'Secret of the Letter Maker'
I don't own Card Captor Sakura and Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles but I do own the story in this fic and things that are non-CCS related and non-TRC related. All the name of places, historical events and other things mentioned which you don't seem to know IRL, are products of my imagination. Any similarities with the actual thing are purely coincidental.
The inspiration of this fic came from a recent dream of mine. Yes…literally a dream…that thing you get when you fall asleep. I always dream in Technicolor and I find it amusing that sometimes I get ideas from them. Of course, I would be exaggerating the concept I had from my dream and throw in my personal touches for the puzzle to form. I find this story cute that I think it is okay to get it written hand in hand with 'inc' and 'covens'. I know some of you knew that I was planning on writing 'The Grumpy Concierge', but since 'Secret of the Letter Maker's story is more original than the previously mentioned story; I jumped in the chance to write this first. You all know how I favor originality amongst all hence I shall once again give this story a shot. BTW, I am not planning to write this as complicated as my previous plots, but then again writing like that seemed to be my style and I don't know if I can break away from it. I will try, though. BTW…no Japanese honorifics used in this story. Why? Coz it won't fit the setting.
An old story…
…completely erased from the journals of time.
…whose life was unfairly judged.
And the girl…
…who will believe despite of the uncertain odds.
In this realm where magic once existed…where everything used to be governed by magnificent enchantments yet through time had, unfortunately, ceased to exist. Mechanical inventions dominated everyday living and people became accustomed to these conveniences that made every single chore…every single task…every single duty became equipped, or, for some huge routines…monitored by a machine fit to perform every functions to near perfection.
But only one stood out from the rest…the invention in the heart of the postal service; their only means of communication which passed through intricate webs of pipelines from one city to another.
It was the letter maker; which has the ability to create the appropriate type of mail for any person…for any mood…for any purpose…and you need not formulate the right set of words and phrases…it will do it for you. It seemed to have an in earth ability to know ones feelings and make the right kind of message for the recipient.
The letter maker…a device which has been a part of everyone's lives yet had always been taken for granted.
Will it remain hidden and unnoticed?
Will it remain buried amongst the endless pipes which crawled from one home to another?
Will it continue every task for eternity?
Will it? When a certain girl shall grow fond of it?
Will it? When she starts sending letters addressed to it directly?
Will it? Especially when her heart became determined in finding a way in discovering its true nature?
…reply to her?
Chapter One: "Admiration"
---From the Distant Past---
A man in his fifties stood on a podium that looked like it had been there for quite a long time. He wore a white wig on top of his head. It curled just above his shoulders which depicted him as someone with aristocracy and rank. The navy blue coat and white tights adorned with golden buttons and straps accented his prominent stature. Around him, men of different ages wore the same thing. All of them were whispering to one another, but they toned down as the man on the podium raised a hand.
"I shall now deliver the decision of this parliament." He announced in a hoarse yet clear voice.
Everyone became silent. All their eyes were fixed on someone who knelt down at the center of the room; a person isolated from everyone else. He was a boy no more than twelve years of age. His chestnut head was bent down as he stared at his small hands which rested on top of his lap. He looked too young to be facing such an intimidating group of people that it was evident that he was trying hard to fight the fear which was building up inside him.
The old man darted his cold gaze towards the boy and spoke in an indifferent tone.
"For the accusations thrown against you, this court finds you guilty of all charges." He said directly to the boy.
Half of the people inside the vast room gasped with disbelief. Half of them, though, merely nodded their heads in approval.
"Silence!" The man's voice boomed. Behind him, a man who looked like he was in his thirties rubbed his forehead with his fingers. He was seated in the highest perch in the wooden rostrum. He has long hair tied in a pony tail and gold-rimmed glasses adorned his eyes. He was wearing the longest cloak amongst the other men in the room. On his head, a crown engraved with multi-colored jewels rested in place.
The old man in the podium continued to speak. "For this reason, you are forbidden to use your magical abilities here on and shall be sent to exile in the Far Regions." He signaled for two guards to come forward. They walked up to the boy and each took an arm. The boy looked up with scared amber eyes. The guards then, revealed golden cuffs and placed each around the boy's wrists.
The boy yelped in pain as the cuffs started glowing and pushed half of his body on the floor. It became heavier and chains sprouted from each end of the cuffs and found its way to the opposite wrist. After that, it started forming longer chains which quickly snapped the ankles of the little boy before finally locking itself in a circular emblem at center, midway the boy's shaking body.
"That is the sacred Chains of Isengard." The man said coldly. "It shall restrain your 'abilities' and sap down your magic power to its minimal form. And with it we pray that you shall never be able to use them any longer in full power."
"No!" Someone from the seated audience cried out.
Everyone was startled but not surprised that someone finally contested.
"Silence! The royal court has decided and this cannot be altered!"
"I shall not remain silent!" The voice came from a woman. She ran down from her seat with her long layered cream dress fluttering about. She has straight black hair held up by ivory pins. Her face was strong and elegant, yet tears threatened to escape her eyes.
She pushed her way towards the guards and hugged the agonizing boy near her chest. "He is just a boy!" She exclaimed in desperation. "How can you use such a forbidden artifact on him! Even the most abominable criminals before weren't even subjected to this kind of treatment!"
"The most abominable criminals don't have strong magical capabilities like that boy!" The man in the podium shouted in anger.
