Previously… on Destiny at Work
"No, no, no," Nokoru protested. "I took the last case as a favor to a dear friend of mine, but last night she notified me that she will not need our services anymore. We do not have to continue our search. However, Syaoran Li also wants a thorough investigation of the subject from our last case, although for different reasons."
"You're saying you want to take Li-san's case because of the subject," Suoh interpreted. "You find it interesting because two different clients want to know about the subject." Nokoru nodded. "You just don't want the information on Meiling Li to be misconstrued without the complete truth."
"Yes!" Nokoru grinned. "Then we shall continue our investigation!" (Damsel)
There always has been someone else who is in your heart and it is you who is always in hers. That woman was never me.
Meiling shuddered as she grasped the porcelain sink in the bathroom. "It's disgusting! The way he touched me, the way he looked at me..." she buried her face into her hands. "...as if we still were-" she choked on the word.
"Syaoran thinks of you the same. Nothing has changed for him," Eriol said.
"Don't you dare tell him why I broke up with him!" Meiling spoke with venom.
Eriol sighed. "I shouldn't have let you come to work today, Meiling. Go home. Take the day off."
"Take the day off?" Tomoyo repeated as she found the two in the bathroom, raised eyebrows again. Meiling never missed a day of work. The uncharacteristic behaviors of Syaoran and Meiling (and a little bit of Eriol) were raising so many questions. But instead of voicing them, she said, "That's fine. Please get better, Meiling-chan." (Encounter: three)
Fuuma remembered seven years ago when he first met Meiling at an underground motorcycle race in New York. She was wild and untamed, pushing the pedal as hard as she can to go as fast as she can. "Stop trying to push limits. You're going to get yourself killed one day," he told her. And she almost did get herself killed one day four years ago, when in the heat of the race he made a turn too soon and swept up Meiling in his crash. She got the worst of it, her bike ending up in total destruction and herself landing in the hospital with serious injuries. All of a sudden, a brother of hers showed up out of nowhere, refused to let Meiling ride again, and took her to Japan despite both his and Yuuto's protests. (Girl: Nighttide)
""Marriage doesn't suit me. I would have dragged you down with me," mused Meiling. "But I still… care about you, Syaoran. I still love you."
"Just not the kind of love where we get we get married and grow old together."
"Nope. Just the kind where we annoy each other to no end."
Syaoran shook his head in amusement. "So that's all? That's why you left? You didn't want to get married?"
Meiling looked into his eyes so he wouldn't think she was lying. "Not to you. I care too much about you to get married to you." Because she wasn't lying. (Race: two)
"My mother died when I was two," Meiling said at last. "When it finally reached the point where Yelan and I could no longer live together peacefully, Hui Qing appeared and officially adopted me."
"Adelaide-san?" Tomoyo turned to Eriol, using the more common name of Hui Quing Li to raise her unspoken question. Yes, Eriol wordlessly nodded. My mother, Adelaide Hiiragizawa, adopted Meiling. (Man)
Destiny at Work… where Fate brings couples together
Eriol Hiiragizawa. Aries. Type AB blood. And now fourteen years old.
The dark-haired warily considered the sunny Californian house. It was small, in comparison to the London Estate. Less grand, less affluent, less of everything. Which made it all the more different: a new house, a new place, a new life. Here belonged the new life of Adelaide Hui Qing Li Hiiragizawa.
Otherwise known as Mother, newly divorced.
Eriol took a breath. Well, here it goes. He raised a hand to ring the doorbell.
An hour later, Eriol was surprised to learn that she hadn't changed. No, it was relief, to be more accurate. Relief. Sitting across his mother, drinking tea in her new garden, having to deal with her never-aging childish demeanor; it was like nothing changed.
Except the lack of a ring on her finger, and that he would be seeing her less often now.
"I'm home," came a voice from the front hall.
"Oh goody," grinned Adelaide as she put down her cup. "Eriol honey, there's someone I want you to meet. Meiling dear, could you come in here for a sec?" she called louder.
