'Secret of the Letter Maker'
I don't own Card Captor Sakura but I do own the story in this fic and things that are non-CCS related. All the name of places, historical events and other things mentioned which you don't seem to know IRL, are products of my imagination. Any similarities with the actual thing are purely coincidental.
From Previous Chapter:
"Oh my goodness!" Tomoyo exclaimed beside her.
"Hoe?" Sakura glanced at her innocently. "What's the matter, Tomoyo?"
Tomoyo's mouth dropped open and gaped towards her bestfriend. She seemed lost for words that Sakura ended up frowning deeper. "Tomoyo?"
"Sakura!" The lady of Bellport finally found her voice. "That letter is NOT from Lord Yukito!"
"Huh?" Sakura continued blinking as she looked back at the letter. Tomoyo, on the other hand, quickly pointed at the end of the letter. Sakura eyes followed the other lady's finger and felt her world stop when she saw whom the reply was from.
At the signature area, it read:
Chapter Five: "The Guest"
"That would be all," a man in his forties with white curly hair remarked as he took off his spectacles and nodded to the gathered men before him, whom acknowledged with obvious respect as they stood one by one from their seat.
Shuffling of papers could be heard as some compiled their notes and stored them safely inside their leather bags. All except one; who only handed his parchments to another man behind him. Though silent and composed, his eyes were shadowed with boredom and indifference. As others briskly went out of the room, he remained on his place and waited for his assistant to safely put the documents away.
"I can see impatience in your eyes, Lord Touya," the man in his forties casually said when all others had left the room. "Yet, you still endure more wasted time while waiting for your assistant to stow everything."
Upon hearing this, the tall Duke didn't show any change of demeanor and merely gave the older man a side glance. "Would you rather that I scold him for being slow, Chancellor Bowen?" He replied, referring to the shorter man behind him who seemed unaffected by the older man's imposing remark.
"Perhaps a firmer hand would be better in such cases?" The said Chancellor suggested as he strode up the aisle of now empty seats.
There was an obvious air of arrogance on how he carried himself; nevertheless, he had to show reserve around the young Duke's presence. The aristocrat was, after all, one of the candidates for Kingship. Still, the youngest Windome was far to be considered to have a placid temperament to always become agreeable. "After all, a firm hand is the one which holds a horse in full control," Bowen added.
"True," Touya leaned back lazily as he directly looked at the Chancellor in the eye. "Fortunately, my assistant is a person and not a horse. Otherwise, I would very much be surrounded by ludicrous company who does nothing but follow me. Waiting as I pull the reigns even on the most nonsensical decisions." And with a smirk, he added. "How some people can submit themselves to such preposterousness completely appalls me."
Bowen slightly turned red on the implications of the Duke's retort; but not from embarrassment of the sorts, but due to the kept anger which had started to erupt inside together with his crumbling patience. Nevertheless, he could only swallow his pride with disdain.
"Undeniably appalling, indeed," was the only reply he could permit himself to summon given the difference in station.
With this, the Chancellor briskly walked out of the room but not without darting a glance of hatred towards Touya which the latter only found amusing; and thus, responded with taunting eyes.
Once left to themselves, the assistant that had became the topic of the exchange, finally spoke.
"My Lord," he started to say. "You have gone out of your way again. There is no need for you to keep placing yourself on the Chancellor's bad side with such trivial matters."
But the young aristocrat paid no heed to this remark.
"Don't flatter yourself," Touya stood up. "I dislike him right from the start. I would use every opportunity to make him angry or irritated the very least." He smirked haughtily.
The assistant could only sigh. "Sometimes, my Lord, I am scared for your sake," he said. "That the enemies around you increase each passing day." He trotted behind his Duke as Touya started pacing towards the door. "As one of the candidates for Kingship, there is no harm in trying to get along with the entire parliament."
"The decision lies on the High Council, of who amongst the three of us will be best suited to succeed the throne," Touya stated. "And not the parliament."
His loyal assistant shook his head. "Still…wouldn't it be one of the factors to be considered? And if you are chosen, it is not a good start to have aloof subjects in your court."
At this point, Touya merely gave a malicious smile.
"How unfortunate for them," he remarked.
The assistant's shoulder's droop down. "My Lord…," was the only thing he could permit himself to say out of exasperation. He loved his Duke but heaven forbid, his Lordship hated the hypocrisy of their polite society that wooing someone to get a favor was never a part of his life's goals; and if not born to privilege, he wondered how his master would have survived in the world of politics.
"I would have engaged myself into another endeavor," Touya suddenly said, which caused the other to blink blankly.
"Pardon me, my Lord?"
"You are thinking about something, right?" Touya remarked as he continued to walk at the vast hallway with his back at the loyal man. "And that is the answer."
His assistant was speechless for a moment. "My Lord," when realization dawned on him. "Please forgive my impudence." He bowed his head in apology.
Touya merely dismissed the apology nonchalantly as he made his way down the stairs, but he had only gone a few flight when another stiffly clothed man called out to him.
"My Lord," said the man. He was one of the attendants and he scurried after the Duke with a small tray on his hand. "This letter came for Lord Yukito a while ago, but it missed him a few minutes."
Touya raised a brow. "Then, forward it to his residence." He seemed slightly annoyed that the attendant bothered him for such a small matter.
Obvious uneasiness could be depicted from the attendant; as if he was unsure about something. He hesitated for a moment before stepping nearer the Duke. "You see, my Lord...," he started as he fidgeted. "The letter seemed unusual." He, then, titled the platter he was crying for the Duke to see.
