'Incorporated

By Majah

Disclaimer:

I don't own CCS and xXxHolic, but I do own the story in this fic and things that are non-CCS and non-xXxHolic 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:

…he had been adjusting in running his daily routine with someone. He was used in being independent with these things, but now…

Syaoran glanced at Sakura's pouting character before him as she tried to make him regret his decision about the pet shop.

"Making decisions would require that we confide with each other first." He said out loud. "No matter how small it is."

Then suddenly, someone spoke from behind him which greatly caught Syaoran off-guard.

"Isn't that how married life is supposed to be?" A male voice became evident, loud enough to be heard even by Sakura which immediately earned gasp from the lady.

Syaoran's character spun around towards the origin of the voice. "Tavenzouh." He remarked as he came face to face with the alleged Viscount of Maran.

"You look well, Damaski-is." Tavenzouh greeted coldly. "And you, too." He said to Sakura's character.


Chapter Twenty-Seven: "Trouble in Paradise Part II"

Sakura was shocked beyond words when she saw Yukito's character, the steadfast Viscount of Maran, talking to both her and Syaoran. Though, she was quite aware that Damaski-is and Tavenzouh were seen in conflict every now and then, she wasn't anticipating to be in face to face with her real life boyfriend while with her online spouse inside Arakkis. She was far from expecting this situation considering that only conjugally bonded business partners where allowed inside the virtual city and Yukito doesn't look the type that would be interested in something like that. He did, after all, merely shrugged when the Ultimate Patch was first announced.

Had she been wrong in jumping to conclusions about Yukito?

"What a surprise," Syaoran spoke through his character, Damaski-is. "You are the least person that I'd expected to be here." He said casually. Trust the great Li's composed façade no matter what the situation was.

"Really now?" Tavenzouh replied calmly but his character's eyes suggested cloaked intensity. "Even though we have quite a history together? You think that I would just sit and watch you take over everything? It is not good underestimating me, Damaski-is." Yukito's character smiled but it wouldn't take a genius to conclude that there was something more to it than what the Viscount wanted to reveal.

Syaoran's character merely gave a smirk and placed his hands inside his pockets. In a casual tone, he responded back. "You can't blame me. After all, it had already been months ever since the patch was applied. If you really are planning in stopping me, you should have made plans sooner."

Yukito… Sakura said inwardly, partially glad that her real face was hidden behind her jolly character. If this was something that happened in real life, she wouldn't know if she could keep her reactions neutral. Just for how long has it been since I've spent time with Yukito? She wondered to herself. A wave of guilt washed over her as she recalled the fast paced scenes which had been happening as of late.

Many times, she had cut their lunch short because Damaski-is needed her to do something inside InterVEST…

Many times, she would arrive late on their agreed time due to prolonged meetings with Damaski-is

Many times, he had caught her sleeping while on a movie date due to lack of energy since she had to stay up late the previous night , assisting Damaski-is' with InterVEST dealings…

Many times, she would forget to call him since there was some exciting news she had to tell Damaski-is

Everything was Damaski-is' fault.

It was all because of Li Syaoran.

She should be grateful that Yukito had tolerated her in real life. Her boyfriend had been patient despite the fact that he was the busy engineer and she was supposed to be the one without an endeavor. Making up to him, was something she had always planned and told herself over and over again, but often times had gotten sidetracked, yet again…and again.

So why does she feel a little taken a back now that his InterVEST character was standing inside the city of Arakkis? Was she expecting that he would at least tell her in real life that he was planning to enter the city? Wasn't this something he should be confiding to her, knowing that his real identity in-game was revealed a long time ago?

Had he married another to gain access?

Then again, she wasn't in the position to complain and demand. She had been keeping many things from him; much bigger and controversial things.

"Hmmm…" Tavenzouh looked thoughtful for a moment. Trust an elite player to make use of the emotions and expressions function of the game with great accuracy. "I do confess that I had no intentions of entering this city at the start." Then, he smiled brightly. "I was planning on getting married in real life, you see."

Sakura gasped. Getting married in real life? Her eyes were wide from shock as her hands flung towards her mouth. Would that mean that he is going to…? Wave of emotions overwhelmed her. Or rather…he used the word 'was'…but that would suggest…

Apparently, the cloak her online character provided didn't help her in concealing her reaction. It was unexpected that she completely didn't prepare for the impact. The new virtual set betrayed her as it reflected her shock and emulated her gasp.

"Anything the matter?" Genuine concern beckoned Tavenzouh's character as he directed his words towards Agatha.

"Umm…" Sakura stammered as she tried to pull herself back together. "…it's…nothing…ahehehe" She laughed nervously. Near her, Damaski-is only gave a quick glance with his thoughts utterly concealed within his character's lull demeanor.

"A-ra," Tavenzouh continued to smile sweetly. "Is this notion too farfetched for the illusive rogue?" His eyes darted towards her as if trying to read beyond her character's façade. "I also have a life outside of InterVEST. Don't you, too?"

Sakura swallowed hard. For a moment, she couldn't bring herself to answer Tavenzouh a.k.a. Tsukishiro Yukito directly. She should just nod or say 'yes', but she felt her words caught inside her throat. Her mouth opened and closed until finally…

"Don't we all." Syaoran's character suddenly spoke which diverted Tavenzouh's attention back to his arch nemesis.

The emerald-eyed lady could only marvel on how Li Syaoran could continue his unaffected pace in this kind of situation. Unlike me… Sakura thought inwardly. ...utterly not doing good.

"Yes." Tavenzouh replied. "Absolutely." Then, with a serious face, he let out a bombshell. "Life outside the online world is reality. No matter how InterVEST had developed their game to be as close as the real thing…that would be all they could do. Close to the real thing, but never the real thing."

Sakura bit her lower lip.

Syaoran's character smirked. "You sound as if you wanted to prove something." Damaski-is casually stepped nearer Agatha. If he intended to imply something by doing so, only he knew. "Close to the real thing, you say?" He gave another laugh. "You are free to ask anyone you see inside this city on what is actually real and what not." He gestured his hands towards each by passer, who were by now, had started giving them curious looks. "I tell you, Tavenzouh…" Damaski-is narrowed his eyes with a gaze which bore unto Yukito's character. "…this…" He pertained to everything around them. "…is far more real than anything I have in real life." Sakura was surprised to hear this. "And I believe, I am not the only one who thinks so. " This gave Sakura a weird feeling inside. Syaoran continued. "To contest InterVEST realism is not wise considering that the government, itself, had allowed it and placed real world assets under its supervision. This is no longer a mere game, dear Tavenzouh." Syaoran made his character shot a very serious look towards the Viscount. "This…" He made sure that he would say it clearly. "…is reality. This is where technology had lead the business world. It would be a matter of time now until everything will be dealt online. And if you refuse to accept this and continue to deny everything, then sad to say, old friend, you are just going to be left behind."