"Still! This is too much!" The woman continued stubbornly. "And to exile him to the Far Regions? That is…that is…inhuman! A full grown man with normal magic will have difficulty surviving in that area, much less a child wearing the Chains of Isengard! He will surely die!"
"This is no discussing matter, Countess!" The man once again boomed in an authoritative voice. "This judicial body has decided and the sentence has been declared. Go back to your seat at once or else you will be charged with intervention and resistance to the Royal Court which is also considered treason against the King!"
A buzz broke around the circular room as people started whispering.
"Then, I shall call on to the Decree of Encarta." Another person spoke from the stands.
Every eye turned towards the origin of the words. A young man in his twenties stepped out and walked towards the boy and the Countess. He wore the same sleek coat which accented his dark-blue hair. His eyes sparkled with intelligence behind black-rimmed glasses.
The man on the podium raised a brow. "Are you actually serious?"
"Yes." The young man said calmly. "The Decree of Encarta states that any sentence or punishment given to an individual of this society maybe lessened if people of rank shall speak in behalf of the accused's well-being."
"I know what the Decree of Encarta is." The old man gritted his teeth.
The young man smiled. "Then, I…as Earl shall speak in behalf of this boy's well-being. He is, after all, my cousin and the only living relative I have left." Then, he looked at the woman hugging the chained boy. "I assume that the Countess shall do the same?" He said questioningly at the woman.
"Of course." The woman glanced at him gratefully. "I shall also speak in behalf of this boy's well-being…as Countess."
The man on the podium shook his head. "You need at least three people of rank to make use of the decree. Is there anyone else who would like to speak in behalf of this boy?"
The boy's two supporters looked around them hopefully, but the other lords and ladies merely bent their head and remained silent.
"No…" The countess murmured and tightened her arms around the boy.
Just when all of their hopes seemed lost. Someone spoke.
"I shall also speak in behalf of the boy." A smooth deep voice sliced through the silence.
The old man's eyes bulged in disbelief. "Your…your Majesty!"
The man seated behind him stood up and walked towards the podium. Everyone's mouth dropped open in the unexpected event.
"I am the King." He remarked with a smile but his eyes were sad. "Am I not someone who also belonged to the ranks of this society?"
"But…but…any crime committed was considered as treason against you, your Majesty."
"I am aware of that, but…" The King glanced at the amber-eyed boy who was now breathing heavily due to the forbidden chains. "…like what the Countess said…he is just a boy. But he is no ordinary individual either. He is the son of one of the greatest Lords of this court who had given his life for the sake of everyone." He closed his eyes. "We mustn't forget this and respect his memory."
The man in the podium bent his head. He was silent for a moment. It was against his will but he had no choice but to honor the three people. "This court shall now recognize the Decree of Encarta pleaded for this boy." He finally said.
There were breathe of relief for some of the people inside the room, but the majority snottily looked in disdain.
The old man continued. "As per the rules of the Decree of Encarta, the King…may now revise the sentence handed down to the accused."
The Countess held back her breath as she glanced at their King. The Earl, on the other hand, didn't change his facial expression and stood calmly.
"This boy had been found guilty and there is nothing we can change about it but considering that he is just a child and he belongs to a prestigious family…a bloodline near to mine in fact…" The King started to say. "…such extreme punishment of being exiled to the Far Regions shall be disregarded."
"Thank God." The woman holding the boy cried in relief.
"But..." The King raised a finger. "…the Chains of Isengard shall remain clasped to him until his very last breath on this earth."
Murmurs rose throughout the Royal Court.
"This entire thing started with his magic powers in the first place; hence, the artifact shall perform the major role in his punishment. But I would like to recognize the fact that you have a certain ability that can be beneficial to everyone; an ability that even the Chains of Isengard won't find harmful for it to bother restraining. Therefore, I am assigning you to that certain 'place'. You are free to roam within its boundaries as long as the chains are intact around you." The King explained. "Nevertheless, you are…here forth, stripped of the rank and privilege which you are born into. You cannot…" He looked at the boy with sadder eyes.
The chestnut-haired boy bent his head as his shoulders drooped down as he anticipated the King's next words.
"…you shall…never…be able to inherit your father's title." The King finished his sentence.
The Countess bit her lips and tried reducing the tears that had been flowing from her eyes.
"What's more…" The King continued. "…this kind of overriding of punishment from a serious crime is really unthinkable. I understand the reason if people of this parliament may have ill will against me now. So I would like to admit that I had been subjective in my involvement to the decree. There is a great chance that people might disrespect our laws and even abuse the use of the decree once they found out that their very own King involved himself with it. So, I am forced to add yet another sentence."
He paused then opened his eyes; this time with a serious commanding look. "Your name shall be erased in our history."
"This event never happened and every single written record, which pertains to you and this trial, shall be destroyed."
The boy stared at the royal man before him; wide-eyed.
"You will only be known to those who were actually involved in this incident and no any other soul…for I… do not have the heart to take your memories away from those that had loved you."
The King raised an arm and on his hand, a long staff, with a moon and sun carved on the tip, appeared. It started glowing and not a second sooner, every scribe's parchment inside the room evaporated into thin air.
"I…King Reed…formally close the Decree of Encarta initiated by Eriol, Earl of Manchester and supported by Yelan, Countess of Denise." The royalty declared and shot another final sad glance to the boy.
"I am sorry…Syaoran. Just be thankful that you are still alive."