The Windome and assistant both glanced at the letter.
The attendant continued, "It was addressed to the Duke of Summers and to his manor. But instead of going directly to his residence, it was delivered here."
"It went directly to his current location," Touya remarked with a frown. He reached for the letter and studied it for a moment. It has a pink stationary and carried a very flowery scent. It only had his friend's name and didn't indicate who it was from. The handwriting was strikingly feminine which aroused Touya's curiosity.
The attendant spoke once more, "I might be out of line, my Lord, but this kind of behavior from a letter...," he paused, unsure on how to say it. "I've been in service in the parliament and inner magistrate for quite a long time, and there are only three I know that are capable of sending a letter with such behavior."
"Yukito, Manchester, and the King," Touya said.
"Ye-s," the attendant nodded.
"Could it be from the King or from Lord Eriol?" His assistant asked, but like the attendant, he has a doubtful look as they eyed the pink letter.
"Perhaps, it was an urgent letter or something bad might have happened to either of the two that someone else needed to write it for them," the attendant suggested but not without fear in his eyes. "Or something of great secrecy hence the way of sending it. Oh, I don't know, my Lord. Such behavior from a letter is still puzzling for me even though I've seen it once in a while, but...," his sentenced dangled as he has difficulty getting his point across.
"Don't fret," Touya suddenly remarked. There was a strange smile on his face as he ran his fingers on the letter. "I think I know who this letter might be from."
"You do, my Lord?" Both other men said in unison.
But Touya merely took the letter and continued down the stairs. "I'll give this personally to Yukito once he gets back."
"But that won't be for another two weeks," the attendant said. "What if the letter carried a message of great importance?"
"I highly doubt that," Touya replied. "But I will ask the sender myself before going home tonight."
The attendant looked quite relieved upon hearing this. "Of course, my Lord knows the sender. It would be truly nice for his greatness to personally do this."
"If that would be all, then you can just leave this to me," Touya said.
"Thank you, My Lord." The attendant bowed and then left.
The Windome continued briskly down the flight of stairs as his assistant hurriedly followed him, who was obviously confused but nevertheless followed his Lord.
It was already dark by the time the Windome stepped outside, though the evening was still quite early, the city square had become alive with nocturnal activities as each lamp post brightened the streets. These lights shone in shades of gold, pale red and lavender. Their Kingdom's capital had always been busy yet there was a distinctive difference during the day than at night. The day was a reflection of politeness and perfection. Etiquette presided with vast influence that a mere hint of an action out of the norm could be considered outrageous, foolish and against decorum. Nighttime, on the other hand, was more lenient. If there was something that could describe the words, 'forgive and forget', it would be it. The air would be festive yet it would be unwise to be carefree. Though rules still governed, the jubilant streets had found many ways to bend or walk around the regulations set by the Kingdom.
And so from this that the Windome had decided to take advantage of the unmarked freedom as he inserted another activity before going home.
"Elliot," Touya remarked to his assistant as a classy black automobile pulled in front of them with steam silently evaporating from its sides. It was not top-down like Yamazaki's, nor did the engine roared as loud. It was enclosed with a shiny roof and tinted windows. The hood had an eagle emblem on it which signified association to the Windome family.
"Yes, my Lord?" his assistant replied as he opened the vehicle's door.
Touya climbed in and Elliot followed. "Don't look," the Windome said as the door closed.
The loyal Elliot blinked for a moment, and then understood. "Of course, my Lord." He bent his head and fancied himself with the darkened scenery outside. The driver in front, as per experience from the young Duke, also bowed his head as he recognized the protocol and closed the small window between the front and back seat.
As Touya comfortably laid back on his seat, he examined the letter in his hand. Slightly amused that the envelope was pink and flowery, he traced a finger at the delicate penmanship.
"After all these years and not a single woman," he chuckled inwardly. "Yet all of a sudden...this girl."
He flipped the letter and frowned at the wax seal. There was a ball with a pair of wings carved on it and somewhat an image of a woman dressed in a flowing gown at the back. It was an elaborate seal as if two entities fused together to do a single task. Even though it was small, the seal was accented quite smoothly. He knew the purpose of the seal; something he had learned since childhood while observing his friend. But not of its name, then again, he never did asked.
Touya knew many special things existed before his generation, things that used to flourish hundreds and hundreds of years prior to his birth. The mysteries which went with them had mystified him enough to do research and trace possible origin that might still be flourishing. His efforts had lead him to the gentle Duke. As a child, he remembered being enchanted by the kind smile and placid aura which surrounded the quiet Lord. As someone who grew up with inventions and machines, it was quite an unexplainable feeling to meet a person who has a gift of something that was supposed to be extinct.
The gift of magic.
Such a mystery of the old world, it was disheartening to see it die down to the existence of a few. And would eventually…one day…would be completely lost. The King would be a great lost. And someday, his friend would also bid farewell.
"Such a lost cause," Touya muttered under his breath.
People could no longer rely on magic and life has to continue. They must move on. And as someone who carried the Windome name, he must pursue his ideologies in order to build a sturdy future for their Kingdom. This was a new age; a time for evolution. This was the reason why he had welcomed the sanction of being chosen as one of the candidates for Kingship. He had not embraced it as a means of power like how a man of same stature would normally strive, but he had seen it more as a battle for the path their Kingdom should take.