Sakura was silent, but this time, her eyes weren't on Tavenzouh, they were pinned towards Damaski-is. Does Li Syaoran really think like this? Does he really regard InterVEST as the real thing--hence; his true reality? Was he really this convinced, considering that she had to do some drastic measures before when he had planned to let go of SkyLark and end their partnership?

She was included in this online world, would this mean that she was also far more real than anything he have in real life?

Sakura felt warm and somewhat, confusingly happy.

Then, an inner voice inside her spoke.

But what about his family? The whole Li family?

As if on cue, Tavenzouh brought up the controversial topic. "I don't see any of your family members here, Damaski-is." He started. His character no longer carried a smile that on that very moment, Sakura wondered if this player before them was really Yukito in real life. He seemed to be giving off a different aura; a different personality from the man she knew as his brother's best friend—her boyfriend.

"So?" Syaoran replied.

"Hmmm?" Tavenzouh tilted his head to one side. "Don't tell me that your reality doesn't include the Li family?"

Sakura blinked. That was a good point. Somewhere inside, she was also dying to ask this given the logical exchange both men had been throwing against each other. And apparently, she wasn't the only one who thought so as she saw Damaski-is become silent. Although, Li Syaoran's character still looked composed, the event of him becoming lost for words was an indication that Tavenzouh's last question had much impact on him. Probably something he had only came to realize at that moment.

Yukito's character frowned as he looked intently at the other player as if studying Damaski-is inch by inch, taking advantage of the man's silence.

Sakura felt her heart beat faster. For the past few months, they never discussed anything which included their situation with their two families. Sure, it was a huge problem at the start of SkyLark when they found out about each other's true identity, but after all the confusion and whirlwind of pride, they had somehow gotten over it and was even able to bend some rules and work around the issue instead of actually facing it. Was it really that easy to ignore their roots and play in their new world? And why did Tavenzouh bring up the topic all of a sudden?

But her trail of thoughts were instantly halted the moment Syaoran finally spoke which almost made her faint from shock.

"Currently, no." Damaski-is replied in a flat tone.

"Excuse me?" Tavenzouh seemed to be taken aback. Perhaps he had heard wrong?

Syaoran's character was filled with an equally serious expression as that of the Viscount. "I said…no." He repeated. "Currently, they are not included in my reality."

Sakura's mouth dropped open which her online character also did in parallel to the function of the virtual headgear. Yukito's player seemed to have the same shocked expression upon hearing this, straight and clear from Li Syaoran.

"Are you serious?" Tavenzouh asked unbelievingly.

Around them, other players were obviously trying to get within earshot. After all, one wouldn't see Damaski-is and Tavenzouh on a face-off in the middle of the street every day. And it doesn't help either that almost everyone knew who they were in real life. One belonging to the Li family whilst the other, practically almost a member of the Kinomoto family.

What more if they knew who she really was.

Sakura made her character glare at the attempts of the players to hear what the two prominent figures were talking about. Some pulled back a little bit but others still had the guts to pursue. With this, she raised her hand and casted a spell around them which enclosed her, Damaski-is and Tavenzouh in a sound-proofed barrier which prevented anyone to eavesdrop.

But alas, both men don't seem to notice her efforts as they continued their confrontation.

"Why does it matter to you?" Damaski-is threw sharply. "The Li family is none of your concern."

But rather than answering, Tavenzouh shot back the questions. "Doesn't it suppose to matter to you? Weren't you supposed to be concerned with your family?"

"I am not obliged to accommodate each of your questions." Damaski-is said coldly. "My family is my business and not yours. There is no reason for me to explain to you."

Yukito's character seemed stunned for a moment. He wasn't the only one, though. Sakura, herself, was pretty much in the same state as Li Syaoran's words finally sank in.

"Then, what are included in your reality?" Tavenzouh's voice toned down as if dreading what he was about to hear.

Damaski-is casually leaned back and in a haughty manner, locked gazes with the Viscount. "Isn't it quite obvious? Do I really need to spell everything out to you?"

Tavenzouh returned the unblinking gaze with his character's mouth set in a firm line. No words were uttered for a while. Sakura, too, didn't dare to speak. She was afraid that she might add salt to injury, but dared to analyze inwardly. Yukito was acting weird, well, his character for that matter that the young Kinomoto was starting to doubt if he truly knew nothing of her connection to InterVEST. Was it possible that he might have an idea that she, Kinomoto Sakura, was the true Agatha and hence forth, married to Helroi Damaski-is who was the heir to the Li's proud lineage, supposedly the abominable family which had caused great pain to their family for decades?

Was this the reason why they were being confronted by Tavenzouh?

Had he guessed? The mere idea felt like cold water was being poured down Sakura's back.

And then, silence was broken but not by an angry or sly tone as she finally recognized Yukito's gentler yet coarse voice came out Tavenzouh's mouth.

"Just what are you up to, Li Syaoran?" He murmured. "Do you really know what you are doing or are you merely making one huge trap?"

Syaoran's character cocked a brow. "I'm not sure what you are talking about."

"Are you really serious." It came out more of a statement than a question. Tavenzouh narrowed his eyes. It looked like he there was more he would want to say but was interrupted by successive warning bells.

All eyes shifted towards the Viscount's right side as a floating object suddenly materialized.

"Greetings." It remarked the moment its shape finally became evident. It was a robot-like ball with a pair of round flat eyes which flashes blue light every now and then. It turned its façade towards Tavenzouh and continued to speak. "The system informs Cedric Tavenzouh, Viscount of Maran, that the thirty minutes free trial entry to the city of Arakkis will expire in two minutes. Please prepare to disconnect."

"Free trial?" Sakura's voice seemed to have returned to her.

Yukito's character smiled. "Ah." He glanced towards her direction. "Something offered to elite players which haven't decided to grab Arakkis' conjugal scheme yet. It was supposed to get us interested and consider the possibilities." He said.

"Oh." Was the only thing she could say.

"And here I was thinking that you are trying to catch up on me." Damaski-is 'character smirked.

"Maybe." Tavenzouh replied. "Maybe not."

"One minute." The system bot declared once again.

"Who knows what lies in the future." Yukito's character closed his eyes and waited for his time to be up.

Neither Syaoran nor Sakura supplemented statements. They all just stood there with a great tension in the air. Whatever Tavenzouh was planning to say earlier was gone, much to Sakura's relief. Instinct told her that it could be something she wasn't ready to hear and thanked the heavens for being considerate despite the sins she had committed.

"Twenty seconds." The system bot counted.