And stepping into their sacred garden was a lanky girl, cascading black hair and fierce eyes. Eriol returned the penetrating stare, recklessly ignoring the feeling that something wasn't right here. An odd piece of the puzzle. But it couldn't be him, right? Adelaide was his mother.
Adelaide leapt up to embrace the newcomer, chattering like a little girl. "Welcome back! How are you feeling? Anything happened today? There's someone here I want you to see."
But it was right there, staring him in the face. Her new house, her new city, her new life.
"Eriol, this is Meiling Li. She's my daughter, so she's your sister. Be a good brother to her now, okay?"
Her new daughter.
…That was how Eriol met Meiling.
Destiny at Work
The Unchanging History: Eriol
No matter how much you cry or blame yourself, you can't change the past… but you can't change history. You can't will it to never have happened… or wish it was only a dream. Thoughts like that are meaningless. They don't change anything. In fact, they only make things worse. –Hokuto Sumeragi, from Tokyo Babylon
Author's Note: Cardcaptor Sakura and its characters rightfully belong to CLAMP. The following characters alluded to in Hitsuzen Twenty-One also belong to CLAMP:
X/1999- Yuuto Kigai and Fuuma Monou
"Thank you. I'm sorry for the trouble," Tomoyo bowed as her executive employees left for the night. She sighed at the remaining stack of folders and papers left in her hands. Eriol's work was going unfinished, but she believed there must be a good reason. He was, at least, working through it. So Tomoyo promised herself, as she waited in the elevator, she'd help out in any way she could.
Even if it meant reassigning Eriol's work to her and other employees in the meantime.
Putting pride aside, Tomoyo trusted Meiling enough to complete the extra work. As she headed down the last corridor, a shout reached her ears.
"People change! I did. I didn't want it anymore."
"Right, you sold out for a million dollars."
The president paused. This wasn't something she should be hearing, but-
"I thought we were friends now."
"So what was it? Was it like you said in the beginning; you're a gold digger? You were using me for money?! Was there another man, is that how my mother paid you off?"
"No…" Meiling-chan shook her head at every accusation, not looking Li-kun in the eye.
"Then what did you do so that my mother could blackmail you and give you a hefty payoff? You were just in it for the money, weren't you?"
"What did I do? All I did wrong was fall in love with you. I did everything to support you, I even moved in with your mother during your summer internship so I could know her better for you! But Yelan did everything in her power to get rid of me, she has been doing so ever since I was living with you when we were kids. She's always hated me, right from the very beginning-"
"So she succeeded!"
"No she didn't, because I still love you!"
Tomoyo's eyes widened. This wasn't happening.
"The only reason I left is because I'm your sister!"
With those last words, the papers fell out of her hands and spilled to the floor with a clatter. Yet Tomoyo's couldn't move. In the lull of the conversation she pressed herself to wall, keeping well hidden and struggling to breathe in her shock.
Syaoran, on the other hand, had turned to look. Finding nothing, he returned to Meiling, only to catch the closing of the fire escape door.
"MEILING!" came the second shout, as Tomoyo numbly sank to her knees. It wasn't until the hurried footsteps retreated that she started hastily gathering the papers.
This changed nothing.
No. This changed everything.
But there wasn't a single thought concerning this. Not one about Meiling or Syaoran or even Sakura. In the blankness of her mind, only one thing remained and that was-
Eriol took a moment to stretch. "Ah, thank you," he said as Spinel placed a cup of coffee before him.
The secretary also helped to clear the table of the finished contracts and documents. "Perhaps a break is in order?"
Eriol took the moment to take off his glasses and wipe them. "I already took the month long break after my engagement, I can't afford to rest now. Reed Industries is slipping into the red as it is." He smiled grimly. "You can say it, you know, Spinel. Such as, 'I brought this on myself,' or 'It's my fault.' I wouldn't mind if you bluntly say it."
She raised an eyebrow. "How will that change anything?" She shrugged. "Well, as long as you know." Eriol smirked.
The house phone and doorbell rang simultaneously. "Who could that be at this hour?" Eriol looked at Spinel, who then went to answer the intercom as he answered the phone.
