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Eriol

A CCS fanfic by Sakura

Standard disclaimers apply.

Version 2.0 up 2003.03.28.

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      Long, dark corridor.  The house had three floors --- or were there more?  He couldn't remember.  Long flights of stairs flanked him on either side, but instead of climbing them, his feet were taking him down the great dark hall that lay ahead.  As he walked, the gas lamps that lined the intricately papered walls suddenly lit up, flooding the pathway with bright yellow light.  His eyes shut themselves tightly at the sudden assault of brightness just as a voice piped up from somewhere; from before him or behind him or above him or inside him, he couldn't tell. 

      Oide, the voice said. 

      He squinted in the light and there was a small grating sound, like a key turning in an ancient lock. 

      The voice spoke again.  Oide.

       

      His eyes flew open.  The ceiling was a dark haze of gray, and so were his thoughts.  He knew he had been dreaming, but whatever it was he had been dreaming about, it had already slipped into oblivion.  He closed his eyes again and for the briefest of seconds there was the faint tingle of remembrance: a step, mist, a pale yellow glow... 

      Then a faint thud sounded from the other room and he knew that his father was already up. 

      He yawned, stretching a little, and got out of bed.

      Asa.

      There was a small note taped to the refrigerator in the manner of people rushing out of the house in mindless flurry.  A short hastily scrawled note saying she was leaving.  True enough, the house was empty and her shoes were missing.

      This is goodbye, the note said.

      He looked up at his father, bedraggled and half-asleep, wearily holding the note up to the light and squinting at it as if trying to decipher some secret message lying beneath the scrawls and scribbles.

      "Mama's gone," he said then, and his father's brow tightened ever so slightly.

      A soft breeze ruffled the curtains, letting the sun steal inside the room and brush pale yellow fingers over the pane, the floor, the chairs, the tables.  Then the wind fell silent and the curtains fell back into lifelessness, casting dull shadows on the walls.  Somebody forgot to close the windows last night. 

      He shifted his feet and waited while his father walked to the window and thoughtfully gazed out of it at something.  Or nothing.

      "Mama's gone," he said again, and his father nodded.

      "That's right."

      "And she said she's not coming back."

      "Not ever."

      "Shall I make breakfast, then?"

      "No," his father finally turned around, walking up to him and affectionately ruffling his hair.  "No, let me.  Just run along and get ready for school and I'll take care of everything."

      He was nonplussed.  "You'll burn the eggs."    

      Fingers lingered on his head for the longest of seconds.  "I'll be very careful this time."

      Neko.

      He stopped in his tracks at the sight of a cat in his path. 

      It was a fairly small cat, dark gray with long black whiskers.  There was nothing particularly unusual about it save for the fact that every time it passed through the shadow of a tree or a fence, its color oddly turned into something else, a little bit like bluish-gray. 

      He watched it gracefully weave its way through the mottled shadows of an old, leafy oak.  Around him, people were rushing to school or to work, breezing past him and taking notice of nothing at all, not even a chameleon cat that flickered in and out of the morning sun.  He knew he had to hurry to school as well, but the cat then sat in the shadows and started to delicately clean itself.  The sight of it running a velvety tongue over that glorious bluish-gray coat was fascinating enough to make him set his schoolbag on the pavement beside him, crouch down and hold out a pale hand to it.

      "Come," he said.

      The cat ignored him.

      "Come here," he persisted.

      "Cats don't come if you call them like that," a voice piped up from behind him.

      Looking up, he saw a tall, long-haired girl in a high school uniform, schoolbag in hand, watching him with barely concealed interest.

      "How do you call them, then?" he asked.

      She shrugged.  "You just sit there and wait for them to come to you."

      He frowned and pushed his glasses up on the bridge of his nose.  "That's not true."

      "How do you know it isn't?"

      "It just isn't," he replied, feeling a little annoyed.  "Animals come when you call them."

      "Not cats," she said, absently flicking a stray lock of hair over her shoulder.  She had long chestnut-brown hair that reached far below her shoulders; she wore a lock of it in a braid tied at the end with a small red ribbon.  Her eyes were brown as well, and she was eyeing him with the indulgent amusement of an adult watching over a child playing with his favorite toy.    

      He stood up and squared his shoulders defiantly, even if at his full height he only came up to a little above her waist.  "Then, how do you make cats come to you when you're not supposed to call them?"