"Well then," The Viscount smiled casually. "I must be off." He turned around. "Make sure to take care of yourself, Damaski-is. As one power grows, so are thou enemies."

"No need to remind me. I deal with each and every one of them every day." Syaoran remarked arrogantly.

A countdown immersed from the floating bot's bodice in red which started from ten then down to zero, and without another word, Tavenzouh was enveloped with swirling rings and was disengaged from the game. Sakura's barrier vanished upon the Viscount's exit together with the system bot, which vanished into thin air the moment the countdown reached zero.

The street was back to normal like it was momentarily paused then continued again. The space where Sakura's barrier formed earlier was evident but passersby no longer dared to try eavesdrop nor walk closely towards them. Not with Damaski-is' full attention back to its surroundings.

Syaoran's character wasn't looking towards Sakura's. She was waiting for him to say something but he only started to walk like nothing happened. She followed behind unknowing what to do, but eventually she caught up and pulled his sleeves.

"Ne…Li." She spoke in a hushed tone to make sure only he could hear her.

"How many times do I have to tell you not to call me by my real name inside InterVEST?" He replied annoyed. "We are role-playing here."

Sakura's character looked down but her grasped of him became tighter. "Is that how Yukito is online?" She asked uncomfortably. "As Agatha, I never did have the chance of mingling with him."

"Surprised?" Syaoran asked. He was still walking but his pace slowed down.

"Somewhat." She answered honestly. "Is he always like that? I mean…his words…" She let her statement dangle, slightly scared of what she might deduced.

"As if he is trying to point something out." Syaoran finished for her.

Sakura's character looked up at him and nodded. "Do you think he knows?"

Syaoran contemplated for a moment. "I thought it was normal for him to attack the reality thing. What I didn't expect was for him to include my family in the argument. I've known him for quite a while before I've known you online. This is only the second time he involved my family in the conversation."

"Second time?" Sakura curiously asked.

Syaoran's character looked away. "Let just say that the first one is inevitable and that happened a long long time ago. Nothing suspicious there."

Sakura wondered if this has anything to do with the rumors behind Damaski-is and Tavenzouh. Both players were already established in InterVEST even before she came along. Recalling the two men's reaction upon seeing each other during the Ultimate Patch's launch, it was obvious that they had known about each other's true identity. Was this the reason of their conflict since Yukito was practically a member of the Kinomoto family? What about the rumors that they used to be friends? Was that possible or did people just made that up to add drama in the rivalry? Should she dare ask?

"Ne…" She started once again as she tested the waters. "You and Yukito knew about each other true identity even before the launch or else both of you wouldn't have reacted that way at the hotel."

Syaoran didn't reply.

She continued. "I've heard many rumors about Tavenzouh-Damaski-is conflict and I was wondering if any of them were true."

"Rumors are just what they are. Merely rumors." The other said reservedly but somehow Sakura felt that he was hiding something deeper.

"They said that you and Tavenzouh used to be friends." She finally blurted out.

"That is not possible." Syaoran's character looked forward, avoiding her own character's eyes. "Given Tavenzouh's relationship with your family, it would be outrageous for him to be friends with me and vice versa."

"What about us?" Sakura couldn't help but to ask.

"What about it?"

"Are we friends?" She straightforwardly asked.

"No." Syaoran replied in a flat tone.

"Then, what are we?" She finally had the courage to ask. She braced herself expecting a scold from him that they were mere business partners or a laugh of what else could they be but professionals inside the game. Somehow, she wanted to hear it flat out than using assumptions or 'come-what-may' attitude.

Yet, neither reactions came as Damaski-is became silent. These moments seemed to occur very often that day.

"Li…" She murmured behind with her character very close to his as to avoid the others to hear their words.

Syaoran's character rubbed one hand on his face. He was probably doing the same thing in real life and forgot to disengage his character's reflex. Sakura blinked up at him.

"You're so stubborn." He finally said. "You keep using my IRL name." He avoided the question and this didn't do well with Sakura.

"Enough with it already!" She exclaimed. "Who was it who said that this is his reality? Who was it who just pointed out that this is real more than anything he has outside the online world? If that would be the case then it doesn't matter whether I call you using your real name or not! Given that you seem to be merging the two worlds anyway."

On an instant, Damaski-is' hand flew side-wards and both of them were enclosed in another barrier which looked like the same thing Sakura used earlier.

"Would you rather that I call you 'Kinomoto', then?" He threw back. "Go and let the whole world know about us?" His voice was rising.

"What is 'us' exactly, Li?" She countered. "How shall I classify our situation? You said we are not friends. Then, would that mean that we are enemies? If we are enemies then we shouldn't be trying to keep what we have now."

"Don't tell me that you want to back out since you found out that your boyfriend was planning to marry you." There was a tinge of tension in his tone. Perhaps something more but it went by unnoticed by the other.

Sakura felt her cheeks grew hot. She had almost forgotten Tavenzouh's words about that. She stammered as she tried to shot something back. "I…I…"

But, Syaoran continued. "Is realization finally dawning at you?" She saw his character's hand bald into a fist. "Are you trying to give reasons to end all of this? Then, you shouldn't have troubled yourself months ago and let me dissolved everything while I was still in my right mind!"

Sakura's mouth dropped open which was mirrored by her character, Agatha. "You're throwing this back to me? I didn't say anything about dissolving SkyLark. You've gotten this all wrong!"

Around them, another group of onlookers were starting to notice them. Although they couldn't hear a thing, their soundless bickering earned another set of curious glances.

"Isn't it where everything is leading?" Syaoran said hotly.

"I can't believe I am hearing this!" Sakura replied. "I don't see any reason for you to be angry with me. I am only asking a simple question! It has nothing to do with Yukito!"

"Then, what will happen if you do get married to him? I suppose this will affect your performance in SkyLark." He airily deduced.

"Is this why you're so angry?" She stomped towards him. "You're only afraid that I won't do my part and become a liability?" In real life, tears started to drip from Sakura's eyes. She didn't know why but she felt hurt and distinctively pained as if a thousand daggers were plunged right into her chest. "Was it all business to you? If I can't perform then I won't be of any use otherwise?!" Her voice had risen as well.

"Of course, it's business!" Syaoran shouted back. "What else should it be? Why else would I put up with a Kinomoto in the first place!"

From that moment on, Sakura felt the ground beneath her gave way. It was as if the earth had opened up and swallowed her whole. But what was she expecting? Wasn't this why they tolerated each other? Yet, more tears flowed down Sakura's cheeks. She was glad that the virtual headset doesn't react to tears yet, unless the player purposely made a 'crying' emoticon. She would never want Li Syaoran see her cry especially with such reason.

