A very important A/N! This is purple snowflakes one, Melody; Deborah obviously forgot to upload this chapter as she promised and I apologise on her behalf! All rightos, on to the chapter that will leave everyone hanging! Sorry, people!
Just managed to escape Eriol. He stumbled into the Boss's lair, breathing heavily.
"Boss - what I told you – yesterday – I'm not sure about it," he lied through his teeth, bending down and placing both hands on his knees, trying to breathe normally. His dark hair flopped over his forehead, which was beaded with sweat.
Boss slammed down an angry fist.
"Shut your trap, clan leader, we got her. She in your house, is she not? She is so simple to get, just bring her here, you so stupid!"
"But, it has to be stealthily, Boss," he said convincingly, his hair now plastered to his forehead. He hardly ever felt scared, but now, surprisingly, he did. Scared for Sakura. And he didn't know why.
"What you say?" asked Boss sheepishly, scratching the back of his fat head.
"Smoothly. Unsuspectingly. So she wouldn't suspect me or anything, and think I'm a very nice guy," he explained, trying to fit into Boss's horrible language. He tried to blow his bangs out of his eyes, but they stayed plastered on his forehead. Straightening himself bravely, he glared at Boss's flabby face. Luckily it was dark, so he couldn't see his expression.
"I see," said Boss. "She doesn't seem very smart to me," he added doubtfully. "You can hurry up right?"
"I'm not sure, Boss," he said, scratching his head and trying to look innocent. "She's rather sharp, you know."
"Well, hurry up, you taking so long. Why you have her for so long never tell me?" yelled Boss. He winced.
"I only sensed it yesterday, Boss," he said apologetically. "I got to you as fast as I could."
He thanked his lucky stars the darkness was overwhelming, or he would have been dead meat by then. He was forcing a smile on his face, and Boss was good at detecting lies and false smiles.
"We used the Detector," Boss mused. "It worked this time. Maybe because target is nearer, like in same country."
He swallowed. Hard.
"Those two idiots of hers, that brown haired guy and his son, very irritating. Keep struggling and screaming for the little magical girl. "Oh, Sakura!" they say. They're all Japanese. I like Japanese," ranted Boss happily. Syaoran rolled his eyes. He wasn't the only one who knew how to speak Japanese, man. "But I'll have to kill off the girl to get her powers. Sad. I don't feel like killing own people."
He didn't know what to say, but more perspiration was streaking down the sides of his face.
"You see the Clow Cards yet? Since you're the one who give me information, I give you treat."
"Uh," he said nervously. "Okay."
Luckily Boss hadn't flared up. He thought he had been about to, just a few seconds before.
He had seen the Clow Cards, pictures of them, at home. His mother always showed them to him, taught him how to identify them. Now to see such power before him; yes, it was a treat.
"Bring the Cards out!" commanded Boss. A little servant girl, maybe about fourteen, scurried out from the darkness. Her whimpers echoed around the chamber. She passed a book to Boss, who kicked her away. She skidded across the cold, slippery floor, giving a half-hearted sob.
"Stupid girl!" bellowed Boss. "Stop crying!"
The girl wailed shrilly before running off, hands over face. He felt a twinge of pity for the girl. Strange. Pity wasn't something common coming from Li Syaoran.
"Here they are," announced Boss importantly, pointing at the book on his desk. Syaoran ventured closer, peering interestedly at the book. It was red, and across the top was a lion-like creature with wings sprouting out of its back and wearing very strange 'headgear'. On top of the creature were two words: The Clow. The book was sealed shut by a strap attached to the side of the bottom of the book and closed tightly on the side of the cover.
"We need the stupid little girl to open this," said Boss, fingering his triple chins. "We extract all her magic with my special syringe, and squeeze it all into my special container called the Magic Discharger. Special little container it is," he said affectionately. "Can use controls and switches to direct the magic to open the Clow Book and release the power held within. Then I can use the cards and everyone will be under my rule."