      She cocked her head to one side.  "Didn't you hear what I said?  You wait for them to come to you."

      "But that's stupid."

      "What is?"

      "Waiting."

      A smile lifted her lips.  "But you see, it's well worth it."

      Then it was she who crouched down and waited.

      The cat raised its head, blinking its bright amber eyes.  Then slowly, purposefully, it made its way to her side and rubbed its cheek against her waiting palm.

      Toshokan.

      He raised his head.  The library was nearly empty save for himself and the librarian, who was busy fixing something behind her desk.

      Listlessly fingering a page of the thick hardbound book resting on his lap, he leaned back against the tall shelves and breathed in the familiar musty smell.  This was his favorite nook: a quiet corner in the deserted library, surrounded by books on anything and everything --- geography, history, mathematics, science, music, art...

      He turned the page, and the paper, brittle and faded with age, felt like someone else's skin against his finger.  Paper, curiously warm and alive and breathing.  He remembered then what his father had told him a while ago --- you've been reading too much, spending too much time with those books of yours.  At that rate, you won't be able to make many friends.

      Friends.

      A picture flashed in his mind: a high school girl beckoning to a blue-gray cat.  He smiled in recollection, tracing a line down the book's spine, fingering the creases.  The book, a compilation of Japanese folktales, had been resting in a forgotten corner.  He remembered having read a similar book once, but this book was different, for it was written in Japanese itself.  Now his gaze ran down the rows of unfamiliar characters, trying to make sense out of the graceful curves and swashes.  This was his father's language and, as other people usually thought, his as well.  But no matter how he stared and turned the book this way and that, he couldn't make out a single word. 

      Nevertheless, he kept on trying.

      It was a comfortably warm morning.  The sun shone through the wide-open panes, half of it falling on his hair, his shoulder, half of it on the book on his lap.  He looked up and small wisps of dust were dancing in the light.  He reached out to catch some, but they drifted away from his reach.   

      Japan.  It was hard to believe that through his father's blood, he was also part of that strange foreign land.  To him it seemed so far away, so unreal.  His father once talked about women in kimonos and carrying parasols in their hands, of green tea served in rough gray glasses, of cherry blossoms in the spring and showers of red and gold in the autumn and so much more...  And the language!  His father rarely spoke Japanese but when he did, it sounded like a soft, lilting lullaby.

      He closed his eyes and let his father's voice speak to him from memory.

      Do you want me to tell you a folktale?  ListenA long time ago, in a far away land, lived a man named Tarou.  Tarou worked hard everyday, but no luck ever came his way---   

      Then his father's familiar drone changed into the silent, deep voice he kept hearing in his dreams --- aru hi, Tarou wa Kannon-sama ni, o-inori o shimashita.  'Nani ka ii koto ga arimasu you ni.  Watashi o tasukete kudasai---   

      The second bell rang and his eyes flew open.

      He hastily jumped up, causing the book to topple onto the floor in a disheveled heap.  Muttering an apology under his breath, he scooped it up and pushed it back into the shelf where it belonged, then turned on his heel to run back to the classroom.

      Mizu.

      Water, sparkling and silvery, gushed out of the tap.  He thrust his fingers into the rich, glittering flow and filled his cupped palms with it to drink.  A small part of it merrily trickled down his chin and trailed down his arm.  He didn't mind; he was thirsty, and the water was cold and refreshing. 

      He reached up and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, then bent down to fill his hands with more of the gleaming mass, letting it overflow from the sides of his hands and filter through the small crevices between his fingers. 

      He remembered something.  Something about water yielding to his will easily, like a charm...  He paused for a moment to think, but the more he strained to remember, the more he was deemed to forget. 

      He opened up his hands and let go.             

      Ummei.

      At the same corner stood the oak, but the cat was nowhere to be found.

      Feeling a little disappointed, he started to walk away, but somebody called out to him.

      "You there!"

      He turned around.  It was the high school girl from earlier that morning, holding the blue-gray cat in her arms.

      "Hey," she said, "fancy meeting you again."

      He didn't know what to say to that, so he just nodded.

      "Anyway," she continued, shifting her hold on the cat, "remember what I told you?"

      "You mean about cats?"

      "Right."

      "Of course I remember."

      "Do you want to try it again?"

      "Try what?"

      "Waiting."

      He shrugged.  "Okay."