"Good evening, Aunt Yelan," answered amicably. When Spinel returned she noticed the subtle changes of his expression, finally landing on suppressed annoyance. It was the way he tightened his jaw when he replied, "No. I can swear that I haven't told Syaoran anything. And until we find out the truth, we shouldn't be blaming-"
He glanced at Spinel for a moment and she saved him. "Sir, it's President Daidouji at the gate."
"What?" Sure enough, there she was on the intercom screen and caught in the ever present London drizzle. "Excuse me, Aunt Yelan," and he hung up on her.
The secret was out; the jig was up. He knew from the very beginning it would come to a confrontation. Taking a deep breath, he pressed the intercom button. Start with the arbitrary questions first. "Tomoyo, what are you doing here?" In London, was the unspoken tag.
Tomoyo weakly smiled under her damp hair. "I'm sorry; I know I should've called first. It was just… too important. So important that I had to see you, in person, face to face." She exhaled. "I took a jet," she added.
"I just need you to answer me this one question. This one question, and I'll leave. But I need you to tell me honestly; no secrets, no lies. Just say a yes or a no truthfully and I won't speak of this ever again. Can you promise?"
Eriol paused, taking a peek at the woman on the intercom screen, waiting for his affirmation. Tomoyo must've found out the truth as well. He knew it would eventually come to this. "Yes," he promised. "Ask away."
This time it was Tomoyo's turn to pause. She could ask him anything and he would tell her the truth. Here was her chance.
"Tomoyo?" came his voice over the intercom.
She swallowed, then looked straight into the screen.
"Do you blame yourself for what happened between Meiling-chan and Li-kun?"
"It's all your fault!"
"You're the one who ruined my life, introducing me to Syaoran, and now THIS!"
"Get out! I never want to see you again! Not you, not Syaoran, not this house ever again! I hate you! I hate you, Eriol Hiiragizawa, you good-for-nothing, NOT-a-brother-of-mine!"
He wasn't going to answer. Tomoyo dropped her head when there was no reply. At least there was no lie this time. "Forget I asked. I'm sorry for the trouble."
At that moment, the gates unlatched. She looked back at the intercom screen again. "Eriol…?"
"Come inside, President Daidouji," Spinel told her.
When she entered the warm abode, Eriol had a hot cup of tea ready for her. With a small smile for her as she walked into the living room, "Tomoyo," he greeted.
And without a word, Tomoyo ran across the room to wrap her arms around his tall frame. Eriol was surprised to say the least. "I didn't even tell you my answer."
"I don't care," Tomoyo said, her voice muffled by his chest. "This is what you need."
Just moments ago she could have asked him anything. She could've confronted him about the secret, but she didn't. Instead, Tomoyo worried for his sake.
Touched, Eriol encircled her in his arms to return the embrace. "Thank you," he whispered into the top of her head.
Before the yellow cab even properly stopped in front of the hospital, the door opened and Eriol ran out.
"Adelaide Hiiragizawa," he told the front desk.
Seizure. Surgery. Recovery. When the hubbub had settled, he lastly found his "sister" sitting in the hall, silent and still. Etiquette called for a moment of comfort, didn't it? This cup of coffee was going to be for her.
She noticed him as he neared and turned away for a moment. Returning with an attempt at half a smile, she said, "You came."
Taking the seat next to her, he started with, "The doctors said she had a brain tumor. It's-"
"-cancer?" Meiling's voice hitched.
Eriol blinked. "-benign," he finished. "Not cancerous."
Staring at her as she let go a sigh of relief, she breathed, "Thank god." She turned away again to wipe away a stray tear. "I'm sorry. I don't know why I'm like this."
Another shuddering breath escaped. "It's just… when I think about what would've happened if I had returned home even a minute after…" As if shaking her head could dispel the thoughts. "Thank you for being here. As her son, you must've been a great comfort to her."
While Meiling stifled another sob, Eriol reevaluated his views. Mother was just as important to her as she was to him. When he offered her the coffee, he was being sincere. "Thank you."
His sister accepted the drink, confused. "You saved her life," he explained.
"All I did was call the ambulance." She took a tentative sip in silence.
"I paid the bill."