For Manchester and him, the goals were very clear.
But for their dear friend, Yukito of Summers, Touya wasn't sure where the gentle Duke would stand. Yukito had claimed the he was neutral and wouldn't want to participate, but Touya knew that deep inside there must be something his friend believed in which he doesn't want to admit. Might it be that both he and Manchester could be hurt with their friend's decision, only the gentle Duke knew. Nevertheless, magic was great within Yukito though he had used it sparingly.
Which was why, as Touya looked at the letter on his hand, he could not help but smile. His friend would use magic very discretely, unlike Manchester, but in some weird or random cases he would suddenly wield it.
"Is she really a fan of Manchester or was that only an excuse?" He eyed the letter suspiciously. "Maybe he was really getting lonely." Another chuckle escaped his lips.
Too bad the letter was sent through magic. A normal letter would carry the family seal of the sender. But unfortunately, since the letter was obviously sent using his friend's 'special' pen, it would carry the seal of the magic which it had originated. As told to him by the gentle Duke himself, back in the days each family's rank in their society was measured by their magical abilities. Even though everyone could do magic, there were certain levels to be considered. There were such things as every day magic, defense magic, offence magic, healing magic, and so on and so forth. Those who could perform beyond the norm had a certain insignia. It was what identifies a magic to a certain individual. It would be his mark. Like a fingerprint. No two magic would the same. But one person could possess more than one insignia which would also contribute to his level of prowess as a magic user, hence, upgrading his rank in their society.
Touya could only imagine the rivalry amongst the Lords and Ladies. Sometimes, he couldn't help but to think that they were all truly better off without magic. Their Kingdom's history would have been more peaceful.
He once again gazed down at the letter. Tapped a finger or two, as if weighing the pros and cons.
"You're still not looking, are you Elliot?" Touya remarked.
"I'm not, my Lord."
The Windome kept flipping the letter. He was curious as to who this girl really was. He had this gut feeling ever since he accidentally met her at the library together with his friend.
Yukito could be slightly mischievous…at certain times, he thought. So should I? Or should I not?
There were no other means to find out the sender of the letter. How he wished he had investigated back then. Asked here and there. But he wouldn't want to start rumors with a young girl. She seemed extremely young. Had he ever seen her anywhere else? A ball, perhaps? Then, he remembered that he rarely attended such events unless required politically. For the first time, he regretted not answering to coming out invitations of such ladies. Such emerald eyes would not go unnoticed.
"My Lord," he heard the driver speak at the front. "We are at the crossroad. Shall I proceed?"
Indeed their vehicle glided slowly towards a fork. Turning right would lead to his mansion. Turning left would allow them to pass at the northern part of the capital.
Touya took a deep breath. A huge part of him was urging him to do what he had been thinking all this while when he accepted the responsibility of handling the letter. But if he did something like this, it would be against his ideals.
Damn, Yukito and his magic, he silently cursed.
And finally, he made a decision. He started to do something which even his dear friend didn't know.
Just for a short time, I only need a simple trace.
He reached inside his pocket and fished out what seemed like a pocket watch, but as he pushed the dial at the top to open the cover, a crystal-like interior became visible instead of the usual clockwork. Bluish liquid swished inside and with it, small letters and numbers swam in bright color of cyan. They were not in a particular order as they flew here and about inside together with the liquid. Every now and then an image of a blue clock with wings would appear then disappear at the center. Touya placed the ornament on top of the letter's wax seal and closed his eyes. He inhaled deeply and no sooner than later, the letters and numbers began to stir frantically and a swift-moving mist enveloped the letter, until it finally stopped and a word beckoned him as Touya opened his eyes once more.
He arched a brow as he read the word. He looked as if he was searching his mind for any connection to anyone he knew.
"My Lord?" The driver asked again without even looking.
Touya snapped shut the ornament in his hands and finally answered. "To Yorke Manor, Stevenson. And very discretely if you please."
"Very well, Sir."
Thus, the black automobile turned left.
Sakura was gripping her letter hard. She could feel Tomoyo's hands slightly pressing her shoulders. Both of them were astounded. She was so shocked that she could only bring herself to look at her name on top and then to the signature at the bottom.
It was Tomoyo who finally caught her eye movements.
"Well, go on…," the Lady of Bellport urged. "Read it."
Sakura felt numb but nevertheless tried to focus with her friend's nod of encouragement.
It was an honor to have received many letters from you this past two weeks. Surprising at first, but going through your succeeding letters had come to an understanding. Disappearance of each letter you wrote had been confusing. Not sure if you are aware now, but all of your letters were indeed sent and the culprit is none other than the pen which the Duke of Summers had given you. You are most fortunate to have received such an extremely rare gift from Lord Yukito. His lordship, himself had used the pen many times. It had led letters to difficult places, an ability only known to a few artifacts surviving in this modern world. It is best that you ask him directly if it troubles you this much. The pen belonged to Lord Yukito. He is the only one that has the right to divulge its secrets.
But do not worry, dear Lady. The pen is harmless. It can be a very useful tool.
Just be careful on what you send.
Thank you for thinking highly of such an 'everyday machine'. Your thoughts are much appreciated.
After reading, Sakura and Tomoyo looked at each other, gaping. It took a while to register before they both exclaimed, "IT REPLIED!"
"This can't be true, Tomoyo?" Sakura leapt to her feet. "How can a machine reply?"
"I don't know," Tomoyo waved her hands about, and then suddenly an idea hit her. "What if…your reply is not from a machine?"