But what exactly was the reason? Sakura, herself, doesn't know. Many times his words don't make sense, bold and incomprehensible, but more or less, she never thought about it nor took the time to analyze. Day by day she was happy with what she had in InterVEST, SkyLark and all, but now…

Why am I crying? She painstakingly pondered within her. Why the heck can't I stop crying! Sakura disengaged the virtual gloves which gave her the freedom to wipe her face without reflecting the action to her online character. It didn't do her much good, though, tears continued to flow; her eyes were getting blurry.

"I'm sorry, then." She managed to say, but her voice was obviously strained. "I'M SORRY FOR BEING SUCH A DEFECTIVE TOOL!" She screamed on his face as she turned on her heels and started running away from his character, breaking the barrier conjured around them. People nearby was surprised at the sudden outburst but nevertheless gave way to the running Agatha. Sakura didn't bother looking back and pressed the 'disconnect' button which automatically enveloped her character with swirling rings and moments later, she vanished as an indication that her character had logged off from the game.

Back to the solitude of her room, Sakura was sniffing hard. Actually, it was an understatement. She was more than sniffing. Her tears had escalated into the degree that she couldn't see anything anymore. Her skirt became wet with tears falling as she bent forward and grasped her knees. Her virtual headgear was utterly thrown towards the floor. Some parts were strewn from the bodice of the apparatus that one wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't work the next time it would be plugged into the network.

The emerald-eyed girl continued to cry. And to think she felt happy when Li Syaoran said that the game was his reality and that his family wasn't included, yet now…

I'm a fool. What was I thinking? There is no reason for me to get happy with those words. He probably used it just to get into Yukito's nerves. She concluded inwardly. What exactly was I expecting? She seemed to be asking this to herself over and over again.

"He's right." She toned down a little and brushed her palm unto her eyes. "Everything is business. I don't see why I am getting emotional about it." But tears started falling once more. "All business. We wouldn't dare continue if not for our dream for SkyLark. We both want success." She tried convincing herself. "I'm here because I want to make SkyLark a reality."

Was this her true reason? Was it really SkyLark?

SkyLark wasn't her dream. It was Li Syaoran's dream which he proposed to her. Something that wouldn't have the possibility to exists without the other. Then why did a Kinomoto aid in the fulfillment of a Li's dream? Was it really because she was too much involved in the game to let go? Did his dream touch her unknown greedy side enough for her to plunge into dangerous waters? Was it self-worth that the game had provided her the only reason why she tried forgetting about the facts?

If so, then, Li Syaoran's words shouldn't have affected her. Their relation with each other was as clear as black and white; their connection which was bounded by contract…merely business partners.

Yet, this continued to give her a sunken feeling.

Slowly, the real reason started to surface. For all this time, she was happy. It wasn't just another venture. It wasn't just another thing to excel on. No matter how much stress she received from the game,

…in InterVEST,

…in SkyLark,

…in Li Syaoran's company…she felt at home.

Secured.

Warm.

Taken care of.

And perhaps…

…loved?

She closed her eyes and bit her lower lip. Did she really think that? Loved? Confusion was almost a daily thing if she tried sorting out what she had been receiving from the other man. Perhaps, it was a strong word to use. Maybe, affection was more appropriate. Li Syaoran, for her, was an epitome of being hot and cold. He could be all sweet this second then entirely indifferent in the next. Was it a sign of being moody? She wasn't sure. Nevertheless, for the past months she felt a lot closer to him than anyone else. Personally, if she would dare attempt to classify, he would be above Tomoyo, not entirely like Touya, a dash of Fujitaka, somewhat close to Yukito but in a slightly different range. Whatever all of that was, she didn't know.

"So much for having that kind of conclusion." She whimpered. "I'm just thinking too much out of nothing." Her voice was muffled from burying her head insider her arms. "I am nothing but another tool he could use inside the game. Damn you, Li Syaoran." But what do you expect from a Li? They were known to be more impersonal and cold, who will do anything in order to gain what they wanted. Shouldn't this reputation warn her of what she could get from her involvement with a Li? But no, she had turned a blind eye on them and learned everything the hard way.

"Serves you right, Kinomoto Sakura." She scolded herself.


"That didn't go well." Syaoran cursed under his breath as he hastily took his virtual headgear off. He leaned back on his executive chair and closed his eyes. He tried to smooth the deep frown etched on his forehead with his thumb and forefinger but it doesn't seem to obey his requests. He heaved a deep sigh as he mentally ran everything that happened inside InterVEST. No matter which angle he looked, he had overreacted in many ways. Unexplainably…extremely…harshly…uncalled for…filled with jealousy.

Yes, Sir. That was the reason of it all.

He was jealous.

Syaoran opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling. For a moment, he didn't want to move and found the Victorian styled cornice slightly interesting. Then again, confusion had caused chaos within him which reciprocated more uninvited emotions.

"You're not thinking right, Xiao Lang." He said to himself. "Who cares about Tsukishiro and Kinomoto?" He mumbled grumpily. "They don't have anything to do with you. You are a Li, for crying out loud."

He briskly sat upright and faced his mahogany table. He spread his palm against the wooden surface and felt it amazingly warm under his touch. It wasn't the only thing in this room which seemed to be like this. Every aspect of his new office illuminated a sense of homeliness; comfortable and relaxing even though commonly, newly built structures should have an air of being impersonal, the exact opposite became of this place.

This place…SkyLark's new headquarters.

Unlike his previous buildings, SkyLark's headquarters didn't compete against the city's towering structures. It merely had five floors, yet what this piece of property have that others don't was a huge expanse of land. Situated in the east side of the city, it could very well replace Central Park in vastness. Not only one but five buildings all in all were built within the enclosure's thick wall which provided security in the acres of land that SkyLark had managed to acquire for the past few months. Well, not every bit of it was acquired through SkyLark; some of it was his personal property or unused patch of land to be condemned. So it was rehabilitation in a way and even though latest facilities and modern technology were equipped within the place, trees were planted and the earth was landscaped with different kinds of plants; shrubs and flowers of the like. It was something insisted by his beloved Agatha, not wanting a cold stressful business atmosphere. On her whim, huge trees where imported from God knew where and in the end, the place ended up looking like an environmental research facility in the midst of the city.

He sighed in recollection as he stared at his vast office.

Correction, their vast office.

A wave of the same emotion he felt earlier swam inside him as he gazed at an identical mahogany table a few paces from his. It was Agatha's desk; Kinomoto Sakura's side of the room. Normally, both of them would have different spaces on their own, but given how hectic and important their interaction was with one another, it would be better to share an office wherein they could easily communicate and strategize quickly. Hence, the current setup was suggested which both of them agreed on. Plus, efficiency was on its top most benefit since both their laptops where connected to the SkyLark's private server which also has wide-screen flat LCD wherein all of transactions and stocks status were displayed. The convenience was entirely pleasing that if given the choice, Syaoran would rather live here than go back to his penthouse.

