I don't own CCS and Tsubasa Chronicles Reservoir, but I do own the story in this fic and things that are non-CCS and non-Tsubasa Chronicles Reservoir related. All the name of places, historical events and other things mentioned, which you don't seem to know IRL, are products of my imagination. Any similarities with the actual thing are purely coincidental.
From Previous Chapter:
The ring protruded. It was evident that it wasn't a fluke, a malfunction or a hallucination, so with a deep breath, Mei-ling picked it up and placed the cold receiver onto her ears, but its coldness didn't match the icy tone which met her. "You…" The voice threateningly said. "…shouldn't you be keeping an eye on that arrogant brother of yours?"
Mei-ling gasped in recognition. "Touya?"
Kinomoto Touya discretely continued in the other line. "Damn it, Mei-ling! They just did the same mistake we did twelve years ago!"
Confusion invaded the woman's eyes. "Who?" She wasn't expecting to hear his voice again…from this phone.
"Your brother and my sister!" His tone was rising and it was evident that his temper was also climbing in par.
"What?" Mei-ling was still slightly caught off-guard. "What same mistake?"
"They got married!" Then, in a more contained tone together with a disheveled sigh, Touya added. "Just like we did…back then."
On an instant, memories flew back to Mei-ling. This time, they were memories of her high school days…and about a relationship with a certain guy…which no one knew even existed.
She was…in that very moment…reminded of her first husband…Kinomoto Touya.
Chapter Twenty-Four: "A Bind For Real Part II"
Syaoran parked his car in the vast lot of the Li Estate. Normally, he would have just drove up the front door and have someone park his car for him, but for this day he thought that it would be nice to walk leisurely for a change. He stepped out of his car and inhaled deeply. Morning air was a bit cold but it soothed him. All this confusion and turmoil in his inner thoughts about SkyLark and Agatha had caused much stress that he felt he had somehow aged a few years.
It would have been simpler if Agatha isn't Kinomoto Sakura. He disdainfully thought, but nevertheless, the heavy feeling he had ever since he found out her true identity wasn't there anymore. It seemed that her words comforted him, one way or another.
"The hell with it." He muttered to himself. "It doesn't matter now. Cyber world and reality are two completely different things. It isn't easy to combine the two of them."
Then, page 28 of Section 41 flashed inside his mind. Kinomoto Sakura's signature taunted him.
"Damn it." Syaoran gritted his teeth and shook his head. "Enough already." Upon realization yesterday of what the document really was, he had some 'few' problems in shredding the paper. And that dream he had last night didn't help either. "Li Xiao Lang…pull yourself together." He took another deep breath and with a more determined face he said strongly, "I will definitely shred it when I get home today."
"Shred what?" A feminine voice suddenly spoke from behind.
Syaoran jumped back; startled. There curled up with a book under the shade of a tree was none other than his older sister.
"A-ra? You look strained so early in the morning, Xiao Lang." Mei-ling commented as she closed the book she was reading. "Did something happen at work?"
Syaoran swallowed nervously but immediately went back to his composed self. "Umm…nothing."
"Eeeeh?" Mei-ling playfully eyed him. "I don't exactly call the taking over of many prominent companies—nothing."
"Oh…that." He raked his hair as he goofily smiled at her. "You know about that."
"Who wouldn't? It was all over the news. The press was having a field day."
He smirked. "I've always thought that such things don't interest you…anything which involves InterVEST, that is."
Mei-Ling closed her eyes and raised her head highly. "It's inevitable since my beloved brother seemed to be in the spotlight and causing disturbance in the business world."
"Disturbance?" Syaoran chuckled. "Is that how you see it? I am disturbing the whole flow?"
"You are aiming for monopoly." Mei-Ling peered with one eye. "Naughty naughty Xaio Lang." She waved a finger at him.
His grin grew wider. "Monopoly is allowed in InterVEST unlike in real life. That's why I love that game. I can't believe that the government was dumb enough to even allow the game to cross over."
"You saw the opportunity and you instantly grabbed it." Mei-Ling remarked as she stood up and started pacing.
"Naturally." He replied and followed his sister towards the manor.
Mei-Ling was silent for a moment. Her face was hidden from Syaoran's view since she was walking ahead of him, but he felt a sudden shift of aura.
"Who's your wife?"
Syaoran almost choked. "Excuse me?"
His sister twirled around with a smile pasted on her face. "Didn't you get married inside that game?"
He blinked. For some reason, he thought that her smile wasn't right. Does she know something she shouldn't? He was sure that the people in Alberta Café wouldn't tell a soul about his little arrangement with Kinomoto Sakura. And even though, Nana was blunt and bold, she always had his confidence in keeping secrets.
It was not good to jump to conclusions. For all he knew, his sister could have only followed the news reports.
"Oh that." He plainly said.
"Eh?" Mei-Ling narrowed her eyes. "They said that you went all the trouble just to convince this particular girl to marry you."
Syaoran slightly cringed. "I wouldn't exactly put it that way."
"So how will you put it?" Mei-Ling's midnight eyes seemed to pierce right through him.
"I just convinced her to be my business partner. That is all." He steadily replied and further explained InterVEST's rules.
"Really? But still…what's so special about her?"
"Her assets are the exact opposite of mine. Merging them with what I have will be a step closer in attaining overall control." Then, he smirked. "Monopoly as you termed it."
"I see." Mei-Ling turned to her heels and started to walk again. Her hands were on her back as she held her book. There was another pause before she spoke again. "Don't you think that we, your family, and the elders should at least been informed and consulted with this matter?" She asked.
Syaoran arched a brow. "I thought I made it clear that the elders are not to interfere with my business dealings?"
"Business dealings, yes…but in choosing your wife..." She let her sentence dangle.
This earned a small laugh from the chestnut-haired Li. "You guys can't be serious!" He looked at unbelievingly. "I'm not married to Agatha in real life. It was just something being role-played inside InterVEST."
"Agatha…is that her real name?" His sister shot him a side glance.
"Then who is she? What's her real life identity?"
"Ummm…I don't exactly know." Syaoran lied through his teeth.
"Eh?" Mei-Ling doesn't look convinced.
"Well, you see…I wasn't able to convince her to register as a full player. She only registered as 'half', therefore, she is entitled to her secrecy." He said. What he said was true. Of course, he wouldn't tell that they eventually end up knowing who each other were.
"And you trust her…this Agatha…even though you don't know who she really is?" His sister asked.
"There are many things in the online world that you don't understand, dear sister." Syaoran stepped beside her. "There are certain criteria's and unspoken acknowledgement with ones skills which will bring great importance in recognizing ones credibility. And it is enough beyond anything else."
"You sound so attached to this…Agatha." Mei-Ling's observant eyes fell on Syaoran's.
"A little…" He replied boldly. "…it may sound quite surprising to you…but after all these time, the bond my online character had formed with that player…even though I hate to admit it, had been quite strong."
"Your online character or you?" His sister asked in a very serious tone.
"Hmm? What's with the intense expression?" Syaoran arched a brow.
Mei-Ling smirked and closed her eyes. "Xiao-Lang…I know you more than you think. I may not agree with your impulsive decisions but I do comprehend it. And this…Agatha…she seems to be a very important person to you."
"Yes, she is." He remarked flatly.
"So such an important person may influence you in any manner. Don't you think it is wise to know who she really is?" She pointed out.
"It doesn't matter." He shrugged the question off. "As long as she remains capable and make SkyLark grow…it doesn't matter to me."
"Aren't you afraid of betrayal? I mean…" Mei-Ling suddenly darted him a strong gaze. "…she could be an enemy."
"An enemy?" Syaoran narrowed his eyes. Does his sister suspect something?
"Yes…well…" Mei-Ling started walking once again. "…she could be someone who has a grudge against you in real life and is just waiting for the opportunity to bring you down. They do say…'Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.'…I'm just worried about you, Xiao Lang."
Syaoran chuckled. "That is unlikely. I've known Agatha for almost two years now and my identity as Li Syaoran was only revealed during the InterVEST Ultimate Patch launch. There is no way she could have known prior to that." And neither would I have known that she was Kinomoto Sakura. He added to himself.
"You sound so convinced and trusting. That is so unlike you." His sister commented. "You are normally very careful with people you deal with in your business."
"It is because I've already assessed things a long time ago. She is…one of a kind."
"Eh?" Mei-Ling peered at him. "It seems you really like this girl." The way she said the word 'like' meant she was implying something else.
In the outside, Syaoran looked calm and steady but inside; he was starting to feel turmoil once again.
"I like her as my business partner." He firmly said.
"Is that really what there is to it? Only as a business partner?" Mei-Ling narrowed her eyes. "Are you sure? Because I never hear you compliment someone from the female species this way."
"I'll repeat what I said earlier. She is one of a kind."
"And you never met someone like her before." His sister gave a small taunting chuckle. "Men always say that, you know..." Her eyes shimmered. "…whenever they suddenly get love-strucked."
"Love?" Syaoran was getting uncomfortable with the topic. "You've got to be kidding." A forced smile crept on his face.
Mei-ling just returned his smile with a pleasant one. "You should be careful, dear brother. Love will strike when you least expect it. For all we know…" She suddenly looked mysteriously at him. "…you are already…"
But Syaoran didn't let her finish her statement. "That's absurd." He said in a rather loud voice. "Business is business. That is all there is to it." And with that, he started pacing briskly towards the manor.
Behind him, Mei-ling could only watch her brother's back. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. There is truly just a thin line between love and hate. She thought as she followed her younger sibling. A very very thin line, indeed.
Fujitaka straightened the newspaper that he was reading. SkyLark, Inc. seemed to have caught the world's attention that every panel almost had the online company's name in bold letters.
He sighed and placed it down. In front of him, breakfast was being laid by the maid. He reached for his coffee and inhaled its pleasant aroma. In a chair near him, Touya was giving the headlines some disdainful stares that he couldn't help but to wonder if his son knew something about the Damaski-is—Agatha incidents. Fujitaka briefly glanced at the old butler standing not so far away. George was fixing the big umbrella so that its shade will fell on them. He trusted this man amongst anyone else. Their family had been in debt with his clan for centuries now. He was the only current Kinomoto who knew about it, though, since for some reason, the strange man wanted to be their butler. And based from history, when someone from George's clan opted concealing his true identity, it could only mean one thing.
He has a deeper and honorable purpose.
But then again, after being informed about the recent events, Fujitaka wasn't sure that the butler's actions were honorable. He couldn't believe that the old man actually tricked his daughter into signing such a document and even passing it over to a Li. For some time now, he was fully aware that George's clan preferred the Li and Kinomoto families to be united, that Fujitaka couldn't help but to feel worried for daughter as she got pulled into the whole thing.
And what about him? He was currently the head of the Kinomoto household. Why did he allow his daughter to get involved with a Li? Much more, someone who tried killing her before? Doesn't he feel enraged at all?
The answer came hopping down the stairs and joined them in the porch.
"Ohayo! Otosan! Onichan!" Sakura greeted them with a bright smile. Her beautiful emerald eyes glimmered like precious jewels. George immediately tended to her and pulled a seat for her. "Good morning to you, too, George!" She hugged the lifeless butler and giggled when the old man slightly inched away. "You are still not used to me, George…still not used to me."
"Aparantz-ly." The butler reservedly said.
She pounced towards her brother to give an equally crushing hug, and then to her father before finally sitting down at the breakfast table.
"Ohayo, Sakura-chan." Fujitaka said with a warm gentle smile.
His daughter beamed as she reached for her toast. Normally, Touya would have teased his sister about being a monster in front of food, but he unusually remained quiet and continued to eat his eggs. Again, Fujitaka wondered if Touya knew anything. He made a small mental note to ask George about this later. Because for now…
Fujitaka gazed over his daughter. She looked bright and happy. The answer to the questions earlier became evident.
He allowed things to continue because his daughter was happy. Actually, it was an understatement. Ever since her involvement with the online game, he had never seen Sakura so full of life. Her cheerfulness and happiness was overflowing as each day passed by. He thought that maybe it was Tsukishiro who had been keeping her happy all this time, but it seemed unlikely since the engineer had been getting busier and busier these days.
Then, it became apparent to him.
His daughter was this happy because of InterVEST. And to go into a more specific detail, her continued acquaintance with that Damaski-is character was the thing which made her smile this way. It was the reason why she always perked up excitedly in front of her computer everyday.
It was because of Li Syaoran.
Fujitaka closed his eyes. Things would have been simpler if Damaski-is ended up being someone else. But amongst all people, Sakura has to meet the Li heir, the very family who want to see them dead. That night in the launch, he thought that his daughter was a goner when he saw her with him, and was about to rescue her when they started talking about things. Things that he wouldn't have known could have existed between a Li and a Kinomoto.
Between a Li and a Kinomoto… He closed his eyes as an image swarmed inside his head. It was an image of a certain wooden box and a certain knife missing its pair. The one which was in Fujitaka's possession was the knife which carried their family's crest—a moon surrounded by stars. It was an heirloom passed from one Kinomoto to another. It wasn't the only knife in that box, though. There used to be another one.
Another which symbolizes the Li family's power…another one which has a sun etched on it, and probably the very same knife which almost killed his daughter years ago.
Sadness filled Fujitaka's eyes. It was apparent that the Li boy had already inherited the Li heirloom. He should be passing the Kinomoto's heirloom now, but like before, he wasn't sure if he should give it to Touya.
He shot a glance towards his son. He seemed awfully quiet as he continued to eat his meal.
The Li's had always been the aggressive one in the feud. Stories about the past had been passed down from one heir to another. Stories as to why the Li's hated them. Unfortunately, though, the history being passed down from one Li to another was different from what was being passed as a Kinomoto. There were always two sides of the story in regards to both their families' history. In par to this, Fujitaka could see another reason why he had remained calm with the whole thing. Because in truth, if things were going to be based solely from what was being passed down in the Kinomoto family, there was no reason to hate the Li's.
It was the very same reason why he couldn't bring himself to pass the heirloom to Touya. Seeing how his son was very protective of his daughter, it was understandable that he had despised the Li's since Sakura had always been the target of their attacks. Fujitaka feared that Touya will reject the heirloom and the story which goes with it.
It will permanently cut the line of hope his grandfather had.
Then again, what had been eating him all this time was as to why Li Syaoran continued his association with his daughter even though it was quite obvious that the Li heirloom had been passed to him for years now. If the heir has the knife then he was more likely been informed of the story of the feud. Fujitaka didn't know which version was true, theirs' or the Li's. But he had remained loyal to his family's version which was why anger and hatred didn't grow as much as it could with a Li.
But then again, the Li boy wasn't aware that the person he was closed with in the online game was actually someone who belonged to the Kinomoto household…until recently. Li Syaoran could have terminated his association with Sakura there and there. He had all the reasons, but he didn't. He continued his partnership with Sakura no matter what. Does this mean that there was still hope?
A hope for a rekindled friendship between their families?
The decision always rests on the heir's beliefs. So, if Li Syaoran had turned a blind eye on the existing feud, was it also possible for him to reconsider and reevaluate the two family's past? He couldn't see any problem on their side because as mentioned, the Li had always been the one aggressive with the whole thing.
So if Li Syaoran reconsiders…
Fujitaka looked at George. He was currently pouring hot chocolate on Sakura's cup and was listening intently to what she was saying.
If that boy will…he would actually have the power to…
The zombie-like butler must have sensed someone looking at him that he perked his head up and met Fujitaka's gaze.
…put a stop on everything.
George looked at him inquiringly.
"I am going to allow it, George." Fujitaka suddenly said. Firmness was evident in his tone as he placed his cup down and picked up the newspaper again.
The butler seemed surprised for a minute but he eventually gave a lifeless smile. "Very well, Sir." He acknowledged.
"Eh?" Both Sakura and Touya blinked.
"Allow what?" Touya asked.
But Fujitaka just smiled. "Oh nothing. It was something George asked me earlier."
"What did you ask father, George?" Sakura curiously queried the butler.
"Nozing imporzant. Juzz somezing to zoo wid sharpenin lil knives." And with that he bowed and left the three of them.
