1/1/12: When this chappie was at 80% completion, I was plagued by health issues. At 93% completion, these health issues took a toll on my mind and mental frailty was evident. I really did not have the will nor the attention to type. As I am typing the final parts of this chapter, my mind is still distracted by pain and numbness, thoroughly fogged by lethargy from the lack of weeks of restful sleep, clogged up by the big 'What Ifs'…
This chapter comprises of chapters 13 and 14, labelled Finale part 1 and 2 respectively. I've trimmed chapter 13 to 60% of its original length to exclude the redundant parts.
Finale – Part 1
Dark was a wildcard in her deck.
Sakura was well aware of this fact even during her card capturing days, when the said card proved difficult to tame, only converting it into a Sakura card with combined effort of Xiao Lang and her guardians.
Come to think about it, all her cards were wildcards with varying degrees of rebelliousness.
Her cards were servants bestowed upon her by the Natural Order. While they were loyal to her, Sakura knew that loyalty among the more powerful and temperamental cards were based on her worth as a powerful mistress, with the ability to exercise authority and control. At the sign of weakness, alongside with waning control over them, Sakura had no doubt that her cards would run amok.
The first to go would definitely be Dark, of which Light would be introduced to the path of deviance. Elemental cards, in degree of rebelliousness, would follow thereafter. The weaker cards would be the last to part with great reluctance, under the influence of the stronger cards.
Without a mistress, these uncontrollable cards would spread havoc in the real world. Her void card was a shining example.
The bottom line was very clear – the sustenance of rational judgement and unshakable will in all situations was essential in reining supremacy over her cards.
Negative emotions were the trigger. As the embodiment of negativity, such emotions fuels Dark prowess and would channel her mental frailty into a downward spiral. The influence of Dark would inundate her heart, turning her into a puppet of her servant, resulting in an eventual loss of control over her cards.
Unlike the Lis who underwent strict training and socialization from young to ensure steeled wills and unflappable attitudes, it was impossible to stifle her negative emotions entirely.
This was probably why she almost lost herself to Dark after her trip back in time. That bout of depression would have tipped her over the edge if not for Xiao Lang's intervention. Since then, Sakura had, as far as possible, tried to actively keep negativity at bay.
Lately however, she could feel the stirrings of negative emotions from the depths of her heart. It was forgivable as her emotions had been erratic since the day wizards popped up on her radar. It was only recently that the unrest in her mind continued to persist despite her best efforts to quell them through meditation.
As a result, Dark was starting to act up lately and Sakura had to employ measures – she would use Light as a powerful equal to suppress Dark's threat.
She found herself in one of the training rooms, with strict orders to Xiao Yu to prevent entry under any circumstances. Seated in the middle of her star array, all her cards enclosed her in a large, glowing circle.
Light hovered above her like a bright star, while Dark was suspended before her, its usual pink aura pulsed tainted a tinge of black.
"Dark," Sakura firmly addressed the card with narrowed eyes. "Desist at once."
Her card pulsated rebelliously. She could hear those same whispers becoming more pronounced… tempting her to the dark side, urging her into death and destruction.
Orbs chilled, Sakura gave her final warning, underlying threat evident in her voice.
Dark pulsated once more before tendrils of light erased the taint.
The dark whispers faded.
Training ended two days ago with resounding success, according to Kero and Suppi. As of halfway through the tabulation their damage count, Suppi stood in the lead of a hundred and twenty-two wizarding hits plus a four-wizard KO combo chain as special mention.
Even Kero grudgingly admitted that Suppi's move of sending four airborne wizards into a concussed pile was pretty spectacular.
"You freakin'nutcases!" George yelled deliriously towards the duo perched on the chandelier, engaged in heated argument over their kills. "I'll get you guys for this! You hear me?"
With that proclamation, George turned abruptly to stalk out of the hell zone, only to ram his face against a hard surface and promptly passed out, leaving teeth marks on a teak door that was worth more than his entire family fortune.
His corpse was held by the leg and dragged towards the portkey by his equally battered twin brother, the last of the wizards who actually bothered to lurk about to air their grievances – swear vehemently - about graduation of Eriol-sama's training course - the rest of the Order members escaped via portkey the minute they were let off the hook.
Xiao Lang looked highly unimpressed at the wrecked door. In display of magnanimity however, he decided not to press charges and bankrupt the entire Weasley family.
Such success however, did little to alleviate Sakura's mood as when she met Clow's incarnation in the guest lounge.
"How is Tomoyo?"
"She has been sleeping for four days straight. Nakuru is going nuts over her. She has sustained quite a fair bit of injuries that require time to heal," he replied, expression darkening by the minute.
Being a half-blooded sorceress might give her a boost in healing capabilities but her wounds sustained this time round was not to be taken lightly.
"She is however," Eriol added, "insistent on joining the war."
The card mistress felt a rare surge of anger directed at Tomoyo's stubborn nature.
"You need not worry about Tomoyo. Nakuru will strap her to the bed if need be. We have pressing matters to deal with."
Eriol handled her a deatheater's wand that he had pocketed when he left the Forbidden forest with an injured Tomoyo in tow. Sakura studied the wooden rod lying innocuously on her palm and her orbs widened inexplicably, before looking at her half-father in shock.
"Voldemort has gone too far," Eriol replied solemnly. "The natural order will be unsettled if nothing is done."
War, Ron realised, was utterly horrifying. As far as he was concerned, glorifying accounts of battle by historians were bullshit.
They were plunged into battle without much warning. He was just griping to his friends over dinner about how Kero and Suppi were such utter assholes when the siren of impending attack resounded throughout the castle like death knelt to their ears. Ron had choked onto his soup while the Order members sprang into action.
Students were evacuated and battle plans were kicked into motion. It was reported that a whole hoard of Death Eaters were mounting an attack on Hogwarts in less than ten minutes. An urgent message was sent to the Ministry for backup. Both his parents were not around to stop the younger Order members from joining the battle.
They were all fired up as they marched towards the battlefield, apprehensive but determined.
And now here he was fighting for his life.
Well technically, he was defending Hogwarts, fighting against the takeover of the wizarding world… whatever. But as he dived out of the way of a particular nasty spell, his could not quell those trembles coursing through his body while adrenaline roared through his veins. Overwhelmed by the carnage, his actions were fuelled by fear, and single-minded focus on survival.
His mother would freak out, and he was unfortunately beginning to regret his initially show of bravado.
Given the fact that this was their maiden attempt on the battle-field, their progress was fine and dandy. At the very least, there were no casualties at present.
To view it objectively, things could have been better. The older members were holding their fort pretty well of course, but the younger members kept cheating death by a hair's breadth. Had they not experience that hellish training by the Lis, those wet behind their ears – the younger Order members - would have died many times over.
Ron had enough commonsense to know that a few days of training would not result in attainment of great combat prowess, even if those days were brutal and scarring. The objective of the training camp, to quote Clow Reed's incarnation's words, was after all to "stay alive and go for the kill at the right moment".
At the very least however, they had managed to get the job done by disarming those blood-thirsty murderers of a Death Eater and Ron could not think of a bigger achievement than that.
The red-head was inwardly thankful for that training that they had received. The killing intent by the enemy that flooded the battle field, while petrifying, was undoubtedly familiar. Prior exposure to such desire for bodily harm and pain infliction by the trainers – excluding the ever stoic Yue - when they were struggling to stay alive in the face of relentless attacks did alleviate certain stress on the current battlefield.
Not that he would stop holding grudges against his crazy trainers though.
Tumbling backwards, Ron bit back a curse as a vicious slicing spell narrowly missed his neck.
His heart halted momentarily as his mind registered that another inch more and his jagular would have been a goner. But fact that he was still alive was the only thing that mattered.
He would have howled at the unfairness of it all – the Death Eaters artillery comprised of rounds and rounds of forbidden curses while his friends merely had mostly elementary spells in their arsenal. But his hellish training at the Lis' had hammered into him in an utterly painful way that simple spells were equally effective in a battle.
Scampering upright, he swished and flicked his wand before yelling a simple charm incantation.
Two Death Eaters were levitated off the ground by surprise and yells of Experimus and red beams from the wands of his brothers' sent the enemy flying miles away. The twins would have flashed a foolish, toothy smile at their brother in show of cooperation, should they not had to avoid the blow from another Death Eater.
Hairs on his nape were standing and Ron instinctively ducked just in time, in an evasive action that was identical to the days when he was avoiding fireballs during Kero-Suppi killing spree. His hair was slightly singed though, but Ron could care less as he darted to Harry, breathe exhaling in short, hurried pants.
His friend was bending over with a slight grimace. Ron figured that Harry's newly re-grown knee cap – in courtesy of the training session - was still too tender for abuse like running, jumping, ducking, or any other actions associated with the act of life preservation in a battle-field. That and his scar meant that Harry was a shining beacon of a target for the enemy.
Ron gritted his teeth in frustration. They were essentially too inexperienced, too naïve, and far too outnumbered by the enemy. To think that his mates – and him- were keen to join this battle. What the bloody hell were they thinking?
Where were the godamned Aurors? Why the hell were there so many DeathEaters anyway? It seemed as if the Dark Lord had a year-round recruitment drive.
He was starting to become irrational, but a scream from Hermoine to "move for god's sake!" snapped him out of it. Ron felt harsh tug of his arm by Harry and felt his face colliding into dirt the next moment as a killing curse sailed past their heads.
God, he was so sick of this. All he desired now was back up, win this bloody battle and pass out on his bed upon returning to the castle.
His prayers were answered in the form of a sharp command.
It was as if the sky had given way to the heavens. There was a blinding flash and resounding crack as a bolt of lightning struck home. Massive crater littered with numerous charred corpses. by scurried away, biding temporary retreat after that devastating strike.
The battered individuals for the Light stared dazedly at Sakura who appeared among their midst all of a sudden, all pristine and impassive among the scene of bloodshed and death.
"Just a little warning to them." Sakura murmured blithely as she cast a gaze at the retreating camp, dismissing Lightning with a flick of her fingers, "That should stall them for quite a bit."
With that, she nodded towards the group before for making her way to Hogwarts.
"Bloody… hell..." was all Ron could say after regaining his voice.
Dinner was an uneasy affair. The scrumptious feast was forgotten as the students, severely shaken by the sudden attack, began to degenerate into hysterics of wailing, shrieks and doomsday talk. Undoubtedly, distraught parents would be withdrawing their children by the dozen.
Attentions were swiftly caught when the grating sound of metal hitting porcelain echoed the hall.
Snape fought a wince when that idiot of a headmaster whacked his plate using that damned spoon with far too much vigor for his age, looking as merry as ever, as if the earlier battle was nothing but a terrible prank and Dumbledore would be very, very cross with and would proceed to punish the said perpetrator with his twinkle of doom.
"May I have your attention please? Please do not be alarmed by the earlier attack. I would have you to know that remaining in Hogwarts during such attacks is the safest choice. "
Despite his impending senility, Snape was forced to admit that Dumbledore still retained his charm - his little motivational speech managed to calm the nerves of those spineless kids.
"In addition, I am very pleased to present to you Mrs Li."
The mass of students finally registered a new addition to the staff table. Seeming more like an adoring grandfather than ever, Dumbledore added, "She is the head of sorcerers who will be aiding us in this war."
The commotion stilled, and Snape fought the urge to face-palm.
Sakura regarded the students with a cool gaze.
The presence of wizards just did not bode well for her emotional health. From the moment she stepped into the grounds of Hogwarts, she could feel that strange, unidentifiable mass of irritation surfacing more prominently, pulsating with every step she took.
This was probably why she spent most of her time at the Room of Requirement. Despite her alliance with the Order, she remained highly uncomfortable among wizards, preferring to be as far away from the mass of idiocy and ignorance that trawled along the hallways of Hogwarts in the form of students, whose overt fear have been shaped by stereotypes and prejudices. The room – one of the rare useful wizarding inventions- served as her treasured little haven.
There were times however, that she had to leave her sanctuary.
Sakura strode towards the headmaster's office with heels clicking audibly against the stone corridor, deliberately ignoring the wide berth given to her. Her sun guardian floated next to her, lips curling in distaste.
"They just have to be so discreet about it," Kero griped sarcastically as the tic above his eyebrow expanded by the minute.
The students were literally fleeing in opposite directions, braver ones just clamouring out of her way, staring at her as if she was the grim reaper.
Sakura did not reply, merely opting to continue her journey in silence.
Just when she had gotten used to interacting and tolerating the wizards from the Order, she had to plant herself into a situation where there is an overwhelming number of them.
A low growl snapped her out of her thoughts and she witnessed Kero morphing into his full form, in his winged glory, startling a good number of students. Snarling as revealed sharp fangs, Kero glared at a group of students that they have walked past.
"Have the guts to say it in front of us you little shits," Kero snapped as he roasted the stone pavement charcoal for emphasis. "Or shut it before I fry your asses!"
Sakura's lips tugged when her guardian jumped into her defence. Despite Xiao Lang's insistence of Kero's incompetence, her guardian's unwavering loyalty is almost heart warming.
The said group of students to flee in fright from Kero's sudden display of ferocity, his fully morphed form only serving to reinforce stereotypes and certain rumours that oh my god, beasts of sorcery do eat wizards for breakfast. This prompted the remaining students to scram and ensure the corridor being pleasantly void of bumbling wizards.
Sakura exhaled heavily.
The atmosphere at Hogwarts was getting unbearable. It was time to get out.
The cloak of anonymity in Hogsmeade gave her some breathing room. Hogwarts, Sakura reflected as her heels clicked audibly against the stone pavement, was starting to feel like a pressure cooker.
Hogsmeade's streets were starting to regain life after the initial Death Eaters' attack. But scars from that attack still devastated the area. There were significantly lesser people as compared to the packed streets in the past, and numerous damaged shop houses remained highly evident.
On the bright side, the attack did some good in highlighting the existence of Voldemort and his minions - posters warning of Death Eater attacks were shoddily pasted over anti-sorcery posters remained. Unfortunately, both Voldemort and Sorcerers were flagged under the banner of You-Know-Whos. Main headlines of newspapers piled at storefronts touted Harry Potter as their source of hope for dark days. Rival newspapers questioned the credibility of the Boy-Who-Lived.
A few steps down the street and Sakura turned into Knockturn Alley where shady activities thrived. Regardless of the attack, the wayward alley did not seem to be largely impacted. After all, the alley had always housed deviants of the wizarding society who adored the dark side, who openly welcomed sorcerers for twisted intentions.
She could feel the previous negativity resurfacing, pulsating and writhing like a coiled snake within her chest.
Expression schooled impassive, Sakura clutched her red overcoat tightly against the harsh winds which signalled impending winter as she strode down the alley. Kero peered out curiously of her large pocket; the only spark of colour against the gloom of drab gray.
Wizards and witches clad with questionable sanity positioned at nooks and crannies of the alley, murmuring strange nothings to themselves.
As compared to Knockturn Alley, Sakura mused, Hogsmade was a place of ignorance, trawling with people not unlike Hogwarts.
It seemed utterly farfetched that she was turned off by the deviance in Knockturn Alley in her previous visit to the wizarding world. The insanity of Knockturn alley, she realised, was actually strangely comforting – a reflection perhaps, of the poisoning her mind.