Meiling turned to him insulted, but thought about it. "Thank you." She took another sip. They continued to sit side by side.
Siblings at last.
"You're my best friend," Eriol told Tomoyo as she drank her tea."You deserve more than just a yes or a no. As for your question-"
"You shouldn't feel guilty," she broke in.
"You don't even know my answer," chided Eriol.
"It's yes," Tomoyo mused as she returned the cup to the table. "To be honest," she confessed, "I hired private detectives when you and Meiling-chan started acting so strangely with Li-kun entering the picture. I couldn't figure it out… but then I learned she was your sister and had the project dropped."
"Why?" he had to ask.
Tomoyo gazed at Eriol sadly. "I decided to wait until you would tell me."
And Eriol remembered all the hints she had dropped, the openings she gave him; perhaps, maybe if he grabbed those chances then things wouldn't have ended up like this.
She broke the tension with a clear of her throat as she replaced the cup on the saucer. "Everything makes sense now. You've claimed the responsibility, shouldering this burden. You've been worried about Li-kun in a new relationship and if Meiling-chan has any lingering feelings. Why you didn't want Li-kun to be the new client, why you were hesitant in finding his partner, trying to protect Meiling-chan…"
Eriol took a breath. "I'll tell you everything."
Eriol looked up from his book to see his visitor. "Syaoran!" he grinned. "Do you go to college here?"
"Yeah," shrugged the brunette. He took a seat at Eriol's table, "Didn't know you did either."
"No in fact, I'm just meeting a friend here. You might know her, she's majoring in business."
"Actually, I'm going into archaeology. Majoring in history."
"Oh, there she is," Eriol found his sister making her way towards them and called out loud, "Meiling!"
"Oh…" she said as she noticed the guest. "You're-
"The other Li," Syaoran nodded. "Math class, right? I'm Syaoran Li."
"I know," Meiling replied a little too quickly. "I mean, I'm Meiling. Meiling Li," she held out her hand. He shook it.
"By any chance, do you have four older sisters?"
She clapped her hands. "I was right. You're Xiaolang! You must not remember me; I'm the girl that lived with your family for a few years."
Recognition struck. "Ah, the pigtailed-girl!"
Meiling had to mock glare at him for that. "I can't believe that's how you thought of me." She thought for a moment then smirked. "So when's the next dress-up with your sisters?"
Eriol hid his grin behind the cover of his book when Meiling received Syaoran's infamous glare. "I was young and easily manipulated," Syaoran stiffly replied. "They don't do that anymore."
"Oh really?" she mocked sighed. "I was about to suggest you wear bright pink next time. It really compliments your complexion."
"No wonder you got along well with my sisters. You enjoy torturing me, don't you?"
Meiling smirked back and Syaoran glared. Meanwhile, Eriol eyed the atmosphere between two, listening to their banter, and then slowly smiled. He quickly stuffed his book into his bag with a hurried, "Sorry Meiling, but I just remembered I have something to do. Syaoran, you'll buy her lunch for me, won't you?" he smiled to him with a slight edge to his voice.
"…Sure," replied Syaoran with a hint of confusion. But then he glanced to Meiling and thought it wouldn't be so bad.
And like that, Syaoran and Meiling were roped into their first date.
"This must be a first," smirked Eriol as he approached his sister while she studied the various bottles of his wine cabinet. "You never visit; much less ask me for anything. But go ahead, take one of my finest."
Meiling rolled her eyes. "Shut up. Besides, the wine isn't the favor I'm asking."
"So you're robbing me in plain sight?"
She smiled sardonically. "It's your gift, I'll have you know." Finally narrowing down her choices to two, she pulled them out for Eriol to see. "Mr. Connoisseur, what do you think is better, this Bordeaux or the Burgundy? When meeting a future mother-in-law, I mean."
Eriol's immediately noticed the ring adorning her finger and simply stared. She looked at her left hand a grin. "You're right, the white wine would be better," and returned the bottle in her right to its spot.
Shaking his head, Eriol smiled. "Didn't think Syaoran had the courage in him."
Clucking her tongue haughtily, "Can't you just say congrats?"