Syaoran gasped. He was using the Cards to wreak havoc? When broken of their seal, the Cards caused chaos, disruption, calamities. They were really powerful, those cards of Clow Reed. His mother had warned him about them, told him about the good things and bad things they could do.
He wanted to leave, to back out, but he couldn't. He was stuck.
"Well, off you go now," said Boss, waving his hand. "Before anyone notices your disappearance.
Syaoran nodded and dashed out, glad to be free of that place. It felt like prison.
But even when he was far, far away from that place, he was in jail. Because he could never leave that 'clan', never leave it until he did something worthy to leave.
Like bringing Sakura to them.
Syaoran sprinted all the way to his office, not daring to stop to take a breath. Of course, his underlings stared at him with stupefied expressions, but that he couldn't help. Eriol was already suspecting him, and he had to hurry.
He burst into his office, slamming the door tightly shut and leaning against it. Sakura, curled up on one of the squashy sofas, stood up immediately.
"Li! Where did you go?" she asked, hopping over to him and peering anxiously at his face. She was about a head shorter than he was, and she had to tiptoe quite a bit to look up.
"You don't need to know," he said, brushing past her as he collapsed in his plush seat. "Don't tell Eriol I've been gone."
"Okay," she chirped agreeably. "You're so nice to me, Li-kun, so I should listen to you!" She smiled and skipped back to the sofas. Syaoran felt a pang of guilt. He ignored it, staring purposefully at some documents he was supposed to sign. When he was eighteen, he had to leave the company, hand the reins over to Eriol, and lead the Li Clan. Irritating, he knew, but soon, his mother would be asking him to get a wife (he shuddered at the very thought).
He dreaded that. Terribly.
He looked down at the stupid documents, randomly signing them. He hadn't the faintest idea how to build a company up, but it seemed to be going rather smoothly. He raised an eyebrow at one of the documents. Huh. Some company wanted to join up with them.
A company which sold… FLOWERS! He spluttered. The weirdo Li Corporation of his sold… uh… for a moment he couldn't remember, for the magical presence he knew so well in the room was gone.
"Saku – Kinomoto?" Syaoran said, catching himself in time. He couldn't call Sakura Sakura; that'd be too rude. And embarrassing. Sakura might think he had fallen for her or something. He'd called her Sakura yesterday, by accident, and he hoped she hadn't noticed.
Sakura had disappeared into thin air. Syaoran scanned the room, sweat beading his forehead. He wiped his forehead hastily with the sleeve of his suit; he wasn't worrying about her, he just needed her for Boss so he could be free, he just needed her, he didn't care for her –
He took a deep breath.
Calm down, Syaoran. Calm down, she's probably in the building somewhere, making out with Eriol, maybe –
MAKING OUT WITH ERIOL? He swallowed down a hard lump in his throat. He knew Eriol liked Sakura a lot, so maybe he had kidnapped her and dragged her off to his office and – he shut his eyes, trying to stop thinking about the consequences. Eriol was too loyal, he couldn't have done that – wait, maybe he could, and now Sakura was crying for help while Eriol had her trapped –
He jumped to his feet automatically and ran for the door, only to find it swing open by itself. He stopped in his tracks, hand still held out.
"Li, I made tea!" Sakura stated happily, standing outside the door and holding two cups of steaming tea, the steam rising gently into the air. "You looked so distracted, so I thought tea could perk you up!"
Syaoran opened his mouth and closed it again, still frozen in the position when he was reaching for the handle of the door.
"Do you like tea? I didn't know if you liked tea, so I made you thin tea and thick tea, so you could choose. There were only two packets of tea left, so I don't know if the tea tastes good, I haven't tried yet, so you can choose, or if you like both you can take both cups, and if you don't like tea I can go and make you coffee!"
Syaoran was still open-mouthed. He tried to say something, but only lame noises came out.
