some kind of a lie. A test, that was it. He was being tested. Well, he wasn't going to fall for it. No way, no how. His life was one of the few things that was his own, and he wasn't going to just give it away.
"Forget it, I'm leaving!" he snarled, suddenly furious as he stormed past her.
Tomoyo held out a hand. "Wait!"
But he had already thrown the door open and taken one step into the hallway.
Tomoyo moved to the doorway, and saw why he had stopped so suddenly.
Kita had been walking in the hall, and had been directly in front of the door when it had flown open. She must have been surprised at the commotion, because she was leaning back against the wall, both hands clutched protectively at her heart; it was a gesture she often made when surprised or frightened, both common occurrences for one so jumpy. She was watching him carefully, almost in confusion.
But more importantly, the anger and barely-concealed fear had both fled from Kenji's face. Now his expression was one of mild wonder, tinged with that same confusion.
Tomoyo stood silently by and watched their reactions with intent interest. It was intriguing, so very intriguing. This was a far cry from another meeting she could remember…but what was going to happen now?
For a long time, they just looked at each other, unmoving.
Not surprisingly, Kenji moved first. He shook his head rapidly, whirled around, and shoved past Tomoyo back into the room he had awakened in. Without a word, he slammed the door; the force of it pushed Tomoyo the rest of the way out of the room, into the hallway.
Kita straightened up, and she and Tomoyo looked at each other blankly.
"Tomoyo-san," Kita asked softly. "Who was that?"
Kenji's back was pressed flat against the closed door. He was panting, though he didn't quite know why. He also couldn't explain to himself why he'd just bolted like that. Especially from a girl like that, who had nearly died of fright just from looking at him.
Of course, that wasn't exactly a new thing. He was used to that kind of judgment.
There was a light tap on the door, and against his better judgment, he turned around and answered it, opening it a mere crack. The dark-haired woman (who still hadn't told him her name) was standing there, and in front of her was the green-eyed girl—he guessed that she was the one who had knocked, judging from her behavior. She seemed shy.
"Umm…" she blushed a little. "I—I wanted to introduce myself, if that's all right." She looked down; it was that wild-animal shyness again. "Kita. Hikari Kita." She extended one slightly-shaky hand.
Kenji stared at her for a moment. She actually wanted to know him? Most shied away…and she was holding out her hand, though her facial expression said she was clearly expecting rejection. And for some reason, he couldn't do that. He reached out and clasped her hand. "Kenji. Just…Kenji."
"I promise I'll come back," the girl said cheerily. Her outfit was strange, a red and white concoction that probably wouldn't have looked good on many other people. She held out one hand, pinky extended. "Pinky promise."
He looked surprised for a moment, then smiled and linked his pinky around hers. And they chanted a promise, a promise that she would return to him safely.
AN: Whew…a slightly shorter chapter, but a chapter nonetheless! Whee! And yes, I know it's painfully obvious, but I still have a lot to go for this story, and there'll be some things that I don't think you'll see coming, so don't bail yet! Please!
I'm still tweaking my outline, trying to remember everything as I had it. I have no idea when I'll be posting again, but I will continue to work on it. I'm getting back into this story. And hopefully, everyone will continue to read. Thanks! Luvs!
Oh yeah, quick translation note:
Kita: North (so Kita's name means 'Northern Light')
Kenji: Strong son :grin: