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.
After so many months…it is finally here. The much awaited update of 'Inc'. Enjoy.
From Previous Chapter:
"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?
Chapter Twenty-Five: "The Past" -- Special Ultra Long Chapter!
Syaoran slumped down his office's sofa with a sharp intake of breath. He had loosened his tie and was currently staring at the ceiling. He never felt exhausted in his entire life which was pretty ironic considering that he hadn't done a single bit of work since that morning.
Syaoran rubbed his face and sighed out loud. Dealing with his family, especially with his mother, was indeed an energy consuming task. Maybe, it would had been better if he didn't visited. Maybe, things would have been less complicated than it already was if he didn't report to the estate.
Yeah, right, Li Xiao Lang. As if you can prevent your mother from getting what she wants.
True, nothing would have stopped Li Yelan. Either way, she would have found a way to contact him and share her thoughts of approval of Agatha. In fact, he should be thankful that his mother opted consulting him first before ordering a search for the illusive rogue. At least in this way, he could still control the outcome of things. Heaven knew what might happen if the Li head discovered the true identity of Agatha.
"This can't be happening." Almost in disheveled position, the chestnut-haired man rolled over to one side as he covered his face with his hands. "Why do things have to be this way?" He laughed bitterly. "Find her and woo her…is this some kind of a joke?" He raised his arms and shouted. "Am I in some kind of soap opera! This dilemma is ten times more difficult than what my secretary watches on TV!"
He leaned forward and ruffled his hair drastically with a deep sigh heaved after. He once again stared at the ceiling and let the silence of his office comfort him.
"Li Xiao Lang, how the hell are you going to make this whole web work?" He murmured to himself as another sigh escaped his lips. "How…?" He closed his eyes slowly and sank back onto the sofa.
For a moment, he sat motionless. All the pressure and complications of his current situation swam around his head that he could almost feel himself getting dragged along its pace without any direction. But even so, despite all the wrongness of the things he had gotten into, he felt a smile growing on his lips.
"If all of this is wrong…" He started to say. "…if all of this is one crazy path I took…" He opened his eyes with a tender expression. "…then why…does it feel right?" It was as if a lovely song was playing as Syaoran contemplated. Like an invisible melody strumming in the background cradling him gently.
"If I stop thinking about everything else…" Syaoran whispered. "…if I am to think only of what I have in front of me…" He gazed towards his computer's monitor which was flashing InterVEST's welcome screen. "…I would say, that I have everything." He took another deep breath. "Everything that I would have ever dreamed of."
He stood up and strode towards his desk. A week ago, his table would have been filled with proposals and contracts from clients waiting for his approval. But now, only online documents was spread around; each containing both his and Agatha's signature.
Kinomoto Sakura's signature to be more precise.
Syaoran stared at the bottom drawer as he sat down on the executive chair. Like one of Eriol's taunts, the parcel inside it seemed to scream out to him. Actually, it was an understatement. He could almost hear his friend's daunting voice as to why he hadn't made a move in shredding the page of Section 41 which Kinomoto Sakura signed obliviously.
"She had never been careless before. Why does she have to start now?" He muttered disdainfully with a frown.
He drummed his fingers and glanced from his monitor then down to the drawer. He seemed to be deep in thought until finally his hand fell on the drawer's handle and pulled it open. He rummaged at the very bottom where he hid the folder of the controversial paper. Once out, he let his eyes rest on Kinomoto Sakura's neat signature. His mother's orders came flashing back to him.
'…make your current conjugal bind with her real.' He could almost hear her say to him again.
That would be easy. All he has to do was sign page 28 at that blank area on top of his name, 'polish' it with the rest of Section 41 and it would make everything legal, up to the tiniest detail, both Agatha and his agreement in real life.
Just like that.
That was how powerful Section 41 could be. It was InterVEST's ultimate display of strength, not only in the business world but in social and domestic functions as well.
Syaoran was silent for a while before finally tossing the paper aside.
"I can't believe I am thinking this." He raked his hair with his hand. "I can't believe I am actually considering signing this damn thing." He finally admitted to himself. "I must be out of my mind."
No matter how he viewed things, he couldn't deny the fact that he wouldn't mind signing Section 41 with Agatha. This truth scared him ever since reality dawned at him that the other had placed her signature on the alleged page. And it scared him more when he could not bring himself to destroy the document. Also, another realization walked up to him. If Agatha didn't turn up as Kinomoto Sakura, he would have signed Section 41 there and there.
If the Kinomotos' weren't in a feud with his family, he would not wait for his mother to order him to woo Agatha, and eventually, made the bind real.
Syaoran smirked to himself. "I sound so confident that I can actually win her heart. I am really such an arrogant bastard."
Even so, things would still be complicated; less but still complicated. If the feud didn't exist, it only meant that he and Tavenzouh, aka Tsukishiro Yukito, would have been friends. He would be what? Stealing a friend's woman? Would he break the love his friend shared with his rogue? Maybe he should be thankful that things were this way between the two families because if there was something he wouldn't want to come across in his life, it would be loving the same woman a friend of his does.
Wait a minute! Syaoran nearly choked at his last thought. Loving the same woman???
"What the hell's wrong with me!" He exclaimed hotly. "I didn't actually thought that up, did I? …pssh!" He snorted disbelievingly. "That is not the case here! Far from it! Making Agatha my wife in real life would be beneficial for SkyLark! That's all there is to it." He sounded as if he was trying to convince himself. "Good for business." He nodded. "Just like what she said, I am greedy."
It would be like hitting two birds with one stone. He recalled concluding that Kinomoto Sakura wasn't exactly ugly. Far from it, actually.
"Stop it." He scolded himself and sat upright. "This is no time to fool around."
Solution. He needed a solution. There was no way he would tell Agatha aka Kinomoto Sakura that his mother wanted him to marry her in real life. Perhaps, a half-truth explanation would do the trick. Yes, that has to be it. He nodded to himself and reached for his cell phone. He pressed his quick-dial list which stored his partner's number and called. After a couple of rings, a familiar female voice answered the other end.
"This is not a good time." Sakura remarked the moment she picked up.
"Nice greeting." Syaoran said sardonically.
But the lady ignored it and continued. "I am currently trying to make up to Tomoyo. I haven't exactly been a good best friend lately…no thanks to you." She added grimly.
"Don't blame all on me. Unlike you, my closest friend is quite informed and at my side at all times." He airily pointed out. "He was never left out in the dark."
A sound in the other end greatly suggested that the lady stomped hard. "Your closest friend is the impeccable and bold lawyer! Of course he would be informed, he is your accomplice! Don't compare my innocent Tomoyo with him."
Syaoran rubbed his temples. "Hai, hai…we're bad. Okay fine. I got that already." Normally, he would argue some more and even have the pleasure of teasing her, but he knew if he did that, the purpose of his call would be sidetracked.
Apparently, Sakura noticed this fast submissiveness. "You are actually not going to put up a fight." Her voice has tinged of worry. "Are you feeling alright?"
The inquiry earned an arched brow from him. "Worried, Kinomoto?"
Sakura seemed to be taken a back at the direct question, that she wasn't able to answer him immediately. "Ummm…"
The chestnut-haired man leaned over his table and gave a small chuckle. "I would love to press this issue some more but I currently don't have any energy so I will let it slide." It was the truth. He felt completely sapped out.
"Why? What's wrong? Did something happen?" Her tone was genuine as if she wasn't speaking to her family's archenemy. It was comfortable and warm that Syaoran was surprised on how it made him more at ease.
"My mother had found out about you." He replied without even thinking that his words could be easily misunderstood.
"WHAT?" She almost dropped her cell phone.
Despite the dilemma, Syaoran could not help but to smile a little. He was still big bad Li after all. "She knows about you." He said once more.
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN SHE KNOWS ABOUT ME?" In the backdrop, he heard another voice calling out to the person he was talking to. A light 'Sakura?' remark reached his ears via the phone. It was probably her raven-haired best friend. But the girl's inquiry was drowned by the nearly freaking out Kinomoto. "Li Syaoran, what are you saying? Don't tell me that she…" He heard her gulped.
"She knows that I am married to you in InterVEST." He slightly scolded his own deviousness.
"WHAT?" Her exclamation was nearly deafening this time that he had to place his phone a few inches away from his ear. "You better not be kidding, Li Syaoran! This is no joking matter!" Funny how his real full name had replaced the 'Helroi Damaski-is' part now that they both knew about each other's true identity. Heck, he called her 'Kinomoto' these days, too. Though, it was colder than the times he had addressed her as 'Agatha'. He still slipped every now and then, but it was getting rarer and rarer, after all, the image that 'Agatha' projected inside his mind was no longer the hooded rogue but the emerald-eyed princess of the rival family.
"I'm not kidding." Syaoran persisted, then finally rephrased his statement. "My mother found out that I am married to Agatha in InterVEST."
The brief silence in Sakura's end showed that she finally understood the matter. "You are really mean, aren't you." She accusingly said.
"What?" Syaoran tried his best to make his tone sound innocent.
"What are you trying to do? Give me a heart attack?" Her voice was starting to rise again. "You shouldn't use your words so carelessly!"
"Hah? What I said was the truth. What's wrong with it?"
"You know what's wrong with it! For a moment there, I thought your mother found out who Agatha really is. That I am a Kinomoto!" She exclaimed.
Despite the feeling of lacking energy, Syaoran could not help but to grin sheepishly. "Do you honestly think that I would still have the leisure to talk to you like this if my mother knew that very specific detail? Heck, she would have marched towards your mansion in full battle gear."
"Which is why you almost gave me a heart attack." She shivered at the thought. "That would be quite scary."
"Eh? Are you actually afraid of my mother?" He tilted his head to one side. "Is it alright for a Kinomoto to cower down in front of a Li."
"Did I say anything about cowering down?" Sakura started to counter. "Don't be arrogant." She hissed on the other end. "Even though I admit that she can be quite ferocious, it doesn't mean that I will back down from her. I would face her or anyone from your family any time." She remarked strongly.
"So you don't mind facing my mother?" His statement might mean something else for the lady, but somehow his imagination surged forward and he entertained the thought of introducing her to his mother formally...as his wife. Strangely enough, it gave him a warm feeling.
"Of course, I don't." Sakura insisted. "But if I can avoid conflict, I don't see any reason that I should start one."
Reason? Syaoran thought for a moment which invited another recollection of his mother's words.
'So…when are we going to meet your new bride?' He could almost hear Yelan asking him once again.
He shook his head to get rid of the memory.
"Anyway…" Syaoran continued. "…we still have a problem. My mother is demanding that I introduce my new business partner to the family." His explanation was close but not entirely accurate as he tried to choose his words carefully and not give too much information about what his mother had actually told him to do.
"Hoe!" Sakura exclaimed. "I thought your family isn't interested with InterVEST? Didn't you say that before?"
"That's what I thought, but apparently they are interested on whether or not the other person behind SkyLark can be trusted or not. I am placing everything at stake after all. It is normal for them to worry." He made it sound as casual as possible while using more of his sister's reasoning than his mother's so he wasn't exactly lying.
"I see." Sakura remarked in a small voice. "Trust…" She let her statement dangle.
For a moment, neither of them spoke as the meaning of the word and the irony of their situation retraced its steps to their awareness. Syaoran was the first one to break the silence. He cleared his throat before speaking, trying to ignore the awkwardness that kept dawning at them every now and then.
"Listen. My mother isn't going to stop until she meets Agatha." Half true. He nodded to himself. "She would do any means possible to get every piece of information. Our situation won't be good if this happens. Surely, you know what I am talking about."
"Yes." One could almost see her nod on the other end.
"That is why, we need to act first before my mother makes her move." He said. "For now, she had given me the liberty of finding your true identity…since I told her that I don't exactly know who you are IRL…and bring you to the family." Close…quite close to the actual thing. Syaoran was satisfied with how he had reinvented Yelan's command.
"How are we going to act first?"
"I'm going to find someone that can stand in as Agatha." He answered.
The chestnut-haired man frowned and rubbed his temples. "I'm not sure yet. I'll have to consult Eriol on this one. But whoever it is, Agatha has to turn up as a guy." Then to himself, he added. In this way, I won't be pestered to marry Agatha.
"Huh? Why a guy?" Sakura sounded puzzled for a moment. "Will your family believe that? I mean, the general public know that Agatha is a girl."
"InterVEST is an online world. Anyone can appear whoever, whichever or whatever they want to. Having a character who is opposite your real life gender isn't exactly impossible in any online game. Heck, your butler does it." He referred to the zombie-like butler having a cheerful little girl character in InterVEST. "It is a common thing."
"Hmmm…I guess you are right. Still, why a guy?" The girl persisted to question.
"I'm just being cautious." Again, half true. "Having you appear far from the real thing is much safer."
"I see." She murmured. "Do you know anyone that can be trusted? I want to be cautious, too. I mean, this is quite a huge secret that mustn't go out in the public. And whoever it was, he better not blackmail us. I won't tolerate it."
"Eh? What if he did end up blackmailing us, what will you do? Have him killed?" Syaoran gave an amused grin. "Why Kinomoto…you're not such an innocent and naïve girl after all." Then in a more sarcastic manner, he added. "Oh yes, I forgot. Agatha actually has sharp fangs which she hides under her sweet façade. Tsk! Tsk!"
"I am not you, Li. I won't do something like that." She proudly said.
"Then, what will you do?"
Sakura thought for a moment. "Ummm…I don't know. I'll just find a way to shut him up."
"'Shutting up' someone means a little different from where I came from." Syaoran remarked.
"That's why I keep telling you that I am NOT you, Li." She stressed.
"Yeah…yeah…fine." He leaned back in his seat. "Pressing this manner will take this conversation forever."
"Obviously." Sakura murmured.
Syaoran cleared his throat. "Anyway, I'm sure Eriol could find someone trustworthy. He had never failed me. He is really good with these kind of things. "
"Apparently, the accomplice resembles his master." Sakura scoffed on the other end.
Syaoran smirked. "Do remember that he isn't my only accomplice these days." He was distinctly referring to their SkyLark bond. "You, my dear, is someone with the same caliber as well." He pointed out.
"You're not my master." She strongly said. "I won't do things just because you told me, too. Nor will I result to special actions just to save your ass."
"But you already did special actions for me." Syaoran replied.
"It wasn't geared to save you." Sakura pointed out.
"It saved my dream." He said with more warmth than he anticipated.
Sakura became silent in the other end and didn't know how to respond. There was this unknown aura between them. This type of silence would normally produce some kind of reaction from the lady that Syaoran would give anything just to see her face on the other end of the line.
"Agatha…" He started to say. "…what if…" He felt like gambling for a moment.
"Hmmm?" She murmured and noted that he just used her InterVEST name once again. Surely, his purpose was different from the first.
"What if…" Syaoran repeated.
"What if…we…" He remarked in more pleasant yet unsure tone as he gazed down on Section 41.
"What if we ended up getting married in real life?" He finally blurted out.
"For real." He somehow couldn't stop himself from asking. "You and I."
Touya tapped his fingers impatiently as he waited for someone he wouldn't have thought of seeing again—on a personal level. He knew that he was a little too early than the agreed time but the matter to be discussed was too important to be delayed any further.
He was currently in a private grove at the far side of their town. It was the perfect meeting place for people who don't wish to be seen together. Despite the fact that a very old museum rests in front, it was rare for someone to venture beyond the hidden pathways protected by entwined vines and high bushes. Only a very few people knew about the place, thus, the museum wasn't popular. Probably something made out of a person's fetish and in time passed it to his family. The museum catered a collection of historical documents; mostly copies of the original ones displayed in the national library. Hence, it was illogical for people to go there unless they couldn't get a schedule in the library for viewing. Why see the fake ones if the real thing is available? No one had any idea as to why the owner of the place collected such documents and even displayed them, but whatever the reason was, people never bothered to find out even though the museum had been there for generations.
How long has it been since the last time he came there? Ten? Twelve years? He didn't want to count the exact length. All he knew was that he never dared stepping inside it nor to think about it since that alleged day.
That one day when he said goodbye to someone.
Touya closed his eyes in time for a cup of tea to be placed in front of him.
"You don't need to bother." He remarked as he darted his gaze at the newcomer.
The person smiled and continued to place small slices of cake beside his tea. "Why not? It has been a while. I don't normally receive visitors."
"I'm not exactly a visitor." Touya muttered. "Like always, I am indebted to you for letting us meet in your property, Kaho." He addressed the woman tending to him.
The woman appeared to be in her late thirties. She has long straight hair which swayed as she placed the remaining treats from her tray unto the small table. "I may not be your purpose for being here, but your presence is enough for me to regard you as a visitor." She put an empty cup near the ceramic tea pot and gazed at Touya. "This is for your friend. Make sure to pour tea for her when she arrives."
"She is not my friend." Touya corrected with much intensity.
But Kaho only gave him a teasing smile. "Oh dear me, I have to be more specific." She hugged her now empty tray. "Make sure you pour tea for your wife when she arrives as a gesture of good intention."
Frown, uncertainty, embarrassment, and anger all crept at once on Touya's face. "Don't bring up ancient history. She is no longer my wife."
"After all that happened, dearest ex-wife doesn't count as a friend?" The woman was a mere image of someone who had seen everything and carried the privilege of the knowledge.
"Did this secluded grove finally affected your judgment, Kaho? I believe it was quite obvious as to why she can't be regarded as a friend." He looked away towards the rustling trees and added. "Same reason why she can't remain as my wife. Have you forgotten?"
"No, I haven't forgotten. I couldn't forget something like that." Then, the woman's face became sad. "But you have." She supplemented with her words greatly implying something else.
He wasn't expecting such a remark from the grove owner that he ended up looking surprised upon hearing her words. May it be from its boldness or the true meaning behind it, only Touya knew. He grew silent for a moment before answering back.
"It is better that way." He said indifferently as he avoided the woman's eyes.
Kaho observed the man with much earnest and pity. "Must the fate between the two families hurt so many people?" She said softly.
"If it is our fate, then let it be." Touya replied. "It only mean that it wasn't meant for us right from the start."
"What if fate itself would like to correct something which was never meant to happen from the very beginning." This time, Kaho's demeanor seemed all-knowing and her voice mysterious as she twisted Touya's words back at him.
"What do you mean?" He couldn't help but to meet her gaze.
"Let's say…" She looked back at him intently. "…fate itself didn't anticipate that the small misunderstanding will create mountains of distrust and would like to correct it and bring things back as they should be, would you let fate do its work?...given that you want to let fate as it is."
"Are you saying that fate itself is dictating things now?" Touya was starting to get angry. "Are you saying that placing my sister's life in danger is fate's current wish?"
"Would you hinder fate, then?" Kaho countered. "If it isn't for you but for your sister's, will you fight fate?"
"You…" Touya closed his eyes and clenched his fists. "…stop saying things you don't understand. You have no idea how hard it has been for our family being the target of those blasted Li's ploys. The only thing I can do now is to keep everyone I love, safe."
"At the cost of one's happiness?"
Touya chuckled disbelievingly. "There is no way my sister can be happy with that brat."
"What makes you so sure?" Kaho countered.
"I'm her brother. I know what is best for her." Then, he stressed. "Her family knows what's best for her. There is no way I would let a Li take her away."
This time, an amused smile started to curve on the woman's lips. "So, that's it." She slightly laughed. "You just don't want another man to take her away from you."
Touya gritted his teeth. "That is not true. I would gladly hand her over to Yukito…which is the right thing by the way, considering that he is my sister's boyfriend and not that Li!" He remarked hotly.
"Tsukishiro-san is indeed Sakura-chan's boyfriend." Kaho placed the tip of her finger under her chin as if pondering. "But Li Syaoran is her husband now which wins homerun points above anything else." She remarked cheerfully.
Touya's fury snapped through the roof. "He is not her real husband. That is something done within the game and nothing more. As far as I'm concerned my sister is still Kinomoto Sakura in real life and not Li Sakura!"
"Hmmmm…" Kaho winked at him playfully. "Unlike Kinomoto Mei-Ling."
"Yes…unlike Mei-Ling…" Touya unintentionally blurted out, but eventually halted the moment he realized what he just said which made Kaho laugh even more.
"You." Touya darted a very cold gaze at the woman. "That's not funny."
Kaho gave an apologetic look but Touya continued to emit a scary aura.
"How many times do I have to tell you? She is no longer my wife. She even married another. 'Chun' something as far as I can recall." The dark-haired man remarked and slumped back on his chair.
There was a moment of pause before Kaho spoke once more. This time in a gentler tone. "Does it hurt?" She asked.
Touya, though forcibly, smirked slightly at the woman. "You didn't ask me then, why are you asking me now?"
But instead of answering directly, Kaho started to make her leave. She glanced at her shoulders as she spoke. "Just keep in mind that you might be exposing your sister in the same feeling as you had before…the same feeling of hurt."
"She will never have the same feeling." The man murmured. "Because unlike naïve me back then, she is in love with Yukito and not with a Li."
Kaho looked like there was something else she wanted say but decided against it. It was obvious that she was venturing too much towards the book that Touya had long closed; even for someone like her who was close to the man. So, instead she nodded. "Then pray that it is really the case."
"Of course, it is."
Kaho sighed. "But fate is indeed powerful. If things kept being repeated, then it is meant to happen."
"A mistake is a mistake. It shall not be repeated." The man stubbornly said.
"If that is what you think." Then with a sympathetic face, the woman added. "Keep in mind that even the most powerful person in this world could not hinder what is meant to happen. No matter how ironic it sounds, if fate can bring tragedy, it can also try to set things right."
With that, she bowed and left the man to his thoughts.
"What are you talking about!" Sakura exclaimed incredulously. "Are you insane? How can you think of such a thing!"
Li Syaoran called her this afternoon. They talked as always and everything was fine until the guy suddenly acted unusual and had asked her a weird question.
An extremely weird and unthinkable question.
"Is it really something impossible?" She heard him say. Near her, Tomoyo's eyes were big with shock as she listened at her best friend's conversation with her ears pressed on the back of Sakura's phone.
"YOU'RE A LI!" Sakura was almost screaming.
"Do you despise Li's that much?" The man on the other line remarked.
"Why are you asking these things so suddenly?" Her voice was still at its peak.
But Syaoran ignored her query and continued asking her another question. "Do you hate me?"
Sakura was dumbfounded for a moment. And it wasn't because the Li suddenly started asking strange things, but it was because she was surprised that she found it so difficult to answer him. She knew she should say, 'Yes, I despise Lis' or 'Yes, I definitely hate you.', but for some reason, she couldn't bring herself to say it.
"Agatha?" He spoke once more since she had been quiet. Beside her, Tomoyo was peering curiously with worried eyes.
"Ummm…" She stumbled unsurely and prayed that he would say something else other than his question.
But the Li remained quiet on the other end.
"I…uh…" She started to say "I…" She waited for him to give a clever retort or tease her for her uncertainty, but he said nothing and silence continued.
Sakura squeezed her eyes shut. Something was definitely not right with her SkyLark partner and it's making her chest go in turmoil. As to why she was having this kind of difficulty…she didn't know.
"Agatha…" He murmured on her ear. "You once told me that Li's and Kinomoto's don't exist inside the game."
"Yes." Sakura replied weakly.
"Then if I am going to follow the same logic…the conflict between the two families doesn't exist in InterVEST as well." Syaoran deduced.
She chose to remain silent on this one and listened as to where his words were taking him.
"You said that things are different inside the game…separate from the reality we walk on." He continued. "Hence, our families has no connection to Helroi Damaski-is and Agatha."
"That was…the general idea." She whispered meekly.
"That's fine with me." The man remarked. "But…"
But… Sakura braced herself. She greatly knew this huge 'but' and had, for the past weeks, tried to push it at the back of her mind.
"But…" Syaoran's voice mirrored uncertainty but nevertheless he chose to finish what he started to say. "…InterVEST isn't just any ordinary game. It was made to purposely cross the online world to the real world. The patch was a proof of this purpose; the virtual city it created is something which merged real life to the make-belief existence, taking the constraints of society off in every aspect and the ability of a person to stretch himself beyond the restraining corners of the norm. Fantasy is no longer an escape…it is a solution."
"And your point is?" Here it comes. The emerald-eyed girl thought.
"My point is…" The other man replied with much reluctance in his tone. "We can't forever separate our InterVEST life with what's really happening in the real world. It is easy to turn a blind eye and pretend…but…sooner or later…we have to face the facts."
"Doesn't this justify as to why your first question is simply impossible?" Sakura asked, referring to the unthinkable 'what-if' the formidable Li suddenly brought up.
"It can also work both ways." Syaoran replied.
"It could also be possible." The Li bluntly said.
"I don't think I understand." A puzzled expression took over her lovely face.
"If our real world situation can extend its restrictions to us, why can't our online world reach out to our real scenario?" The man explained with a much summoned bravery than expected.
Beside Sakura, Tomoyo gave a sharp intake of breath. Was this how Li Syaoran had been conversing with her best friend all this time? It was greatly different from what everyone thought—very far from it. And if so, for how long had this been going on? She had a difficult time digesting all those information her emerald-eyed friend had been telling her for the past few days. She couldn't believe how deeply involved a Kinomoto could be with a Li and vice versa. And this wasn't an ordinary Li. This man was the heir to the whole legacy of the rival family. And how, in heaven's name, did they manage to keep this from everyone?
Tomoyo's heart thumped faster and it wasn't due to anything involving her, but it danced inside her chest for her friend's sake as she observed Sakura's eyes shift emotions one after another. It was worrisome…truly worrisome as she arrived to her own deduction.
Helroi Damaski-is…the fierce Li Syaoran…was someone this close and important to her friend.
Her friend that was supposed to be a Kinomoto—the very main prey of every Li.
Yet, this particular Li's words were beyond what an enemy should be saying; the extreme opposite, to be exact.
Tomoyo swallowed hard. What will happen next, she didn't know. For all she could do now was to look over at her friend's side, wishing that everything was not real and they would wake up any minute now.
But that was far from happening.
Sakura, at this point, didn't know what she was feeling. Her hand was getting sweaty as it grasped the phone hard. "You can't possibly be serious….right?" Her voice came out in almost a whisper.
The other was silent and the line stayed still. This moment of pause was quite deafening for both of them.
"You're joking, right? Ahehe…" Sakura gave a weak laugh. "Right?" She asked again.
"Li…" She remarked with a slight push in her tone.
"You're scaring me." Sakura murmured. She had known the man for quite some time now that she was confident in interpreting his reactions, manner of speaking, reasoning...and given these, Sakura didn't want to accept the analysis her mind was screaming back to her.
Then finally, just in time before a period was placed on her conclusion, Syaoran spoke.
"You're right." He remarked with a chuckle which seemed forced to Sakura. "I was only joking. Haha." And he added. "Gotcha."
Tomoyo sank in relief in the nearby sofa, same with Sakura whose shoulders relaxed a little.
"You can be gullible sometimes." The man on the other end teasingly said and continued to laugh. "You can't possibly be thinking that I would marry a Kinomoto for real now. Though, I sympathize and completely understand if you want to have me. I mean…every girl wants a piece of me one way or another. I am, after all, the most wanted bachelor in town…if not in the world."
Sakura's mouth dropped open. "Of all the nerve!" Whatever uncertainty and uneasiness she had earlier was completely shot down the drain. "You are really so full of yourself!" She stomped hard much to Tomoyo's surprise as her friend became so angry in contrast to her previous demeanor. "Not every woman wants you!"
Syaoran continued to laugh in the other end. "Are you saying that you are not the very least attracted to me?"
"No!" Sakura firmly replied. "Not in a million years! I'll be caught dead than be attracted to a Li!" She exclaimed.
The man kept laughing. "That answers it, then." He said cheerfully—too cheerfully actually.
"Answer what?" The lady narrowed her eyes, but instead of replying to her question, Syaoran concluded their conversation.
"I'll talk to Eriol about the person that will stand in as you in front of my family. I'm sure he would find someone that can be trusted." He was back to his serious tone.
"Hoe!" Sakura blinked at the brisk change of demeanor.
"I'll give you an update later. For now, you should log on and see the status of our newly acquired assets." He continued.
"Good. Let's meet online tomorrow, then." And with an abrupt click, a hanged-up tone met Sakura's ears.
"Wha-? What just happened here?" The young Kinomoto balled her little fist. "That guy can really get into my nerves!" She cutely pouted before sitting beside Tomoyo.
"Sakura…" Despite the release of tension, her raven-haired friend could not help but to look more worried. Sakura's storm of reactions to one phone conversation with this man was far and in a different level during those times she had seen her friend talk to anyone else, even to someone like Yukito.
Syaoran's left hand brushed his face as the other clutched the phone hard which almost turned his knuckles white. He felt like crying and laughing at the same time. Whatever possessed him to go to such lengths as to suggest something like that to Kinomoto Sakura, he didn't know.
Was he trying to embarrass himself?
Was he trying to completely betray his family? If he didn't already?
It was absurd enough for him to deduced something like that, but to actually say it out loud to the Kinomoto princess…? What on earth was he thinking?
"Argh!" He threw his phone and slammed his head on top of his desk. "You idiot. What the hell's wrong with you!" With half-opened eyes, he faced the piece of Section 41 which was tauntingly resting in front of him all throughout the conversation.
"Be caught dead than be attracted to a Li, huh?" He recalled Sakura's words. "Haha…" He started to laugh once more but then it became bitter and bitter by each passing minute. "You stupid stupid man." He scolded himself. "What have you gotten yourself into?"
He took a deep breath and sat straight. He collected himself to his usual businessman posture and picked up the controversial paper. "Off you go…back to that locked drawer." He muttered. "And off I go…to my abominable lawyer. "
Mei-Ling reached the old museum five minutes before the agreed time. She knew she wasn't late but knowing the man she was going to meet, she could be regarded as so.
"Why is this place so secluded anyway?" She muttered under her breath as she scampered towards the old building.
The entrance to the grove could be found at the back of the museum. The acres of land was owned by the Mizuki family and for generations now, the place was regarded as something synonymous to history. So even though the parchments on display were only copies of the real thing, the aura of the ingenious stories told by it completely enveloped every corner and stone pillar, thus maintained the structure's sturdy aura. It wasn't popular, yes, but for those who had been to the place and had appreciated its rarity, it was like a trip to the forgotten realm of their ancestors; the struggles and fight against tyranny which was almost non-existent in the modern world.