And with that the room was filled with a blinding light which eventually crept outside the court and into the vast grounds beyond.
--- Present Time ---
"Yamazaki, are you absolutely sure that thing will work?" A lady wearing a light orange layered gown asked with her hands on her hips.
The young Lord laughed as he crouched in front of the vehicle and started rotating the lever in front. "Of course it will! This is one of the newest inventions of our city, Chiharu."
"Newest inventions…" Chiharu muttered. "…I don't believe you." She was standing not far from him.
"Weh? How can you not believe me?" Yamazaki sounded hurt but he kept on turning the lever to start the engine.
"Because you always exaggerate things, that's why!" Chiharu exclaimed.
"You're so harsh." He made a teary face.
In the background, giggles rose. They were from a small group of girls who all seem to be around their late teens. All of them were sitting on a fancy-looking swing which dangled from one marble post to another. Vines with lilac blossoms crept from its pedestal to its curvaceous roof; enhancing the beauty of the ladies sitting on it in their long elegant clothes.
Yamazaki riveted to smiling. "I am pleased to see that we never fail to entertain our spectators."
"And you like it that way!" Chiharu's voice boomed.
But the young Lord only laughed.
Finally, one of the ladies spoke. "We're sorry, Chiharu. The two of you really look cute together…fighting like that." An auburn-haired girl told them.
"Actually, they kind of remind me of my mother and father." Another girl said. She has dark long hair which was tied in two buns.
"Lord Yamazaki really is kind to let Chiharu talk to him like that." The raven-haired girl remarked with a smile.
"Indeed, whatever happened to those 'Is there anything I can do for you, My Lord' days, Chiharu?" Yamazaki asked while he chuckled.
Chiharu blushed. She tried hiding it, though, by glancing towards another direction. "Well…if you want me to be like that again…" She let her words trail off.
The young Lord's chuckles never left him as he stood up and pulled the young lady towards him to give her a light kiss on the forehead. "You can shout at me all day, Chiharu…or even scold me to death. It doesn't matter."
"Really?" She pursed her lips and tugged on his navy blue jacket.
"Of course." The young Lord smiled at her.
Numerous sighs filled the air as the couple forgot that they were not alone.
"You're so lucky, Chiharu." The auburn-haired lady clasped her hands together as her emerald eyes twinkled.
"But this is somewhat…killing me, you know." The black-haired girl remarked with a tinged of annoyance in her voice. The raven-haired one only smiled.
"You'll get your chance next month, Lady Mei-ling." Yamazaki said to her; still clasping his beloved's waist.
"Yes! For today is Tomoyo's coming out party!" The auburn-haired girl exclaimed with delight.
The raven-haired girl placed her hand on her cheeks; slightly embarrassed. "You don't have to be so excited about it, Sakura."
"And speaking of our dear Tomoyo's coming out party…" Chiharu suddenly said as she narrowed her eyes towards the young Lord at her side. "…you are taking her away from her launch to this society! Time is precious in this kind of event." She poked the young man with the back of her hand. "Precious, precious…precious!" She glared at him. "You are taking it away from her with this contraption of yours." She pointed one slim finger towards the vehicle in front of them.
Yamazaki laughed and placed a hand behind his head. "My apologies to Lady Tomoyo. I was just so anxious to show this to everyone that I couldn't wait till tomorrow."
That day was Tomoyo, Lady of Bellport's eighteenth birthday. And as tradition, any lady in court would had herself officially launched to the society for her eligibility in becoming a woman. All houses, from the rich to the blue-bloods had been sent an invitation. Her status shall be known to every bachelor from these houses and thus, all will bid her good luck in finding the one she could settle down with for the rest of her life.
Last year was Chiharu's, Lady of Roosewood, launch. It was in this event where she met Yamazaki, Baron of Frail. The young lady was enticed by the young Lord's friendliness and smart yet sharp retorts in giving his opinions about the issues of their society that she immediately fell for him. Like any other ladies brought up in the proper manner, she was formal. Always giving a low courtesy when introduced.Well…that was last year.
Chiharu tapped her feet impatiently. "So, hurry up already and boast your newest acquired asset. We don't have all day, you know."
The young Lord scratched his head. "Yes…yes. Anything you say, Master." He said as he once again crouched down and turned the lever that he was holding earlier.
The three ladies sitting near them smiled nervously at their friend's unladylike demeanor towards the Baron.
Mei-ling leaned towards Sakura and whispered. "I really admire Lord Yamazaki's patience."
The auburn-haired lady giggled. "I think it's a good balance."
Then, Mei-ling turned her remarks to the raven-haired lady at the other end of the swing. "Make sure you find someone as patient. Maybe not that 'vocal'…but someone as patient."
The lady just nodded sweetly. "Certainly."
"I don't think Tomoyo needs to find someone that patient." Sakura pointed out. "She is far too proper and has more finesse than Chiharu."
Again, all three ladies glanced at the scene before them. Their friend was still tapping her feet and her arms crossed before her as she continued to give a sermon to the young man.
"You are right, Sakura." Mei-ling said. "How can I even think of such a thing?"
The emerald-eyed lady giggled.
"Still…" Tomoyo's small voice filled their ears. "…I think it is so amusing to see a young lady scolding a full-grown man like that."
Chiharu was nineteen at present; nineteen and a half to be exact. She was the oldest amongst the four friends. Yamazaki, on the other hand, was past his mid-twenties; around twenty-six. He was still young but older than the usual Lords in court who will vouch for a lady under twenty.