All too soon, Sakura found herself positioned at the exit of Knockturn Alley, which led to Hogsmade. She paused and her feet stilled, as if hesitant to leave the alley. Her attention strayed towards a figure slumped against the brick wall at the exit, whose coarse voice sounded like grating sand between mortars.
"Sorcerers or Voldemort. Who do you think will make their first move on us?"
Sakura's gaze flickered towards the bunch of witches that crowded the streets of Hogsmeade. Gripping copies of newspapers, they were debating in hush tones the soon-to-be epic fight between the boy-who-lived and you-know-whos, whose extreme reluctance in explicit mention of both Voldemort or Sorcerers represents the majority of the thriving ignorance and bigotry in the wizarding society.
"Does it matter who?" Sakura whispered, the darkness in her heart rearing its ugly head. "It is long overdue anyway."
Kero frowned from her pocket, chalking her atypical response to her growing frustrations towards wizarding ignorance.
Sakura smiled grimly as the cackling of insane laughter danced around her. Standing on the thin divide between wizarding worlds of the sane and twisted, bitter reality set in.
Little had changed.
Harry found the sorceress gazing at the pond dead in the night. While he would like to convince himself that he met her by coincidence, the invisibility cloak that shrouded him spoke otherwise.
"If you wish to speak to me, it is only polite if you reveal yourself. That's basic courtesy."
The cloak was removed in a flourish, revealing a slightly embarrassed Harry. that gaze fell on him, emerald orbs studying him intently.
"Harry Potter… I've heard much about you," Sakura voiced. "Potential saviour of the wizards, vanquisher of all evil, exterminator of sorcerers and Voldemort. Yet one whose reputation is questioned by the press."
He was at a loss of how to respond. The idiocy in the wizarding world was rife and palpable, and he had always found the behaviour of fellow wizards to be highly exasperating. "Regardless of… your reception, we really appreciate your help in fighting against Voldemort."
"Don't be. I used to think that our intervention is for the wizards," Sakura replied stiffly as she recalled the cold reception by the wizards. "These days, I feel that it is just largely a personal vendetta."
The moment Voldemort is ridded of, they would cut off all communication and return to status quo. The sorcerer community would revert back to isolation, refusing all contact from the wizarding world.
Silence ensued, safe for the light ruffling of leaves from the forbidden forest. Harry began to shuffle awkwardly, with the invisibility cloak slung carelessly over his right arm. Sakura's following question broke the silence.
"So may I enquire the purpose of your visit?" Sakura asked in cold mirth. "I rarely receive visits from the students. They are usually trying to avoid me at all cost."
There was really nothing he could say in defence about his school mates' behaviour. Harry decided to cut the chase. "A while ago, your guardian mentioned about the light card, can revive the dead…"
"…You wish to use my powers."
"Yeah…With your power," Harry admitted before trailing uncertainly, " I could revive my Godfather… He just died on me just like that."
"Reviving the dead is forbidden, Mr Potter," Sakura replied, dashing Harry's hopes without hesitation.
It was an impossible request from the start after all. All were after all, bounded to the natural order.
As she watched the young wizard deflate, a sardonic smile graced her lips. "Reviving the dead is taboo but killing innocents is merely frowned upon. Perhaps there's some truth in your media. We are really evil."
Harry seemed a little taken aback by her off-handed comment, but lingering traces of disappointment was still apparent.
"Are you envious with all this power that I have?"
"After having witnessed your powers," Harry replied begrudgingly, "it seems as if there is an end in sight to our problems. The war… Voldemort… Sirius…"
"It looks like it, doesn't it?" Sakura murmured, consciously aware of the weight of the pendant around her neck. She never desired for this power. Her blood sang for her birth right on her maiden contact with the Clow Cards. It was not by choice.
Nails dug deeply into her palm.
"There's nothing great about this power. We are never given a choice, nor our freedoms. You live for humanity, not for yourself,"- her tone was bitter - "That's a price for power."
For months after the massacre, she was tempted, all so tempted to ignore the taboo laws and revive her family, natural order be damned. Her choices were aplenty: damning the time balance by going back in time to save them before the massacre, reviving them using Light or even recreate them using real illusions through Create.
She possessed power, so much power but it was all for naught.
Sakura remembered wallowing in the pits of despair as she stared blankly at those three cards. Her reckless notion was eventually dispelled when she broke out of her depression. Xiao Lang was there as her pillar of support and her rational side persisted and sense of duties prevailed. She could only take comfort in the fact that she could not prevent their deaths in time, and that their souls would rest in peace.
"Awhile ago… I wasn't given a choice in the matter." Sakura whispered, voice carried away by the wind. "Probably someday, I will be faced with the same situation again."
Harry shifted uncomfortably as fissures began to appear beneath her surface of impassivity. He felt as if he was intruding into a private moment that was not meant for his ears.
"Thanks for sharing with me…" Harry trailed awkwardly, itching to throw the cloak over his frame. "I'm erm…think I have to return now…"
The glazed look in her orbs lifted instantly and the sorceress cracked one of her rare smiles to a wizard.
"Goodnight, Mr Potter."
War broke out again two days later.
For some reason, Voldemort had chosen to concentrate all his attacks on Hogwarts, the stronghold of the wizarding world. It is as if the pompous Dark Lord viewed the other sectors of wizarding society as spoils of the war which could easily fall into his hands once Hogwarts has crumbled.
Technically, that train of thought was not wrong.
Order members and Hogwarts staff were stationed as Hogwarts line of defence. Kero and Yue were each providing support to their respective groups of wizards.
Harry stood firm grasping his wand with determination, looking as if he gave up the impossible notion of reviving his godfather.
Sakura smiled inwardly. What has returned to the earth, she thought, should be left to their natural course.
"Dear lord, such blasphemy!"
The shocked statement by one of the Order members snapped her out of her stupor. She soon discovered the source of distress and began to stifle a gasp as she witnessed a sea of animated dead – Inferni - appearing in view. Veins visible under their pale skin, the Inferni prowled on fours with pupiless eyes and gnashed teeth. They were vile creatures, powered by nothing but the single will from their master - the foulest of low-lives.
The Order members were sporting equally shocked expressions.
She could feel her cards pulsing with unexplainable agitation, showing early signs of running amok.
Use sorcery to the minimum - her logic urged - bank more on more subtle sword play
The elders would know. It would give away her position and the elders would realise that she is in England. Such realisation would destroy whatever cover story that Xiao Lang had concocted for her.
Ever since she stepped into the wizarding world, Sakura realised as the sword card was summoned, she had ironically been actively trying to refrain from sorcery utilisation.
Sakura grabbed the hilt of her materialised sword, just in time to face the crowd of charging Inferni.
Blade met with bone instantly; the sickening crack drowned by the cries and snarls from the Inferni. Sakura leaned back to avoid the lunge from another Inferni, allowing it to sink its foul teeth into its counterpart instead. Holding the hilt in a double-handed grip, Sakura delivered much force behind every strike, determined to cease such parody of life as she danced around the battlefield, dismembered Inferni lying in her wake.
She had to attempt to put as much distance away from her and the walking dead. Being inundated by rotting corpses with air poisoned by their foul emissions was terribly unpleasant.
A yelp to her left caught her attention and a quick glance registered the younger Order members quailing from the onslaught.
A low powered flame spanning about a kilometre in radius should be suffice; just enough to burn her enemy to crisp while – hopefully- avoiding the wizards and the detection from the Elders. It was considered dishonourable to utilise both sword play and sorcery at once in a sword fight. But in a scrimmage of undead, there was no need for honour.
Fiery appeared at the tips of her fingers with a burst of pink. With a sharp command, streams of flames streaked out from the card and began engulfing Inferni around her. Raging violently, the flame radium began to expand outwards, consuming more Inferni which resulted in a chorus of ear-splitting screeching and shrieking.
They began to roll and tumble carelessly on the ground, smouldering the flames with much success. Badly charred, the Inferni clamoured back to their feet, continuing their assault as the stench of burnt flesh permeated the battle field.
Sakura frowned at the lack of devastating strike that she had expected Fiery to deliver. Such phenomenon was unprecedented. That blow was meant to kill, to reduce Inferni to ashes in mere seconds.
She tried once more but this time, nothing happened. Fiery did not heed her summons. There was no rush of sorcery in her veins. In fact, to her alarm, she was distinctively aware there her access to sorcery was severed.
Then, it was re-established all of a sudden - but she could feel that the link was weak.
Her momentary stunned stupor nearly cost her; it was out of pure reflex that she narrowly avoided a fatal swipe of an Inferni and the bite of rotting teeth into flesh from another.
Spinning gracefully in a fluid motion, Sakura delivered a crippling kick in the gut of one before breaking the spine of two. Her blade was absent; the Sword card had been deactivated when her link to sorcery was cut. Leaping out of the fray, lest she got besieged by a group of Inferni, she attempted summoning her cards to no avail. If anything, the feeling of rapidly diminishing connection became even more pronounced and she realised that her access to sorcery was about to be severed for the second time.
Landing at a clearing, Sakura was overwhelmed by a sense of loss and helplessness.
At the back of her mind, it registered swarm of Inferni charging mindlessly towards her.
Sakura did not know what ultimately shoved her over the edge - her rapidly losing her connection, senses going overdrive amidst the chaos of battle, unidentifiable loathing that had accumulated since the beginning of this war; but her hand shot towards her neck and freed her key pendant off its thin chain with a sharp jerk.
Tossing the pendant before her, the ground beneath her feet burst into a display of brilliant pink; an ethereal incantation rolled off her tongue for the first time in years.
"Key that holds the power of the stars. Reveal your true form to me."
Sorcery concentrating in the centre of the array, her pendant spun wildly as it gained more power.
"By our contract, I, Sakura, command you. Release!"
Halting its spin, her star key lengthened into its towering grandeur - an elongated and intricate staff for sorcery amplification. Upon contact with the smooth grip of her staff, Sakura could feel an uncontrollable burst of sorcery overwhelming her senses as her connection was forcibly re-established, leaving her light-headed with her personal restrains and concerns crumbling in the face of such power.
Reeling from the effects of her reckless high, Sakura grabbed her staff and slammed its base hard against the ground as summoned her servant with a sharp command.
There was a split second vacuum of silence before a shockwave enveloped the land instantly.
Turbulent winds had yet to die out completely when the wizards – sporting injuries of varying severity in courtesy of the rough tumble caused by Windy - managed to peel themselves off the ground. They were undoubtedly shocked to discover all Inferni had been ruthlessly severed into multiple pieces.
Victory against the dark side was terrifyingly swift.
Collateral damage however, was evident. The shield protecting the castle was thoroughly wrecked while vegetation in the Forbidden forest was largely uprooted. It would take the following day's Daily Prophet to inform them that damage extended way beyond the school grounds in the form of extensive infrastructural damage throughout the wizarding world. The paper would run pages of hysterical wizards describing horrifying accounts of shattering glass planes and uprooted trees. Muggle papers across Britain would report severe property damage by "terrifying gales".
Sakura had opted against using the other more aggressive elements in her arsenal. Even so, she had to issue silent order to Windy to rein its attack as it weaved between the wizards at astounding speeds. Windy at her full might would bring about massive damage by levelling the land with cyclones. With unrestrained sorcery amplification, the global weather system would be destabilized.
While it was extremely dangerous to utilise the full potential of her sorcery, the feeling of relaxing her tight control over her powers for the first time in years was extremely liberating. Sakura could not deny the pleasure that mounted despite her reluctance in over-relying on sorcery. She stood as wind roared harshly against her ears, relishing the exhilarating rush of sorcery through her veins as immense power of her birthright tingled at her fingertips.
Then, it all went to hell.
A wave of indescribable suffering, agonizing sorrow struck unannounced; crippling her in grief, blanketing her with the blackest melancholy.
Such attack took the air out of Sakura's lungs for a split second, leaving her disorientated and weak-kneed with pupils dilating in shock. Eyes stinging mercilessly, she began to tear uncontrollably, incessantly. Hissing in discomfort as her eyes fluttered shut, Sakura clutched her staff in a tight grip for support.
Sakura paid little heed to the heavy patter of steps approaching - until she heard a horrified gasp. The card mistress opened her eyes with difficulty, only to be greeted by the stunned countenance of Weasley twins whose attention were trained on her face.
Struck by a sense of foreboding, she drew a shaky palm across her tear-streaked cheek, breath hitching momentarily when her palm was smeared with blood.
The sound of pen scratching on paper halted.
Wang threw a concerned gaze at the stilled form of the young master at his desk, pen temporarily abandoned its purpose.
"Young master. Is anything the-"
The young master's right hand shot to his mouth all of a sudden, before coughing harshly.
Wang's blood turned cold upon witnessing wet splatters of scarlet standing in stark contrast on ruined documents.
Another cough, and this time between the gaps of the young master's fingers, Wang could see glistened crimson on his lips.
Before he could react, the young master rose a commanding left, and Wang was forced to stay rooted to his spot despite his mind urging – yelling - otherwise. Glancing at his blood-stained palm for a moment, the young master stood up and made his way to the washroom, where sounds of running water and fresh rounds of coughs could be heard.
Anxiousness creeping quickly into his aged heart, Wang was filled with dread at the thought of the severe crisis that would be brought about by the ill health of the young leader.
What seemed like years later, the young master stepped out of the washroom and slid back into his seat; appearing as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened.
"Young Master," Wang spoke gravely as he tried to keep his urgency out of his voice. "I'll inform the doctor at once."
"There is no need for that Wang. I'm not ill," Xiao Lang replied, looking more annoyed at the pain in replacing blood-splattered paperwork. "I suppose you haven't witness such… incidents during my father's time, have you?"
Sweeping his ruined papers into a pile, Xiao Lang leaned back against his seat with a darkened expression.
"It's a sign, a warning that the natural order is thrown out of balance. The closer connection a sorcerer has with the natural order, the more keenly they can feel it."
"The wails"- how utterly deafening –"The agony… Raw enough to render a person ill."
It is like the Natural Order crying out, demanding for immediate rectification to the imbalance.
"Our sorcery functions as per normal but we just feel really uncomfortable… that's lightly putting it," Xiao Lang added as an afterthought. "The more powerful the sorcerer, the more they will be affected. Half-blooded sorcerers probably won't feel anything. Since Sakura and I stand at the top of the sorcerers, we represent the order and are… personifications of nature. As twisted as it may sound, but anything that affects the natural order is physically reflected on us. And I would think that the graver the symptoms, the more severe the problem."
"What is the problem?" Wang enquired as he tried to discern the cause of such imbalance.
"That's for us to figure out. The natural order is highly ambiguous but I do have some idea-"
Xiao paused abruptly as discomfort surged and blood began to stem from the corner of his lips, dripping off his chin in incessant drops, rapidly staining the front of his shirt in brilliant red. He wiped the blood trail off with the back of his hand, but it did little to stem the flow.
"The symptoms aren't going to stop till the root cause is resolved. This is going to pose a problem."
Wang came to a similar realisation as well. Attending business functions with blood streaming down your face was a sure way to create an impression. The young master did not seem to share his concern however, as he gave a wry smile through bloodied lips.
"At least, we have a legitimate reason now," Xiao Lang continued, orbs sporting a calculative gaze. "Those old coots can't interfere any longer."
Sakura placed the blood soaked towel on the table and reached for the remaining roll with a tired sigh as she struggled to regain her bearings.
When the Weasley duo found her in the battlefield, she was undoubtedly shaken by the sudden change of events. Wide-eyed in shock with her heart racing rapidly, she stared at her palm dazedly before snapping out of her stunned stupor to direct her attention at the twins.
"Assemble the Order now," her voice shook and blood-stained palm trembled. "I am calling for a meeting."
Yue had detected his mistress's distress and came swooping down a minute later. Despite her weak protests, Yue lifted her beneath her knees and arms and soared towards Hogwarts. Ever the resourceful one, Kero instantly produced two rolls of towels upon touchdown.
Sakura knew that the cloths would be of little use to stem the flow. She was nonetheless grateful for that slight relief when she pressed a roll of cloth against her sore and aching orbs.
Nature was crying out, and its severe symptoms made it highly worrying. Kero was particularly vocal at expressing his anxiety.
"Nature has gone batshit insane," her guardian frothed. "Gawd, the last time Clow displayed such symptoms, the entire race of magical entities were out for a mass civil war!"
Sakura really appreciated her guardian's outgoing nature, but on trying days like this where she was utterly drained, his outlandish antics could be especially grating.
"Kero. A little softer please," the card mistress said wearily, wincing at an incoming headache. "My head isn't taking it too well at the moment."
Yue directed his chilly gaze at his fellow guardian, expressing his displeasure at Kero's disregard towards their mistress's well-being. The sun guardian emitted a tone of that of a kicked puppy.
Sakura sighed inwardly and figured that pacifying her guardian was low down on her priority list.
The patter of footsteps and ruffling of cloaks gradually gained in audibility, and voices could be heard echoing off the walls of the corridor.
"What the hell was that?"
"- this freakishly powerful storm just swept past me and when I realised it, the Infernis became meat cubes!"
"What do you mean by blood on her face?"
"Minerva, the castle sustained massive damage. We have to erect a new ward as soon as possible."
Said voices crowded into the room and dampened almost immediately.
Sakura figured that she must have portrayed a pretty sombre picture, with two solemn guardians flanked at her sides as she held a cloth damped with blood to her eyes.
"Mistress," Yue spoke quietly. "The entire strength turned up."
Uttering a soft murmur of acknowledgement, Sakura removed the towel from her eyes. The wizards, predictably, flinched upon staring at her face in varying degrees of horror.
Sakura figured that she must have looked like a fright.
It was an understandable reaction, but Sakura could not help but feel a little hurt at their response; an irrational surge of injustice surfaced in her heart.
Squashing her inner negativity with renewed effort, she began to address the crowd of wizards.
"I'm sure you have a lot of questions to ask… Unfortunately, as you can tell, this is an urgent matter…" Sakura spoke, gesturing to the blood trails on her face that were staining her dress crimson. "As you know, we are representatives of the natural order - in every sense of the word. When the order is thrown out of balance, warnings manifest physically on us, as you can see. It might stop once in a while but I presume it won't stop until the root cause is solved. Symptoms will become more severe as the situation in the order turns for the worse."
Yue and Kero shared a knowing glance at what was left unsaid. Prolonged experience of symptoms will be detrimental to one's health.
"If I may enquire Mrs Li, what caused this imbalance?" came the voice of Dumbledore.
"Inferni," the bite on her lower lip was hard enough to draw blood at the mention of them... and probably at some of the Order members who were still discreetly averting their gazes. "It is forbidden to toy with the dead, much less summon that many… That however, is only one of the reasons. The other reason…"
Sakura reached within the folds of her dress and produced the wand that was presented to her by Eriol.
"Recently, Tomoyo had been injured by Death Eater's wands while it wasn't the case in the past. The Death Eater had managed to increase the wand's prowess to penetrate her defence.
With a casual flick of her fingers, the wooden exterior of the wand disintegrated instantly, leaving a levitated black, shrivelled phoniex tail in its wake.
"Your wands are powered by the core – be it dragon's heartstring or whatever. This means that the core has been corrupted to amplify the wands' potency and prowess. To do so, you have to submerge the wand in blood for a period of time to corrupt the core in order to ensure amplified prowess. As you can tell, the core for this wand is thoroughly corrupted."
Ignoring the largely horrified reactions from the more expressive Order members, Sakura continued gravely.
"I suspect that the Death Eaters have been killing large amounts magical beasts for this purpose. This entire wand reeks of dragon and python blood."
Blood was usually used to amplify the magical capabilities of the user. Dragon blood usually the most prized for its potency and explosive amplification prowess. Due to its rarity however, the Dark Lord's minions must have turned to other magical species for blood…which brings her to the other nagging issue.
The amount of culling to throw the order out of balance had to be massive. While a substantial amount of blood is needed to corrupt the cores, it did not warrant such severe backlash from the natural order. One does not need that much blood to corrupt the cores when the blood could be reused.
This meant that the Dark Lord had another hidden agenda- which Sakura was unable to figure out at present.
Sakura groaned inwardly. There were enough problems on her plate now without adding more from that half-blooded upstart.
There was also that unprecedented severed connection to sorcery. It was impossible for her sorcery would be momentarily cut off, natural order imbalance or not.
Worry was eating her from within.
Hours following the meeting, when her connection to nature was temporarily severed for the second time, she decided to confide her problem with her Sun guardian before she sunk into further anxiety.
Kero stared at her, eyes enlarging to the size of dinner plates and promptly ordered – coerced – her to the medical wing for a checkup.
Madam Promfrey had fussed over her, after she had gotten over her initial shock of Sakura's sudden appearance. Waving her wand to perform general diagnostic tests, she studied the generated report and her jaw hung.
"My stars. Child…"the nurse looked at Sakura wonder. "You're… pregnant."
Kero sported a look that strangely akin to horror, as if his worst fears were confirmed.
"You are carrying that gaki's gaki."
Eyes rolling to the back of his head, Kero passed out.
The largest and most elaborate room always played host to meetings with elders. Like other rooms in the manor, it sported an enormous mural of a dragon coiling tightly round the Li crest. Painted in bold streaks of red and gold over the span of an entire wall, the sheer size of the mural projected a powerful image of the dominance and infallibility of the Li clan.
Occupying the room was a massive antique table with exquisite carvings that dated back centuries. Back against the mural, Xiao Lang was positioned at the front of the table in emphasis of his status as clan head. Elders flanked both sides of the table, seated in terms of seniority. Butlers and other aides of the elders crowded outside the room, ready to serve at a moment's notice.
The solemn congregation represented the embodiment of rigidity in the Li family. Deck in layers of embroidered silk, the family had fiercely embraced the glorious history, extensive etiquette and decorum that defined the Lis in such a naturalized way that only growing up in such a family could bring.
While Xiao Lang understood the importance of tradition, he was undeniably frustrated with the elders who were highly resistant to change, insistent on running an empire in a fashion that was decades behind time.
However, the Li family thrived on sorcery like a patron, and even tradition could crumble before the needs of the natural order.
"Esteemed elders. As you have noted, the situation this time round requires immediate attention."
Looking at the faces sporting varying shades of pallor, Xiao Lang smiled grimly.
"We were unable to detect the problem in time," he said simply, an underlying accusation directed at the elders. While wary surveillance had always been kept on the wizarding population in England, contact was ordered by the elders to be forcibly cut off two years back after Xiao Lang and Sakura's tumultuous trip back in time.
"The imbalance is caused by a unusual amounts of killings of magical creatures by a wizard named Voldemort, who is currently waging war against the larger wizarding population. He intends to use the acquired blood to increase the prowess followers' wands. "
Inwardly, Xiao Lang knew that the problem was more complex. Topping the list was the unexplainable need for Voldemort to acquire that much blood.
"Sakura has gone ahead to deal with the issue due to the urgency of this matter." The ancients knew better than to question her unannounced contact to the wizarding world when the natural order was making demands. "I will be leaving for England tonight. Mother will be in-charge of the affairs in my absence. "
"We understand. This matter is grave and requires immediate attention." croaked wrinkly plugged face another ancient who left Xiao Lang with an underlying warning.
"Please resolve it within a week, young leader. Do not get involved in their affairs."
It was more of a demand than request, but Xiao Lang was obliged to agree with them this time around. It was rare to have similar viewpoints with the ancients, but they were Lis after all. While he had the unfortunately obligation of keeping the wizards at Hogwarts alive before hunting down Voldemort, the clan leader would definitely prevent himself from getting fully involved in problems of their own doing.
Xiao Lang a bow of respect to the elders, to which the elders gave a reciprocal bow to their leader, before striding past the massive doors and proceeding back to his office with Wang trailing faithfully behind.
Only when the duo reached his office, the door closing with a resounding click, did Xiao Lang wordlessly stride towards the washroom to expel the unpleasant coppery taste of blood from the back of his throat.
According to Tomoyo's little trip to Hogwarts months back, the castle was planted with sorcerer detecting devices by that "fat toad", also commonly known as Umbridge or "that freakin'bitch" by the student population.
He could recall Tomoyo's lips curling up in distaste then.
As he entered Hogwarts ground however, the young leader could not sense any detection devices. All he could sense was a newly erected ward that provided futile resistance to his entry into Hogwarts grounds.
The castle looked like it had seen better days. Parts of the forbidden forest seemed as if calamity had struck. Together with the lingering traces of sorcery in the area, they were telltale signs of Sakura's handiwork.
He had felt Sakura's massive surge of sorcery ever so clearly earlier on, back in the manor that was half a globe away from Hogwarts. It took Xiao Lang a couple of moments to recover from his shock, upon realising that the Sakura key had been released.
Positioned at the pinnacle of sorcery, it was more than suffice to cast sorcery without the use of their amplifiers. Utilising her staff was a risky venture for consequences from a particularly strong spell casted were too dangerous.
For Sakura to summon her key despite awareness of such risk meant that something grave had cropped up…
Concerned as he was however, he had to settle matters with the elders and ensure that the Li empire would be functioning order during his leave of absence before he could set foot onto Hogwarts ground.
By then, it was nightfall.
Even though he could feel Sakura's aura clearly in the castle, social etiquette stated that one should inform the host about your arrival. He was sure such etiquette was equally important in the West.
Dinner was ongoing when the massive doors creaked open. There was sudden, unnatural silence from stunned students as Xiao Lang strode past them, the very picture of royalty decked in embroidered silk robes as he eluding an aura of confidence and strength befitting of a leader. Stopping before the great table, he calmly addressed the headmaster, ignoring the guarded expressions from the other staff.
Dumbledore responded, eyes curving, "I believe you will find Mrs Li near the forest. She tends to enjoy the air outside after dinner."
Giving a terse nod to the headmaster and other teaching staff, Xiao Lang made his way out of the castle as Dumbledore's cheery, offhanded comment of 'Ah, that gentleman you saw is the leader of all sorcerers, and husband to Mrs Li. We greatly appreciate his assistance in this war. Now let's continue with dinner.' echoed behind him.
Dumbledore, Xiao Lang reflected in amusement, was an interesting wizard.
He found Sakura at the edge of the wrecked forest, looking relatively worse for wear. Having sensed his presence, she turned as he approached and ran straight into his arms with immense relief.
Slightly surprised but nonetheless pleased, Xiao Lang running his hand through her hair, emitting a deep chuckle, "I take it that you must have missed me. It has only been a couple of days though…"
Sakura buried her face into his chest, utterly grateful for the comfort and security provided by his presence. Truly, Sakura thought, she could not live without her husband.
And to reward her awesome husband…
Sakura smiled impishly and relayed the good news to him.
Xiao Lang pulled back from their embrace in surprise, countenance radiating pride and joy.
"Well done," he whispered, "Very well done, Sakura."
Lifting her chin with the crook of his finger, Xiao Lang was vaguely pleased at the faint blush on Sakura's cheeks that was barely evident in the moonlight.
Leaning forward, he pressed his lips against hers.
It was as if she had returned to her safe haven; days of smouldering frustration swept away by a flood of passion. Returned the gesture with fervour, Sakura felt him smirk and deepened the kiss. Gasping audibly, she found herself backed against the rough bark of a tree, overwhelmed by relentless waves of pleasure as she presented what little she had to offer in return. Caged within his arms, Sakura could grip weakly onto his arm as she faced the overwhelming force of her husband that consumed her until she knew nothing but him.
The magic was broken by a series of yells.
" Oh my god! Why the hell did you stumble upon them you stupid wizard?"
"But…you were the one who wanted to find them, Keroberus."
"You lowly wizard! Are you accusing me, the great Keroberus-sama, of spying?"
Displaying exemplary talent in wizard-sorcerer relations at the most horrendous times, Kero sported a look that he would gladly douse his eyes with detergent. Repeatedly.
The look on Xiao Lang's face promised death.
"If you value your lives," he growled, piercing stare roaming from Kero to the wizards red-headed twins and their brother. "I suggest you disappear right now."
Stammering out swift apologies, the red-headed trio tore out of the forest with an indignant Kero in tow, probably off to spread gossip to Hogwart's rumour mill with vivid clarity.
Laying her head against her husband's chest, Sakura watched the retreating figures in a daze for the intensity of that kiss left her flushed and breathless. She could only wish that this welcomed respite, however brief, would last throughout her stay in the wizarding world.
Finale – part 2
That irrational negativity surged with a vengeance within days.
Sakura bit her lip hard as she attempted to bring Dark under control. Sitting in the middle of the room of requirement, she channelled her sorcery towards the card, star array illuminating the stone ground. Her remaining Sakura cards circled her in silent show of support.
Dark pulsed rebelliously, black tendrils emanating from the card as it spun wildly.
Unexplainable irritation began to gnaw at the edge of her consciousness and she channelled more sorcery towards the array in a bid to control her wayward card. With whispers of blood and destruction floating at the back of her mind, Sakura gave Dark a piercing stare, her reprimand bordering a hiss.
The spinning card came to an abrupt halt. Sakura's eyes widened before she was consumed by a blast of light and explosion.
Throughout the years, Hogwarts had played host to a series characters which brought Dumbledore's sanity into question. The presence of sorcerers however, really took it to the top.
Howlers bearing parent complaints were a daily occurrence, to which Dumbledore had good-naturedly arranged them in a huge pile in the middle of the Great Hall every morning and destroyed them from a distance –lest he got splattered by howler-induced acid- with a fanciful spell that sprayed glitter in excessive amounts that pissed off Flich.
The headmaster claimed it was great stress relief. Exasperated staff learnt to ignore their eccentric employer's antics long ago.
The two sorcerers had taken temporary residence in the Room of Requirement, away from public scrutiny. The room had morphed into their master bedroom the moment Sakura had set foot into the room days back.
Coughing up blood, Sakura realised sourly when she was rudely awaken to the coppery taste of blood two days upon Xiao Lang's arrival, was just as unpleasant tearing blood. It made her sick in the stomach and her appetite for food plunged drastically.
Xiao Lang had placed an arm over her waist and allowed her to snuggle into his chest as some measure of comfort. Having experienced tearing blood the previous day, Xiao Lang murmured through sleep-laden voice as he pulled the covers over them, he could assure her that the perpetual soreness of his eyes were as just as unwelcomed.
