Watching and Waiting
by Sophia Prester
Disclaimer: Card Captor Sakura and all associated characters are the property of CLAMP and a variety of media syndicates.
Summary: The saga of the Clow Cards is not the only tale of magic and rebirth taking place in Tomoeda.
Author's Notes: At the end. Feedback is always welcome.
What amuses me most about this whole situation is that for once, the unfolding drama is not centered around me.
It makes for a nice change of pace. Instead of being caught up in storms of magic and destiny, I get to stand by the sidelines and watch. There are tests of strength, will, heart, and power, but this time, I'm not stuck in the middle of them. The only tests I have to deal with are the ones I collect from my fifth-grade social studies and language arts students, and it's easy enough to grade a stack of those while watching a baseball game on TV.
There is one thing that worries me, though. How much do I say? At what point do I break silence and let Kinomoto-kun and her friends know how much I know about their situation?
It would make things easier if I knew for certain whether Hiiragizawa recognized me or not. When I was introduced me to our new transfer student, I had a hard time keeping my jaw from hitting the floor.
I recognized him at once as the reincarnation of Clow Reed, my one-time enemy and later friend. I also remember my brain nearly shorting out as I tried to reconcile that to the fact that Kinomoto-kun's father was also a reincarnation of Reed.
I'm fairly certain that Hiiragizawa-kun knows who and what he is. There are too many sly remarks and double-entendres whenever he speaks to Li-kun and Kinomoto-kun. My only interactions with the boy are as teacher to student, and I have yet to hear any hints that he knows who I am. Then again, it would be just like Reed to wait and see if I would be bold enough to break silence first.
Two Clow Reeds running around Tomoeda at the same time. How much crazier could things get?
"I don't think you really want to know the answer to that question," Rika-chan said when I asked her the other day. It's a relief to see that her memories are finally awakening. I've nearly gone mad waiting for her to recognize me--us--for who and what we are.
It will be an even bigger relief when we can speak together openly, and not just in these stolen bits of conversation in the library, or after class dismisses.
(Note to the Powers-that-Be: The next time we're reborn in a situation where we don't have to deal with multiple apocalypses coming down the pike every fifteen seconds, could you please have us reborn at closer to the same age? It's hard to enjoy an unshakeable, multi-life love when you feel like a damned pervert every time you even say 'hello' to the one true light of your hundred consecutive lives.)
"Perhaps you're right, Rika-chan. I wonder how many more times we can be caught up by the cards and not have someone notice that we're not who we seem to be."
Today is one of those rare, blessed days when Rika has detention. She's careful not to be too tardy too often or forget her homework too many times. Her mother in this life can be unpleasant about such things, from what I gather.
"The cards are changing, you know that, don't you?" she says as she pulls out her embroidery basket. "She's changing them. With her own power." When it's just the two of us in detention, it's easy enough to cast a simple glamour so that no one passing by sees or hears anything untoward. It only masks basic speech and small movements, though. I'm afraid that anything stronger would attract attention rather than divert it.
We've suffered no harm from our encounters with the Cards. Erase and Dark were little more than annoyances, and Flower...
I try not to let my thoughts drift off in that direction.
There are other cards that are much less benign. My hands still shake when I think about how close we came to disaster when Rika was possessed by Sword. With no access to her magic, she was unable to keep the card from using her as its puppet. Still, she's a clever one--I don't think that Kinomoto-kun ever realized that Rika remembers every detail of the possession or how she was freed of it.
I remember the numbing fear when she finally told me about it months later. I know from first-hand experience just how dangerous Sword can be. It had cut right through the strongest wards I could construct as if they were nothing but paper. I was so startled that I was barely able to dodge Reed's thrust to my heart. As it was, he didn't miss entirely--my left arm never did work again properly in that lifetime.
At the time, she had only just started to awaken. The Sword card had manifested as a brooch. Rika, being who she was, couldn't help but be attracted to the latent power in the piece of jewelry. At her full strength, she could have dealt with its machinations handily, but even now, she would be helpless in the face of even the weakest spell. Just thinking about how vulnerable she is in this life frightens me to the point of being ill.
"Well, if we're lucky," she says as she continued to work on her embroidery, "any others we meet will turn out to be like Flower." She looks up and smiles at me, and for a moment I forget that she's no more than ten years old. "Remember our wedding that time around?"
How can she even ask that? Just remembering is torture. I'm accustomed to counting my years in centuries, but the six years I'll have to wait for her this time around seems like an eternity.
The design on the scarf she's embellishing is growing by leaps and bounds. Her skills with needle, shuttle, and spindle never leave her from one life to the next. Other things may change, and change drastically, but never that. I wonder why?