"Isn't that what the wine if for?"
Eriol glimpsed a small smile on her face. "I used to think I'd never get married. But now, I don't want to leave Syaoran's side." Then Meiling shook off her more vulnerable side. "So I'm going to marry him… and I would like it if my father could walk me down the aisle," she said shyly, putting her feelings about this favor out there.
But Meiling's father? He was a complete mystery, to be sure, for the identity probably died along with Meiling's mother. But for someone who had never known a father figure and treated his mother like her own, Eriol nodded.
"Consider it done."
Eriol stared at the contents before him. The car he traveled in rode over a bump and shifted the papers slightly, but failed to change anything. Before him was Meiling's birth certificate, the information filled out by her mother where it clearly stated a well-known name as her father: Syaoran's father. "This can't be right," he finally said. He looked hopefully at Spinel beside him, who shook her head.
"I've verified them myself. It's true."
Sighing, he closed the manila folder, shutting away hidden secrets for now, "Let's go to Meiling's. I have to tell her."
"She's living at Syaoran Li's house this summer," his secretary reminded him.
And so, that darkening afternoon he caught up with his surrogate sister, who also stared at the undeniable proof of her connection to Syaoran. Eriol tried to get a read of her otherwise stoic visage while he waited patiently for her to absorb everything.
Very slowly, she said in a quiet deathly voice, "Get out."
"Meiling, I'm sorry it was like this, but we should talk about this…"
"Get out, Eriol."
Without warning she snapped, forcefully pushing him out of the room. "Shut up! Stop trying with the big brother act! Everything's your fault! It's all your fault," she yelled, her pitch rising higher and higher with her anger. ""You're the one who ruined my life, introducing me to Syaoran, and now THIS!"
She flung the manila folder at him, shock not the only thing hitting Eriol squarely in the face. But she was right, as he agreed with everything. Still apologetic, he attempted to make amends but Meiling would have none of it. "Get out! I never want to see you again! Not you, not Syaoran, not this house ever again! I hate you! I hate you, Eriol Hiiragizawa, you good-for-nothing, NOT-a-brother-of-mine!"
When she slammed the door it was like the closing of their tentative sibling relationship.
"Are you sure we can't give you something?" Eriol asked his best friend the next morning as she prepared to leave. "Airplane food can't possibly be a great breakfast, Tomoyo."
She smiled genuinely. "Eriol, there's no need. I have to get back home; I didn't tell anyone where I was going. You've done enough, letting me stay the night, lending me clothes and money…"
A beat passed as they exchanged small smiles. A weight had been lifted and now their bond was stronger.
Tomoyo broke the moment first. "I'm going to say this for one last time," she nodded slowly, "but it wasn't your fault, Eriol. You couldn't have known about Meiling's father beforehand. You may have played a small part in getting Li-kun and Meiling-chan together but what happened after had nothing to do with you." She cupped his face with her small hands. "You need to stop blaming yourself for this, okay?"
Caught between her hands, Eriol could do nothing but nod speechlessly.
Tomoyo had let the moment continue for a second too long before she finally let go. She smiled ruefully as she smoothed nonexistent creases in her dress, anything to keep her hands busy and her gaze elsewhere. "Now I must really go. Mizuki-san will be angry if I keep you any longer," she joked.
Strangely, Eriol felt a small prick enter his heart when she moment she mentioned Kaho. His mouth went dry. "Actually, Tomoyo… we broke up. Kaho left about a month ago."
Without thinking, Tomoyo enveloped him in a hug like it was natural instinct. This time though, the two eased into it quite comfortably as she fit into the crook of his neck reminiscent of two adjacent pieces of a puzzle.
"You've been suffering alone so much lately," Tomoyo whispered sadly, her lips next to his ear for him to hear. She pulled back a little to look at him in the eye, but not enough to break the embrace. "What kind of best friend am I if I let you shoulder this alone? I want you to tell me these kinds of things, Eriol. Whether you're hurt or sad, I want to know everything. Because I'll always be here, you know?"
Again, Eriol could do nothing but stare into her eyes and couldn't help thinking that they were a lovely shade of amethyst.