But alas, this own secluded paradise seemed to have made him forgot about certain facts that had came unnoticed for the past few months. He was too engrossed with his new world that it didn't occur to him that the strong bond which held SkyLark could be compromised the moment one of them would have a drastic change in their real life status. It probably never occurred to him because he doesn't exactly have those kinds of plans at the moment nor in the near future even though it was always brought upon him by his mother, but he couldn't say the same for Kinomoto Sakura.

He contemplated for a moment. Was this the root of his jealousy? Was he jealous that she had someone to settle down with and he has no one? In that case, he should have been envious not jealous. But as he recalled his initial reaction upon hearing Tavenzouh's words…

"I suddenly felt like he was trying to take something very important to me." He murmured. "Something that was mine and mine alone."

Possessiveness.

And then after seeing Agatha's reaction…

"What is she thinking?" Syaoran asked out loud. "Is she considering it? Will she consider it or should even consider it?"

Why the hell not? Tavenzouh is her real life boyfriend.

But the mere thought of her considering it was the thing which made that pang of jealousy erupted within him. In InterVEST, there had always been Damaski-is and Agatha; rivals who became an abominable pairing. He had grown accustomed to this as if it was the only thing his world revolved in. Only the two of them and no one else. Each for the other. But this had proved to be a mistake.

"She is not yours." He reminded himself. "Not yours." He repeated. "The marriage bond was just a role-play in InterVEST and nothing more."

To see Kinomoto Sakura merely as her game character, Agatha, was entirely wrong. To fool oneself that 'InterVEST was InterVEST' and 'real life was real life' was just a short-term solution. In the long run, it would be difficult to maintain. Collision of the two was inevitable. Heck, his own view of reality had started to divert towards the online world, which if he was still in his right calculating mind, would not happen. He regretfully realized that he had been confused for many months now. Sometimes he would be nice to her then would eventually notice that he was being too comfortable which would make him drift back to the world of eccentricity.

She is more than Agatha. Syaoran finally admitted to himself. She has a life outside InterVEST. A life that doesn't include you. He stared at the Li family crest resting on his table. Not in the same sense, that is. He added.

On an impulse, his eyes darted towards the bottom drawer of his desk. He absent-mindedly fished out a folder which contained a very important thing. Frowning, he opened it and was greeted once more by a familiar document which he had been keeping for all this time. He ran his fingers again on top of a neatly drawn signature of Kinomoto Sakura, and then he stared at the opposite end where his own signature should be. That portion had remained blank and heaven knew how many times he had resisted the urge to fill it up.

Syaoran smirked. "This would officially steal her away from Tsukishiro." That was right. The one doing the stealing was him not Tavenzouh. "She is Tsukishiro's woman right from the start." Then, he gave an amused laugh. "I also wonder how mother will react if I really do sign this and seal everything." He stood up and whisked the paper with him.

"Well, both of them have nothing to worry about now." He bitterly said. "Agatha and I always fight anyway and this day is no exception. It would be illogical to entertain the thought." He briskly walked towards the door but stopped as he was turning the knob with his head bent and shoulders stooped down. "I've really done it this time." He whispered.


"So, how's your health?" Eriol asked the person on the phone as he spun his ballpoint pen on top of his paper-cluttered desk.

"I'm fine, Lad." Clow Reed's lucid voice filled the receiver. "Should you be calling me while inside SkyLark's headquarters?"

"Hmmmm…" Eriol adjusted his spectacles and replied. "…you no longer have faith in my underhand skills? I'm hurt. Is this the result of being separated from each other?"

Reed laughed heartily. The old man seemed to be in a very good mood upon hearing his right-hand man's retorts. "I'm just being cautious, Lad." He replied when his laughter died down. "I don't want to put you in a very compromising situation."

A smile started to curve on the lawyer's lips. "My dear old man, I am already in one. I only anticipate more thrill if my situation gets any graver."

"I only planned to sneak you into a compromising situation…not a very compromising one." Reed pointed out. "I believe you added your hurdles when you let that reporter reside in your very own home."

This time, it was Eriol's turn to laugh. "It is actually safer that way. Yamazaki will continue to snoop around no matter what I do. So to avoid unnecessary mishaps that his actions might cause, I will gladly present the facts right in front of his face."

"And what a better way to do it but to place him in your apartment full of 'treasures'." Reed finished for him.

Eriol continued to smile. "I'm rarely home anyway. Most of the time, I'm in that condo unit provided by Syaoran's company. Oh…that would be SkyLark now." He corrected himself with a slight jest. "I only go there for emergency purposes and if I ever do enter that building, I go straight to your office to check on InterVEST status. There is no need for me to go to my apartment even though it is in the same building. Yamazaki will find peace and solitude there."

"I doubt if he would find peace there considering that you still kept many tokens from your past in every inch of that place." Reed said in a matter-of-factly tone. "You don't feel disturbed that someone had actually seen it and even had the opportunity study them up close? This is very unlike you, Lad."

Eriol leaned sideward and let his fingers support his head. His navy-blue eyes seemed to search the space before him; as if thrown in another realm. Eventually, he smirked. "He was so shocked and practically shouted at me on the phone and suspected that I was scheming again."

"But you aren't?"

"No. I am honestly trying to help him." He answered the other.

"You are really fond of that boy." Reed said. "I didn't think that you harbored guilt for what happened in that court many years ago. I sincerely apologize for making you do it." An earnest sigh could be heard from the old man's end.

Eriol closed his eyes but he was smiling when he replied back. "Things happen for a reason and I believe it taught Yamazaki many things." He shifted on his seat. "He might be pitiful now but think about it. At the rate he was going, he was bound to encounter another powerful man and apprentice. It is better us than them. At least we are not entirely cold."

"So you are saying that if fate didn't make both of you cross paths today, you would have done something to redeem the boy's reputation in the future?"

"Maybe." Eriol grinned cheerfully. "Perhaps, if I am no longer busy with your schemes."

"I must admit, the boy has talent." One could almost see Reed nodding. "But is that the only reason you are interested in him?"

"Hmmm? What do you mean?" Then, Eriol suddenly sat up straight. "Oi, I'm not gay, you know."

"Ha! Ha!" Another rich chuckle came out from Reed. "Oh my, you're actually defensive about it?"

"Old man!"

"Ha! Ha!" Reed continued to laugh but when it eventually died down, he suddenly became very serious. "Does he also remind you of someone?"

Eriol bent his head. Navy-blue strands fell from his forehead unto his glasses. Trust Clow Reed to get away in asking such topic so straightforwardly. His grip on the phone tightened not knowing how to reply.