"What if…," Tomoyo clapped a hand on her mouth. "What if Eriol of Manchester was the one who replied to you?"
"Think about it!" Tomoyo was on her feet as well and clasped Sakura's wrists. "It's his invention. It seems to know more about Lord Yukito and the pen. It could be him!"
"Hoooooooooeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" Sakura was starting to panic. A huge blush was taking over her cheeks. "But…but…," she stammered. "He didn't say he's Eriol of Manchester. I mean…," she freed her hands from Tomoyo's and waved the letter in front of her. "It says…Yours Truly, The LetterMaker."
"Wouldn't it make more sense if he replied as the LetterMaker?" Tomoyo pointed out. "He is a very high-ranked nobleman. Part of the King's elitist circle. He wouldn't say who he truly was for…," she motioned at the letter and let her sentence dangle.
"For something as idiotic as what I did," Sakura slumped down at the sofa and covered her face. "Oh, I'm so embarrassed, Tomoyo."
"I'm so sorry. I didn't intend it to come out that way," Tomoyo sat beside her friend and pulled her friend in a comforting hug.
"But, it is true," Sakura said. "It is stupid especially from a lady. I'm so sorry, Mother." Her shoulders dropped down.
"What's done is done," Tomoyo attempted to console. "But you know," she said with her face brightening. "He could have thought it cute. He wouldn't reply in such a manner if not."
Sakura gazed at the letter once more. Calmer, she studied it thoughtfully.
"Tomoyo…," she started. "This letter," she leaned back at the sofa. "Didn't contain an 'I' or 'my' or anything that may indicate a first person view."
"Hmmm?" Tomoyo peered at Sakura's shoulders as she scanned the letter once again. "It seems so."
"Isn't it…quite odd?"
"Could be something intentional," her best friend pointed out. "He is, after all, replying as a machine."
Sakura pulled the letter nearer and inhaled the toffee scent it carried.
"An old Duke wouldn't pick toffee on his stationary to represent himself," she said out loud and then, she smiled. "Feels like it is something for me. Something sweet." Sakura closed her eyes with the letter on her face as if trying to see beyond what was written. Her panic and previous embarrassment was slowly evaporating. "Something the LetterMaker would do."
Tomoyo didn't offer a word and merely observed her friend. She was in slight awe that the girl was holding the letter affectionately. She blinked questioningly when Sakura suddenly frowned and intently gazed at the epistle in her hand.
"I don't know, Tomoyo." Sakura remarked. "There is something not right. Whenever I think of Eriol of Manchester and this letter, I don't feel any connection."
"Eh?" Tomoyo was getting confused. "You were so abashed with the idea a while ago. Blushing at the mention of the Duke's name."
"I know, but…" Sakura was now frowning more intensely than before. "…it doesn't feel right."
"Then, what do you make of this letter?" her friend asked.
The young lady of Yorke struggled for a moment. "I'm not so sure," she finally said. "You think there's a possibility that the invention itself had replied?"
Tomoyo's mouth opened and closed. It was during these times that she wished she was Mei-Ling and point out what was practical and plausible, but she couldn't even imitate a small portion of the said lady as she looked at her friend's hopeful and dreamy face.
"I'm sorry, Tomoyo…" Sakura remarked in a small voice. "I know I'm being unreal."
The Lady of Bellport sighed in reply.
Silence occupied the two of them. A maid came and went as she announced supper, but both ladies didn't budge on their seats.
"Alright," Tomoyo spoke and reached for Sakura's hand. "Let us not discuss it at the moment," she smiled with resignation. "The important thing is that you have your reply and it explained…well not all…but a few things. It is good to know that your letters weren't sent out to the void."
"Yes, that is true." Relief returned to Sakura's eyes.
"For now, you do what you want to do," Tomoyo remarked supportively. "Follow what your heart tells you."
"Thank you, Tomoyo." The lady placed her arms around her friend with undying appreciation.
The maid came in for the second time and the two of them finally rose to their feet. The Lady of Bellport strode beside Sakura. Her steps moved forward but her eyes remained observing her friend who was currently clutching the letter on her chest and in deep thought. At this time, Tomoyo couldn't help but worry and wondered if she had done the right thing, not bursting her dear friend's hope of fantasy.
"My Lord, we are here," Stevenson announced as the steam-powered automobile glided in a slow stop.
Inside, Touya was still flipping the letter absentmindedly. Beside him, Elliot was looking at him questioningly, awaiting an order.
"The nobles of Yorke," Touya started. "Did we ever do any business with them?"
"Not that I could remember," Elliot replied. "On personal terms that is. But as Windome as a whole, there's a possibility since all Windome inventions are being used in every household one way or another."
"Stevenson," Touya called out. "My father…when he was alive…did he ever come here?"
The driver shook his head. "No, my Lord. Nothing I can remember."
Yorke…Yorke…Yorke…, he had been searching his mind. He couldn't recall anything either, but somehow he felt like he had heard the name somewhere before, but couldn't quite mark it.
"This house has a young lady, I believe?" Touya motioned for his assistant to open his record book.
Elliot nodded as he skimmed the list the book contained. "Nadeshiko, Viscountess of Yorke has a daughter named Lady Sakura."
"Has she been launched in society?" That could be it. He could have received the invitation…and ignored it, he thought to himself much to his dismay.
But Elliot shook his head. "I believe not, my Lord. According to our data, she is still young. But in a few months time, she could have her own launch if the Viscountess is going to be prompt with it."