"Eeeh? Sharpen little knives? I don't get it." Sakura remarked.
Fujitaka chuckled. "I told you it was nothing. There is no need to bother with it." And then, to himself he added. …at this time.
The auburn-haired girl looked at him weirdly but eventually shrugged and continued eating. Beside her, Touya gazed at his father intensely with a deep frown etched on his forehead.
"So…when are we going to meet your new bride?" Li Yelan suddenly asked out of nowhere which made Syaoran literally choke this time while drinking his tea.
"Wha…what?" He remarked in between coughs.
"Just because I've been recovering doesn't mean that I am alienated with the things happening in our society." His mother remarked as she elegantly sipped from her cup. "The elders are very anxious with this unexpected decision of yours. And here I was thinking that we need to forcibly set you up with someone just to prevent you from being a bachelor for the rest of your life."
Syaoran's brow twitched. "Forcibly set me up?" He shot a gaze towards Mei-Ling, who in return, just gave him an 'I told you so' look.
"I heard this 'Agatha' had quite a reputation inside this online game you play." Yelan continued. "Quite a powerful woman, I might say." She nodded approvingly.
Syaoran could not believe what he was hearing. His mother actually approved of Agatha? "Ermm…yeah…she is quite powerful." He cleared his throat. "But like what I said to Onesan earlier, I'm not married to her in real life. It was just something needed to do inside the game. As far as I am concerned, everything was just a business partnership." He once again replayed his brief explanation about InterVEST rules and regulations.
But his mother just waved a hand. "Yes. Yes. It doesn't matter. I'll be more interested on when you are going to bring her here."
Syaoran doesn't exactly know how to react. Beside him, Mei-Ling was also having a dilemma on whether to laugh or cry.
"Uh…" He started to say. Dealing with his mother was far more different than dealing with his sister. "…why do I have to bring her here?" He plainly knew why but he couldn't think of anything else to say. Playing innocent seemed inviting at the moment.
Yelan placed her cup down and quickly snapped her fan on her son's lap. "To introduce her to us, of course! The elders are excited for you to have found someone like her. It was quite obvious that she can support you in any manner. She would be a good wife to a powerful man such as yourself. I just have to hand it to you, Xiao-Lang."
Syaoran cleared his throat. "Erm…mother…I don't exactly know who she is in real life."
Yelan blinked and thought she heard wrong. "You don't know her?"
He shook his head. "In real life…no." He once again explained what he told his sister earlier.
Yelan was silent after he finished his explanation.
"Mother?" He looked questioningly at Yelan.
"Well don't just sit there, Xiao Lang. Do any means to find out about her true identity and marry her for real!" His mother exclaimed.
Mei-Ling bit her lip and watched as her brother's face became undescribebable.
"You can't be serious, mother. You want me to marry someone whom I don't even know what's like in real life?" Syaoran contested. "She could be…umm… ugly."
His mother suddenly smiled mysteriously at him. "And since when did physical traits became your basis? I remembered you saying before…that you'd rather be with someone who can handle a challenging conversation than someone you can display like a doll." Yelan tapped the tip of her fan lightly on her chin. "That is some lame excuse you threw there." She eyed her son closely. "You're not trying to squirm out of something now, are you?"
"Who? Me?" Syaoran chuckled nervously. "Why would I do that?" Shoot! It's good that she likes Agatha but she doesn't have to approve this much. How can she go to such lengths as to think of marrying her to me in real life?
Then, an inner voice suddenly spoke.
'Like the idea didn't even touch your mind…' It said as the image of page 28 of Section 41 flashed inside his mind. 'Have you ever wondered the reason why you can't shred the damn thing?' The voice taunted him.
A mixture of feelings flowed inside him. Its effects must have been great that it reflected on his face.
"Aaaaah…" Yelan smiled contently. "Now you are finally getting the idea." She said triumphantly. "She isn't such a bad candidate, is she?"
"Well…umm…" Syaoran stuttered. If only Yelan knew what was going on inside his head.
Beside him, Mei-Ling observed her brother's features and reactions. She knew that she should disapprove. Touya did give her a piece of his mind last night when he called out of no where and divulged a very important information.