"I wish I have someone like that." Sakura sighed.
"Join the club." Mei-ling remarked bitterly.
"Isn't it quite early to say such things?" Tomoyo started to say. "The two of you haven't even been launched to the society yet." Then, she smiled sweetly. "Like what Lord Yamazaki said. It will be your turn next month Mei-ling and Sakura's will be six months from now."
"Tomoyo's right. We don't need to hurry." Sakura replied thoughtfully. "At least yours will be next month, Mei-ling. Not such a long wait compared to mine."
Mei-ling bent her head and heaved another sigh. "You are right."
"Honestly…is this every lady's dream?" The raven-haired girl asked. "To find a husband to settle down with?"
The two other ladies blinked at what their friend just said. Chiharu and Yamazaki were still lost in the background in their little squabble about the vehicle.
Tomoyo continued. "I think there are other things in life that is more important than settling down and having children."
"But Tomoyo," The emerald-eyed girl spoke. "We are ladies in court. We belong to families with a specific bloodline to maintains. It is also our duty to give our Lords an heir to their lineage." Mei-ling nodded in agreement.
"I don't know." Tomoyo shifted on her seat. "I feel like a 'thing' being launched in society this way. As if I am some kind of a breeder. If I am to settle down with someone…I would like the reason to be something deeper; like we truly feel that we are the other half of a soul which had been separated for a long time."
"In short, you want to settle for love." Mei-ling concluded. "Why? Don't you think that these two in front of us don't love each other?" She gestured at the young lady and lord.
"Love is such an overly used word these days, Mei-ling." Tomoyo pointed out. "But don't get me wrong. I think Chiharu and Lord Yamazaki truly have these feeling towards each other. But…" She glanced at the mansion beyond the gardens that was currently filled with guests, music and laughter. "…I couldn't say for most."
Sakura was silent. She knew very well what her friend was saying. Their polite society, as ravishing and exciting it may look, also held many dark plots and status quo manipulation. Many would pretend to be in love with someone just to attain title and rank in the society. Of course, the prestige and wealth came with it. She, herself, wasn't fond of this social ways and structure. In fact, she would rather read a book or analyze silently than mingle with the polite world. Actually, she hardly paid attention to who was whom. For her, it was enough that she knew who the King was and which Lord their lands were under.
"Is this why you joined us when the Baron asked for an audience?" She asked; pertaining to Yamazaki's invitation earlier.
Tomoyo smiled sweetly. "I wouldn't miss another show from our famous couple."
Mei-ling rolled her eyes. "Speaking of our couple…" She glanced at the two. "…not done yet over there?" She called out.
As Chiharu heard this, she jumped to the chance to torment the young lord once more. "See? Even Mei-ling is getting impatient!"
The Lord held up his hand while smiling. "Just a little bit more." And as if on cue the engine started and the vehicle was brought to life. "There you go!" Yamazaki proudly stood up. "This, my dear ladies, is a means for us to go from one place to another. This is a vehicle which runs on steam."
There were a series of "aahhs".
"It runs on steam?" Chiharu looked at it closely. The vehicle in the spotlight had two big wheels at the back and two small ones in front. It has a glass panel which Yamazaki called a "wind shield". It was like an open-carriage but without horses.
"It sure does. I'm not sure how steam makes the wheels move but I am glad to have it. It is a faster way to travel." He said; nodding his head.
"Much faster than horses, my Lord?" Sakura asked with obvious curiosity.
"Yes." He replied happily. "Much faster than horses."
"I don't believe you." Chiharu remarked.
"What? Again?" The young Lord looked startled.
"If that thing is much faster than horses then it won't take up this much time to get it started." The lady pointed out. "Horses would have bolted on an instant in a flicker of a whip."
"Mah…mah…it would have taken this long because I'm pretty new to it. Once I get the hang of it, I maybe able to start it much faster. But you know what…" The young Baron opened the vehicle's door. "…why don't you ladies try it out for yourselves? I'll show all of you how fast we can go back to the main mansion on this new invention."
The girls looked reluctant in climbing up the vehicle, except for Sakura whose emerald eyes glimmered with enthusiasm.
"Really?" She exclaimed. "We can really ride! You're so nice, Baron!" She hurriedly stood up and hopped towards the vehicle which was currently making a huffing sound with its newly started engine.
"Here goes Sakura again….absolutely thrilled with these mechanical contraptions." Mei-ling remarked while shaking her head.
"She is easy to please with things formed with complicated arrangement of nuts and bolts." Tomoyo said with a smile as she slowly joined her emerald-eyed friend who was currently circling the vehicle.
Chiharu just raised her hands in defeat and was even the first one to climb inside despite her reluctance. "Just make sure we make it alive, Yamazaki or else I won't marry you even if you beg me."
The young Lord chuckled. "Yes. Yes. Anything you say, dear."
And with that everyone followed and prayed that the vehicle wouldn't throw them out.
The flames in the fireplace crackled as another piece of wood was engulfed. Its warmth extended throughout the vast velvet room. Thick drapes hung at the tall windows adorned with golden buttons and coils of ornamental ropes. The furniture matched the tapestries; making the light from the fire dance in contrast to its color.
Sakura watched the flames as she laid her head on top of her mother's lap. She felt drowsy as the Viscountess of Yorke, Nadeshiko, combed her auburn hair with gentle motions.