The couple had taken to casting full-time glamour illusions to disguise the bloody trails on their faces. There was enough prejudice against the sorcerers. Providing wizards a less than pleasant image of sorcerers would definitely drive the wizards over the edge.
The down side was that Order members, having briefed on the situation , may had been lulled into a false sense of relief and security. Using the frequency of bloodied tears as a gauge of the severity of the issue, the members began to wrongly infer that a lack of blood trails meant the gradual improvement of the situation.
It would seem that however, Sakura's initial appearance at Hogwarts was more than enough to kick start such prejudice. She might have attracted admiration from some of the male gazes but was still largely condemned by most.
The appearance of Xiao Lang however, sparked slightly mixed reactions. Once a portion of female students were partially convinced that the sorcerer was not out to string them by their guts as claimed by The Daily Prophet, their fangirling mode kicked into high gear as they swooned over his good looks in silence.
"But that is just the minority," Kero informed Xiao Lang smugly. "The rest of the populace still thinks you are a spawn of damnation."
News on the sorcerers soon spread beyond Hogwarts and the Ministry acted with surprising efficiency that was non-existent in the past. Tuesday saw meeting of both heads of the wizarding and sorcery world in Dumbledore's office as the new Minister of Magic – hereby known as MOM - emerging from the fireplace via floo with a dozen of Aurors trailing behind. Briefly riding his cloak from fireplace ash that were definitely a pain in removing, his attention was immediately captured by a foreign Asian face.
The Minister was admittedly surprised at the young age of the leader of all sorcerers and an undeniable flash of scepticism surfaced momentarily. Yet it was foolish to judge a book from its cover. The young leader's demeanour radiated any but ignorance. Decked in what looks like a formal jade-coloured Asian wear, the sorcerer emanated fortitude and wisdom beyond his age.
Tearing his gaze away from the sorcerer, he strode forward towards Dumbledore and Snape to exchange words.
The confidence that emanated from the large built of the new Minster of Magic caught Xiao Lang's interest. Though sporting a guarded expression, the leader of wizards lacked the blatant discrimination that emanated from his predecessor. It seemed like the Minister had finally recognised Voldemort to be a very real and immediate threat and willing to set aside their stereotype to deal with this common enemy, though…
Xiao Lang's eyes flickered towards the entourage behind the Minister of Magic. A couple of Aurors , having caught his gaze, flinched and they shifted their gaze hurriedly in a futile attempt to mask their slip-up with indifference.
It seemed that not everyone shared the same sentiment.
Attention directed back at the Minister when Dumbledore introduced him to the Minister as "Mr Li, leader of all sorcerers" and the Minister started self-introductions over a firm handshake.
"Pleased to meet you Mr Li. Name is Rufus Scrmgeour. I am the new Minister of Magic, taking over the helm from the unfortunate passing of my predecessor."
"I'm sorry for your loss," Xiao Lang responding easily, ignoring the discreet pointed looks from both Dumbledore and Snape. "I've heard about incident of his passing."
"We have reports that it is the work of the Death Eaters," Rufus replied gravely, fist clenched. Snape schooled his expression to neutrality, discreetly marvelled at the appalling investigation standards of the Ministry.
"I came to lead the assault on Voldemort, to gain vengeance for my predecessor," Rufus aggressively, dishing out the usual political speeches that brought hope and inspiration to thousands. "But importantly, I will free the wizarding world from this taint of evil."
Xiao Lang was not surprised at the predictable turn in the conversation. The Minster of Magic, in a bid to stamp his authority as commander in this war, had sent a subtle message to fend of intervention from the sorcerers; alongside with a show of confidence in the face of sorcerers who held an obvious power difference from wizards.
"Assume command as you wish, Mr Scrimgeour. This is your affair after all. We merely came to assist," his voice adopted a steely edge. "But do keep this in mind. We do not fall under your jurisdiction. We will act as we deem fit."
As soon as he completed his last word, an explosion went off and rocked the castle to its core, startling the occupants in the room. Plumes of dirt descended from the ceiling and portraits swayed precariously on hinges, causing past headmasters and mistresses to swear as they clung onto the frames.
"Gentleman, I am afraid you have to excuse me," Xiao Lang voiced, looking unruffled at the sudden change in events. "It looks like there is something I have to attend to."
Flashing Dumbledore a knowing look, Xiao Lang left the room. Walking pass disoriented students and heaps of collapsed armoury, he took the stairs to the fourth level, straight to what he would know in time as the Room of Requirement.
Pieces of stone littered the corridor and students were crowding round the hole in the wall.
"I would suggest that you refrain from entering."
A handful of weak-willed students quailed and scampered off at the sight of him. The rest threw him nervous looks and gave him a wide berth instantly, gave him clear view of the remnants from the stone wall. The seemingly empty room tipped him off as Sakura's illusion.
Xiao Lang looked to his left and found the trio young wizards from the Order.
"Tell your Headmaster that the explosion is not a cause for alarm."
That being said, he stepped through the massive hole and disappeared into the illusion, causing his audience to stare at the scene in disbelief. Almost instantly, the wreck wall glowed green and the hole began to patch itself together, the debris on the stone floor disintegrating till no sign of the earlier explosion was left.
While the students were left gaping outside, Xiao Lang found Sakura sitting on the ground surrounded by destroyed furnishings. He strode forward and settled next to her, waiting patiently for Sakura to voice her thoughts.
"Dark was just throwing a tantrum," Sakura revealed softly after a minute of silence, before adding another comment as an afterthought. "She is getting increasingly difficult to control though. Neh Xiao Lang, did your mother undergo the same experience as well?"
"No. While she bore a child to continue the Lis sorcery lineage, mother did not undergo such experience as she wasn't a sorceress."
Xiao Lang looked at his wife with concern. Her internal sorcery circuitry was adjusting to accommodate new life borne within her. Unfortunately, such adjustments brought about undesirable side effects. For one, sorceress pregnancy brings about more severe mood swings than a normal pregnancy.
The other - more troublesome side – effect would be the periodic, sudden severance of her access to sorcery due to the adjustment.
Sakura was in an environment that served to maximize aggravation to her side effects, which in turn threatened her control over her sorcery and cards.
"Sakura. You should return home."
"I will be able to handle it," Sakura replied resolutely, determined to contribute to the war. Faced with orbs clouded with worry, Sakura decided to divert his attention as she lifted a hand to smoothen his tousled hair before tracing the contours of his chiselled jaw.
"What you should be worrying about," - Sakura whispered as she relished the contact - "is the name of your child."
Upon birth, the child would be inculcated into the workings of the Lis, with Sakura having little say of the education of her child.
At the very least then, Sakura did not want that least bit of freedom in naming her child to be robbed from her.
Xiao Lang was well-aware of her desire. Unfortunately, the child –the future leader - from the union of the two strongest sorcerers was going to be prized. Both of their opinions would be secondary for the elders would probably decide on a name after a long process of debate and calculation.
They could only yield in the face of tradition.
The second attack came just a day after.
The Light side was out in full force. Aurors were stationed as the first line of defence, wands ready with fierce looks of determination on their faces. Hogwarts staff and the Order members readied themselves as second line of defence.
Positioned among the Light were the Lis, flanked by Yue and Kerobus in their transformed glory.
Keroberus, for once, looked like the fierce mythical tiger befitting of a beast of sorcery. Wings spread in preparation of flight, Kero emitted a deep growl that carried bloodlust, placing a paw in front of the other in preparation for a slaughter. Yue stood on their right, expression as icily neutral as ever, palm faint streaks of energy crackling in his palm.
Xiao Lang gave the terrain a quick scan, catching the gaze of a nearby Auror who quailed visibly. Most Aurors still kept their distance from the sorcerers, distrust and weariness still apparent.
Disregarding the reactions of their temporary allies, he directed his gaze at the enemy that comprised of Death Eaters and a mass of animated dead– wailing and screeching Inferni that gave off a foul stench- that seemed to stretch into the horizon. Both Lis could feel the trails of blood running in thick streams beneath their glamour disguise in the face of such taboo.
The Light was besieged from all sides and the enemy could easily infiltrate from another direction – via the forbidden forest - and attack the castle.
Xiao Lang raised a palm, preparing to guard the castle with a spell before Sakura, in a bid to do her part, took the initiative as she placated concerns of overtaxing herself.
"It's alright," Sakura whispered, placing a comforting palm on his arm before silently issuing a command. "Shield."
An invisible shield shimmered into reality, cloaking the ancient castle like an impenetrable barrier. No one in the castle would fall prey to an enemy's attack.
Xiao Lang's bead glowed green and morphed into its full form. He grabbed the handle of his treasured sword and slammed it before him.
"This is more than enough," Xiao Lang murmured, attention trained on the Minister of magic marched to the front of the Light. "It's their fight. We are not the main cast of this play."
Rufus stood proudly on a mount, every bit a commander he should be; his presence alone brought relief and confidence to the Light. Waving his wand in a majestic sweep, he casted a Sonorous charm and his voice boomed across the land.
"For too long we have suffered this curse. Far too many of our kinsmen have died under their hands. I say, no more! "
There was a thunderous roar of support that came from the Light.
"Today, we will hunt them down. We will wage war against those who seek to harm us! We will bring peace back to our land!
With that, the first of many spells began to rain upon the Dark side. Emitting war cries, both sides melted into a skirmish.
To Xiao Lang, preference for the blade over sorcery was a choice - his sword was a natural extension of his arm. As a swarm of Inferni sped towards him with grotesque faces and gnashed teeth, practised movements of swordplay kicked in instantly. He took a step forward in momentum, broad blade brutally severing two immediate Inferni and a Death Eater as the impact of his strokes disorientated remaining Inferni in the path of his sword. Glint of lethality reflected within his orbs, the clan leader obliterated his foes with precise strokes and dangerous grace, where every swing signalled mercy through execution.
For Sakura, utilising the blade was an imperative; she knew that her flow of sorcery was inconsistent and did not want to leave any openings in the battle field. Using Sword was not an option as its creation was dependent on her flow of sorcery. Sakura lifted her hand and with a muted command to Create, a ruby-encrusted blade emerged with a burst of sorcery. Gripping the hilt firmly, she took off towards an approaching crowd of Inferni without hesitation. The first enemy casualties saw Sakura striking vitals with practised ease. Leaping away quickly to avoid the spray of blood, the clan mistress spun around and took down another three, elegance and aggression captured in fluid strokes as she sealed the monstrosities' fate for eternity.
Kero pounced into the heat of battle, mauling three with a swipe, roasting a dozen more with heated breath in his wake. Yue opted instead to fly around in the air, energy crystal shooting and impaling hearts with pinpointed accuracy in all directions. energy cloaked around his hand as he swooped sharply downwards all of a sudden, slaying six in an instant in a single sweep before diving into another bunch of Inferni.
Professors were performing admirably alongside Aurors, as they casted non-verbal spells in rapid fashion. The younger Order members, tasked with providing aerial spell support from afar, had begun engaging enemies who managed to break through both line of defences. It seemed as if the wizards were holding their fort pretty well, engaging their opponents in a deadlock-
until Rufus was struck down by a stray spell – his large built visibly slumping ever so dramatically - and morale among the Light plunged immediately.
Almost instantly, there was a notable shift in the tide. The enemy was pressing in and the Light side was starting to get overwhelmed. Casualties were starting to climb, and after a couple of unfortunate Aurors were hit by the killing spell, many started to fall back.
The tables were starting to turn against the Light. The enemy pressed on, unleashing their attack with much ferocity.
There was a deafening roar from the sky, which drew a split second silence from the entire battlefield.
A pillar of flame descended from the heavens, pounding onto the earth in a fiery burst with such force that the ground was scorched instantly. It started to spread and cut across the battle field, separating the Light from the Dark with a wall of flame. Inferni and Death Eaters literally in line of fire were mercilessly incinerated in seconds.
The heat emitted from the flames was unbearable and mortals from both sides scrambled back in attempt to put as much distance between the wall and themselves. Enveloped in an unearthly glow, Xiao Lang stood regally against the fiery backdrop, unfazed by the heat that repelled all others.
"Stand up and hold the line!" Xiao Lang commanded, voice surprisingly audible above the crackling of flames. His eyes flashed angrily at the wizards' incompetence. "You wizards are considered the elites so start acting like one!"
Tendrils of flames held Xiao Lang in a gentle embrace - a fearsome show of power that he was in his element.
"This is your homeland. Protect it. Don't falter against the enemy. Show me that you are capable of defending your turf."
It could be due to renewed confidence through his words, derision by the wizards at the mild contempt palpable in his voice, or the intimidating glow reflecting off the edge of his blade… but whatever it was, it had the desired effect on the Light.
The brief respite in battle gave time for the Light to regroup. Causalities and the wounded were levitated back to safer ground. The remaining force readied themselves for battle, resolve painted on their faces.
Xiao Lang gave a grim smile and the flaming wall dissipated. He watched with mild satisfaction as the Light rushed past him to swoop upon the enemy that was still disorientated by the inferno.
It would be far too easy to let the wall of flames blanket the enemy and win the battle. In fact, a brief command from him and the enemy would have been obliterated eons ago.
Voldemort was their objective. They were not here cleaning up the mess of others, especially those who are neither friend nor foe…
"Some motivational speech," Keroberus scoffed. "You are basically telling them to prove to you that they don't suck as much." Not bothering to grace the guardian with a reply, Xiao Lang re-entered the battle, with Keroberus yelling colourful curses of 'rude brats' in his wake.
Located at the back of castle fair distance away, repulsion was steadily mounting within the card mistress. She had sensed attempts by a bunch of Death Eaters and Inferni to penetrate the barrier at the back of the castle and sneak in for a surprise attack. Jumping straight into the mechanic rhythm of slashing and slaying, Sakura realised that her sanity was gradually being eroded by the sounds and stench from the battle field. Every time when her blade was plunged her hilt deep into the undead, when her hand was caked by gushing warm blood, disgust began to build up exponentially, and she feared that she was starting to lose her grip on reality…
Xiao Lang's reputation spread like a wildfire throughout the school after the battle. It was well-known that the attack prowess of sorcerers was in a league of their own. To witness it first-hand however was an entirely different story. Members of the Order, despite exposed to multiple acts of sorcery by Sakura, were no less in terrified awe. While Sakura had stepped in twice during battle, her attacks were largely covert -beyond the Order, little realised who was behind it. Xiao Lang's show of power had an audience, and the light show and regality portrayed by him was deeply impressionable. Wizards also began to realise that the destructive hurricane sometime back was the handiwork of Sakura.
The power and confident grace that emanated from Xiao Lang garnered grudging respect and largely intimidation. Sakura who trailed beside her husband faithfully received the same treatment, if not more, for Sorcerer Li could only be matched with a woman possessing the finest qualities, who carried herself with that befitting of his stature.
Kero snorted by the sidelines. Yue resumed his usual poker face at the corner of the room, where several Aurors gave him startled glance when they caught hold of his piercing stare.
During the post battle meeting, the sorcerer party was largely contented to allow Rufus – thankfully, he survived the blood loss- to lead the meeting, though there were times when Xiao Lang was politely enquired to add his two-cents worth.