Mei-Ling gave out a sigh as she ran her eyes at the old façade before her. Nothing has changed since the last time she was here. It was as if everything was contained in a time capsule; untouched and unharmed. Anxiety was overwhelming which made her heart pound hard inside her chest. Meeting that specific person in secret wasn't something she wanted to do again. Everything was supposed to be a closed door of the past and nothing should be done in any relations to it, but here she was…in a rendezvous with the very person behind that closed door.
She stopped in front of the archway of the museum's entrance. She stood still for a moment as she studied the cracks and chipped stones. She brushed her hand lightly against it.
How long has it been?
How many years had passed since she said goodbye to that someone?
How far away in her youth did she suddenly grow up and fled from her childish hopes and dreams?
Mei-Ling's midnight eyes wavered. "Too long ago…very long ago." She murmured.
The wind blew a leaf from a nearby tree and made it fly across her face. She caught it and felt lost in an instant as nostalgia took over her. Her feet made her turn towards the window near the entrance of the museum and as she hold onto the leaf, her eyes bore onto the reflection it beckoned back to her.
The afternoon sun was up high but it barely stung her skin under the shades of the trees which surrounded the museum. It was warm but the soft breeze made it cool.
It was exactly the same as it was back then.
Back then when she met someone unexpectedly.
Mei-Ling's eyes danced as recollections became alive within the glass window. Images started to pour behind her reflection, making the tall tree beside the window no longer alone as it slowly pulled her back to the sealed chapters of her youth.
It was an afternoon, much like this one, when her stubbornness and frustrations made her runaway from the guards assigned to her by her mother.
She could hear them shout her name but she kept herself hidden behind the shrubs beside the road.
She kept quiet and still.
'Where is she?' 'Go look for her!' 'Maybe she hitched a ride from that car!' 'Which one? Two just drove a few minutes ago.' 'I don't know. Just go after them!'
Everyone panicked but she remained squeezed in her hiding place, uncaring that dirt stained her skirt and dried leaves were all over her pig-tailed hair. Yes… Mei-Ling absent-mindedly touched her bun…I used to wear my hair that way.
They passed by her that day. Everyone was oblivious of her little hiding place. Though, it took a few minutes more before she could safely stand up, she remembered feeling relieved and free for the first time in her life. And it was only once she stood that she had became aware of the vast land behind her. No house was in sight. Both sides of the road were covered by trees and tall shrubs. The area doesn't seem to be a place for tourists and she bet that none of the members of her family would have set foot there if their car didn't have trouble.
She recalled looking beyond the trees instead of following the road. It would have been a dangerous place for a young girl of fifteen to venture alone, but she was happy. Her chest felt light as she breathe in fresh air; free from guards, commands and rules. It wasn't like a dark forbidden forest either. There were lots of birds chirping, squirrels rummaging every now and then.
It was peaceful.
She continued to walk beyond the shrubs and beyond the trees until she found a small dirt path. Uncaring of how dirty she looked, she pushed forward. It was then she caught a glimpse of someone; a person wearing yellow overalls and cap. He was standing from a far holding a crate in his arms that she concluded that he must be a workman. She couldn't make out his face due to the shadow casted by the hood of his cap. All she knew was that he was tall, lean and had dark hair. Even so, she was surprised to see someone in such a place that she bowed with uncertainty as a sign of respect for she was obviously a trespasser. But the man just stood there with no acknowledgement and eventually left without a word.
Mei-Ling smiled as she remembered blinking and feeling confused, but nevertheless intrigued as to why there was such a person in that place.
She followed the workman but wasn't able to properly catch up due to her skirt kept being caught every now and then from twigs and branches. It wasn't before long , though, that she had lost sight of the man. It doesn't help either that it was getting dark. Yet despite of everything, her surroundings became less dense and the type of trees planted in the area changed. It was like she had just barged in a mangrove plantation. A few strides more and she caught site of an old building.
Mei-Ling closed her eyes as she remembered tiptoeing at the museum grounds as she wasn't sure if it was open to the public. Surely, it wasn't since it was built in such a secluded place.
Still, the garden in front of it pulled her, that soon after, she was admiring and smelling every single flower in bloom in the said place. And then, there he was again.
The workman in yellow overalls…glaring at her coldly…this time within recognizable range…
…with awfully familiar onyx eyes.
"A-ra? It seems I just gained another visitor." A woman's voice became evident which pulled Mei-Ling back to the present.
The dark-haired woman slowly bowed in greeting. "Mizuki-san. It has been a while." She reservedly remarked.
The woman smiled. "As polite as ever, MeiLing-chan. I've told you many times before that you can just call me 'Kaho'."
"Y…yes…" Mei-Ling lowered her eyes and clasped her hand in front of her as if unsure on how to address the other, given her past which this woman greatly knew.
Kaho's eyes softened. "Please, make yourself at home. And you don't have to worry about anything. As always, I won't tell anyone."
Mei-Ling bowed again. "Thank you so much for always tolerating us."
"Think nothing of it." Kaho remarked..
"So is he…" Mei-Ling looked awake uncomfortably. "…is he here? You referred to me as another visitor."
"Yes." The woman calmly replied. "He had been here for quite some time now." Then, she playfully added with a wink. " You're going to get an earful again."
This remarked seemed to have annoyed Mei-Ling. "Hmph!" She snobbishly tilted her chin. "He has no business being angry with me nor does he have the right to give me an 'earful'! He is no longer connected to my life, and so with that, he doesn't have the luxury in expecting me to be obedient to whatever he wants and says."
"Yes. It is…apparently so." Kaho said with a sad face which Mei-Ling immediately noticed.
"There is nothing to be sad about, Mizuki-san." She chuckled nervously while fanning her hand in front of her face. "You don't need to concern yourself about it." Then, she collected herself. "I must go now." She pasted an annoyed smile despite her feeling the exact opposite. "The more I get this done with the better. I don't want to spend too much time with that grumpy man. Thank you again, Mizuki-san." And with that, she quickly stepped past Kaho and tried her best to avoid any more uncomfortable inquiries. Mei-Ling could hear her sigh as she made her way inside the museum. But she tried to ignore it. Nothing beneficial could come out of unearthing closed past. It was better left that way. She was grateful for Kaho's support but the woman had the tendency of reviving arguments that was best left to be forgotten.
"Yes…forgotten." She murmured as she briskly strode towards the back of the building.
"Well? What do you think?" Eriol's smooth devilish tone beckoned the person on the other line. He leaned back unto his seat and placed his feet up on his desk as he played the cord of his office phone. The man he was talking to was in complete shock, and who could blame the man? After all the things, he just imparted with the other, any sane person would probably have the same reaction.
Eriol chuckled. "Oi…oi…Yamazaki…don't die on me." He grinned mischievously. "We still have a lot of things to take care of." Aka…the story that should hit the papers a few days from now. He thought with eyes glinting.
Finally, Yamazaki spoke. "Li Mei-Ling was married to Kinomoto Touya?"
"You heard me." The lawyer replied with an evil smile never leaving his face.
"I don't have any dignity left as a reporter, Hiiragizawa. There is no use trying to smirk it some more. Do you really enjoy seeing people laugh at me?" An angry tone replaced the shock he had earlier.
"Wha-?" Eriol blinked innocently. "I'm not trying to push you more down to the slums, Yamazaki. I am telling the truth. "
"A Li married to a Kinomoto….yeah right." Yamazaki scoffed.
"May I remind you that I can already give two examples for the statement." The lawyer remarked.
"Li Syaoran and Kinomoto Sakura's arrangement are different from what you are saying about Kinomoto Touya and Li Mei-Ling." The reporter pointed out. He was almost hissing on the other end of the line. "The former were only role-playing inside the game and nothing more. Though, I am surprised that they still went through it despite of everything, what you're saying about their older brother and sister is definitely something impossible to happen. We all know how Kinomoto Touya hated the Li's amongst everyone else, why would he fall in love to his sworn enemy?"