"Would our dear record know what she look like? This…Lady Sakura?"
Elliot blinked as if surprised that Touya was asking about it. "No, my Lord. We only have the list and basic details."
"I see," Touya eyed the estate, contemplating.
Yukito had been in a rendezvous with a girl that hasn't been launched in society yet, he frowned. That is not an act of a gentleman. Touya was now slightly getting angry. Wait. He took a deep breath. Maybe this isn't the same girl.
He glanced at the letter in his hand. Don't tell me this is actually something of urgent matter?
"My Lord, are you alright?" Elliot's voice cut his trail of thought. The man looked slightly scared.
Apparently, his thoughts were reflecting on his face. Touya took a deep breath and ran a hand on his hair.
"Turn the lights and engine off, Stevenson." He told the driver which the old man complied with a nod. They were already discretely parked near the manor but not visible enough to be noticed.
Touya opened the door and stepped out of the vehicle much to Elliot's surprise.
"Stay here," he said to the other man.
"But, my Lord…on your own at night? May I remind his grace that he is one of the candidates for Kingship. Your security should also be made a priority."
"I am very much capable, Elliot."
But the other man looked as if he wasn't convinced and was about to retort, but he eventually stopped himself defiantly as the strong-willed Duke gave him a shutting glare.
For a moment, Touya observed the expanse of the estate. Yorke Manor, as it appeared, was quite above the norm a Count or Countess should own. The gardens were well-kept and a few guards roam around, which he had managed to avoid. They were far from being lax. He would have been caught if not for his 'slight' experience on sneaking in and out of his own home during his childhood. Not that he has malicious intentions as he did this now, but he would like to check first if it was the same girl. It was better this way. His stature and the young girl's reputation were at stake if he rashly appeared at the Manor's front doors.
"I can't believe I am actually doing this," Touya muttered under his breath. "The things I do for you, Yukito." He grumpily added.
He paced a few yards concealed by the trees and shrubs at the far end of garden. The little light which shone in the area casted more shadows that he had no trouble gliding from one spot to another. Inside his pocket, he could feel the warmth of the ornament he had used earlier.
Tempting….very tempting…, he thought as he reached inside his pocket to hold it. Yet, he closed his eyes and decided against it. He was not about to go against his ideals again. A 'slip-up' every now and then was acceptable, but he could currently manage even without using it.
Oh, but how effortless everything would be in a wave of a hand.
"Those old people really had it easy," Touya said in dismay and annoyance.
"My Lady." Touya heard a voice from afar. It came from the entrance of the garden.
"Lady Tomoyo's carriage had left," the maid continued to say.
"I see. Thank you, Mimi." A young feminine voice answered.
With this, the maid named Mimi curtsied and left. The garden was vast and Touya was quite far away from where the lady stood but he could make out the short auburn hair and pale smooth skin against the manor's low lighting. He couldn't quite make out the face but her features greatly suggested that she was indeed the girl at the library. Curiosity overwhelmed him once again, but Touya couldn't risk stepping out in the open and alarm Yorke manor's security nor create an unexpected scandal. It was a must that the girl should be the one to come to him.
The lady started to stroll around the garden but her movements indicated no possibility of going towards his direction. He was left with no other option.
The young Duke frowned grudgingly. How many times does he have to use it tonight?
He gritted his teeth and this time, reached inside his coat and without pulling out the object he held, he spoke…
Dinner was over and Sakura had said goodnight to Tomoyo. Her dear friend had left and she was now strolling alone at the garden. There was no moon and some paths were too dark that she only had the luxury to enjoy the evening air near the entrance of the garden where the manor's lamps shone against the dewy grass. She would look up at the sky every now and then and tried counting the stars. Then, she would be bored and would be glancing down at her feet instead.
The letter she had received from the LetterMaker was safely hidden inside piles of stationeries inside her desk together with the Duke's pen. She was surprised that she had received a reply, and relieved at the same time that her letters were sent in one destination.
Well…hopefully…, she thought inwardly.
It would be utterly embarrassing if her letters were scattered around for everyone to see.
She absent-mindedly picked a flower and tried to contemplate. Was it truly Eriol of Manchester who took pity and replied to her? Earlier, she had been blushing from head to toe, but now that everything had sunk in, it didn't quite bother her much. It would have if she had accepted the sender to be indeed Eriol of Manchester, but somehow…like what she said to Tomoyo earlier, it doesn't feel right.
"What is it?" Sakura murmured. "What is this gut feeling?"
Every time the toffee scent beckoned her nostrils, she couldn't help but have this elated feeling. Like there was some kind of aura pulling her. It could be compared when she first met Yukito of Summers. She was too panicky back then and had not dwelt on it, but now that she had the time to ponder and analyze…
"There's a sensation of awe," she whispered to herself. "I couldn't explain it but it was like I was being pulled towards him."
At this point, Sakura felt her cheeks grow hot.
"Hoeeeee…..!" She clapped her hands on her face. "I'm not attracted to Lord Yukito, am I?"
But, she also has the same feeling with the LetterMaker's letter.
"The letter couldn't have been written by Lord Yukito, could it?" she continued to say.
No, both had an aura surrounding them but the type of aura was different. Her thoughts swam inside her head. The Duke's aura was placid…serene…if it could be compared to a color…it could be white. Which apparently matched his laughed inwardly. The LetterMaker's letter, on the other hand, has this sad…defiant…yet resolute aura.