After an hour, Sakura was all too glad that the tedious meeting had come to a close. The battle mentally wore her down greatly and her exhaustion levels were peaking. Xiao Lang threw her a concerned look when she gave him a discreet wave and left the meeting room first, leaving him to handle the post-meeting discussion with the Aurors.
Sighing deeply, she set off for the room of requirement- her temporary sanctuary in this foreign land. Her legs brought her up the moving stairs to a corridor on the upper floor where human traffic was relatively sparser at this period. Classes were suspended during this period of wartime.
It was still quite a distance from her destination, for this corridor situated on the upper floor was the main vein to other flight of stairs leading to the upper storeys. So far, she only met a student who scurried past, avoiding her like a plague. That was a relief, and Sakura continued her journey with her heels clicking hard against the stone surface.
It was then that Sakura broke into coughs and the pungent taste of blood overwhelmed. Her eyes widened as the fore-telling sensation of emptiness surfaced. She had little time to stumble into the nearest classroom before the effects of her pregnancy kicked in and her connection to sorcery was cut abruptly.
Sakura felt the loss keenly. Her illusory disguise dissolved and the familiar feeling of blood trails became even more evident as they dripped off her chin. Leaning against the teacher's table, and she closed her eyes with a weary sigh.
A loud shriek snapped her out of her stupor.
Sakura looked up to see a group of horrified female students staring at her at the doorway eyes wide as saucers, standing deathly still at the doorway. The scream attracted the attention of a nearby Auror. He took a double take at the sight of Sakura before his wand was drawn out as a reflex action.
Sakura knew that it was a misunderstanding, but she could see literally read the sentiment from their orbs.
That ambiguous negativity that she had felt for weeks coalesced into a permanent shard of hatred, impaling deeply into her heart.
"Get out," Sakura hissed, orbs taking on a dangerous tint.
The trio stood frozen to the spot, wearing their expressions on their sleeves as they stared… gaped at the blood that was trailing down her cheeks and staining her lips. The Auror was the first to regain his wits. Lowering his wand by a fraction, he managed to crank the gears in his jaw in preparation to say something to lower the tension when Sakura's connection to sorcery was established all of a sudden. The onslaught of sorcery that inundated her senses sent her mental frailty over the edge; the darkness in her heart reared, urging … pushing her to lavish hell on these insignificant mortals.
"I said get out."
An unseen force threw them out of the room and sent them crashing into nearby armoury. Eyes glittering with malevolence, Sakura slammed the door shut with a flick of her fingers.
When shock and disorientation had passed, she felt that her body was crying out in agony. Gasping in pain, she untangled herself from the mass of armoury and dragged herself up to a sitting position. Discarding a metal arm with some effort, her hand shot to her waist, all too aware of the acute pain emanating from her hip. The sharp edge of the armour probably left a very deep cut, if the dull throbbing at her ankle was any indication.
Lying to her left, her friend held her bleeding ankle with a weak groan. The Auror was clutching his head, probably slammed his head against the stone floor.
She gritted her teeth in anger. That freak attacked them. Wait till the Ministry hears about this! Wizards were courteous to accommodate them and they were still that brazen.
Her mother was right. Sorcerers were dangerous.
Gradually audible footstep were echoing off the walls . Grinding her teeth in irritation, she turned to see who it was and her face subsequently degenerated into a rapid shade of pallor. Her counterparts exhibited similar expressions.
The Li sorcerer was standing a fair distance away. He looked at them unconcerned, with his dark orbs glistening unfeelingly, voice not reflecting the menace in his eyes.
"Sakura is having a bad day," the sorcerer spoke, as if the freak had not thrown them into armour. "I hope you can be more understanding."
All she could feel was terror from the underlying threat behind his feral gaze, sharp edge behind his innocuous words.
"Y… Yes…"she stuttered, determined to get out of harm's way. Survival first, her mind urged, revenge later. "We… we understand. We won't tell anyone about it. " Her friend and the Auror gave similar urgent mutters of agreement.
His orbs glittered with cold amusement as wisps of faint green aura gathered at the tips of his hand.
"Unfortunately, I don't trust the words of wizards."
Something strange was happening in Hogwarts for days now.
Students were coming bringing reports of giant spiders, mummies, Inferni, Death Eaters and a string of other sightings shaped by their worst fears. Parents and students alike were going ballistic. School withdrawals were increasing.
Professor McGonagall chalked it to the accumulated stresses experienced in this time of crisis. War was on their doorsteps, and McGonagall privately lamented the untimely arrival of such a comparatively trivial situation.
And currently, she was listening to the frantic rants of a Gryffindor student when it was nearing bedtime curfew.
"I saw him, Professor!" said girl gasped, on the verge of tears. "I saw you…you-know-who."
She knew that time was required to ease the deeply rooted prejudice and fear against sorcerers, but this was getting absurd.
"Yes, Ms Perry. Mr and Mrs Li have been with us for nearly a week now."
"No, not them!" Perry cried, "The other you-know-who!"
"…You mean the Dark Lord?" Professor McGonagall's sceptical voice was marred with alarm.
The girl, alongside with her Ravenclaw and Gryffindor entourage, who accompanied her for moral comfort and support like all best friends should, nodded vigorously.
"I spotted him at the edge of the forbidden forest. He saw me and tried to… to kill me with the killing spell."
She was starting to hyperventilate now and the Transfiguration Professor could feel a migraine forming.
"Did you manage to see how he looks like?"
"He had this hideous face with lots of scars. There was this particular scar that ran from his eye to his lips," Perry gestured to her facial features for emphasis. "And he had really long hair that reached the ground."
Professor McGonagall frowned. Her description did not match Mr Potter's description of the Dark Lord - hairless and his snake-like countenance free of scars. In fact, it sounds like The Daily Prophet's description of the Dark Lord…
"According to… credible sources, your description does not fit the bill. Perhaps you ran into a Boggart." In fact, she thought warily, it seems like the entire school was hit by a Boggart infestation.
"I casted the Riddikulus charm Professor. Thrice."
Said Professor frowned deeper.
"If that's the case, I'll be sure to inform the Headmaster about this sighting."
Perry and company found themselves walking out of the office in dissatisfaction after the Professor gave prim goodbyes.
"It's no use girls," Perry bristled. "The Professor did not believe me. You can so see it on her face."
"Do you think it is the work of the you-know-whos? I mean they could be in cahoots with you-know-who!" Gryffindor friend number one piped, suspecting of a conspiracy.
"As freaky as they are, those people came here to help us isn't it? At the very least, they won't turn against us. I am sure the headmaster has everything under control," responded Jenny- Perry sole Ravenclaw friend- with confidence, long aware of the distinction between "you-know-who" and "you-know-whos". "We should not lurk around here any longer. Let's deal with it tomorrow."
The group parted ways. Giving her distraught friend a reassuring pat on her shoulder, Jenny turned and strode down the strangely chilly corridor, back to the Ravenclaw common room.
This whole fiasco, Jenny griped, was ridiculous. The entire school was going mad; people were freaking out over sightings of their greatest fears. It was so obvious that a Boggart infestation had struck Hogwarts and Jenny, for the life of her, wondered why no action was taken to address the problem.
For some reason however, those Boggarts were pretty resistant to the Riddikulus charms...
Jenny shrugged inwardly. The cheering charm was probably not potent enough - if force does not work, it means you are not using enough of it.
She would just have to cast the Riddikulus charm with the happiest memory she could think of.
With that resolve, Jenny rounded the corner and walked straight into a Dementor.
Riddikulus charm the furthest thing on her mind, Jenny stood petrified with her heart hammering in her chest as the Dementor held a scythe - ? - in a two-handed grip and swung it high.
The last thing she remembered as the blade swooped towards her neck was the echo of her terrified screams.
Kero looked up with a thoughtful frown.
"Such a shame isn't it brother dear? Paying little attention to your surroundings," a familiar, mischievous voice drawled. "That's soooo utterly unbecoming of the great Keroberus."
The sun guardian whipped his face around to give a biting retort when he was met with a face full of cream pie.
"You don't practice what you preach, o great trainer of ours. Isn't it brother dear?"
"Yes. 'Don't lose focus on the battlefield!' our great trainer said."
"Take that, assholes!" Kero yelled, tiny eyes literally shooting laser beams at the Weasley twins as he shot a mini-fire ball at them. "You'll think twice in catching the GREAT Keroberus-sama again!"
Kero prepared to fire an ultra-mega-superduper-Kero-sama-patented fireball to roast the shits alive when he poofed into a floating ball of yellow feathers, courtesy of the canary cream ingested earlier.
Years after this incident, it remained the greatest mystery to date for a beast of sorcery to be affected by – utterly brainless and foolish -wizarding magic.
For the rest of the day, the residents of Hogwarts were baffled by the scene of the Weasley twins laughing their heads off like idiots as they ran away from the livid sun guardian, looking like a furry chicken with cream caked all over his face.
"It is pretty difficult to believe that a sorcery beast can be so… easy-going." Flitwick squeaked.
Snape's gaze flickered from the twins to the bunch of Gryffindor students in the Great Hall before settling on the sun guardian in distaste.
"Idiocy thrives in every species."
Jenny awoke with a start.
Then she remembered the Dementor, and promptly dissolved into a screaming mess.
It was only when she felt a pair of hands shaking her hard that she snapped out of her stupor. Her eyes focused and realised that it was her dorm mate and proceeded to circle her waist in a frantic hug, babbling semi-coherent phrases of relief.
"No Jenny, you did not die," her dorm mate's voice was comforting laced with incredulity. "You passed out and were found along the corridor."
Jenny stared at her friend in disbelief as her hand shot towards her neck; she could still remember the horrifying sensation of the blade tearing mercilessly into her neck. Sheets clenched tightly in her fist, she started babbling about her encounter with the scythe-wielding Dementor, to which her friend gave her a strange look.
"Dementors don't carry scythes. They kiss, remember?" said dorm mate replied in a soothing tone, "I swear it must be some massive magic backfiring. Everyone has been seeing things lately."
"But I was attacked by one! I could feel it cutting my neck! " Jenny choked, breath heaving as a panic attack started to form.
Her dorm mate, Perry, gave her a firm shake by the shoulders, intending to stop her nonsense.
"It was your imagination sweetheart. If you were dead, would you be lying here?" Perry grabbed Jenny's wrist and placed a palm to her face. "Would I still be speaking to you?"
A blink and a moment of silence and Jenny stammered in a daze "So… I am not dead?"
"More alive than ever."
It took days and plenty of calming draught to quell the jitters and convince Jenny that no Dementor was lurking along the hallways, and she was not going to be gutted nor beheaded nor any other violent ending that her active imagination could cough up.
A week in the hospital wing and she was deemed mentally stable enough to lurk about Hogwart's dangerous hallways.
Initially apprehensive - progressing at a snail pace while throwing a glance over her shoulder every few steps - when she covered the first stretch of corridor, Jenny finally started to relax at the third and finally lowered her guard at the fifth.
She rounded the corner and walked straight into that Dementor once more.
It was the same corner, same corridor, same Dementor with scythes, but she was in no position to appreciate the irony.
Backed into a corner whimpering in fear, Jenny clutched her head in a death grip, her sanity slipping through her fingers. The accompanying chill brought about by the Dementor further aggravated her frayed nerves as she stared at the large looming figure - its scythe raised in preparation for a wide sweeping arc, with a force that would decapitate her in an instant.
Something snapped within her and her mouth parted with a scream, voice cracking with broken terror.
A ball of flame and streak of arrows halted the Dementor in its attack, forcing it to recoil. Another enormous fireball caused the Dementor to stumble backwards with a high pitched squeal.
The events proved to be too strenuous for Jenny. Eyes rolling to the back of her head, she collapsed into a heap.
Keroberus and Yue appeared in a flourish, looking livid. The sun guardian threw a look of irritation at the unconscious student before swearing as he glared at the perpetuator.
"Shit, if we came a moment too late she would really be dead," the sun guardian snarled. "This time round, you were really intending to finish her off isn't it? Illusion."
The Dementor reverted back to its Kaleidescope glory, much to the guardians' displeasure.
Their suspicions were correct. The latest string of incidents was caused by illusions. It was highly fortunate that they managed to stop the card's wild ways before it upped the mantle and went for its first kill. Should there be any casualties, the fragile alliance between sorcerer and wizard would be doomed.
Technically speaking, the first casualty had already surfaced. The mental state of that female student would never be the same again. She would be plagued with anxiety issues for a good portion of her school life, in absolutely refusal to travel alone or venture into isolated areas. Desperation would eventually drive her to the edge as she would attempt a reckless oblivate to rid of her agony, only to remove a good portion of her memories, landing her in St Mungos for nearly a year.
It was highly unfortunately that a rogue Sakura card ruined the life of a witch, a student. At the very least however, she was alive and that's really all that mattered.
To think that a Sakura card ran amok… Admittedly, both guardians could sense the severity of her recent emotional turbulences but it was attributed to her pregnancy. They would not have phantom that Sakura would lose control over her cards.
Illusion rippled, and a familiar face appeared the next instant, twirling her mini-staff expertly with a determined gleam in her orbs.
"Now you are asking for it." Keroberus was itching to rip Illusion into shreds. "Masquerading as our mistress? The nerve!"
Keroberus bared his fangs, ready to teach that lackey a lesson when Yue stepped in front of him, making him look at his counterpart in surprise. Chilly blue orbs narrowed as the moon guardian issued a single, monosyllabic command to the card under his jurisdiction.
The image of Sakura quailing with her demeanour shifting to submission was not a pleasant picture.
The air shifted and Illusion reverted back to its card form before floating towards Yue's open palm, to which the moon guardian encased it in a silvery globe of sorcery for precaution
Kero pouted as he morphed into his false form. "Just one word and you manage to tame Illusion. My lackey cards rarely listen to my commands!"
Yue , upon finally realizing the new coat of feathers that Kero was sporting, gave look of disapproval laced with an unvoiced sarcasm of 'I wonder why'.
"Not a goddamn word," Kero voiced grumpily. "Not a goddamn word."
"I heard Illusion went amok."
Vacant orbs greeted the young sorcerer.
"Why are we here, Xiao Lang?" Sakura asked, feeling rather lost. "What are we fighting for? I don't really know… and frankly, I don't really care anymore."
Xiao Lang wiped a bloodied tear, long used to the soreness of his eyes. In their sanctuary, there was no need for pretence.
"We finish things here and start hunting down the snake. Then we will go back home." he replied as he embraced his wife. "We shan't delay our progress any longer."
Wednesday was the day when everything came apart.
They were engaged in another battle the following morning. Within a couple of hours, the Light had successfully defended their fort.
The Order was engaged in a post-battle feast in the Great Hall, tucking in to a spread of leftovers from previous dinners that were served by house elves. Most of the older Order members were seated at the teachers' table while some were spilt over to the Gryffindor table, which was largely occupied by the younger wizards.
The Minister, together with his lackeys, had to temporarily return to the Ministry by floo.
Both sorcerers were nowhere in sight, predictably holed up in the Room of Requirement again for reasons unknown to them. Yue was tracking enemies' activity, to ascertain their retreat. Kero was once again forwarding sorcerer-wizard relations by feasting with the younger members.
Exasperation on their faces with battle-weary Order members highly tempted to slap the young Order members who were creating a din, with Kero predictably the catalyst of the mayhem.