      She finally bent down and let the cat spring free from her embrace, and he crouched down and found himself staring into pools of amber.  The cat eyed him back suspiciously for a moment.

      He smiled tentatively, but the cat still didn't move.

      Finally he sighed, defeated.  You don't have to come here if you don't want to.

      It blinked, as if suddenly coming to a decision.  Straightening up, it walked up to him and rubbed itself against his knees.

      "Well, will you look at that!" The girl grinned triumphantly.  "See, it likes you!"

      Unable to help himself, he shyly smiled back at her.

      Then he reached down to stroke the soft dark fur, feeling the cat purr against his touch, and whispered his hello.

      Yume.

      Dream.

      The same dream.

      He was standing before a large door, wondering what was waiting for him on the other side.

      The door opened slightly with a creak and the same familiar deep voice rang out. 

      Oide.

      'Come', he repeated to himself, realizing with a start that he now understood.

      He pushed the door open and it groaned terribly; the house was old, very old.

      Things started to register themselves, slowly.  A dim room, a chandelier hanging from a ceiling, an empty fireplace.  And in the middle of the room, a tall red high-backed chair.

      And in the chair, a man.

      Oide, the man said, and he stared at him.  

      He appeared to be a man about forty, with long dark hair tied at the nape and flowing down his back; he had dark eyes that twinkled behind a pair of glasses, and he was wearing strange flowing robes in pale blue and silver and black.

      Who are you? he asked, and the man merely smiled.

      At last we meet.

      Who are you? he persisted, and the man didn't answer.  Instead, he got up from his chair and slowly walked up to him, bending slightly to offer a hand.

      Shall we go, then?

      He gaped at him.  Where to?

      To somewhere that will help you remember.

      Remember?

      The pathway to recollection.  He smiled again.  It won't take long.

      But who are you?

      I am you, and you are half of me.

      His eyes widened, but his hand was already in the man's grasp and he was being led, unwillingly, out the door.  There was a bright, strange light and he opened his mouth to scream---

     

      Then it was dawn.

      In the pale light of morning, a boy got up and tossed the covers back, breathing heavily and clutching at his head with trembling hands.

      "Yue," he whispered hoarsely.  "Cerberus.  Cards.  Hong Kong.  Li.  Tomoeda-chou.  Fujitaka---"

      His eyes started to fill with tears.  "I, Clow Reed."

      Then he hugged his knees to himself and, without any reason at all, he cried like the child he was; the child he had ceased to be.   

      A life lived eleven years coming to an end.

      A life lived a thousand years, finding a new beginning.

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Epilogue   

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      He was wearing the same uniform as the rest of the students, hat perched on his head, satchel on his back.  He walked down the corridor, obediently following the teacher in front of him who reached a door and, opening it, motioned for him to wait. 

      "Good morning, class," he heard the teacher say, and the students brightly answered in chorus.

      He folded his hands behind his back and waited patiently.

      "Today we have a transfer student," the teacher announced.  Then, to him he said, "You can come in now."

      He stepped inside the classroom and smiled at the sea of faces eagerly watching him.  There were murmurs of excitement and lips smiling in turn.  Such a friendly class of people, he thought.

      The teacher turned around to write his name on the blackboard, and that was his cue to bow. 

      "I am Hiiragizawa Eriol.  It is my pleasure to make your acquaintance."

      The sky was dark and full of clouds, but for a moment there was a break in the heavens and the sun shone through, beaming through the open windows, alighting on a certain light brown-haired girl with lovely green eyes.

      He stared at her.

      She stared back for a moment, in the curious manner of people meeting people for the first time.

      But he knew her already.  He knew her all his life.

      It's Sakura, the voice said. 

      Watching her, he began to smile.   

Author's Notes:

Hmm.  -_-

      The girl and the cat Eriol met before are supposed to be the models (!) for Spinel Sun and Ruby Moon.  I was supposed to include an 'Eriol-creates-Spinel-and-Ruby-Moon' sequence, but for some reason I couldn't make it fit in, so... *shrugs*

      Japanese folktale used is "Warashibe Chouja" (warashibe - a straw; chouja - rich man); I lifted it from my reader. ^_^

Glossary:

1) oide - come here

2) asa - morning

3) neko - cat

4) toshokan - library

5) mizu - water

6) ummei - destiny

[O.Wa.Ri.]