"It is okay, Lad. You don't have to answer me." Reed remarked. "The moment I saw that boy, I immediately noticed the likeness. Well, not physically unlike that raven-haired heiress you've also shown your home to, but in personality. God must have been giving you signs to try to reach out once more towards those people you chose to distance yourself with." He inhaled deeply. "Look at what fate had brought you. Two people who greatly resembled two of those that are very important to you in the past."

"Aniki is less impulsive than Yamazaki." Eriol's reply was almost a whisper. "Tamara is far gentler than Tomoyo."

"Of course." Reed said. "Nevertheless, I am happy to hear that you can now bring yourself to mention them." And then he added, "May their souls rest in peace."

"They will remain in peace as long as that certain person will be contented on what he currently has." Eriol remarked in a calm tone but it was evident that it was something that greatly bothered him.

"That is hard to assure. That person…" Reed paused for a moment.

[-an image of man standing in the center of people in black suits with his back against the view flashed before Eriol's wave of thought. It was notable that this person has light-colored hair and skin. He was the only one wearing white in the scene. His other features were not clear aside from the smile that was pasted on his face.-

"…will never be satisfied." The old man finished.

"He has no other choice." Eriol's voice wavered as if he was trying not to choke with his own words. "Both Watanuki and I had already lost the items he wanted from us. He is now facing a dead end. He simply has to accept that."

"Like what you just said, the items are gone, but you still made a huge effort to hide Watanuki's whereabouts up to the extent of separating him from you." Reed pointed out. "You hardly made contact with the young boy…until recently."

"It is safer that way." Eriol mumbled. "Just in case." He loosened his tie. "You know how powerful Triads can be and how they had manipulated the underworld since that time."

"Which I believe…where you've gotten your rare skill." Reed joked. "Or was it talent? Something which runs in the family?"

"You're starting to sound like Yamazaki." The lawyer courtly remarked.

"I'm sorry." The old man chuckled a little. "I'm just happy that you no longer talk your way out of the topic like before. Now, you are giving me straight replies. Perhaps, the wounds had started to heal?"

"Not that healed enough." Eriol took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. "You have no idea how nervous I am to call out for Watanuki. The Li's are prominent figures in this society and bringing him at the main mansion had been risky."

"That move of yours surprised me as well." Reed said in an earnest tone.

"It can't be helped. There is no one else to trust. He is most fit to play the role." The lawyer replied as he reached for a cleaning cloth and tried to wipe his glasses with one hand.

"And you do this for Li Syaoran." The old man happily remarked in the other end. "I thank you, Lad, for doing this for the sake of the success of my plan."

"I'm not exactly doing it solely for your plan." Eriol found himself saying. "I…want to do something for Syaoran."

"Okay…Who are you and what did you do to my Hiiragizawa Eriol?" Reed jested again.

This brought a smile back to the lawyer's lips. "What? I'm not that coldhearted."

"I wouldn't get the same reaction from you fourteen years ago." Reed reminded him.

Eriol gave a haughty chuckle. "Indeed, you won't. And I better not catch you telling this to Youko."

"Ah yes, such a sensual woman…that Youko." One could almost see him nod once more. "But for what it was worth, I am proud of what you have become now."

"I wouldn't be where I am if it hadn't been for you." Eriol riveted to being serious. "I owe my life to you, Clow Reed. I would gladly die for you any time."

"Hush!" Reed scolded. "You don't owe me anything. Your service is much appreciated but when I die, I die alone. Don't accompany me. Live your life again and be happy."

"Oh, you're making me cry." Eriol retorted sarcastically.

"I'm serious!" The old man insisted. "Why don't you marry that beautiful young Daidouji and have many children!"

"Why the heck is she thrown in this?" Eriol protested.

"Come now. I'm old, not blind. I think there was something there more than being reminded of Tamara."

"How can you say that when you're far far away there and we are way way over here?" The lawyer countered.

"You are not my only eyes." Mischief tainted the old man's tone. "Nakuru loved to relay things…in details."

The corner of Eriol's mouth twitched. "Nakuru? And what exactly did she tell you?"

"Oh nothing much. Something about you getting irritated with Kinomoto Touya back in the launch when he was with your dashing raven-haired heiress."

Eriol gave out a retort of disbelief. "It has nothing to do with Tomoyo. I am originally pissed off with Kinomoto Touya. If he just stood up and fought for his love fourteen years ago, then we wouldn't be having this kind of dilemma now." His hand made exasperated gestures in the air. "I mean, he married Li Mei-Ling! That woman, even though she was merely a young girl back then, would have had the guts to defend their side if only Kinomoto Touya supported her. But no…" Eriol gritted his teeth. "…Kinomoto chickened out and acted as if their relationship never existed. It was like the past repeated once again with a Kinomoto backing out on a Li."

"Now, now…what happened in the past which started the feud is a misunderstanding. You know as much as I do that that isn't the exact thing that happened. Don't start pointing fingers." Reed reminded him.

The lawyer took a deep breath. He was starting to lose his cool, which was very rare. When it came to sticking up for someone important to you, he was very sensitive in the area. Perhaps, the past experiences he had with his family had left a very tangible mark on him that it irritated him if he saw someone easily disregarding ties and running away. It was also in this area wherein both Li Syaoran and Kinomoto Sakura had earned his respect. Both had bravely stuck to their plans and plunge on ahead with their head held boldly high.

"I know about what really happened." Eriol began. "But sometimes, given Kinomoto Touya's example, I am very much tempted to believe the Li's version of the feud."

"He was young and confused." The old man tried to smooth the eldest Kinomoto's image, but the lawyer was stubborn.

"Li Mei-Ling was even younger than he was, but her reserve was incomparable." Eriol was trying his best not to shout. "Kinomoto and I were of the same age and I assure you that if I was in his position, I would gladly fight to keep what I have."

"I was there. You were there." Reed reminded him. "It isn't an easy thing to do."

"You are still hoping that they would change their mind, don't you?" Eriol asked. "It's the reason why you didn't completely process their annulment."

"Guilty as charge." The old man admitted.

Eriol sighed. "That's too much wishful thinking." He shook his head. "What's the use of holding that for this long if you're not going to tell them that their marriage wasn't exactly dissolved? And I would like to remind you that even if you did succeed from keeping yourself of sealing the final procedure of the annulment, after a specific span of time that motion would be considered void and hence, the law would still consider both as annulled parties. Their marriage is as good as gone."

"Oh but…if I keep hold on this, there's this chance that if they change their mind, they could easily go back in getting married as if nothing had changed."

"That can be easily done by getting married again."