"Or do you not like tea? It's okay, I can go make coffee, you know, maybe I can bring this to Eriol-kun if you don't like it, Eriol likes tea, he met me in the small kitchen place just now and told me so! Or if you don't like coffee, I can go downstairs and get you something else from the drink vendor, just now I saw lots and lots of nice, yummy drinks, so if you want any I can go get some! But if you just want water, it's in the kitchen! I can get it for you!" gushed Sakura enthusiastically, seemingly not requiring any air to speak. Syaoran just stared.
"Li-kun?" inquired Sakura, tilting her head to one side as she looked questioningly into Syaoran's eyes. "So do you want tea?"
"You went to get tea for me?" croaked Syaoran unbelievingly.
"Hai!" Sakura cried, nodding. "You looked so tired and disturbed, and I was free anyway, so I got you some!"
Syaoran reached out wordlessly for the tea.
"Thanks, Sa – Kinomoto, I like thin tea," he said, holding tightly onto the handle of the cup. Sakura smiled brightly.
"Okay, so I'll take this to Eriol-kun-!"
"No, wait, you can drink it!" said Syaoran desperately, pulling her away from the door. She stared at him in surprise.
"But, Eriol-kun likes tea," she said, blinking her large, emerald eyes. "I think he's tired too, he had all these eye bags."
"Uh, you should drink it! You've been worrying about your family members, haven't you?" Syaoran said frantically, shutting the half-opened door. Sakura stared at him.
"Li, Eriol's your secretary, why can't I bring this to him?" she asked blankly, as Syaoran gestured forcefully towards the sofa. Sakura smiled nervously and went to the sofa, sitting in front of the glass coffee table placed in front of it.
She placed the cup of tea carefully onto the table and hugged her knees to her chest, rocking herself to and fro. Syaoran glanced quizzically at her.
"Why aren't you drinking your tea?"
Sakura looked up.
"I don't like thick tea," she murmured embarrassedly, her cheeks tinged with pink. She buried her head in deeper between her knees. "Eriol-kun said he likes thick tea. Can I bring it to him?" she asked softly, her voice muffled.
"You can have mine," Syaoran said shortly. "I don't mind both, I just prefer thin tea."
"Yeah?" he said distractedly, flipping through a very thick booklet stuffed with pages and glancing at his untouched cup of tea. "You can have mine, just don't go and see Eriol."
"I'm not talking about that," she whispered. Syaoran had to strain his ears.
"Then what are you talking about?" he said irritably. Sakura grimaced at his cutting tone.
"Can I call you Syaoran-kun?"
Syaoran's half closed eyes snapped open. He felt his face heating up for some inexplicable reason and he ducked his head quickly, staring intently at the fat booklet.
"Because you called me Sakura," she said, her voice sparkling with pride and happiness. "You called me Sakura yesterday, so can I call you Syaoran?"
"I – I did?"
"Hai!" said Sakura blissfully, lifting her face from in between her knees. "It sounded nice, and it made me feel like we've grown closer! So since you called me Sakura, I should call you Syaoran-kun, shouldn't I?"
It was the first time in his entire life that he thanked his mother (in his head) feverishly for preventing him from cutting his fringe. It masked his face perfectly.
"Anything you want."
She giggled and sprung to her feet, whirling herself around and around. Then, she ran over to Syaoran's desk and placed both hands on it, moving her face right in front of Syaoran's, who almost knocked over his cup of tea when he retreated instinctively.
"So now, you must call me Sakura!" she claimed enthusiastically. Syaoran tightened his grip on the piece of paper he held in his hand, his face suddenly starting to heat all over.
"H-hai, Sakura," he stammered. Sakura gave a satisfied smile before hopping back to the sofas, humming to herself.
Syaoran made sure she was at least three metres away before he sat up straight. He let out a deep breath, shutting his eyes and relaxing his shoulders. He didn't know why Sakura made him act so weird – it was probably because he was concerned for her safety as he needed to bring her to Boss.