"Mother…" She whispered softly.
"Hmmm…?" The woman replied.
"Did you love father?" She asked.
Her mother raised her brows. "Why the sudden question?"
But Sakura ignored her inquiry. Instead she pursued her own. "Did you?"
Nadeshiko took a deep breath before answering. "Perhaps…in time…I did learn to love him."
"In time…" Sakura repeated.
Her mother looked thoughtful for a moment then smiled eventually. "There is nothing wrong with that. I think your father was a good man. It's just that I didn't see that when I first met him. But after a while I came to realize what kind of a person he truly was and eventually returned the feelings he bestowed upon me."
"But…" The emerald-eyed girl queried once more. "…wouldn't that mean…back then..." She purposely let her sentence dangle for she was unsure whether it was alright for her to say such things to her mother.
Fortunately, the Viscountess finished the sentence for her. "…back then…I married your father to gain a title." She said.
Sakura closed her eyes. She really didn't bother to ask before since she had always been carefree about this kind of thing, but after what Tomoyo said during her Coming Out party, it sort of dawned at her that in six months time, she would be joining the ladies in court much like her friend.
"Chiharu is not marrying Lord Yamazaki for his title." She pointed out.
"Chiharu is fortunate to have found someone she truly likes." Her mother remarked. "But…that isn't always the case and you know that. I've been trying to tell you for years. Are you finally going to listen?" Despite the growing seriousness of the discussion, the beautiful woman kept her voice gentle and warm.
"Maybe." Sakura replied in a small voice.
Nadeshiko sighed. "It is really rare, dear, that one will be able settle down with someone, one truly has feelings for."
"Tomoyo promised herself that she wouldn't marry someone just for the likes of his rank in our society." She insisted.
Yet, her mother only smiled. "Then I pray that she would be able to keep that promise."
Sakura was silent for a while as the crackling flames in the fireplace danced before her emerald eyes. Such a bothersome society they all lived in. Sometimes, she wished that she was just an ordinary subject instead of a well-bred lady. The people they called 'commoners' were not obliged to continue the lineage of blue bloods or inherit titles to raise ones status.
They are free. She thought.
Finally, she perched herself up and sat properly beside her mother, who only looked at her with questioning eyes.
She would like to say something. She would like to voice her opinion. But as she glanced at her mother's equally brilliant eyes, she couldn't bring herself to say it.
"Sakura dear?" The Viscountess remarked.
But, the young lady just looked away. "It's…it's nothing." She lied.
Nadeshiko's face reflected worry. She was about to say something when an elderly voice interrupted them.
"I apologize for my intrusion, my lady, but the mail just arrived." An old man with balding hair bent down his head. He was holding a silver platter with a cream envelope inside. It bore the royal seal on its flap.
"From the King?" Sakura asked curiously.
"I doubt." Nadeshiko answered. "That would probably from the magistrate."
The beautiful Viscountess strode towards their head servant and took the letter. She quickly opened it and read through its contents. She frowned after some time.
"What's wrong, mother?" The young lady asked with a worried tone. "Does it bear unfortunate news?"
The Viscountess folded the document and handed it back to the old servant. "Yes. It seems so." She paced back to where her daughter was seated.
"From the magistrate?"
"Yes." The woman sat and sighed. "The King is not doing well. It will be a matter of time now before he will leave us."
Sakura's eyes widened. "Leave us? Meaning?"
Nadeshiko placed a hand over her daughter's. "He will die."
"Hoe!" The young lady grew sad. "But…he is a good King. Probably one of the few noble bloods I know."
"I know, dear. But you can't expect him to live forever. He is very old. Actually, he already surpassed the lifespan of his kind." Her mother explained.
Sakura sighed. Their King had been alive for centuries now. Quite unimaginable for an ordinary human being, but since the King belonged to an ancient blood line which has certain 'natural abilities', it enabled him to live this long. What were these so called 'natural abilities'? It was the ability to use magic. It was said that the King was the last of his kind to walk the earth. From time, as their culture evolved and the era tried to adapt to the changes of their world, they had lost these special abilities. It had been troublesome since it was said that the old world depended on magic to do tasks in their everyday life. But when the earth started changing and magic itself became scarce, the elders had to think of a way to ensure their survival. Hence, inventions were made in replacement. They were not perfect, but the growing demands of their environment were handled pretty much the same as when the days when magic was still strong. They didn't exactly know why magic deteriorated, but even so, people had grown accustomed to the mechanical conveniences that it seemed that they don't mind losing magic.
Sakura was born in an era were mechanical inventions were in full-bloom. Actually, even her mother never experience the magical time of their world; nearly no one had.
Except for the King.
The elders, who probably belonged to the same era as their King, also so died one by one due to old age. So now, the last amongst these individuals who could use magic, was none other than the head of their Kingdom.
Unfortunately, it will be in a matter of time now before he, too, shall bid farewell.
"Mother…" Sakura placed her head on her mother's shoulders. "…King Reed was never married, right?"
"No. He never married." The woman answered.
"And he is supposed to be the last person on earth to be able to use magic?"
"Yes." The Viscountess glanced at her daughter's face. "Why the sudden expression?"
"Well, you see, mother…it would be…sort of sad…that he has no living kin. The bloodline of individuals who can use magic will be cut off…no one to continue." Sakura remarked thoughtfully.