"Because there is always a thin line between love and hate." Eriol said firmly. "It is the oldest story of all time."
"Don't get poetic on me. This is no time to dig up creative literature." One could almost see him balled his fist.
"Oh but where do these poets and writers get their lines? They couldn't just pop out of nowhere, could they?" Eriol said in a matter-of-fact tone. "They should have real life basis."
"Hiiragizawa, I don't want to play anymore games." Yamazaki said, on the brink of losing his patience.
"Yamazaki,Yamazaki…I am not playing games with you." Eriol tried to convince the other man. "What I say is true. Listen…fourteen years ago, Li Mei-Ling tried to escape her mother's firm grasp. She left her convoy unnoticed and scampered towards the woods near the Mizuki estate."
"The mangrove with a museum on the front?" The younger man asked with an obvious tinged of curiosity on his voice which made Eriol smile. Once a reporter, always a reporter.
"Yes." The lawyer nodded. "You know the place?"
"Yeah. I've been there during my college days. They have copies of historical documents that I used as references in my research papers." Yamazaki said. "But that's so far away from city proper. Very secluded."
A perfect hiding place. Eriol thought to himself. It has many uses…even for me. He closed his eyes as an image threatened to swim back inside his head. It was a recollection of running in the dark with twigs cracking beneath his feet and branches of small trees sticking to his wounds, making him bleed as he tried to get through the forest while carrying a limp body in his arms; desperately trying to find shelter…until finally he emerged in a vast mangrove.
"Still...I don't see Kinomoto Touya's connection on this." He heard Yamazaki say which brought him back to his senses.
"It so happens that Kinomoto Touya was working part-time in that place when that happened." He briskly said to the reporter.
Yamazaki almost choked in disbelief. "Someone as rich as Kinomoto Touya…working part-time???"
"Rich people can be crazy sometimes." Eriol chuckled as he tried to push his own memories back. "Apparently, Kinomoto Touya was bored and didn't know what to do with his life. Although not many people are aware of it, he had switched from one odd job to another during high school since he couldn't figure out what he will do with his life."
"Isn't it kinda obvious that as eldest in the Kinomoto family, he is expected to take-over the business?" Yamazaki pointed out.
"Well, Kinomoto Fujitaka unlike Li Yelan, likes to give freedom to his children. He is that sort of a parent."
"So he just let his son work like that?"
"Yes. One could say that in this way, his son learned many things." Eriol remarked. "It is a good way to train someone."
"Knowing how ordinary people live, eh?...before governing on them." The reporter finally understood.
"One thing I would like to praise the Kinomoto's is that they are not snobs and respected everyone." Eriol nodded to himself.
Yamazaki smirked. "Unlike your employer."
The lawyer grinned at the remark. "Which employer?"
One could almost see Yamazaki shake his head on the other end. "Ooops, sorry I forgot. You are double-faced."
"So harsh, Yamazaki. I'm hurt to hear you say that about me." Eriol slightly laughed.
"Hmph…it's the truth." The reported went back to the topic. "Anyhow, so the two met there and fall for each just like that?"
"Ummm…no. There were complications, of course." Eriol went on explaining. "But the owner of the grove set a few rules. Since both wanted to stay, they have to abide on her conditions."
"Mizuki Kaho." The lawyer's eyes wavered as he mentioned the name. "The estate and the museum belongs to her. She was someone who rarely goes out of the grove but is known to extend a helping hand to lost kittens." Any type of lost kitten. He added to himself. Including my kind.
"Really now? Hmmm…" Yamazaki searched his memory. "She is that woman with long hair and pleasant demeanor?"
"Yes, I believe so."
"I see." Surely, the man wouldn't go to these extents if he wasn't telling the truth. Besides, he could always check on the woman. She looked kind enough to just answer a simple inquiry if she knew Hiiragizawa Eriol or not. "What kind of conditions did she lay down?"
"Ummm…" Eriol gazed up at the ceiling. "Simple ones. A ceasefire if they want to continue staying in the grove. She doesn't want any foul things to happen. We all know how bloody the feud can go."
"So both person abided and then that was it? They fall for each other?"
"Well…as far as I heard…" Or rather…as far as I can recall… He, once again supplemented to himself. There is no need to tell him that I've actually seen it. Heaven knew this was the real reason why Li Mei-Ling was cold towards him, but provided that she doesn't have the nerve to say the truth to Syaoran in regards to where they first met, it would only look like an older sister not approving of her brother's playboy friend. Even so, If she knew more about my real background, which luckily she only knew a part of it, she would probably ban me from Syaoran's life forever. Eriol was fully aware that Li Mei-Ling was probably so darn curious about how the hell he ended up as a lawyer, but her past wasn't exactly something she wanted to get unearthed. Hence, probably why she opted not pursuing inquiry about him and remained quiet when Syaoran first introduced him as a friend to the family."…they didn't get along at first, but eventually found something to connect themselves to one another." He finished.
"What kind of connection?" Yamazaki continued to ask.
"Ah…strange things can happen between a man and woman. Very strange things." Eriol grinned in recollection. "Especially in such a young age…like…" He thought for moment. "…hopes and dreams."
"Hopes and dreams?" One could almost see the other roll his eyes. "Don't get mushy on me now."
"Why, Yamazaki, you disappoint me. Haven't you fell in love yourself? I believe that girl's name is Chiharu." He tauntingly said to the reporter.
"Leave Chiharu out of this." Yamazaki grumpily remarked. "May I remind you that I am not exactly the best person to understand about relationships provided mine crumbled so horribly." Then, he added. "No thanks to you."
Eriol smirked. "Hey, don't blame your unsuccessful love life on me, now. I admit that I have a huge part in making your life miserable, but your relationship with that girl was not in my agenda. I've always thought that no matter what happens, your significant other should always be at your side….to support you in any way they can." Which is what exactly what a Li finds in a Kinomoto in any generation. He, once again, supplemented to himself. And vice versa. They only get lost without the other... Then, he shook his head. …even in the old days… He repeated. …especially in the old days.
That was why, in Eriol's opinion, after seeing this much and knowing this much, the feud was stupid; a mere reflection of one's stubbornness, pride and misinterpretation of the other person's intentions, when all this time it was obvious that both families were very much drawn towards each other.
"You're better off without her." He added. "Find someone more worthy."
"I'm not asking for your advice, Hiiragizawa." Yamazaki shot back hotly. "Mind your own business."
"Touche! I'm just being helpful." Eriol sat up properly and leaned on his desk. "You're so stingy."
"I'll be more stingy if you betray me now, Hiiragizawa." Yamazaki gritted his teeth which made the lawyer laugh.
"You are in no position to demand things from me." Eriol said darkly. "But, I decided to be nice and pity you, so I'm going to let that slide." Then, in a firm serious voice, he continued. "You have my word. If it is one thing I value and honor, it is my word." Probably the only thing good I learned from the upbringing I received from my family... He rubbed his temples as if regretting that the thought that touched his mind. …from my real family.
"I don't get it." Yamazaki remarked. "What do these things have to do with you and Clow Reed? Why are you willing to do anything for Reed's sake? And why would Reed trouble himself with the Kinomoto's and Li's affairs?"
"You are asking too many questions." The lawyer replied flatly.
"I thought you said you would gladly answer my questions? Isn't this your word?" Yamazaki triumphantly threw back at Eriol which resulted for the man's eyes to get clouded.
"You really are smart and a vigilant young fellow, Yamazaki." He replied to the reported. "Maybe that's why, despite of what had happened, I ended up liking you and giving you a chance now to retrieve your lost reputation."
"Oh please, don't sugar coat things. Just answer my questions." The reporter persisted, unraveled.
"I only have authority on answering the inquiry about me, but I won't be able to answer Reed's because I've also given my word to the old man prior to you."