"Eriol?" blinked Tomoyo.
"President Daidouji, the car is here," interrupted Spinel. Immediately Tomoyo broke away while Eriol slowly dropped his arms, feeling an odd sort of loss.
"Ah, thank you, Spinel." She gave Eriol one last, lingering smile. "You know how to reach me."
Eriol watched dazedly as her taxi whisked her away, and when she was out of sight he leaned on the wall for support. "Eriol?" worriedly asked Spinel.
Oh My God.
It was always her!
Eriol stopped at the private room numbered 303, the sign in the front bearing his missing sister's name. After years of searching for her, visiting his Mother, and dodging Syaoran all at the same time, he finally found her by chance in a New York newspaper. It was Spinel who noticed the unmistakable markings of Meiling's motorcycle, one of the last charges on her credit card before she disappeared. "Illegal underground racing," it had said, "One female with serious injuries."
He knocked on the door out of courtesy, but didn't bother to wait for the obvious "Come in." Inside he saw Meiling, who immediately glared at him beneath her bandages.
Beside her were two men who Eriol did not care to take notice of. "I want to talk to Meiling. Alone."
One blonde man scoffed. "And who exactly are you?" The other, dark-haired and broad-shouldered also sporting bandages, expressed the same sentiments silently.
"I'm her brother. So get out." With an afterthought, he added, "Please."
Meiling refused to look at him. "How's Adelaide," she asked bluntly.
"Come home," was the answer.
She had said everything she wanted, so the girl remained a stubborn silence. Looking out the window to directly avoid looking at him, it was up to Eriol to start a bridge. "She's fine. Doctors say she'll make it, so thank you. Thank you again for saving her life. However, she is worried and would like to speak with you-"
"You didn't tell her anything, did you?" Meiling lost the battle and turned her head with a sharp and biting response.
"No. That's for you to decide." Before she could close up again, Eriol moved forward and handed her a card. When she glared at the offering with such venom, he took her hand a firmly placed it there. "Tomoyo Daidouji and I are starting a company. I want you to work with us."
Then like that, the conversation was over as she returned to the window.
A new visitor with a get-well bouquet came into the room as well and Eriol sighed. "I can be very persistent, Meiling," he told her. "I'll drag you to Japan if I'm forced to."
She didn't move as he left the room, but her visitor did, watching him leave. When the door closed behind Eriol, he said aloud, "That was him, wasn't it? Eriol Hiiragizawa. Blood type AB. Born March 23, now age 23-"
"I didn't ask for an effing biography," came Meiling's scathing reply as she looked at the business card. "A matchmaking company? You've got to be kidding me!" She ripped the little three by seven inch card into furious tiny pieces.
"But I'm right, aren't I?" her guest asked. His blue earring gleamed.
Meiling studied him for a moment, until a smirk slowly appeared. "Fine. Let's destroy that stupid, tiny company. Destiny at work, my foot."
Tomoyo released the breath she hadn't realized she was holding in when she reached Tokyo-Narita Airport. Pulling out her cell phone, she turned it on, almost dreading what she would find. She went down her mental checklist as she continued to walk out of the airport; first, Meiling. She finally glanced down at her cell that listed the missed activity: 1 voicemail from Fanren, 7 missed calls from Touya, 1 voicemail from Yue, 3 text messages from Fanren, 1 voicemail from Sakura, and 13 missed calls from Fanren. Frowning, Tomoyo decided to call the Li sister first, wondering what the urgent business could be.
"Where have you been?!" Fanren screeched, answering on the first ring.
"I'm sorry, there was business I had to attend to, but I haven't checked my messages yet. What happened, Fanren-san?"
"What happened?! Everything's a mess; Syaoran was so angry and I didn't know what to do... when I tried to talk to him he wouldn't let me explain, he just shook me off and ran away!" Her voice was near hysterical. "I've been waiting for him but I must've fell asleep because he came back, took some clothes, leaving behind his phone and a note that doesn't tell me anything!"
"Wait," breathed Tomoyo, "what?"
"He's gone! Syaoran's disappeared!"
Because I'm your sister!
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