"Eh!" Sakura shook her head. "How can someone be defiant and resolute at the same time? That doesn't add up."
She stomped here and there before she finally collapsed on a swing.
"I must be going crazy," she whimpered.
She ran her fingers at the nearest shrub when something glowing approached her hand.
Sakura blinked, "Firefly?"
She tried reaching for the glowing insect but it moved away every time her hand got near. Sakura looked up and finally noticed that there were more than a dozen fireflies hovering close to her.
"Hoe!" Her emerald eyes lit up and started walking towards the beautiful tiny lights.
The fireflies were glowing quite brightly that she couldn't even make out the body of the insects. They would fly then stop, then fly again whenever she had gotten close. Their glow was so bright that even with the lights of the manor disappearing, she could still see the path she had been walking on. As she went deeper to the denser part of the estate, the glowing fireflies increased around her as it guided and illuminated each of her steps.
Until she had finally reached a small clearing surrounded by trees which made her gasp. Around her thousands of fireflies glowed enchantingly. Some flew about, some rested at the lower branches of the trees, and some perched still at the tip of the blades of the grass.
Sakura would reach and they would fly away but not far. It was as if they were just avoiding to be touched.
"Hoeeeee! I've never seen such pretty little things!" Mystified, Sakura gleefully ran here and there as she tried catching them despite the resistance. "And so many!" she squealed in delight.
She hopped, jumped, and twirled only to have her tumbling down and getting covered with dried leaves and twigs. But despite of it all, she would laugh cheerfully and would get up again.
"You are quite a sight for sore eyes, little girl."
A man's voice made Sakura stop dead on her tracks. It was somewhat impassive and utterly familiar. She turned around only to be met by the very same glare she remembered from the library.
She gasped from shock which also made her lose her balance and met the ground in a thud. "Gack!"
Touya closed his eyes in reflex at the collision. The glowing orbs scattered away from the impact.
"Seriously, how many times are you going to fall tonight?"
"Hoe?" Sakura was brushing the leaves and twigs off her hair and face when she felt sturdy hands pulling her back her feet.
Once up, she once again found herself at the man's chest level like how she bumped at him back at the library. Panic surfaced which lead her to step back but wasn't able to move when she found herself being pulled by the elbow.
"Stay still," she heard him say. "Try standing at that spot for a minute. I fear if you continue to move, you would have countless of bruises on your body!" His voice was somewhat angry which immobilized Sakura.
"Y—es," she replied meekly without looking.
Both were silent for a moment.
"You may breathe, you know." Touya said.
At this remark, Sakura exhaled.
"You don't have to be that obedient."
"Umm…," the young lady peered at her unexpected visitor.
He was now a couple of steps away, much to her relief, and was roaming his eyes around the small clearing. He was wearing the same type of clothing, black and stylish like how a noble of his stature would carry himself. Same jet black hair and glaring eyes, but somehow in contrast to the glowing fireflies which seemed to be flying closer to him than expected, his aura was less forbidding than she had remembered.
Aura…, Sakura blinked.
Then, there it was again. That feeling she kept having. She didn't feel it back then when she first met this man at the library. But somehow…she was feeling it right now.
Sakura's heart started to beat faster. Warmth seemed to envelope her as she looked at the Windome. He was still looking at the trees and the fireflies. He had his hands on his hips as the glowing orbs swished and danced in front of him.
It was different at the library, she thought. Now, he is somewhat emanating an aura like that of Lord Yukito…but…, she closed her eyes as she tried to grasp it.
Warm…it is warm. His aura is warm…and…, Sakura hugged herself. Comforting.
The lady of Yorke was confused. The man before her has glaring eyes and was obviously strict and commanding, but the feeling she was getting was full of affection. Like when she was sick and her mother would give her a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows.
But this aura was completely non-existent at the library.
"Are you the same Lord Touya from the library?" Sakura blurted out unintentionally.
This earned a raised brow from Touya, "Yes, why would you think otherwise?"
Because you have this aura now that I can't explain why I am feeling, she thought to herself but couldn't very well say it out loud.
Instead, she said while fidgeting, "Why would someone like his Lordship would be here…at our humble garden?"
Touya opened his mouth, and then closed it. "Oh." Was the only thing he was able to say. He was quiet for a moment as he watched the beautiful glowing things.
"I've never seen so many fireflies!" Sakura suddenly remarked. "They would normally be at the pond at the other side. This is the first time they've gathered at this place. It's so amazing! " She waved her arms about enthusiastically. "Thousands of glowing fireflies!"
But Touya merely looked at her. "Yes. Fireflies." Then, he slightly smirked. "Little girl, are you always this friendly?
"You are alone in the middle of the night inside a forest with a man you hardly even know."
"Eh? Eh? Eh!" Sakura exclaimed. "But…but…this is still part of our estate and I wasn't really expecting for you to be here!"
"But you were expecting Yukito at the library?" Touya asked, straightforwardly.
"Hoe? The Duke of Summers?" Sakura shook her head violently. "I didn't even know who he was. I didn't even know who you were until after!"
Touya's expression was giving away 'Are you serious? You don't know us?' questions.
"I'm sorry!" Sakura blurted out as if forgetting she was supposed to be a meek lady. "I didn't quite keep up with current events and politics. I was often scolded about it. I wouldn't know the difference between the magistrate and the parliament. The nobles I know would only be my friend's parents, my relatives, and the King. I'm not keen to recognize titles and rank. I don't read the newspaper. I don't read memorandums. I only get second hand information from my mother or from my friends." She quickly said in a breath. "Please forgive me!"