Touya… She closed her eyes. It was all in the past right now and she would rather kindle her deceased husband's memory than Touya's. What they did back then was a mistake. Both of them realized that, hence, whatever it was that happened before, that was all there was to it—a closed book. She knew that she should do any means to separate her brother from the Kinomoto princess, but…
She opened her eyes again and looked at her brother. He looked lost as their mother continued to inject more possibilities with the match. If Yelan only knew who Agatha really was. Nevertheless, her brother had changed so much for the past couple of years and InterVEST was great contributor to that.
My dear brother has grown to be a strong person. Someone who can be independent and powerful even without the help of the family. Everything he has now, he can proudly say that it was all his. And the one whoknew about this the most, the one who had kept him going forward, and the one who supported him in this ridiculous dream of his…
…was none other than Kinomoto Sakura.
Mei-Ling felt a pang of jealousy and perhaps guilt as well. She never agreed with his brother's decision when he went solo and faced the world. She even insulted the online game which he loved the most. Yet, despite everything else, a Kinomoto ended up being the one at his side.
They are just like that… Mei-ling smiled to herself. …Kinomotos seemed to have a distinct trait of giving strength and determination even in the most hopeless situations. She should know. She had been there. It didn't last long, but the memories were there.
Another glance at her brother made her sigh. She couldn't do it. She couldn't pull the plug. As much as she wanted to intervene and do what Touya asked her to do, the very memory of Touya made her realize one thing as she studied Syaoran.
Her brother…was happy. She had never seen him like this before. His eyes mirrored her eyes back then…twelve years ago.
So, no. She was going to stay quiet for now. She needed to sort her thoughts. She nodded to herself she folded her arms in front of her.
"That is why, Xiao Lang…" Mei-Ling heard her mother say which brought her back to the present topic.
Yelan suddenly stood up and walked over to where her brother was seated. She placed both of her hands on his shoulders and looked at him straight in the eyes.
"Mother?" Syaoran looked up questioningly; startled at his mother's sudden action.
"That is why, Xiao Lang…" Yelan repeated. "You must do every means to find this girl and make the bind real."
"Marry her in real life and bring me grandchildren!" Yelan's commanding voice boomed throughout the terrace.
Syaoran was gaping. "I…I can't just do that!"
"And why not?" Her mother squeezed his shoulder as if to make emphasis. "You are Li Syaoran! Nothing is supposed to be impossible for you!"
"But…but…you can't just approve of her like that. You haven't even met her." He pointed out.
"What I heard from the elders about Agatha is enough." Yelan replied. The ornaments on her headdress swayed as she nodded. "And I have this intuitive feeling about her which was never wrong. She will suit you."
At this point, Syaoran didn't know how to react.
"Do it or else…I will have our men search for her and drag her here to marry you." His mother's strict and threatening eyes beckoned him. "And I'm sure…you don't want us to intervene that much in your personal life, do you?"
Syaoran's eyes wavered. "N--no…" He answered weakly.
"Good." Yelan released him and paced back towards her seat. She flipped her fan open. "So I am giving you the liberty of finding her and woo her…the conventional way." The 'conventional way' meant with no force, blackmail nor threat.
"Yes." Yelan stressed. "I repeat…make your current conjugal bind with her real."
This time, Mei-Ling gazed at her brother with sympathetic eyes. My oh my, this is quite a dilemma. What are you going to do now, dear brother?
(Up NEXT Chapter Twenty-Five: "The Past") --- another Special Ultra Long Chapter!
I am happy to see that 'Inc's old readers are still here and following the story. (and of course, I am glad that new faces drop reviews as well) This fic is over 400 reviews now. Yey!
This chapter isn't as long as my previous ones coz to be honest; this should have been included in the previous chapter. There was no Part I and Part II in my original plan, but I felt that I needed to give a proper update as soon as possible since 'Inc' had been sidetracked so many times. Anyway, the next chapter is going to be long and might take a while before I can finish it. It is probably going to take 24-30 pages. I hope it will compensate for this short chapter.
R and R Onegai Shimasu!