"How utterly disgraceful," Kero griped between chomps of donut. "Absolutely no finesse. You people were lumbering around like Orges!" And you, were literally scrambling and tripping over your feet!"
"Well excuse me for lumbering," Ron muttered into yesterday's meatloaf. "Infernis were swamping me like crazy and all I could think of was to get my ass out alive."
Harry uttered in exhaustion, all too keen for this entire war to be over, "Next time when Infernis are about a hair-breath away from sinking their teeth into me, I shall remember your words of wisdom and swish my wand with grace."
"Exactly, grace!" Leaping onto his feet with his mouth containing half-eaten donut, he grabbed the fork and jabbed it with a forward thrust. "What happened to the training you got from us?"
"You mean the time when you went batshit insane and used us as life targets," George exclaimed incredulously. "There wasn't any finesse involved! The only thing we learnt was to avoid our ass getting fried!"
Kero wagged his paw with a smirk before holding up his cutlery like a trophy, "Even when you escape danger, you should uphold your pride as a warrior and exit with style."
"I'll show you style, ol great trainer of ours." Fred responded mockingly before a scoop of mashed potatoes sailed through the air and collided into Kero's huge face with a splat. George whoop of gwaff laughter with Molly's horrified yell of "Fred!" while jaws of the rest of the members seemed to hang as mashed potato slid off Kero's face, revealing flaming orbs of wrath.
"You disrespectful young ass," the esteemed beast of sorcery seethed. "You're so going to pay for this!"
In retaliation, donuts pummelled through the air at top speeds, smashing into Fred's hard head with the force of a sledgehammer, putting him out of commission instantly. A couple of misfired pastries sailed past their intended targets and went smacking into the faces of unsuspecting victims instead.
Against the commotion of swearing, George wiped a stray tear and swore vengeance upon his twin's limp body.
One thing led to another with shouts of irritation gave way to war cries and the situation began to degenerate into a food fight.
While the rest of staff watched with tics pulsating above their brows, Dumbledore gazed serenely at the scene unfolding before him. The sun guardian and the younger members were getting along famously.
Some stray unidentified lump landed on his table with a splat and Dumbledore poked it experimentally. Yesterday's meat stew, he concluded with great interest. While it was one of the house elves' worse recipes, it was still unfortunate to meet with such an end. Before he could utter a silent prayer of regret however, the creaking of the doors caught his attention and his curiosity gave way to delight.
"Mr and Mrs Li. So glad that you'll join us for dinner."
All activity stilled.
"Though it seems like dinner is interrupted," Xiao Lang remarked dryly, with Sakura gazing unhappily behind. "I do suppose this is not an everyday occurrence."
Dropping the bowl of cream sauce in his paws instantly, Kero jerkily turned his head towards the door, presenting the couple with a face full of potato and apple pie. He quailed under her reprimanding gaze.
"I… I…" Kero stuttered nervously before pointing his paw at Fred in righteous indignation. "He started it!"
"That's because you started mouthing like crazy!"
"Well, that's because you guys don't seem to apply the stuff we taught you!"
Sakura's orbs narrowed unconsciously.
She had no time for this. Not when her conviction in aiding wizards was dissipating fast, not when all she wanted was to kill that snake instead of babysitting the wizards to hold their fort and mother her sun guardian.
Her thoughts were interrupted when Xiao Lang's hand shot to his mouth and started coughing, startling the wizards at such an uncommon scene for young leader had never showed signs of weakness in front of others.
It was largely passed it off as a seemingly harmless cough as Xiao Lang's hand fell to his side. While the curious glance of the young faded, the sharper members became highly alarmed when drips of dark crimson stained the stone floor, indicating that blood was dripping off the sorcerer's hand when strangely, there was no blood stains on his palm.
The said members detected the slightest sense of urgency on the sorcerer's visage when he turned to the sorceress, eyes widening by a fraction. His wife mirrored the same action.
Before the Order members could ask any questions however, the castle was wrecked with an exceptionally violent shake, throwing everyone of balance and screams of fright rang across the castle. Sakura clung onto Xiao Lang for support before doubling over, clutching onto his forearm tightly as a series of coughs wrecked her frame, alarming the wizards in the process.
"Dear God," Molly exclaimed as she rushed over, motherly instincts taking precedence over survival. "What in the wor-"
She was interrupted by a particularly harsh cough before brilliant red splattered across the stone surface. Xiao Lang's expression turned grave as stunned silence hung among the Order members despite the minor tremors that shook the castle.
Sakura had thrown up blood but there was no trace of crimson on her countenance.
Things, the more intelligent members realised with dread, were not getting better. From the day when they saw the bloodied trails on Sakura's face, the couple had been using glamour magic as a disguise.
They were lulled into complacency.
There was a reprise of that ghastly thunder and this time, the wizards began to feel a suffocating presence. Both sorcerers froze and urgency became even more apparent, as if their worst fears have been confirmed.
"Xiao Lang…" Sakura whispered in horror.
Wind began to pick up violently in the great hall, creating huge blast of gales sent the long tables crashing into the stone walls. Panicking, the wizards crouched low in desperate bid to avoid being sent slamming into walls.
Yue appeared at the door, facial features highly tensed. He was met with a powerful gale that made him take several steps back as his long silvery tresses whipping about wildly. Yue saw his fellow guardian taking a rough tumble, his small form unable to withstand the force of the wind.
In the middle of the great hall where both sorcerers stood, the Time card materialised and began to shriek.
"What the hell is happening?" Someone yelled above the din, the screeching threatening to shatter his eardrums. The ominous pink shade that covered the hall was starting to unnerve the wizards.
There was a skin-jerking sensation before they found themselves in the Room of Requirement; its silence providing them sudden relief from that awful noise.
"Headmaster. Please prohibit anyone from entering the Great hall for the time being." Xiao Lang said gravely. "The situation that you saw will persist for some time. But I can assure you that it won't spread beyond the hall."
"I would like to know what is happening Mr Li."
"The Time card has been activated." Sakura replied, with what would have been blood on her lips. "The time portal was activated by force."
"Voldemort went back in time," came Xiao Lang's grim input.
Time travel was no longer an option. It was unstable enough from their tumultuous journey back into the past. Reopening it would further destabilise it and any use of sorcery back in time would ultimately drive the fragile situation over the edge, in which the time portal would collapse, dissolving the world into dissolve into time chaos. Past events would be erased, invalidating the events of the present.
"You mean all this while, you-know-who has been throwing his lackeys at us to distract us from his main objective? Why does he want to go back in time?"
"Do you think it is to go back in time to stop the day when Harry defeated him as a baby? He might kill of Harry and-"
"Time magic is serious shit you dolts! A half-blooded sorcerer can't go back so many years into the past," Kero yelled at the ignorant idiots and proceeded to give a lecture on the capabilities of half-blooded sorcerers.
"…a half-blooded sorcerer is able to jump back a couple of years at the very most, even with external support like time arrays or potions. By forcibly opening the gate to the past however, the half-blooded sorcerer will be severely depleted of sorcery and his life will be at risk."
There was a gasp of realisation.
"Bloody hell, do you think he went back to that massacre in Asia?" Ron interjected "I mean, he failed big time then. He probably wanted to start from there?"
There were vigorous nods of agreement as the wizards looked at each other.
"It is possible… I mean it only happened a few years ago. We-"
"How…" came a deathly whisper. "How do you know about the massacre?"
Caught off guard by the sorceress's outburst, Ron looked genuinely confused before his expression contorted into one of utter horror, mirroring his companions
"How do you know about the massacre?" Sakura pressed on, her voice razor sharp. "There is absolutely no way that you would have known about this"
Ron was at a total loss for words and the room subsequently plunged into deathly silence.
"I should have known," Sakura whispered in rage, countenance was marred with betrayal as she took an intimidating step forward, hair billowing in her fury. "I told you not to pry didn't I?"
Feeling threatened, many members took a wary step back. The desire for security by clutching onto their wands became highly apparent.
"There are things-" she continued, gaze becoming increasingly wild. "-that are kept secret for a reason. I trusted you guys to respect my privacy. I trusted you guys to refrain from breaching boundaries. So why did you pry?"
Hard pressure was applied to the base of her neck. Sakura slumped forward and collapsed into Xiao Lang's waiting arms.
"That marks the end of our alliance."
Dumbledore looked deeply uncomfortable.
The ground shook furiously, and the air screamed.
"Don't tempt me wizard." The leader of the Li clan growled. "If it wasn't for Sakura, I'll raze this goddamn place to the ground."
The headmaster bowed with regret.
"I apologise for everything."
Xiao Lang threw him a cold look before stepping into in summoned portal. Sakura's moon guard stepped in thereafter.
Kero however, stayed behind.
"Although I'm darn sure of it, but the only person you have been in contact with is me. This means I've told you about it when I technically can't remember telling anything to you guys," Kero asked, the look completely foreign to the wizards. "Care to enlighten me?"
"We can't afford to leave Voldemort alone, Master."
Yue voiced his concerns as they stepped out of the portal that led straight into the Li's master bedroom, to which Xiao Lang paused for a moment before replying.
"Nothing has happened."
He could feel the questioning gaze from the stoic guardian. Placing Sakura's unconscious form on the bed, he tucked the silk blanket to her chin.
"If he has done anything, we would have felt the repercussions two years ago. The fact that nothing has changed even if he did travel back in time to the Asian massacre proves that he didn't impact the timeline. When we first went back in time two years ago, we arrived at a devastated Tomoeda emerging from the carnage of battle. Concurrently, present day Voldermort was also in Tomoeda, harbouring some wishful thought of preventing our younger counterparts from interfering with the muggle cleansing. However, neither did Sakura, Kero nor I encountered any hindrance from Voldermort."
Xiao Lang gave Sakura's face a gentle caress before easing himself from his seated position. Sakura's glamour magic had long dissipated and blood trails began to stain the sheets.
"Time magic requires immense amount of sorcery. What he lacked in sorcery was substituted with massive amounts of blood which managed to transport him back two years into the past. Even then, the trip would have cost him almost all his energy and I presume he is barely sustaining himself, much less doing anything in the past."
"That makes his intention to go back in time nonetheless unclear," Yue argued. "His motive is highly questionable. Besides, forced reopening of the time portal is also a pressing issue. "
"It is. But fact is that judging from the backlash the time portal could be sustained for a couple more days. That can wait," Xiao Lang replied firmly. "Right now, Sakura is my priority."
Unless the world was dissolving into immediate chaos, everything else was secondary.
Sakura's eyelids flickered open an hour later, revealing vacant orbs to the world. Shifting the silk blanket aside, she twirled her hair into a lose bun and fastened it with a plain chopstick lying on the drawer by her bedside.
"And just where do you think you are going?" a familiar low baritone drifted.
"To rid Voldemort from the face of this earth."
"I'll handle it."
Sakura did not reply and made her way to the door, only to be stopped by a strong grip to her wrist. She spun around irritably, only to meet with an unwavering gaze from her husband.
"You're not in any mental or physical condition to travel back in time."
"That snake is the reason why everything went downhill!" Sakura cried bitterly. "It was all because of him that Otou-san and Nii-chan died, that we are embroiled in the affairs of those wizards! Only by killing him will I get my revenge! "
Anger bled into Xiao Lang's gaze and Sakura found herself pinned against the bed with her hands above her head.
"Hasn't it occurred to you that I don't want you to be anywhere near that snake at all?" Xiao Lang growled, voice dangerously soft as his teeth grazed her neck.
Sakura was prepared to respond with a rebellious rebuttal when Xiao Lang bit her neck with much force. Gasping audibly, she strained her hands against his to free herself.
Ignoring her desperate attempts, the clan leader held her chin and caught his wife in a forceful kiss.
The clan mistress tried to push him away, but she was all too aware of his knee sliding between her legs. Eyes turning increasingly lidded, breath caught at her throat with his lips against hers, Sakura's struggles gradually lost in strength for she was unable to deny the thrill, the onset of pleasure as her frantic thoughts melted into incoherency.
Xiao Lang shrugged on the jacket and Sakura, looking slightly dishevelled, proceeded to adjust his tie.
His wife was averting her gaze, attention purposefully trained on his tie. Xiao Lang took hold of her chin and forced her to look into his eyes.
"We'll deal with this once I return."
Sakura nodded, and she was rewarded with a satisfied peck on the lips.
It was only when her husband exited their room, shutting their door with an audible click, that Sakura batted out an apologetic whisper.
"Gomen, Xiao Lang."
She could feel the air shaking with unstable time magic when she set foot into Little Hangleton. Powerful ripples emanated from the ominous glowing manor located on the top of the hill.
In a split second, Sakura appeared at the door of what she would come to know as The Riddle Manor. Dingy window planes had long shattered with the initial powerful ripple. The manor was damp and derelict, thoroughly void of life.
Her chest clenched in pain as every step she took into the manor, every pace nearing the source of the crisis. Sorcery in her blood began to stir, churn, fester; chorus of voices, wails, screams crying for rectification of such imbalance.
"Stop it," she whispered as she covered her ears with her palms in a futile attempt to block out the demands, their demands. Breathing became shallower as they became overbearing. Every fibre of her being screamed at their refusal to proceed, her instincts urging her to retreat. She was powered forward only by the will of the natural order, her inescapable responsibility stemming from her birth right.
Control over her emotions waned and a burst of pink sorcery flared, wrecking the first level of the manor instantly. Floorboards were uprooted and flung and smashed against the walls. Remaining furnishing in the room shattered thereafter.
Her outburst only served to aggravate the delicate situation further as the air in the manor crackled and shuddered powerfully once more.
Training from the Li's kicked in forcibly and the turbulence in her mind quickly sank into a dull buzz. Calming considerably, Sakura proceeded towards the source of the instability. She had to hurry though, before childbearing anxiety resurfaced and challenged her control. Even as the Li mistress drew nearer to the basement and the instability grew increasingly severe, training held up – testament to the Li's philosophy of maintaining impassivity even in the face of crisis.
Huge wooden trap doors appeared in sight and Sakura could feel the source lying behind those doors. Dread began to accumulate dramatically. Steeling herself mentally, Sakura flung the trap doors open-
- and was met with an entire basement inundated with blood.
The overpowering stench caused Sakura to gag and take a step back, her hand shooting straight to her mouth with her blood raged uncontrollably.
A flight of stairs led further down the basement and into the sea of blood. There was a rip in the air – the entrance back in time- in the middle of the room, of which blood was swirling beneath the rip to fuel portal stability.
Time magic was serious business. The entire reserve of a half-blooded sorcerer could barely sustain the time portal. An external medium was required to stabilize it in order to allow a tumultuous trip back in time.
It seemed that Voldemort had stored the bulk of the blood from the creatures to sustain the time portal.
Time magic was already unsettled way back when Sakura and Xiao Lang made that ill-fated trip back to Tomoeda. This summoning further unsettled the portal for it was done in a haphazard fashion - Voldemort who invoked the time portal was a probably did not use the right incantations, only using the bestowed sorcery in his reserves to pry open the time portal. Blood used to sustain the portal was finite and would only be able to sustain the portal for another two hours before the portal collapses spectacularly and the world dissolves into time chaos.
The collapse would be accelerated should sorcery be used in her trip back in time. Sakura could only rely on her sword.