The Windome was speechless.
Another wave of silence swam around them as the man looked straight at the young lady whose emerald eyes met his gaze with honesty and naivety.
"Are you angry, my Lord?" Sakura asked in a weak tone.
Then, he started laughing. "I can't believe this." He continued to laugh. "I swear to God, if I heard this from a ranked woman, I would have thrown her out of my sight for trying to manipulate and lie through her teeth."
Sakura gasped. "But, I'm not lying!"
"I said from a 'ranked woman'," Touya replied. "You're not even a woman yet, little girl." He laughed once more.
"Hoe!" The Windome's laughter was unnerving for Sakura. Was she being insulted? "I'm going to be launched to the society a few months from now!" She stomped closer to the man with an angry pout on her face. The glowing orbs flew out of her way as she did so.
"And that doesn't make you a woman yet," the man said, tauntingly.
"Eh? My mother said…,"
"You start being a woman when you stop saying 'my mother said'," the Windome cut in.
"How dare you talk to me like that!" Whatever elated feeling she had earlier was vanishing, her poise and meek attitude forgotten.
Just then, Touya fished out the pink letter and waved it in front of Sakura. "I guess, it is safe to assume that this is not of an urgent matter considering that you are not keen with current events and politics."
Sakura gasped. "Why do you have that?" she exclaimed as she recognized her letter to the Duke of Summers.
She tried to grab it but the Windome was faster and kept it overhead, completely out of her reach.
"That is not yours! Give it back to me!" Sakura demanded as she started jumping for the letter but kept missing as Touya maneuvered out of the way.
"Well, this is not yours either. It is addressed to Yukito." Touya replied with a smirk.
"I wrote that!"
"Oh? Isn't that interesting?" Touya flipped the letter here and there with one hand as the other prevented Sakura from getting the letter. "It only had Yukito's name on it and nothing from the sender."
"I wrote that using the pen he gave me!" Sakura pointed out, still heavily struggling against the Duke's left arm. Around them, the glowing lights danced in the same mischievous manner.
"The pen! Of course, how could I forget about the pen. The pen that was supposedly yours and the reason why you were at the restricted section of the library in the first place." He shot the girl a perturbing glare which made her stationary for a moment upon realizing the inconsistency of her story to the guards that day.
"Aaaah…," Sakura bit her lip.
She really indeed looked like a child at that moment as she almost dangled while grasping the Windome's arm.
"Since you only placed his name and not where to send it, we can safely assume that you know how the pen works, dear Lady Sakura?" Touya narrowed his eyes.
"Ummm…it sends letters to difficult places?" Sakura smiled sweetly as she quoted the LetterMaker's words.
"Is that what Yukito told you?" Touya asked, suspiciously. "You are not well-versed with the polite society and the government. Maybe you are more knowledgeable with other things."
"Yes, I am!"
Touya almost lost his balance as he wasn't expecting such a direct answer.
Then, Sakura continued. "I love inventions!"
"Ha?" The Windome blinked. Not the answer he was expecting.
One could practically see hearts flying around the young lady's face. "I am enthralled with them!" She swung Touya around with the arm she had been holding all this time. "I like to piece out each algorithm. I adore how each bolt and lever works. I like how they aid everyone in their everyday life!"
After swinging and swinging as Sakura went on and on, she finally stopped and hugged the Windome like an excited child, forgetting etiquette.
"And I love the LetterMaker the most!" she exclaimed with her shining emerald eyes. "That's why I'm at the restriction that day! I would like to find out more about the LetterMaker!"
Touya was dumbfounded. It took a while before his brain could digest everything.
"DON'T YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT KIND OF RELATIONSHIP I HAVE WITH MANCHESTER?"
The glowing 'fireflies' around them started to faze.
"Hoe?" Sakura blinked up innocently.
"DIDN'T YUKITO EVER TELL YOU THAT?"
"He didn't tell me much. He just gave me a pen and advised be to write my thoughts…like a journal," she said.
"Yukito told you to write a journal using the pen?" Touya's blood pressure was sky-rocketing.
"So, he didn't explain how the pen exactly works?"
Sakura shook her head.
"A lady who is not even launched in society yet is writing her journal using Yukito's pen," Touya was trying to be calm. "Of all the mischief amongst mischief…all this time, his actually picking on a young innocent girl? And in my generation! That's like corruption, nipping out the potential of someone!"
"Hmmm, what do you mean?" she asked, still oblivious of having her arms around the Windome.
"And to whom do you address your thoughts?" Touya asked. "To Yukito?" Despite being a close of friend of the Duke of Summers, there were deeds that he doesn't approve of. Those old geezers!
"To the LetterMaker!" Sakura replied with gusto. Amazingly enough, she doesn't feel ashamed admitting this to the Windome.
Touya thought he had heard wrong. "To the LetterMaker?"
Touya had lost track of how many times he had become speechless that night.
"You wrote to a machine?"
"Well, I didn't know that everything I wrote are going to get sent," she pointed out, finally releasing the Windome. "So, it was unintentional." She crossed her arms.
"And how did you know that everything was sent?"
"I kinda…saw it getting folded and floating towards the receiver."
Touya ran a hand on his face. "Do you know what made it float?"
This time, Sakura was silent. She looked up at the Windome, unsure if she was going to say it.