"That would be fine for me. It would ease some sleepless nights just thinking of the reasons behind all of these secrecy and tangled ploys I seemed to have found myself plunging into."
Eriol's eyes cannot be read as he played with a pen while thinking of the right words to answer the persistent reporter. He debated inside on how much he should tell, then finally, he decided to go direct and straight to the point but with less details. "Clow Reed saved my life." He said.
"Really?" Yamazaki was now itching with greater curiosity than before. "And how did that happen?"
"I'm sorry. But that's all you're going to get from me. It is my life, after all." Eriol smirked. "It is none of your business, much like yours are to me." He threw back what the younger man told him earlier.
Yamazaki grinned on his end as the man managed to squirm away from his inquiries. "Smooth, Hiiragizawa. Very smooth."
Then, in a jolly way, Eriol suddenly perked up. "Unless you are my best friend and I would gladly tell you everything!"
A distinct bitter laugh flooded the receiver. "Like that would happen." Yamazaki remarked sarcastically. "Because I believe, even Li Syaoran doesn't know about your true face."
Eriol smiled. "Li Syaoran is not my best friend. We only consider each other as close friends. Hence, I don't mind setting the boundaries."
"Do you have any real friends, Hiiragizawa? It seems like an awfully lonely world you got there aside from Reed." Yamazaki tauntingly remarked.
"Look who's talking." Eriol countered. "Didn't all your so-called 'friends' left you when you lost your promising career?"
"You are in no position to point that out to me." A wave of hatred suddenly became evident in his voice.
The lawyer gave a small laugh. "Hai…hai…but don't worry. If it eases your pain. My so-called 'friends' abandoned me, too…fourteen years ago." He was shocked on how easily he was able to say it after all this time.
"Really now. I wonder why…given your nature." Yamazaki's sarcastic tone filled Eriol's ears once more, but the older man continued to chuckle.
"That's why I think we are so perfect for each other!" The manipulative lawyer cheerfully said.
"Somehow, that just sent chills up my spine." The reporter grimaced.
Eriol continued laughing. Yamazaki never failed to entertain him. Maybe if they've met in another circumstance, they would have gotten along just fine. The reporter's intuition was sharper than Syaoran's, though the latter was someone who could strategize dangerously, the former was someone who could easily pick up his hidden agendas. That was why, he found it more difficult to deal with Yamazaki Takashi than Li Syaoran.
Maybe befriending him isn't such a bad idea. He thought. But alas, he ruined the guy's life too much. No one in his right mind would forget something like that.
I am better off alone anyway. A flicker of sadness invaded his navy-blue eyes. People important in my life are only bound to get hurt if they stick around me…the real me.
"But I don't mind giving you a clue…" Eriol grinned mysteriously. "…if you're good in research, I'm sure you would eventually find the other end of this rope."
"I'm all ears."
"Have you ever wondered…" Eriol started to say in a low voice, close to whispering. "…what Li Yelan's true maiden name is?"
"Her true maiden name?"
"Yes…" The lawyer grinned evilly. "…the real one she had before she got married to a Li."
"Oh, you're not saying that she's…" But he was cut off as Eriol's office's door flew upon and revealed an exasperated Li.
"Eriol!" Syaoran barked as he stomped towards Eriol's desk.
As a master of composure, the newcomer's intrusion only earned an arched brow from the lawyer despite the fact that he was talking to someone secretly behind Syaoran's back.
"I need to talk you. Now." Syaoran remarked in a commanding voice.
The lawyer just raised his hand towards the Li and continued talking on the phone….sweetly. "Hun, it looks like it is going to rain." He cooed to the person on the other end. "Can we cancel our plans today?"
"How appalling." He heard Yamazaki retort with much grimace.
Eriol tried to suppress his laughter. " Don't worry, darling. I promise to call you when I'm free. A dinner, perhaps?"
"Don't bother." Yamazaki continued to say.
"Aw…don't be like that. I still love you." Eriol continued his taunt and cover at the same time.
In front of him, Syaoran was rolling his eyes. If he only knew who his friend was really talking to.
"Whatever." Yamazaki gritted his teeth as he speak as low as possible. "Just hang up already."
Eriol chuckled. "Okay. Talk to you again, Hun." And with that, he ended the call.
"Finally!" Syaoran exclaimed as soon as his lawyer placed the receiver down. "I can't believe you are womanizing at this hour."
Eriol crossed his fingers in front of him and peered at the younger man. "I'm still human, you know. I have a social life."
"Who is it this time?" Syaoran shook his head. "I think I've lost count of how many women you have."
"Oh just someone I met on the streets." Technically, true.
"Streets? Oi…she is not a prostitute now, is she?" Syaoran narrowed his eyes.
"I'm hurt. I didn't know you think of me so low."
"Then, don't sound so low!" Syaoran slumped down on the office's sofa. "Goodness, Eriol. You can't keep switching from one woman to another. Just settle for one already. Don't you want to have a family? You are way older than I am, you know."
"I have no plans about that at the moment." Nor in the future. He reminded himself. "And for your information she was someone I know…a few years back." Again, technically true.
"A college friend?"
"Ummm..sorta." He did meet Yamazaki while he was still studying as a lawyer, didn't he? An intern for Reed, but nevertheless, still studying.
"Do I know her?" Syaoran looked at him thoughtfully.
"I'm not so sure." Eriol stood up and joined Syaoran at the adjacent sofa. "So, what is it that you need to talk to me about which cannot wait?"
The chestnut-haired man's shoulders droop down. "Mother is pestering me about Agatha."
"She wants you to break it up with Agatha?" He placed his hand at the back of the sofa and crossed his legs. "Can't blame her. Agatha is a complete stranger after all. Well…to them the very least."
"No." Syaoran rubbed his face. "In contrary, she approves of Agatha."
This brought a smile on Eriol's lips. "Really now?"
"Yeah." Syaoran heaved a deep breath. "She approves to the point that she wants me to marry Agatha for real."
Eriol was silent for a moment as his brain tried to digest what he just heard. Syaoran looked like he wanted to hide in a hole when the lawyer burst out laughing.
"Hahaha! I can't believe this! How ironic!"
Syaoran gave him a disdainful look. He knew he would get this kind of reaction from his friend, and would probably start to tease him to death. "Don't you dare, Eriol. Don't you dare."
"Don't I dare what? Hahaha." Eriol's laughter continued. "Oh wait! You still have Section 41 with you. Making your mother's wishes would be easy. Now I know why you can't shred the damn thing."
"This has nothing to do with that signed paper!" Syaoran exclaimed and stood up. "How the hell should I know that my mother will approve of her? And not only her, but the elders as well." He made frantic gesture with his arms, showing desperation.
Eriol wiped the tears behind his glasses. He was laughing too hard. Wait till Clow Reed hears about this. "Just sign the damn paper and get things over with. Hahaha."
"I can't just do that! You know I can't do that!" He paced towards Eriol and grabbed the other man's shoulders. "Eriol…I need your help."
"I need you to find someone that can be trusted and pretend to be Agatha." Syaoran remarked.
"You want me to find another girl that can stand in as her?"
"No. I need you to find a guy." Syaoran started to explain. "I want a guy…a younger one…probably in his teen years who can stand in as Agatha. In this way, I am not obliged to marry anyone. My mother couldn't prolly let me marry a guy now, could she?"
Still with laughter aftermaths, Eriol tried to focus on what the man was saying. "Would she believe that?"
"This is an online world. Anything is possible. We are not who we really are when we play our characters." Syaoran pointed out. It was the same thing he told Sakura earlier.
"And does your princess know about this?"
Syaoran released his friend's shoulders and sat beside him instead. "She knows about the plan, but not about mother's true intentions. All she knew was that my family knew about Agatha and is now getting curious about her true identity."
Eriol finally calmed down. "You should have told her. It would be nice to know her reaction."