When the nausea had somewhat subsided, Sakura walked down the stone steps with great reluctance, sickly feeling growing exponentially within. Tears of blood streamed thickly beneath her glamour disguise, dripping continuously into the pool of blood below.
Nearing the end of the stairs, the sea of blood began to part, leaving path which led straight towards the rip. Eyelids fluttered shut for some semblance of calmness before she took the first of her many steps, heels clicking loudly against the blood-stained pavement.
As she walked down the path, with the increasing volume of wails breeching her control and her long locks whipping wildly by the wind generated from the portal, she was assaulted with images of the past, when the natural order did not dictate her will, when her life was not plagued by the stench of blood nor death.
Since when did everything begin to change?
Choking back a sob, Sakura bit her lip and entered the time portal.
It happened all in an instant, and she knew she was back in Tomoeda. Her pregnancy and her waning grasp over her sorcery however, left her disoriented by her time travel. Regaining her balance as she stood shakily on both feet, Sakura tried to figure out how much time she had before the attack and why this place looked so familiar when a voice pierced her thoughts like a knife through hot butter.
Heart screaming in disbelief, Sakura's mind momentarily stilled at the sight of her father.
Sakura met him at the door. Wang and Xiao Yu stood by her side with customary bows.
Xiao Lang gave a curt nod towards them before dismissing both Wang and Xiao Yu.
The usual silence reigned as the couple strode back to their room, acknowledging respectful bows given by servants and butlers on their way back. Upon entering their room, the door shut with an ominous click.
"Where is she?"
His wife looked subtlety confused.
"What are you talk-"
Sakura was sent painfully to her knees all of a sudden, with the potency of the sudden pressure of sorcery threatening to crush her lungs. She looked up with much difficulty and cowered at the rage apparent on Xiao Lang's face.
"Where is your Mistress, Mirror?"
Mirror reverted back to her true spirit form, quivering before Xiao Lang as she prostrated.
"Forgive me Master," Mirror cried fearfully, "I…I…"
Xiao Lang knew that Mirror was unable to defy Sakura's orders but that did not quell his temper. He glared at the card and demanded if Sakura had company.
"Mistress went alone," Mirror whimpered, petrified by her master's fury.
It seemed like she ditched both of her guardians too. Without casting a second look at the quivering card, Xiao Lang left the room with a storm of emotions.
Mirror whimpered once more and morphed back into her card form, disappearing in a flash of pink.
Hours after both Lis had left, Dumbledore was back in his office with regrets mounting exponentially.
Pending on the horizon was what could be the final wave of assault by the enemy. With casualties on the Light side mounting, they might not be enough to fend off the last attack.
The flames at the fireplace flared to life. Seconds later, Eriol stepped out of the fireplace with thin trails of blood evident on his face. Dumbledore regarded the Clow incarnate with a sorrowful and deeply apologetic gaze.
"Old friend…" he murmured. "I really have nothing thing to say."
Eriol gave Dumbledore a muted look for the longest moment before breaking his silence.
"By betraying my daughter, I should just leave you guys in the lurch. But on account of our friendship, I shall tackle this crisis with you. One last time."
"Sakura? You are back?" came an astonished response from Kinomoto. "Weren't you away for your honeymoon?"
Sakura did not reply, opting instead to stare at her deceased father with wide eyes. He was pruning their little garden in their front porch when he saw her. Removing his gardening gloves and abandoning clippers quickly, he moved off the dirt ground and made his way towards her, expression one of pleasant surprise.
In a cruel twist of fate, it seemed that she had landed in front her house.
Rendered utterly speechless, Sakura barely registered what her supposing deceased-turned-alive father was saying nor felt hands on her shoulder steering her up their stairs through the familiar living, past her mother's portrait and into the kitchen where the smell of pancakes wafted.
That nickname created a large splinter in her dam of emotions as Sakura stared at her older brother, , in the kitchen - it was just like how she remembered - donning on that apron with that teddy bear print which Sakura fell in love with while he found it utterly ridiculous. He held onto the pan, surprise etched on his face upon seeing Sakura.
"What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be enjoying life Europe?"
"That's what I asked her," her father replied. "Apparently, they decided to give us a surprise."
Somewhere at the back of her mind, Sakura was glad that she had enough control over her sorcery to maintain the glamour charm, shielding the blood trails on her face from her family in order to prevent them from freaking out.
But at present, when her shocked mind finally started cranking and realised that her family was standing right in front of her; that those who she had been longing, craving, desiring for in her dreams were living and breathing in the flesh that tears started flowing and could not stop. Clinging onto her stunned father, Sakura buried her face into his shirt and cried hard, with increasing crescendo to a wail, as relief, happiness, impending melancholy embroiled into a potent maelstrom, in a complex mix of conflicting emotions that tore her apart while mending her from within.
Given Sakura's sudden melt down, it was difficult not to jump into conclusions.
"It must be to godamn gaki's fault isn't it?" Touya raged, zooming in to his nearest target instantly. "I just knew that he will be trouble!"
"Now Touya, we don't know what exactly happened "" Fujiwara soothed his son uncertainly as he tried comfort his daughter, worry growing exponentially as his daughter's cries deepened with sorrow . He had never witnessed Sakura suffer such a break down. It was extremely worrying and with Sakura's abrupt arrival at their doorstep a couple of days into her marriage with his son-in-law nowhere in sight, it was inevitable that suspicion and blame fell upon the Li family.
"Wait till I get my hands on him! I'll wring his neck!" The pan was cracking under the pressure of his grip. "I will teach him not to mess with Sakura again! That bloody gi-"
"I really can't be bothered now Otou-san. That gaki had the nerve to make Sakura cry after all that bullshit he promised you!"
Seated at the kitchen table, they looked worriedly at the family youngest as her wail gradually died down to sobs.
"Oni-chan, it is not Xiao Lang's fault."
I am the one at fault. I am the cause of all these troubles.
"I am just a little homesick."
"I highly doubt it," Touya muttered darkly, wrath flaming in his eyes. The pan-handle now sporting sizable finger-shaped imprints. "Homesickness doesn't make you cry as if you are pinning for the dead."
Sakura stilled - Touya hit the bull's eye- before sighing, "Oni-chan, Xiao Lang has been treating me really well. "
"Right. As if I believe that after your teary episode Kaiju."
"Don't call me Kaiju, baka Oni-chan!"
"You will always be Kaiju, Kaiju," Touya snorted. "Still the ungraceful female as ever. How China sees you as the elegant, refined young mistress of the Lis is really beyond me."
Fujiwara laughed, worry lifting slightly as his daughter pouted, her spirits seemed to lift. Still it was little strange. He had this nagging feeling from the moment he laid eyes on his daughter – probably an effect as the half-incarnation of Clow Reed. Something seemed to be a bit… off. She had longer hair -probably had hair extensions-, and she seemed taller… Fujiwara stared discreetly at his daughter, noting the subtle facial and demeanour changes – poised and seasoned, and eyes that looked so very weary – plus the changes to her flow of sorcery.
Can a week bring that much change in a person?
Chucking his suspicions to the back of his mind, he asked jovially, "So I take it that you are back home due to your… homesickness?"
"I'm back because-" she froze immediately, elation and relief dying out in an instant as she recalled her original purpose back in time. The wall clock indicated four minutes to attack commencement.
She had to save her family.
"Otou-san, Oni-chan," Sakura started wildly and stood up abruptly, knocking her chair over, alarming her family once more. "Hurry, you must escape!"
Both sported similar looks of bewilderment, and Touya's patience was stretched thin.
"Sakura, what the hell is going on?" he demanded, seizing his sister's shoulders with a firm shake "Enough of the homesickness bullshit. Are the Lis a problem?"
"No, no! Not them!" Sakura mumbled distractedly, mind whirling fast as she quickly analyzed her family's situation. Even though her father was half-incarnation of Clow, he did not hone it to possess actual fighting capabilities for he was just contented to communicate with apparitions of his wife. While defending against a couple of Death Eaters should be fine, but an entire hoard of vicious, muggle-hating fleet with well-coordinated attacks would overwhelm him. Her brother, void of magical capabilities, was defenceless. "Just… both of you have to escape now! Just hurry!"
"Sakura," Fujiwara's voice was stern, reflecting similar inevitable sentiments as his son. "Are our in-laws giving you trouble? "
"No, not Xiao Lang's family!" Sakura cried desperately. "It's the wiz-"
The sound of distant scream and explosion signalled the first wave attack. Sakura halted abruptly as the natural order gave a shrill scream of protest, sending her to bend over in her seat and grab her head in agony as her glamour magic buckled under the strain.
She was here to kill Voldemort, not intervene in events of the past. She could not change her family's inevitable fate.
Tampering with time, thus breathing life back into the dead was against the natural order. A taboo.
She had options but there was really no choice at all.
All this power, yet so utterly useless.
Dilemma was tearing her apart. Grit her teeth sped out of the kitchen, and raced down the stairs to her front porch and beyond the gate.
Sakura stopped all of a sudden, with her back facing her father. Sakura could hear him slowing his steps and stand a distance away, probably allowing her more personal space in this unstable time.
"You are …not Sakura. I mean…" Fujiwara said unsurely, hesitantly. "Touya probably couldn't tell but I can feel something different. That you are Sakura but you are not. I'm not sure if what I am saying actually makes sense.
The bite on her lip was hard enough to draw blood.
She turned and looked at her father. Shock was an understatement when he saw thick streams of blood trailing down her eyes. Coughing thickly, a fresh trail of blood dribbled down to her chin. Her brother sported similar expression as he appeared at the doorway. Sakura gazed forlornly at her family before sorrow overwhelmed and her face expression crumbled.
"Gomen Nasai Otou-san, Oni-chan " she choked, voice breaking along with her heart. "It's all my fault."
She fled down the street and right into a nearby clump of vegetation, ignoring the confused yells from her family as she tried to put as much distance away from her dilemma. It was only the sound of an explosion that stopped her in her tracks abruptly, that she turned around and saw at the fiery plume rising above the trees from where her house originally stood.
Sakura merely dimly registered harsh breathing echoing around her ears as she stared at the massive fireball with dilated pupils, a scream threatening to tear through her lips.
All these while, she harboured a wishful thinking – that her family's deaths were inevitable, that she had no control over their fate, that she could only pray that they would rest in peace.
It was her who sent them to their deaths.
However difficult, she had made a choice and ultimately decided her family's fate as charred corpses by the doorstep.
Their blood was on her hands.
Xiao Lang and Kero stood on the stone stairs, brows deeply furrowed at the unstable portal in the middle of the room. Yue was ordered against his will to notify Eriol about the situation, leaving both of them to handle things at the Riddle Manor.
Once Kero was informed by Xiao Lang on Sakura's unannounced trip back in time, the guardian was struck by the complexity of the entire time travelling situation. When Tomoeda was under attack by those Death Eaters two years back, it seemed that the little town was hosting two different sets of time travellers, who, Kero mused, thankfully did not cross paths lest a time paradox occurred. (The Sun guardian was blissfully unaware of the momentary meeting between the two Sakuras back in time.)
The first would be the trio – Xiao Lang, Sakura and Kero – who leaped back in time days after the attack on Asia in order to personally witness the devastation created by the Dark side. The second set of time travellers currently comprised of the present day Voldermort - whose assumed but undoubtedly failed intention was to reverse the meddling of the first set of time travellers in order to regain an upper hand over the sorcerers - and Sakura, who was on a vengeful mission to eradicate the Dark Lord before damage to the time portal became too entrenched.
And currently, they had to get Sakura out of that fragile time portal before embarking on a herculean task of restabilising the portal to prevent invalidation of time and reality.
A look at the portal and the unstable vibes in the air told Xiao Lang that another sorcerer back in time is unacceptable. Kero trip back in time to drag Sakura back to the present would destabilise the portal further, but it was the lesser of two evils.
"This will take more than just your sorcery to solve this mess."
"I know," Xiao Lang replied Kero, determination reflecting in his orbs. "Look after them for me, soft toy."
The bead morphed into his sword and he slammed the sharp edge onto the ground, green array burst from the ground, blood swept violently towards the other side of the room. Sorcery began to flood the room and the large cracks appeared in the wooden structure above.
Kero's eyes widened to the size of saucers when he realised the implications.
"Look after them yourself gaki! Rear your own brat that you procreated!" Kero cried hysterically. "Don't you dare kick the bucket and pass the shit to me, you hear me? Sakura will kill me if you do!"
The look on Xiao Lang's face caused Kero to spew expletives as he turned and entered the time portal.
Sakura gasped like a person starved for air.
Materializing in glows of bright pink, her cards began to whip wildly out of control. Fiery and Lightning were starting to let lose their cannons; vegetation around her aflame. Windy was starting to be released from her sealed state, producing gusts that fanned the flames.
She dug her fingers deeply into the soil and gritted her teeth with great effort.
Not yet. She could not lose herself to this madness yet; not when she had not gotten revenge. Losing control now was just going to create mindless destruction. If she had to die, she would drag her nemesis to hell with her.
Using the cards on herself was not encouraged. She ran the risk of being controlled by the cards instead - but there was no other alternative.
Lock ,one of the last few cards that had not turned wild, activated on command.
"Lock… this anger away for now," Sakura gasped between clenched teeth "But when I find him, I will kill him."
The madness stopped all of a sudden, leaving a kneeling Sakura doused in cold sweat. Her cards returned into their sealed states, fluttering back into a pile before her before disappearing with a burst of pink.
She could feel an artificial block at the back of her mind that stemmed all her emotions, giving her a sense of unnaturally calmness.
Muscles spamming slightly, Sakura stood faintly to her feet and dusted the dirt off her skirt. Cleaning the damp strands of hair off her face shakily, she redid hair and fastened the clasp as she struggled to catch her breath. Blood was cleaned off her face with the back of her hand and glamour magic was reactivated. A brief command saw the burning vegetation around her being doused by Watery.
When she activated lock, all her emotions - especially that uncontrollable rage and hatred- became inaccessible. She felt strangely… sedated, a little disorientated, as if in a dream-like state where her world was submerged in water.
Minutes later, her breathing evened out and the fog in her mind cleared.
Cold logic and rationality remained; her sorceress duty stood out in clarity, while everything else seemed insignificant.
An abrupt spike of sorcery flooded her senses and Sakura rushed out of the dense vegetation, just in time to see her younger counterpart unleashing Dark in her reckless fury.
Sakura's forehead creased. If this were to continue, Dark would thoroughly destabilise the already fragile state of time. The younger Sakura had to be stopped.
"Light," Sakura summoned, unknowingly intervening into past events.
She watched her raging younger counterpart with what she would think is sadness in her eyes. The younger Sakura had just discovered the corpses of her family by their door step, and had sworn vengeance upon the perpetrators - Death Eaters - who had killed her family.
It was pretty tragic actually. Sakura supposed she could empathise, to a certain degree, with her younger counterpart.
Speaking of perpetrators, should she not pin point to one closer to home? One that left them to their deaths?
Sakura could only blink at that stray thought.
Altering time was a taboo that could destabilise time and throw the world into chaos. She was a Sorceress before anything else. Between the world and the lives of two individuals, the choice was obvious.
As she faded back to the forest after throwing one last glance at her past, Sakura could not, for the life of her, fantom why that train of thought felt so terribly wrong.