"You blurted this much," Touya pointed out. "Might as well spill it all."
She fidgeted for a moment. "I don't think it can be explained by any algorithm so ummm…"
Touya waited patiently.
"It's…magic?" She peered at him with one eye.
Touya was silent, and in a toned down voice he replied, "You wouldn't know magic even if it's already in front of you." Then, he added. "That's how people are nowadays."
From afar, barks of dogs could be heard along with distant voices. They seemed to be searching, obviously looking for Sakura since she had been out for quite a while.
"They are looking for me," she said.
"Apparently," Touya muttered as he closed his eyes as if trying to concentrate about something.
"Are you alright?" Sakura asked as she started to feel a shift within Touya's mood. The aura of warmth was back and it felt more intensified that she couldn't help but to reach out and touch the Windome's face. It felt slightly cold in contrast against her fingers, might it be from the cold night air, but there was something radiating from within and it was extremely the opposite.
The Windome finally opened his eyes. "Little girl, don't touch me like that…," the moment would have been a bit romantic if he didn't add, "…it is quite disturbing." And in a dead-pan face.
"Hoe! I didn't mean to! What if you suddenly lose consciousness and they blame me. I'm going to get in trouble for having that kind of scandal with one of the candidates for Kingship!"
"My Lady, you are going to be in a scandal if your Mother's men found us here…alone."
Sakura gasped and realized that the voices and barks were getting near.
"You're not supposed to be here anyway!" Sakura pointed out.
"Yes…yes…and I was never here," Touya remarked. "Make sure you remember that."
Then, he suddenly handed Sakura's letter back to her. "Don't write to Yukito any longer. It is for your own safety. Don't get involved with any of us. It is wise not to love politics. You have no idea how ruthless a person can be just to gain what he wants."
"No 'buts'." Touya said firmly. "I'm not so sure which hands your letters had fallen with a recipient intended for a machine. The pen is not mine; I have no right to talk about it. All I can say is that it is not considered as an invention. It is beyond our generation. It is not good to trifle something you don't understand. Do not use it any longer."
"I'm not so sure what he wants with you," Touya continued. "Why you of all people. But whatever it is, it is making me angry. My gut feeling is telling me to be angry. So, I am angry right now."
"His Lordship is confusing me," Sakura mumbled.
"You have no idea," Touya muttered under his breath.
Just then, flashes of lights invaded the clearing. Sakura ran towards trees she emerged from earlier as if trying to conceal the presence of the Duke.
"My Lady, are you here?" She heard one of them called out.
"I'm here! Don't worry. I fell asleep. I'm coming out now!" Then, behind her she called out to the Windome. "You need to leave…" But, she stopped dead on her words.
Only darkness met her. The clearing was so dark, she couldn't make out anything. The thousands of fireflies that illuminated the place were all gone. Not a trace, not even a glowing trail. She gaped at the silence which met her.
"We're going there, my Lady! Your mother is very worried!"
Lights from her mother's men invaded the clearing which gave Sakura a brief moment to roam her eyes at the trees. There was also no sight of the Windome or a hint of his shadow. She has no idea how he was able to slip in unnoticed inside their estate, but she pray that he would be able to get out just the same.
"My Lady, are you alright?" Sakura recognized the head of security.
"I'm fine," she smiled weakly. "I'm sorry. Let us go."
"It is rare for you to be with me this long, Suppi." A navy-haired man remarked as he turned a page in the book he was reading. It was late in the evening and he would be retiring for the night in a short while. His guardian had sat with him in front of the fireplace since that afternoon but never said a word.
"Eriol…,"it finally said.
"Have you got anything to do with it?" it asked.
"With the young lady who had been writing to your cousin."
Eriol closed his book and looked at his guardian. "I am hurt that you immediately assume that it was me," he replied as he mustered a painful look on his face.
But, Suppi was unaffected. "You also have that kind of pen, and we all know how you, amongst all, would want to know what really happened centuries ago."
Eriol smiled lightly. "Well, apparently…I'm not the only one. My dear, Suppi, it was Yukito who had done it."
"I see and you don't mind?"
"No, why should I? It is beneficial to us all. King Reed is dying after all."
"Did your friend, by any chance…tell you who the lady is?"
"Well, no. I had tried many times in the past to get Syaoran out of his shell, but each time I would fail. Yukito, too, had the same ordeal. It is hard to keep track or rather it was stressful to keep track. So, Yukito and I, we only keep the details from our own deeds. Like who had jurisdiction on each attempt. Though, this is the first time that someone had actually written directly," Eriol said.
"You still wouldn't want the details even if I tell you that the letters are from Yorke?" Suppi pointed out.
Manchester looked surprised for a moment. "Yorke?"
His guardian nodded.
The guardian nodded once more.
For a moment, Eriol locked gaze with Suppi before finally giving out a chuckle. "Yukito, that bastard."
"That's it? You're not going to step in?"
"Is there a need for me to step in?" Eriol casually stood up and stowed his book.
"He replied, you know. Just this afternoon. He finally replied to her." Suppi informed his master.
Eriol gazed down at his guardian, though his eyes were hidden behind his spectacles, it was obvious that it somehow sparked some interest.
"Then, that proves it," he remarked. "We are indeed cousins, after all…to take interest with the ladies of Yorke."
With this, he smiled achingly at Suppi.
(Up NEXT Chapter Six: "Correspondence")
It had been ages.
R and R Onegai Shimasu!
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