I almost did…kinda. Syaoran thought to himself. "Anyway, going back to what I said. Do you think you can find someone? And he better not blackmail us."
"Blackmailing us would be a suicide." The lawyer adjusted his glasses and started to think. "That would be difficult, though. Most of the people loyal to you are in one way or another connected to the Li's. There's a great chance that they would either be recognized or found out if investigated."
"That's why I am asking if you can find someone. Someone connected to you and not to me." Syaoran pointed out.
Eriol's demeanor suddenly became serious. "That would be difficult. We've been together for quite a while now. Our acquaintances are almost the same."
"Surely there is someone before you met me." He grinned at his friend. "Like that woman you just met on the streets. She's someone not connected to me. Surely you have others lagging somewhere in your past that could help us. We can also pay him to make things easier."
In the outside, Eriol was smiling and looked like someone trying to search a face in an old yearbook, but inside he was frowning and was greatly disturbed. What a day for him to remember these things. If only Syaoran knew that he was the least person to consider to have people he could trust from his past. More specifically, someone within his generation or younger.
Even so, he nodded at the other guy. "Let me see what I can do." He rubbed his chin. "There is bound to be someone."
Syaoran patted him happily. "I know I can count on you, Eriol. What will I ever do without you!"
"Hmph. Apparently nothing." Then, he stood up and strode towards his desk. "I'll give you a feedback tomorrow. For now, let me rummage on my contact list."
"Great." He started to walk towards the door but turned back when an idea touched his mind. "And oh…since I've cut short your little conversation with one of your women, I don't mind arranging things for you if you like. Just to make up and in exchange for this little favor of mine."
One brow shot up from the lawyer's face. "Arrange what?"
"How about another date with another woman?"
"Yeah, you know. How about that Agatha's raven-haired best friend? Maybe I could talk to Agatha about that. You seemed fond of her considering that you took her to your apartment in the middle of our little crisis back then." He was referring to the time he and Sakura waited for the lawyer in Café Alberta and with SkyLark being on the brink of being disbanded.
"My phone is dead and you had my charger with my car." Eriol reminded him.
"Yeah, right." But Syaoran's smile was saying otherwise.
The lawyer smirked as he pulled a couple of notebooks out of his drawer. "And what makes you think that Kinomoto Sakura would allow you to arrange a date for me with her beloved best friend? Are you this close to her now?"
"Umm…" Syaoran placed his hands inside his pockets and turned the doorknob. "…not really. I could still try. Just for the effort of doing something for you."
"Don't bother. I'm fine by myself." Eriol gave him a reassuring nod. "You might end up cramping my style."
"Oh I forgot. You're the expert." And with a wave, Syaoran took his leave.
The moment the door closed, Eriol tossed the notes he was holding and slumped down the seat behind his desk.
"Great. I feel guilty now." He sighed and closed his eyes. But then, he repeated to himself that this is for Syaoran' s own good. Everything started as old Reed's orders, but as time passed by, he had gotten attached to the young Li and would gladly avoid things that would hurt him.
But…in their kind of setup, it was unavoidable. Someone was bound to get hurt.
"I just hope that you won't hate me someday…Syaoran." He murmured.
Eriol reached for his cell phone and slid it open. He stared at it for a moment as if lost in a private battle within him. "Someone connected to me…huh?" He chuckled bitterly. "Damn Yamazaki for pointing this out to me." And with another deep intake of breath, which was completely very 'un-Eriol-like' considering that he was once again losing his composure, he dialed a very old number which he thought he wouldn't have to dial again.
He heard the other end ring and soon after it was picked up by sensual voice of a woman.
Eriol began to speak conservatively and uncomfortably. "It's me...Yuko-san."
A man stood still at the edge of a cliff. The rain was pouring, thus, he was quite drenched. For how long he had been standing there, only he could answer. He had been going to that place for days now, trying to relieve the pain which kept burning up his chest. He would smile in front of everyone, but would suffer once alone. He doesn't know why things turned out this way, but he was very confused, angry and betrayed, yet he couldn't bring himself to speak up and demand answers. He could just helplessly cry out under the rain and clutch the velvet box in his hand.
He didn't want to say anything because despite of what had happened, he wouldn't want to hurt her nor anyone else in the family he had grown to love.
He thought everything was going smoothly and that their future was all planned out.
But he was wrong.
Something unexpected happened.
Something he wouldn't have dreamed to have been going on behind his back all this time.
He gazed down at the velvet box in his hands. Opening it would double the pain he was feeling right now. He should have gotten rid of the ring inside, but couldn't let go just like that.
Yes, he couldn't let go.
He wouldn't give up without a fight.
A car pulled over at the side road. The pouring rain trickled down its windshield as the driver turned the engine off and slowly strode towards his location. Like him, the newcomer didn't mind the cold rain as it made its way to his clothes.
"So you had finally came to your senses." The newcomer said. "I know I should just give you a few nights before the idea sinks in." He chuckled. "We couldn't let Li Syaoran do whatever he wants."
Yes. Li Syaoran was the root of all his problems.
"So I guess you agree on looking for Agatha's true identity. She is currently the closest person to Li Syaoran's and possibly the only weakness. We could use her." The man spoke reassuringly.
"No. There is no need for that." He said as he clenched his fist inside his coat at the mention of the words 'closest person to Li Syaoran'.
"Hmmm?" The man blinked at him. "But didn't you call me for this reason?"
"I want another way." He remarked.
Then, he briskly turned towards the man. "If you want my cooperation,Grevor, then we do this my way."
Grevor was surprised for a moment on the intensity of his voice. "I didn't know that this affected you this much, Tsukishiro. You seemed cool and uncaring when I was talking to you back then."
Yukito remained silent.
But older man wasn't picky. "I wouldn't care less what way you want, as long as we get rid of Li Syaoran and his SkyLark."
"Ah." Yukito replied reservedly.
"We should start planning, then." Grevor rubbed his hands together excitedly.
"Yeah." Yukito suddenly turned around and started walking down the road.
"Hey! Where are you going?" Grevor called out to him.
But Yukito was like in a trance as he walked farther and farther.
"I won't mind giving you a lift. Oi!"
"We'll talk again later, Grevor." Yukito remarked and continued walking absent-mindedly, leaving the older man bewildered.
Yes…we will talk again. Yukito thought. By that time, I would be ready.
I will do anything…
…to take back what is mine…
…even if it means…
…that I would have to be Tavenzouh in real life as well.
It will be, Tavenzouh's and Damaski-is' final battle.
(Up NEXT Chapter Twenty-Six: "Trouble in Paradise")
Considering that this chappie's title is "The Past", I can't help but to go back to memory lane during the very first time I've uploaded this fic. I wasn't even sure if I will get reviews or if people will like it since this is my first fic, but I was glad when I received reviews. I won't forget icicle7, my very first reviewer who had encouraged me to continue (for I was very reluctant and unsure before). I am so glad that icicle is still here and is continuously reviewing every update. Thank you very much.
But icicle isn't the only person I should be thanking. There are quite a number of you people who had been with me ever since the early chapters of 'Inc'. It feels very warm and rewarding to see the same faces for two years. Hmm…yes…two years now since 'Inc' debuted in November 2004.
I'm so glad. –is teary-eyed-
Arigatou Gozaimasu! –bows- To all of you. From the people here in fan fiction dot net to the regulars of my Gaia thread. You all know who you are. Thank you.
(P.S. I'm not receiving ff alerts in my inbox. Why is that? I'm sure I turned it on ever since I started writing in this site and never touched it. Is it some kind of bug? And to the reviewer who asked if I can provide 'inc' in a word format, sorry but I don't give out the original word documents. Most of the time, it is unedited which includes grammar, spellings and scenes…yes scenes…hehe coz I change this using this site's editor during upload.)