"Then, in the law's eyes, they were married twice. If I still hold on to this, then it would look like that they had been married for fourteen years now. We might need this kind of support if our young Syaoran and Sakura would encounter further hardships in the future." Reed insisted.

"And what shall you call Li Mei-Ling's marriage to Chen?" Eriol countered in a professional tone. "If her marriage to Kinomoto Touya was still legitimate then that would make her marriage to her beloved Chen null and void. She would even be charged of adultery."

"Hmmm…I didn't anticipate that." The old man realized.

"Damn. I thought you had something under your sleeves to iron that out." The lawyer rubbed his temples.

"I'm still human. I sometimes forget. Especially with old age. But don't worry!" Reed became cheerful once again. "I'll think of something!"

"NO." Eriol's tone was full of authority. "I don't like to do more damage on the Li's. We are betraying the trust they had given. Enough is enough. I have faith with Li Syaoran and Kinomoto Sakura. They are both stronger than their siblings could ever be. We don't need this. Complete the annulment. If they want to get married again then so be it. But for now, that's it. Old man…playing God too much isn't good."

"I-yah…I got scolded. The years surely fly fast. You are all grown up and pushing me around."

"Your word, Old man." Eriol spoke firmly.

Reed sighed on the other end. "Fine. You have my word."

"I'll finish it for you. After all, you are still resting."

"That wouldn't be necessary." The old man replied in reassurance. "I only need to sign it anyway and then send it off to the civil registry office."

Finally, Eriol could breathe easily. "Good." He leaned back against his chair. His ears were almost burning for being on the phone for this long. "Well then, I believe I had given a precise report today. I should be saying good bye for now."

"That you have…" Reed was back in his jolly tone. "…and more."

"You and Youko never fail to sap my energy." Eriol fondly said. "Perhaps, she should be related to you and not to me."

"Ah, in that area, I would have to decline. My manipulative powers aren't as good as hers." Reed pointed out.

"You're doing quite well now." Eriol closed his eyes. "I see manipulation there."

"In case you haven't noticed, you're the one doing the manipulating. I am simply providing you with the tools and power to manipulate. Therefore, in this sense, it was only right to say that the two of you are indeed family."

"Cheers to that." Was the only thing Eriol could say.

"I shall be ending this call, then." Reed said.

"Alright."

"But I still think that there's something there in that launch more than being pissed with Kinomoto Touya's decision years ago." The old man teasingly added before finally putting down the phone as quickly as possible; giving Eriol no room to object.

"That old man." He hissed but eventually laughed in defeat.

Eriol decided to take a quick nap. He needed to regain his lost energy from levering with Clow Reed. It was good that his teacher seemed to be recovering fine, but it only meant that he was starting to go back to his stubborn difficult self. He would be once again fencing with Eriol on what to do or not. Nevertheless, he was glad to a have the man he had considered to be his second father back and kicking.

As he leaned back towards his seat, he savored the silence of his office. He let his window opened that day to allow fresh air into the room. He would like to commend Kinomoto Sakura's idea of combining nature and technology in SkyLark's headquarters. It almost made him forget that they were situated inside a city. But he had barely closed his eyes for a few minutes when his office doors flew open and a storming chestnut-haired man came directly towards his table.

"Eriol." There was a sense of urgency in his voice which made the lawyer raise a brow. "Don't sleep now. I need you."

"Eh?" Eriol peered from his glasses.

"Here," Syaoran extended his right arm towards the lawyer. On the end, his hand was tightly gripping a piece of paper.

"And this is…?" The navy blue-haired lawyer reached out and took the paper.

"Shred it." Syaoran ordered nonchalantly. "Burn it. I don't care."

Eriol looked down at the document and immediately recognized what it was. "You still have this?" He acted innocently. Even though, he knew very well that his friend had been secretly keeping it all this time.

"Yes. Now go and get rid of it." Syaoran refused to meet his eyes.

"Ha?"

"Eriol, please. Don't use court psychology on me. I'm serious."

"What exactly happened?" The lawyer honestly wanted to know.

Syaoran's shoulder drooped down. "I've done it this time."

"Done what?"

"Fought with her."

"But you've always fought with her." Eriol pointed out.

"No. This time it's different." The younger man still refused to meet the other's gaze. "We had a huge fight."

"And the cause of this is?" Eriol felt like a marriage counselor.

"I…" Syaoran started as he looked here and there.

"You…?"

"I…" He began to shrug.

"Yes?"

"I don't know."

"What?"

"I over-reacted." The Li was talking in riddles which was making it difficult for Eriol to understand.

"Over-reacted with?" Eriol made motions with his hands to encourage the other man to continue.

"With her and Tavenzouh." He finally said it.

"Tavenzouh," Eriol narrowed his eyes. "I am guessing you are referring to her real life associations with Tavenzouh."

"E-xactly." Syaoran looked like a boy being grilled by a parent.

"Uh-huh." The lawyer frowned as he expected the young Li to supplement more information but Syaoran merely stood there uncomfortably in silence.

"And you just…fished the topic out of nowhere?" Eriol asked.

"I wouldn't dare do that." The other snapped.

"So how did Tavenzouh suddenly come to the picture?"

Syaoran started pacing here and there. He covered his face with his hands as he answered Eriol. "He confronted us!" He exclaimed. "He was in some kind of free trial access to Arakkis."

"Oh." Eriol calmly said.

"You know about it?" It was only this time that he had managed to shot a look towards the lawyer.

"Of course. Didn't you? InterVEST had been advertising to get more people interested in the virtual world."

Syaoran's mouth drop open. "You didn't tell me?"

"Huh? I thought something like this would be easily known by a veteran player?" Eriol said in his defense. NOT. He had planned for the two to collide eventually using the little marketing scheme. Something that would make dear Syaoran realize that he could lose Agatha any time and should do necessary actions. But this was something he wasn't counting on. Did his plan somehow back-fired?

"I don't believe this. I didn't receive any news about it." Syaoran exclaimed.

"Well regardless if you receive news or not, what's the big deal in having a free trial access? They can't own assets in Arakkis with it." The lawyer pointed out.

"I wasn't prepared in actually seeing Tavenzouh face to face. Not with Agatha with me."

"Hmmmm…" Eriol rubbed his chin. "Must have been quite a sight. But shouldn't you have anticipated that sooner or later that you might run across him."

Once again, the chestnut-haired businessman diverted his eyes. "I don't know what happened…okay maybe I do know but…just…don't ask me anymore. Please. Just get rid of that thing." He turned back towards the door and with haste left Eriol alone in his office once again.

The lawyer stared at where the young Li had retreated. It took him a while to digest what happened. A frown started to burrow between his brows as he looked down at the document he was holding. The signed Section 41 was blankly staring up at him.