Sakura found him at some secluded area of the town, a fair distance away from the attack. Leaning against a thick trunk, Voldemort looked gaunt and exhausted - a shell of his former self. It was not much of a surprise after all, taking into account the nature of such forced time travelling. He was barely hanging on, clutching onto life by the skin of his teeth.
At the back of her mind, she could literally hear the sound of Lock unlocking.
Sakura took a step forward and sprung back all of a sudden when ground exploded upon contact. She was about to throw her shield up to repel the attack on reflex when she came to an abrupt realisation that she could not risk using sorcery. The initial explosion began to set off a chain reaction of explosions, forcing Sakura to flip backwards and land a safe distance away with her hair whipping behind her.
Her legs however had burns of varying degrees. They were not spared from the blast.
Eyes narrowing, Sakura found flask of volatile potions buried in the ground to compensate for his lack of combat prowess.
"So this is your purpose back in time?" glared at the half-blooded deviant, her voice laced faintly with scorn. "All to ambush me with planted potions in the soil?"
Negativity was trickling back in at a study rate at the back of her mind.
"I'm not dumb, sorceress," Voldemort hissed faintly before coughing thickly, as if choking on blood. It was a feeling that Sakura was well-acquainted with. "Against three sorcerers and one half-blooded bitch who keep poaching my men, I had no chance of victory."
Voldemort's words were starting to decrease in audibility as numbing anger began to overwhelm. It was smart of Lock to unload that emotional baggage in measured streams - it would definitely break her should all that hatred were to be dumped on her at an instant.
"In order for any possibility of victory, I realised that I had to deal with each of you separately… and place you in an environment where you are can't use sorcery to even out the odds. If I am lucky, I will end your life in this portal. Even if I were to perish, Horocruxes back in the present would continue to sustain my life. In the worst case if I can't succeed and time dissolves, I will drag everything down to hell with me. "
She could feel the trembling of urge to go for the slaughter.
"Your hands are tied sorceress," Voldemort spat balefully. "Either way, victory will be mine."
"You are absolutely right.
The last of her initially uncontrollable fury was freed. Drowned in the onslaught of cold fury, Sakura's gaze turned absolutely glacial.
"But I don't care anymore."
There was an explosion of light and Voldemort tumbled onto the ground with a blood-curling scream. The stench of his blood permeated the air, further fuelling her bloodlust.
Her unleashed sorcery had long rendered the cheap tricks buried in the ground useless.
"I will make you beg, bastard." With the glamour magic dispelled, the blood trails on her face painted her as a fallen angel. "I will put you in such great agony that you wish you were dead."
The floodgates to her sorcery slammed open.
Back in the Great Hall, the Time card shredded with a piercing wail.
When rationality managed to weave into her consciousness and snapped her out of her vengeful wrath, Voldemort was lying in pieces by her feet, with a rapidly expanding pool of blood staining her shoes. Steadily evening out her quick breathing, she eyed dispassionately at what was left of the dark lord, deliberately ignoring the unpleasant feeling of the bastard's blood staining her blouse and cheek.
She could vaguely remember being creatively vicious with torture as she heightening his pain receptors and relished his agony with cruel satisfaction.
After the mutilated demise of her nemesis however, Sakura came down from her rush, feeling utterly drained.
Paying little heed to the increasingly violent tremor of the ground, Sakura dragged herself to a nearby tree and slid down wearily, abandoning her sword by her side with a loud clank.
There was a time when she would never have imagined herself to fall so far from grace, to bathe and cloak herself in death and destruction. She was so sick of coppery stench of blood assaulting her senses, so sick of this numbing hatred.
With the amount of sorcery that she had unleashed, it was inevitable that time would dissolve into chaos. It mattered little to Sakura that she was fulfilling Voldemort's plans. She was so tempted to shut her eyes and drown in this personal hell of hers.
She was just so tired…
"Sakura! Oh my god! What the hell happened?"
Keroberus landed amidst the chaos, looking utterly stunned by the remains of what seemed like a vicious execution of Voldemort before a throwing a petrified gaze to the sky when the land gave a particularly loud roar of destruction.
"Kero…" Sakura muttered dully, eyes closed in exhaustion. "I think I had enough."
"What the hell are you talking about Sakura? The gaki is going to die!"
Eyelids flew open in shock. Breath caught in her throat, Sakura seized her guardian by the fur and demanded urgently, "What do you mean?"
"He is going to stabilize the time portal via equivalent trade. He intends to sacrifice his sorcery but it definitely isn't enough!"
"No…" Her hold on Kero's fur tightened, making him wince in discomfort. How could she have forgotten about Xiao Lang? Earlier suicidal notion abandoned, Sakura became distinctively aware of the new life growing within her and the impending repercussions of Xiao Lang's decision. "We have to stop him Kero!"
"That's why we have to hurry!" Kero yelled above the din as Sakura hopped onto his back. "We have to stop the gaki from killing himself!"
Upon escaping the wrecked time portal, they found Xiao Lang standing in the middle of a brilliant array as expelled green aura raged fiercely, emerald flames twisting and curling majestically from his body.
The feeling of weakness began to set in as the gradual dimming of the flame in his soul became apparent. Sorcery flooded out from the young clan leader in troves and spiralled towards the heavens, in a bid to stabilise the uncontrollable time portal.
The natural order worked on equivalent trade. It would take all that was needed to stabilise the time portal that was spiralling out of control. He intended to surrender his birth right as a sorcerer but from the severity of it, Xiao Lang guessed that his life was probably at stake too.
Sakura dashed into his array and clutched his arms, orbs fraught with grief. Kero hovered a fair distance away from the array. Despite best attempts, Kero could not enter the array -it took all of the guardian's effort to stand his ground and not get swept away by the tsunami of sorcery.
"No! Stop the ritual now!" the card mistress cried. Attempting to interrupt the ritual, she unleashed the floodgates of her sorcery and a column of pink shot to the sky - only to reel from shock when her the pink tendrils of sorcery dissipatedly abruptly a split second later in the face of Xiao Lang's relentless will.
"Let me surrender mine too!" she begged as she stared in horror at the amount of blood staining his lips . "With both of our sorcery sacrificed, your life will definitely be spared."
Xiao Lang gave a grim shake of his head and Sakura dissolved into tears.
Both knew that a leader was still required among the sorcerers. It was the harsh truth - both of them could not go down together. Besides, Xiao Lang would never forgive himself should anything happens to mother and child.
"It's my fault from the start. Why? Why do you always have to shoulder the responsibility?"
She found it so utterly unfair that her last memory of Xiao Lang was a reminder of her failures.
"Live, Sakura. For our child," her husband whispered with undertones of a final farewell. "And forgive me, for I can protect you no longer."
Mustering his remaining strength, Xiao Lang held Sakura in a firm embrace and pulled her into an urgent kiss.
Choking back a sob, Sakura wrapped her hands behind his neck as her eyes fluttered shut, with lips pressed against his in fervent desperation, bloodied tears cascading in silent despair.
The world turned white.
Lethargy was the first sensation felt when Sakura regained consciousness. Limbs weighing like lead and fog obscuring her brain, Sakura pressed a hand against her head as she sat up and looked around wearily.
The basement walls were totally destroyed alongside with surrounding earth by sorcery, levelling the mountain into a plateau. The said plateau was littered with remnants of the mansion of a mix of cement and wooden debris.
When the fog in her mind lifted, the enormity of the situation hit her with startling clarity.
She began to look around frantically and spotted the prone form of her husband lying by an enormous concrete slab near the edge of the plateau. Scrambling unsteadily to her feet, Sakura rushed towards him urgently. She collapsed beside Xiao Lang's lifeless form and held him by the shoulders in attempt to rouse him to no avail.
It was the very scene of Xiao Lang knocking on death's door two years back. That sinking feeling in her chest constricted painfully, making it difficult to breathe.
"Don't leave me," Sakura choked as she cried with tears free from taint - a stark reminder of the heavy price paid. "…Please. Don't leave me all alone."
As if the gods had heard her prayers, Xiao Lang stirred to life. Coughing repeatedly, he sat up with some effort. It took him awhile to regain his bearings, but when the cogs in his mind began to churn once more, his eyes fell onto Sakura.
Trembling with immense relief, Sakura's tear-streaked countenance lit up instantly. Cupping his face, she breathed, "You're alive. Thank god."
"I'm sorry Miss," he trailed uncertainly. "But who…"
Euphoria dissipated in an instant as she stilled, hands lowering in shock. Her right hand shot forward and grasped his arm in a tight hold.
"I'm Sakura. Don't you remember?" Sakura urged with an edge of desperation as she studied his face, heart sinking rapidly when she saw no hint of recognition in those orbs. It dawned upon Sakura the nature of the price paid and remnants of hope withered.
Clutching his shirt, Sakura leaned forward and buried her face into Xiao Lang's chest with a whimper, much to his surprise.
"Please," Sakura whispered between sobs in utter defeat. "Just for a while. Let me stay like this."
Xiao Lang stared at the strange lady and protests died on his lips. He stood still as her broken figure shook, as if she was clinging onto her last anchor in life.
Heavens parted. An incessant roar of rain followed, drowning out the anguished cry that tore through her lips.
When I look in your eyes I can see that you
Want to be with me but you're so sad
I don't know what to say or do
But the tears keep falling from your eyes
I know that times won't change my love
And I can't do nothing to keep you
Oh I give my love Oh when I hold you tight
Give my love through kisses Oh so bright
And you know that I can't change my love
Take my love all through the night
[Give My Love]
Child of the stars…
The Order thrives on equal trade…
What was lost can be regained,
And the descendent of the moon will rise again.
But time will be swallowed in chaos,
And the world will be drowned in mortal peril.
Would you then child, forfeit the lives of many for the desire of one?
The card mistress buried her head into her arms and cried.
End of series.
I wrote this fic 6 years ago with a single commandment in mind:
Thou shall construct a rational and logical story
Of which this commandment includes the following:
1. Thou shall not provide Tomoyo possession of sorcery without logical explanation
2. Thou shall not allow the plot to revolve around Hogwarts school life and regurgitate contents from book 1 to 4 with CCS characters occupying as minor add-ons in Harry's best bud group
3. Thou shall not perceive Sakura's entry into the aristocratic Li family to be a walk in the park
4. Thou shall never provide irrational power upgrades that is synonymous with pretty battle outfits – with silk, ribbons, the works – and huge elaborate staffs with bigger and shinier jewels with every upgrade
5. Thou shall not devote the final chapter to be an extremely detailed account of the final battle between Light VS Dark, which features boring fights of minor characters for ¾ of the chapter before ending with the "epic fight" between Harry and Voldy in Hogwarts.
6. Thou shall attempt her very best in logically justifying the Dark Lord's long survival throughout 14 chapters when sorcerers are able to squash Voldemort like one giant bug in seconds flat.
7. Thou shall not let the wizards go unpunished for their undesirable habit of prying into matters of others.
I've always wondered why the golden trio goes scot free in other HPCCS fics (actually, any HP crossover fics that I've read) when they pried into the sorcerer's affairs even though they were told not to do so. Upon discovery – which usually involves Hermoine's research and an invisibility cloak- the CCS gang will be highly forgiving and include them into their matters. No repurcussions what so ever. It didn't sit well with me. If I have my secrets and zealously guard them, I sure as hell wouldn't want ppl to pry and would be darn pissed if ppl did, much less a sorceress under too much stress and pregnancy mood swings.
Origin to story formation
I came from an era when CCSHP fics were in the rage (2002 – 2007 - ah, how nostalgic). I consumed every CCSHP fic then and fics like Harry Potter and the Return of the true sorcerers, The Alliance of Magic & The Road Less Travelled were the epitome of CCSHP fics then. These three fics were the viewed as the standard then. I can say with pride that I had the honour of witnessing the progress of The Alliance of Magic. The author, Marie-Claire, wrote another CCSHP fic in 2003, before The Alliance of Magic. I think it was called When Magic Collide. It wasn't spectacular and all. So imagine my surprise when she emerged a year later (2004) with Alliance of Magic – I was taken aback by the massive improvements of plot and language within a year!
Being a CCSHP fan then, I decided to write one myself. But brainstorming yielded stupid and lame plots. It wasn't until 2006 when I had the brainwave while taking a public bus to my junior college. At that very instant, the skeleton of this entire story (70% of it) was formed. While my plot was, in my opinion, awesome, language improvements only came three years after I embarked on WOS journey and till now, I would consider my language ability to be slightly above average. I still have a long way to go…
Other notes and possibility of continuation?
So to stabilise the natural order, it only required his sorcery and memories. Life was spared. But you can imagine the trouble that a Li leader without sorcery or memories of his marriage nor his history of sorcery utilisation can bring. And let's not forget the impact on his health after part of his life force was sacrificed.
As the Natural Order thrives on equal trade, it is possible for Xiao Lang to regain his powers and memories. In return however, time will dissolve into chaos. This means that Sakura has to make herself scarce in order not to allow Xiao Lang any chances –risk- of recollection.
There were two other viable ways that Both Sakura and Xiao Lang could have given up their birthrights, but power had to be maintained bound by social structure, where the Li family maintained through their patronage of sorcery. There is no way the Li family would approve of that.
In all honesty, the Lis would rather sacrifice Sakura (not Xiao Lang) as part of the exchange, but Xiao Lang, while forced to accomplish his duty of maintaining leadership, tried to employ autonomy to the best of his abilities in a final bid to protect Sakura by sacrificing himself instead. However, if the Lis were to factor in the new life within Sakura, they would grudgingly approve of Xiao Lang's sacrifice for that child, through the union of the two most powerful individuals, the child would be a formidable sorcerer in the following era.
It all boils down to power… and human greed.
Just to clarify – while the sorcerers' won the battle, Voldemort did win the war. In the end, everything went according to his plan. Well sort'of.
This is technically the final chapter.
I did toy with the notion of making a 10-chaptered sequel but reality does not permit that kind of luxury. In addition, there are still plenty of holes in the sequel. It is highly likely that there won't be future updates. HOWEVER, if I do have the time, I might upload one final chapter which is a summary of the main highlights of the sequel. In other words, this 'epilogue' chapter would be a 10-in-1 chapter.
Some side notes in my imaginary epilogue.
Sakura would be relying on Lock as a drug in the sequel to avoid falling into depression. A necessary measure to prevent Dark from going nuts; an essential measure to prevent her from attempting suicide; a forced decision to maintain the her lucidity as a leader to sorcerers. But relying on Lock must have repercussions… (Would her cards control her?)
Give up the patronage rights of the Li family. Deconstruct the system of sorcerers. To let the natural order have free rein without the intervention of humans
And Xiao Lang? Imagine his amnesic life with compromised health and void of sorcery. He will still be as cool, if not more, for he is Xiao Lang. Muwahaha.
I know that if my writing quality was great from the start, alongside with consistent updates, review count would probably have doubled.
If anyone wants to continue the sequel, feel free to do so. You have my blessings. Just drop me a PM and give necessary credit in your sequel. In return, I will notify readers about your sequel in my fic.
Please review. Reward this lil ol'authoress with tons of long reviews for her hardwork, won't ya? *sparkles* This is the last time you are gonna hear from me in the CCSHP world, so I would really like to hear from you guys.