Suddenly, he really didn't feel like taking her there anymore.
"Strange. Boss, he didn't seem to be talking to her about bringing her here or anything. He was blushing."
"You know, embarrassed. Your face goes all red, and blah."
"Why he blushing?"
"I don't know. He's just going very red, and our target seems very – carefree."
"Isn't he working on his mission?"
"No, Boss, don't think so."
"Then what is that baka doing!"
The spy winced. Baka was a word from Boss's native language and he knew it didn't mean something nice. He shifted his position, feeling squashed in the duct, peering through the tiny grate on the ceiling of the brown-haired guy's office.
"Just sitting there, looking relieved. Relieved for don't know what."
"You are worthless! That clan leader also worthless! You two worthless! Ask you to spy don't know how to spy!"
"Uh, well, I think I've got a vague idea why he blushed."
"Why he blushing? Oh, tell me!"
"He, um," he muttered. "He, um, likes the target."
"He didn't look like he liked her when he saw me just now," said Boss thoughtfully.
"I don't know, Boss, but now he's – he's staring at her..."
"He's staring at her very gently, like... he cares for her."
"KAMI-SAMA, you idiot! You're useless! The clan leader is the best I've ever got! Though I suspected him. So I sent you."
"Right, Boss. Send back-up then. To check if he really, um, cares for her."
"Fine, I'll take your word. Now get down here or you'll find your ass being fried!"
The spy grimaced at the thought and made his painful and squeezed way down the duct.
"Chocolate powder, chocolate powder, I like chocolate powder!" chanted Sakura cheerfully, skipping alongside Syaoran, who was carrying a plastic bag full of the things his sisters had threatened him to buy to make some stupid chocolate cake. Sakura was carrying the plastic bag with all the flour, swinging it excitedly, and he was scared that all the flour would spill out.
"Syaoran, I can make chocolate, you know?" she said, smiling contentedly. "I used to make chocolate for everyone during Valentine's Day."
He nodded bluntly.
"Hai! And everyone liked it! Though my best friend Tomoyo helped me," she added, cocking her head to one side, her auburn tresses swaying with her bouncy movement. "I think that's why it tasted so good."
"Yeah, my friend Tomoyo is really nice, you know!" said Sakura, her eyes sparkling with affection. Syaoran glanced at her. Her eyes, he noticed, were a deep, rich scintillating green, and when they sparkled, they were full of love and happiness. He sighed wistfully. Wish he were as carefree as she was.
"We're here," he said gruffly, slamming the doorbell. Sakura cringed.
"You're going to break the doorbell some day," she said matter-of-factly. Syaoran just sighed and walked in when the gates swung open. Sakura was left behind, still observing the doorbell at every angle.
"Hmm... hmm... hmm...! I think it's going to break right... here! Eh – Syaoran-kun? Syaoran? Wait for me!" she squealed, dashing after him.
Never did she know a figure was slinking behind her, watching her and Syaoran's every move...
"Report to base. Report to base. REPORT TO BASE, YOU FREAK!"
"Oh, oh, yes, Boss?"
"We can't have that clan leader defending her, boy! Keep alert! Constant vigilance!"
"Man, Boss, where did you learn such good vocabulary?"
"Shut UP! Now, did the boy look like he liked the target?"
"Not really, boss. He didn't show anything. But there was this moment he stared at her eyes. Yeah, that's all."
"Spy on him some more. I'll have to interrogate him tomorrow. His behaviour is intolerable."
"Boss, when did your Cantonese get so good?"
"Uh... I'm using a superb Japanese to Cantonese dictionary."
"No wonder. Okay, I'm off to peek in windows. Bye, Boss!"
"Stop being so disrespectful! Garh! Stupid freak!"
"Syao-chan, had a nice day at work?" asked Fuutie pointedly, smiling at her little brother. Syaoran growled.
"Shut up," he said, stuffing his mouth. It was dinner time, and Sakura was sitting at the table as usual, not feeling out of place at all.