"May I see?" I ask.
She tucks the needle into the hem of the fabric and starts to hand it to me, then pauses. "Your hands are clean, aren't they?"
I assure her that they are, and she passes it over. I look at it, and it's a testament to her skill that even I can barely make out the runes hidden among the swirling vines making up the border.
"I sewed them in with the same shade of green as the vines," she explains, "but I used a slightly different dye-lot."
There aren't enough of the runes there for me to tell what their purpose is yet.
"It's a protection ward," she says before I even have the chance to ask. One thing I like about this incarnation of her is that she's not as reserved and cryptic as she has often been in the past. "Even though I can't use my magic in this life, I've still got some degree of knowledge I can take advantage of. You're the one who keeps bringing up how crazy it can get around here. I thought it would be nice if I had something on me to ward off the more dangerous craziness."
I start to tell her that I would be more than happy to make her as many protection amulets as she'd like, but I also know how frustrating her current helplessness is to her. She's not so much interested in protection as in feeling like she has something to contribute to the team. Maybe I should look for ways for her to become stronger through other means.
"Since I can't use my own power yet, maybe you could show me how to draw something from all the stray magic that's getting scattered around here lately."
Another thing that never changes is that she always seems to know what I'm thinking. It used to annoy me, but for right now, it's a blessed relief. In another twenty years, I'll probably be annoyed again.
"As long as you promise not to imprison me beneath an oak tree for two hundred years."
"You're not still mad about that, are you? It's ancient history. Literally. Besides, at the time you deserved it, dear."
"I'm not mad. It's just that I have a certain phobia about being your magic instructor, that's all. Why is it that my best students always seem to end up trying to kill me?"
"Oh, don't complain. You know full well that your best friends all used to be your worst enemies. Speaking of which, you don't think that Reed-san was the one who arranged for us to be reborn here and now, do you?"
"I doubt it," I mutter, but I have to admit that the idea has been bothering me for some time. Rika and I are both here and it didn't take an arduous quest for us to find each other. It also took little time for us to recognize one another.
Also, why Japan? Why this part of Japan? We've never before been reborn too far from the shores of Albion. This time, the culture, the language, the native spirits, the languages of power, the placement of ley-lines--all are different from the ones I have learned over all my centuries of existence. Rika is equally at a disadvantage in that regard.
We have moved from one island empire to another. Did Reed arrange this somehow? Did he want to make sure that his heir would have protectors in reserve, or perhaps advisors who could help her with the parts of her magic that draw from the Western tradition?
I don't like the idea that Reed's hybrid magic is strong enough to draw me so far from the island I am meant to protect.
Well, there are ways I can get the answers I need, if I really do need them. I'm fairly certain that the orange plushie that Kinomoto-kun totes around with her is an avatar of Keroberos, Reed's sun-beast. If she ever leaves him unattended, I may just have to go up to him and quietly ask if he recalls that time he tried to eviscerate me (it was always fun to tease him about that, even though he had good reason to at the time).
I have yet to determine who or what Yue is in this lifetime. The Moon Guardian never liked me, and always remained suspicious of me, even after Reed and I put aside our differences.
Maybe I'm not supposed to keep silent. Fate, or destiny, or chance, or something has put me in the position of Li-kun's and Kinomoto-kun's teacher. Maybe that position is more than just coincidence. Kinomoto-kun is growing into her own power as a magus--I can see the fatigue and strain in her face and hear it in her voice--and maybe I have been put her to advise her. Then again, she is already surrounded by advisors, and one more voice among the Babel would be the straw that broke the camel's back.
It could be that my being here is nothing more than a small mercy to her. Even those who know nothing of Kinomoto-kun's struggles can see how tired she is. Perhaps the greatest thing I can do to help in her quest is to quietly overlook the times she falls asleep in class or falls behind in her assignments. Maybe that is why Rika-chan is so frustratingly young and remains so innocent of the powers at her disposal. From my own experience, I know how precious it is to have a supportive and sympathetic friend who is at the same time not caught up in the craziness that always goes with growing into one's powers.
So for now, I watch and I wait, biding my time until I can truly be with my lady-love, and wondering just what Clow is up to this time around.
Author's notes: I'm not sure what on earth inspired this fic. It was just one of those sudden "what if" kind of moments. I was playing with the idea of serial-reincarnation for a Sailor Moon one-shot, and somehow my mind hopped over to the idea of a Terada/Rika fic.
Anyhow, since I don't plan to write any sequels or prequels to this, anyone who wants to take the concept I've put forth here for Terada and Rika, and play with it is free to do so! Just let me know if you post something so I can read it.