"O—kay…this isn't in the plan." He closed his eyes and sighed. "I don't know for how long I can handle everything mentally and emotionally." He leaned back towards his chair and let the cushion soothe his tired muscles. "Yare…yare…" Another sigh escaped his lips. He stared up at the ceiling for a few moments before reaching inside his jacket to retrieve a black organizer-like mobile phone. He slid it open and began to call.

"It's me." He said when the other line was picked up. "I want you to give me log records, captures, videos, recording…everything connected to Damaski-is x Agatha x Tavenzouh face-off this afternoon in Arakkis." He paused as the person in the other line spoke. "Yes. It's the usual. Something completely confidential. I'll be in there in forty-five minutes but I won't be attending the staff meeting. Tell Nakuru to preside it today. That would be all. Thanks."

With this he ended the call and slid his phone back inside his jacket. "Yes. I won't be bothering myself with InterVEST internal reports today." He frowned on the document in his hands. "There is something far more important I need to fix.


Evening came with Sakura having a hard time hiding from everyone that she had been crying all afternoon especially with red puffy eyes. Nevertheless she had managed to squirm away from her father's worried questions and George's vigilant look, but somehow she had found it odd that Touya merely gazed at her silently and walked away. Such a behavior from his over-protective brother was rare and almost non-existent. She wasn't exactly sure why but she was too occupied with her own dilemmas at the moment to spend time figuring out the reason for such action. She refused dinner and no one bothered her further. They would have probably felt her indifference and decided to give her space which she was very grateful for. She knew she would be grilled eventually but for now, she doesn't want to think about it and tried to find solitude.

I couldn't even bring myself to confide Tomoyo. She thought inwardly. She was afraid that she would only get an 'I-told-you-so' from her best friend. I need to recover a little before I face the truth. She deduced to herself and continued walking.

Sakura let her feet carry her outside towards the garden. There was a new moon which slightly illuminated the pebbled ground. Around her, the Kinomoto estate started to brighten portion by portion as one lamp post lit up after the other. It was a quiet night as if nature was sympathizing with her even though she was someone who doesn't deserve such comfort. She paced silently towards the gazebo at the center of the vast garden and sat on the cold marble steps. Her emerald eyes seemed to have lost their depth as they somewhat matched her currently pale and lifeless disposition

She let her head rest at the foot of one of the gazebo's pillars and stared out into nothingness. She was contented for a moment as she felt the heavy feeling inside chest lighten a little. But just when she thought she could start gathering herself once again. A familiar voice spoke behind her.

"Are you feeling alright, Cherry-Blossom?"

This made Sakura sat upright on an instant. "Yu—Yukito." She stammered.

Indeed, she was met by Yukito's gentle smiling face.

"You look pale. Are you sure you should be outside. You might catch a cold." Yukito remarked with concern.

"Ummm...ah…" A wave of shame swam inside Sakura. She bent her head and clasped her hands together as she let her auburn hair cover most of her face. "…I'm fine. I just need a little fresh air."

Yukito joined her at the marble steps as he sat near her. But it wasn't that close. There was an obvious gap between them. Whether it was intended or not, Sakura didn't know.

"Mmmmmm…" Yukito closed his eyes. "It does seem a little quiet tonight, doesn't it?"

Sakura continued to gaze down on her hands. "Yes." She meekly replied.

After that, none of them spoke. The silence continued but to Sakura it could be the same as someone screaming. She couldn't help but to recall the events earlier that day.

Is he really like that inside InterVEST? She pondered. What happened to my sweet gentle Yukito? Or maybe he is just like that in front of enemies.

Enemies…

On an instant, Li Syaoran flashed back inside her mind. It wasn't good. She felt her chest tightened once again. And it didn't help either that Yukito was sitting right beside her.

"Sakura…" Yukito started to say.

She blinked. It could be noted that he had used her real name which was another rare thing. Somehow she knew that this could not end well.

"H-hai?" Sakura dared to look up at him. She was surprised for a moment at how serious Yukito looked.

This time, it was Yukito's turn to avoid her gaze. He merely reached inside his pocket and retrieved a small velvet box. Sakura's heart started to beat faster. Tavenzouh's words echoed within her.

'I was planning on getting married in real life, you see.'

Sakura started to panic. No…please…not right now…

Yukito opened the box and revealed a beautiful flower-shaped diamond ring before facing Sakura and extending the ring towards her. He reached out for her hand and clasped it within his. Intently, he gazed down at her eyes. It would have been quite a touching moment with the new moon above and the solitude of the garden that night if only Sakura wasn't extremely affright inside. A million 'what-ifs' swarmed her mind. Turmoil invaded her perception as uninvited emotions started overwhelming her.

She clutched her chest. She wanted to run; to run far far away and hide.

Don't panic.

Please, don't panic.

Sakura, don't panic.

"Your hand is cold…" Yukito's voice brought her back. She stared up at him unknowing neither what to do nor what to say. "…and trembling." His words came out soft but it was the sadness in his eyes which made Sakura's heart ache.

His grip tightened as they locked gazes. His eyes seemed to bore inside her like he was attempting to search her soul.

"Why are you so afraid?" He asked. "What are you afraid of, Sakura?"

She swallowed as she tried hard to maintain eye contact. "Yukito…" She managed to say but it came out very weak.

He inched closer and brought the ring nearer to her. "If I give this to you now, will you wear it?"

Sakura couldn't answer him.

"If I said that I would bind the whole of me into this ring, will you accept it?" Yukito continued to ask.

Sakura's mouth opened and closed but no word came out of it.

"Sakura…"

She felt tears threatening to escape her eyes. She wanted to say 'Yes' but she couldn't make herself to do so. How many times had she dreamt of this moment? How many times did she and Tomoyo make up possible replies if the right time comes? Wasn't this what she had wished for so long? At long last…with Yukito?

Then, why the heck couldn't she say it?!

Silence devoured them once more as a gust of wind blew against the gazebo. It was cool and fragrant, carrying the scent of the flowers nearby. They stayed like this for a while.

Then eventually…

Finally…

Like getting poured with boiling water…

Yukito spoke perspicuously, which greatly left her wide-eyed and stunned.

"Sakura…" His tone wavered. "You love Li Syaoran this much?"

-

-

-

( to be continued)


(Up NEXT Chapter Twenty-Eight: "I Thee Wed")
Author's Note:

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
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AAAAH!!!!!
(ok I'm fine now :D)

I am listening to "Sora no Kakera", Dennou Coil ED theme while writing this chapter.

A few more chapters till this story ends! Thank you all for being patient. The next update would still be 'inc' since the request was won by the 110th page poster in my thread. 120th page poster requested Tenkou. Who knows what will be requested in page 130. Good luck!

R and R Onegai Shimasu!