"Fuutie-chan, can you pass me those? Oh, and gomen ne for staying here for so long! Valentine's Day is tomorrow, so I'm going to make all of you something as a thank you gift," said Sakura, smiling gratefully.
"Wait, Japanese don't have holidays at this time of the year," said Syaoran confusedly. "It's February 14 tomorrow, isn't it? Japanese still go to school at this time, don't they?"
"Well, our Tomoeda Choir won first prize in the International Chorus Competition!" she said, beaming. "My best friend Tomoyo sang solo, and because her singing is so good, she won first prize! The whole of Tomoeda Elementary gets a holiday for two weeks, thanks to Tomoyo!"
"Wow, your friend Tomoyo must be really good at singing, ne?" said Sheifa, smiling at Sakura. Sakura grinned back.
"Hai! Tomoyo's really good at everything!" she claimed enthusiastically. Syaoran continued to chew on his food, ignoring the sinking feeling in his stomach. Sakura was so bubbly and innocent; it would be such a sin to kill her like that, just to take her powers… it would be heartless, inhuman.
"Syaoran, are you all right?" inquired Sakura, bending down and trying to look at his face, for Syaoran had stopped chewing, and the tips of his chopsticks were sinking into the tablecloth. His hand was weighing heavily on them, and his messy brown bangs were covering his face.
"Syaoran?" said Fuutie bewilderedly. "Only – only -"
"Only Syaoran's family members call him-" continued Fanren.
"Syaoran," finished Feimei, flinging down her chopsticks as if that explanation proved everything. Sakura blinked, bemused.
"Oh, I see," she said. "Syaoran calls me Sakura now, ne, Syaoran-kun?"
Syaoran was finally shaken out of his reverie and he looked at Sakura, a bit dazed.
"Now you call me Sakura, right?"
He looked up, only to meet four pairs of eager eyes locked on his. He slumped back in his chair and sighed.
The four sisters grinned at each other and hi-fived. Sakura watched them, bemused.
"I'm done. Come on, Sakura, let's go," muttered Syaoran. Sakura scraped off the last bits of food on her plate before standing up.
"Okay!" she said, eyes sparkling like usual.
Sakura trailed after Syaoran, who didn't say anything, didn't give any indication that he had to bring Sakura to somewhere dreadful.
He couldn't bear to bring himself to.
"Nothing, Boss. He didn't say anything."
"He didn't tell her she has to come here tomorrow!"
"No, nothing. But there's something interesting…"
"STOP SCREAMING IN MY EAR, BOSS, my eardrums are gonna explode!"
"Just tell me what's so interesting!"
"Uh, well, he calls the target Sakura. Her name is Sakura."
"So – no, wait, that's not a surname. First names are only supposed to be applied when the people are very close friends, otherwise it'll be considered as – as – as – impoliteness, yes, that's the word. For Japanese, that is."
"Boss, your vocabulary is GOOD, man!"
"Why, thank you!"
"Well, and she calls him Syaoran."
"So, that's his name? I have been wondering what his name is, that clan leader. Thought I should thank him for his resourcefulness."
"But, the sisters said that only Syaoran's family members call him Syaoran. That's the interesting part."
"Only his family members? Strange…"
"They seem to be rather close, Boss, calling each other by their first names. As you said, for Japanese, only good friends are allowed to do that."
"Yes. He is going to see me tomorrow. You're better than the other spy, actually. Great job. Come back down here and I can show you the Clow Cards. They're my most treasured possession right now. And that Sakura girl is going to help me use them – man, she's powerful."
"She looks cute!"
"You're not supposed to think that way of our target! She's going to be killed, soon! Man, I LOVE this Japanese to Cantonese dictionary! It's so nice!"
"What a pity she has to die. Fine, I'm getting down there. See you!"
"And that boy is going to get it from me. And my Clow Cards, if he really likes the stupid little girl…"