"Yes," Her mother nodded. "That would be true but then again, people never use magic these days. It won't be much of a loss."
Sakura suddenly stood up. "Don't say that!"
"Sakura…" Nadeshiko was startled at her daughter's sudden action.
"If our ancestors used to have these abilities, I think it is a loss…one way or another…we no longer have the means to use them." She exclaimed. She looked at her mother intensely but after a while realized that she was already glaring. She sighed and went to her seat with her head bent. "I am fond of inventions, mother. I find them remarkable, but the fact still remains…whenever I read history books…I also want to see it…"
"…I want to see our world with magic." The young lady finished. "Mechanical contraptions are easy to explain. Logic and calculations govern them. But magic…" She gazed at her mother once more. Her emerald eyes shimmered. "…is something that is supposed to be unexplainable. Something…relatively mysterious and powerful. I want to see that. I want to differentiate and even try explaining it."
"Oh my dear, daughter," Her mother leaned and kissed her forehead. "Sometimes I wonder where you get this sense of determination and curiosity." She smiled tenderly. "You might have a point, but reality remained stagnant against all adversity. King Reed is the last of his kind. He is too old to even attempt to continue the bloodline."
Sakura pouted. "Why didn't he marry anyway? As King, he should be thinking of placing an heir to the throne for the future of his Kingdom."
"Many contested that in the past," Nadeshiko started explaining. "But for some reason he refused and remained strong-willed about it. Even the elders sided with him."
"Yes. It seemed that he had a personal reason. A secret which the elders promised to keep. Hence, no one brought up the subject again. I believe it was during the days of my grandfather." Her mother said.
"Wow…grandpapa's days…the King is really old." Sakura remarked with a bewildered voice.
"Actually, if my memory serves me right… the King might have been many centuries old, but he looked no more than forty."
The Viscountess laughed. "I might have had a little crush on him before." She placed a hand on her face as she reminisced her younger days. Her equally beautiful emerald eyes twinkled at the thought.
"Oh mother..." Sakura rolled her eyes.
"Might have been wonderful…marrying a King." Nadeshiko continued dreamily.
Her daughter made a face. "If you liked him so much, then you should have done something to make him notice you. You are not exactly ugly, mother."
The woman chuckled. "In truth…many of us ladies in court back then tried. But no one succeeded. He was kind and polite to all of us, but that's all there was to it. He kept going back in attending to his Kingdom; such a dedicated man."
Sakura sighed as her mother went back to memory lane. In truth, it made her sadder that their Kingdom was going to lose such a wonderful man. She would have riveted back in observing the flames in their fireplace, if she didn't catch a few of her mother's words.
"…but people say that there are a few, who like the King, had the ability to use magic…"
"What!" Sakura darted her attention back to her mother.
"I know that will get your attention." The Viscountess laughed.
"Seriously? There are others aside from the King?" The young lady pounced at the older woman excitedly.
"Eh? Calm down, child." She smiled at her daughter. "They were only rumors."
Nadeshiko nodded. "They say that there might be a few in hiding that belonged in the same era as his majesty. But like what I said, they are only rumors because if there are such individuals, they might have stepped out already since they could be next in line to the throne."
"All who had magic abilities will be…one way or another…nobles related to the King or belonged to the same level of Lordship in the society. Hence, it would only be logical to say that one of them will be the next King."
"But no one stepped out?" Sakura asked curiously.
Her mother shook her head. "None…considering that the deterioration of the King's health had been widely known for quite some time now, they should have revealed themselves a long time ago when the magistrate was desperately trying to find the next person to be placed on the throne."
"So the magistrate still hasn't found the one that shall inherit the crown?"
"No, actually they already have candidates. Three, I believe." The woman replied thoughtfully.
"Eh? But I thought they are having a hard time."
"In terms of finding someone with magic requirements…but that doesn't mean that we don't have Lords that were ranked well." Her mother pointed out.
The Viscountess suddenly poked Sakura's head.
"Ouch!" The young lady complained cutely. "What's that for?"
"You haven't been paying attention to the news again, have you?" Her mother raised a brow. Sakura only bit her lip and her mother sighed again. "You little girl…you should be more alert regarding these things considering that you will be launched to the society in a matter of months."
"Titles…bore me, mother. I mean…the only thing important to me is the King. So I may follow his wishes." Sakura defended her side.
Another sigh escaped her mother's lips. "Yet you have all the nerve to discuss things like who will be the next one to be placed on the throne."
Sakura childishly grinned.
"Very well…very well…I shall give you a small recap." Her mother sat up straight. "There are three Dukes being considered to be the next King."
"Yes. The first one is Touya, Duke of Windome."
"Hoe!" Sakura's eyes brightened. "The Duke of Windome! Isn't his family the one responsible for all the mechanical inventions of our Kingdom!"
Nadeshiko laughed at her daughter's enthusiasm. "I'm glad that you know who he is. There might still be hope for you after all."
"Ah…it's not what you think, mother. I only know the 'Windome' part. This is the first time I've heard his name. I mean all inventions got a Windome seal etched on them."
"And here I was thinking that you might actually be rooting for him." Her mother looked at her daughter unbelievingly. "He is still young, you know. I believe in his late twenties." Then, her mother got the dreamer looked once more. "Not much of an age gap with you."
"Hoe! Mother! How can you think like that! I don't even know what he looks like."
"Read the newspapers and you will see his face."
Sakura crossed her arms on her chest and set her lips on a grim line. "I am not interested. All I care about are the inventions produced by Windome…that's about it."
"You are really hopeless do you know that?" Nadeshiko remarked. "But I shall carry on…" She cleared her throat. "The next one…is also in his late twenties. Almost the same age as Lord Touya. He is Yukito, Duke of Summers." She glanced at her daughter to see any reaction.
But Sakura just stared at her blankly. "I don't know him."
The Viscountess heaved another sigh. "How could you not know him? He is probably the most kind Lord ever to be included in the Parliament. He was quite popular among the Ladies in Court. It was said that he is an important member of the inner council of advisors for the King."
But the young lady kept the same expression. "I still don't know him."
"Fine…fine." Nadeshiko made gestures with her hands. "I will just pray that someday you will know him."
Suddenly, a frown crept on Sakura's forehead. "Mother…you said that he was also in his late twenties, but how come he is already an advisor for the King?"
The young lady's eyes were filled with vigilance as she analyzed. "Think about it. The Duke of Windome's age is quite normal considering that he could have just inherited everything about the inventions from his families' nobles…but…the same cannot be said for this Duke of Summers. You can't exactly inherit an advisor's position. Isn't he too young to be one?"
"Dear…you sometimes mesmerize me with this analytical thinking." Her mother looked at her in awe. "You have a point that he is too young to be one, but the fact still remains that he is highly skilled for his age. One cannot decline him the opportunity just because he simply lacked years of age. That would be discrimination."
"You are right, mother. I shouldn't be thinking such a thing." Sakura slumped back. "So…" She smiled at her mother. "…who is the last candidate?"
The Viscountess inclined her head. "This one, I do not know what he truly looks like."
Her mother nodded. "Even for someone like me who is always updated with such things, I find it hard to see or even catch a glimpse of this particular Lord. But I think you will be thrilled even greater than hearing the word, 'Windome'. This, I am sure of." She said with a mysterious smile.
"Hmmm? Who is he?" Curiosity started eating Sakura.
"He is Eriol, Duke of Manchester." Nadeshiko laughed triumphantly as she saw her daughter's facial expression.
"MANCHESTER!" Sakura squealed. Her voice echoed throughout the room.
"I know you will be delighted." Her mother chuckled.
But Nadeshiko's words got drowned as her daughter started running about; squealing with all her might. "HE IS THE INVENTOR OF THE LETTER MAKER!"
"Yes, yes…I know dear…I know. I purposely mentioned him last otherwise you might have not paid attention to the other candidates."
Sakura dropped down against her mother with a huge hug. Her excitement overflowed like a bright light empowering the flames in the fireplace. "I didn't know that he was a Duke!"
Nadeshiko laughed. "Well most just refer to him as Lord Eriol. He rarely comes out in his mansion nor took part in social gatherings. But some say that he visits the King often and even attend tribunal events. His circle of acquaintances composed of nobles amongst nobles. He isn't your normal Lord. For this reason, only a few people had actually seen him. And most that do were never outspoken about it. So the rest of us, don't exactly know what he looks like. But according to the rumors, he might be someone older."
"How old?" Sakura's eyes glistened. The issues she brought up earlier seemed to have faded away.
"Hmmm? You are actually interested in him. I favor the younger ones as your match you know." Her mother winked.
"Hoe." Sakura blushed. "I hope it isn't a…twenty year age gap…"
The Viscountess was surprised at her daughter's remark. "Heavens child! You really like Manchester that much? You don't even know what he looks like." She mimicked her daughter's exact words earlier.
Sakura looked down; slightly embarrassed. "I know that, mother." She sighed. "But he is the one who made the letter maker. The letter maker is probably the best invention there is." This time, it was Sakura's turn to gaze dreamily. "Even Windome inventions are not a match for it." Then, she pounced back at the woman excitedly. "The letter maker is perfect and accurate in any angle that you would look at it!"
Sakura stood up and run towards her room. She quickly grabbed a rose-colored box and went back to where her mother was. She placed the box on a table and opened it to scramble at the contents.
"Look at this mother." She said.
The Viscountess looked at her questioningly.
Sakura pulled out different sets of envelopes, parchments, seals and ribbons.
"Every single thing you see here was made possible by the letter maker." She showed them one by one to her mother. "This is from Tomoyo. This is from Chiharu. This is from Mei-ling. This is from Uncle. From auntie…and this…" She held a lavender colored letter. "…this is from father." She murmured sadly. "The very last one I received from him before he passed away."
The young lady looked up. "Don't you see, mother? Manchester's invention had made it possible for everyone to receive these letters even in the brink of danger or sorrow or hardship. The postal service had always been our only communication with one another. Its web of pipelines from one city to another is so complex yet it never managed to break down even once. Not even once! It never failed to assist people in composing trail of thoughts if you are the type that could not express yourself well in words. And all you need to do is to sit in front of your receiver and push that button for assistance and speak your purpose…for who and for what occasion…then it will show you a draft of the letter that you might want to send. How handy is that? It also chooses the type of stationery…what color…what scent…what pattern…which most of the time affects the feelings of the reader for you if you can't think of something to use. I mean…" Sakura twirled. "…how is that possible for a machine to know these things? What kind of calculations did he used to invent something like this? It is truly unexplainable."
"Thus, you truly admire Manchester." The Viscountess smiled.
"Who wouldn't?" Then, Sakura stopped twirling for a moment. "Oh yeah…" Her shoulder's slumped down. "Almost everyone takes the letter maker for granted. It had been a part of our lives for so long that it seemed to be something ordinary nowadays."
"I'm just glad." Nadeshiko stood up and cupped Sakura's face. "That my daughter knows how to give importance to things that had been forgotten."
"Even so, you are right. The letter maker had been a part of our lives for so long that its use had been taken for granted." The Viscountess let her go. "Going back to those hard times, I remember it being a huge help in passing my last goodbye to your father who no longer had the strength to go home to us."
Tears threatened to escape Sakura's eyes as memories started to flood in. Nevertheless, she clasped the lavender letter near her heart. "That is why…" Her voice came out in almost a whisper. "…I treasure every letter. Every single one made by it. It may be silly to actually get attached to a non-living thing like the letter maker, but if you ask me…if the King is the power of our kingdom, his subjects are its strength, and the inventions are its helpers, then the letter maker is the heart which guides everyone in their everyday lives."
The Viscountess looked at her daughter. The woman was proud of the young lady whose own heart was pure and unscathed.
"That is…such a lovely thing to say." She remarked. "If the letter maker is a person…your words will make its heart flutter."
Sakura smiled. "That is why…I truly admire him…Eriol of Manchester. For creating something so priceless. It was as if…" She gazed at the Viscountess. "…it was magic." Then, she gave a small laugh. "Even though, I am not aware what magic is like."
"So I guess it is safe to say that you are hoping that he would be the next King?" Nadeshiko asked.
"If he would be the next King then…" Sakura looked up. Her excited face returned to her. "He would be announced publicly! Hence, I would be able to see what he is like!"
"Yes…you would probably will." Nadeshiko smiled.
"But then again…" The young lady looked sad once more. "…the chances of me, meeting him personally would also be slim. I mean…he will be a King after all. If he mingled only with the nobles with same rank as he is all these years, what more will he be once he is King."
"King Reed is already unreachable, but he is not a snob. We could only hope that the next King will be like so. And if turns out to be Manchester, I'm going to repeat what you just said. Surely, someone who made something like the letter maker, which can touch everyone's lives no matter want rank he or she is in our society…won't be much high and mighty up there. It was said that a man's creations often reflects his heart. The Duke won't be any different."
Sakura's face brightened. "You are right, mother!" She smiled cheerfully. "That would be so!"
She placed her letters back inside the box. "But there is one thing I would like to wish for my upcoming birthday…I would like to see it."
Sakura looked at her mother with hopeful eyes. "I want to see the letter maker. I want to see this remarkable invention. I want to know how he did it."
"But Dear…like the mysterious Duke, no one had seen what his invention looks like. It was said that it is situated underneath his vast mansion. Only very few privileged people had been inside his home, and none of them even saw the machine."
"I know, mother. That is why it is only a dream of mine." Sakura laughed. "Not my goal in life."
"Your goal should be to find a suitable Lord to settle down with." The Viscountess reminded her.
Sakura stuck her tongue out like a child. "I won't." Then, she picked up her box and stomped towards the entrance of the room. She stopped for a while. "Unless he will be someone I truly love like how Chiharu is with Lord Yamazaki." She mischievously winked towards her mother. "…someone like Eriol of Manchester!" And with that she giggled and run off towards her room.
"Oh?" Nadeshiko blinked at the trail left by her daughter. "The young people these days." She laughed and went back to take her seat. "I wonder…" She remarked as her hand crept inside her pocket to retrieve a silver pocket watch. She flipped it open and ran her slender fingers on the picture clipped beneath its cover.
There were two people in the picture. One appeared to be Nadeshiko's younger self while the other was an older woman with an elegant posture. Graying hair could be found in contrast to her once striking long black hair.
"I wonder…" She said to herself again. "…which Sakura will prefer…Manchester…or…?" She smiled. "…the letter maker himself? After all…they are both dashing young men despite their true age." Her finger lingered on the face of the older lady in the picture. "…neh?...Yelan."
The Viscountess flipped the pocket watch close and gazed beyond the fireplace. Her smile never left her face.
(Up NEXT Chapter Two: "An Idea")
-------Majah's Almost Special Blah-Blah-Blah Part 5-------
Do you know that all of my fics always have a theme song or rather an inspirational song before I end up doing them? These songs are often played over and over again while I do the summary at the beginning of each story. It helps me visualize the future scenes, the mood and the setting. It's just like a movie preview being played inside my head. Funny, huh?
Well FYI…the following are the list of the songs that were playing in the background while writing/conceptualizing these stories:
For "Incorporated": it was "Loop" by Sakamoto Maaya from the Tsubasa Chronicles Reservoir anime.
For "Coven's Underneath": I had two. For the action/tournament parts, it was "Need to be Strong" by Toshiro Masuda from the Naruto anime. For the drama/serious/climax parts, it was "Haoto", the ending song of Gatekeepers 21.
For "7 Seals": It was "Nothing Else Matters" by The Gregorians. They are monks, I think.
For "Secret of the Letter Maker": It was "Regret" by Malice Mizer. No, this is not one of their rock ones…this one is a full piano instrumental.
If you don't know these songs, you may opt to look them up to get an idea of my mood while I was writing these stories.
Continue? Yes? No? I am begging for reviews! Lolz.