The first vision struck when he was fifteen, tall and pale and already beginning to show signs of the Sight. It was the first thing he ever Saw, and it was only many years later that he understood it for what it was –
A sweep of silver hair –
and that was all, one brief flash, so quick that he couldn't quite decide whether it was the disorientation alone or if the true vision had been forgotten. He wished he could ask someone about it, but most of the Seers in his family were dead, including his mother, who had passed her gift to him.
The second time, there was more detail, and Clow was prepared. He was thirty now, a force to be reckoned with even if he was young by the standards of most magicians; already, he had begun to diverge from the traditional forms he had been brought up in, both Chinese and European, towards a brand of magic that was his alone. It was a lonely task; not many dared to experiment with magic, much less attempt a blending of the two schools. The fact that he had the Sight made him even stranger in their eyes. The second vision was heart-stopping, as he caught his first glimpse of something so beautiful that his heart twisted as –
A sweep of silver hair as he turned around, snow-white wings wrapping around, icy blue eyes filled with –
some emotion that he couldn't identify rose up in him.
It was a powerful vision, and of great significance since it was of the same person as his first, but too fragmented to make much sense. Clow set it aside carefully and concentrated on his studies.
Inevitably, his unconventional approach to his magic led to disagreements with his family, on both sides. His father's family was disappointed that he had chosen to remain in 'that barbarous country', but he also knew that they were secretly glad as well. He was a half-breed, after all; his silky black hair and the tilt of his face marked his Oriental ancestry. His mother's clan were more accepting, perhaps because he was still interested in their more flexible brand of magic; but there, too, he was called barbarian and outsider.
So he retreated to Japan, away from both branches, trying to piece together some part of himself that he had –
Icy blue eyes filled with the moon's light as it silhouetted him, harvest moon and moon-child beneath it, standing in the window of a large elegant study in the house he had –
never seen, never known. He sought that place, sought it desperately, as if the physical location would give him more clues about these mysterious visions – even though he knew that the visions came when they would, showed what they wished, hid what they pleased.
He found it finally, a dilapidated mansion in a place that, many centuries later, would be known as Tomoeda. He spent a few days rebuilding it, hiding it from the eyes of everyone with magic and compulsion. In a window where the harvest moon would shine, the room he had known he would spend most time in, he spent weeks making everything just as it had been in the vision, exactly as it had been, down to the last detail.
When he was finished, he waited, waited with painful hope for someone – anyone – to come walking (or flying) down the gate no ordinary human could see and greet him with easy familiarity or tentative hope; some fragment of the future he had seen, which ached and pulled and made him wonder.
Nothing happened, but he didn't mind. He had time.
And that time passed, and it was hard for him to remember how much. He travelled, and rested, and studied, and prepared for something he couldn't understand –
Standing at the window of a large elegant study in the house he had bought, and he turned to Clow, and his pale, perfect brow creased, conflicted –
but he knew how important it was, and that was all that mattered.
Things began to come together, after nearly a century of research. A way to focus his magic into created beings, allowing himself greater flexibility – like a pre-cast spell, but without the effort and time required to make one.
Filled with energy and hope, he began to work. Within a month he had made his first creation, an elemental spirit named Windy. It flowed easier after that, and soon he had made a full deck of fifty-two cards, channelling one aspect of his own magic into each of them. He created a vessel in which they could be safely stored, a book that could hold in all their magic in the event of his not being there to control them. Finally, he made a Guardian to hold the book closed, a winged lion named Keroberos. It seemed that all was finished. He had absolute control over his own powers now; could use them without thought, much less a spell.
But something was still –
His pale, perfect brow creased, conflicted, and he said, 'What is my purpose, then?' Clow reached out to brush a tender hand over his cheek. He knew what he should say –
incomplete, and Clow felt it keenly.
Time passed, quicker than before – or was it only that he felt it more? His life was filled with laughter and delight and discovery and power, but there was still that curious absence in his heart that, when it spoke to him, sang a wordless song of patient aching waiting.
He began Dreaming, fractured dreams of cherry blossoms, a bell and a wand and silver-blue eyes in moonlight. These dreams disturbed him, set as they were in the far future – a future, they had assured him, he would not live to see.
What will you do with your creations, they whispered. What will they do when you are gone? When your power no longer sustains them? Will you let them die? What will you do? –
'What is my purpose, then?' Clow reached out to brush a tender hand over his cheek. He knew what he should say –
He could see other things in the future as well: another Li, his own reincarnation, a red-haired woman with mysterious power; a tall serious boy with dark, wise eyes, protector and beloved of a friend who was not quite human but who didn't know it yet. When he dreamt finally of a girl, a girl with short brown hair and innocent green eyes, Clow understood. There was time, and time, but he had to prepare for when there would not be.
The Cards needed a balance. Someone more human, someone more objective and rational. One who saw deeper than the Sun Guardian. Someone who could judge the worthiness of his successors.
This would be his last, his greatest magic; the last protection he could give his legacy. He knew his death was close – a lifetime away, but still close – and this was inevitable –
He knew what he should say; this was the moment when he should, by all rights, reveal that Yue was the last step towards cementing the future of his creations, his family. It was best for both of them if he told Yue now, before the confession he knew Yue wanted to make. It would spare them both so much –
and Clow had always made the right decisions.
He cast his magic forth then, on the winter solstice when he was most powerful, wild and untamed, an older magic than the carefully structured Cards, older than the magics he had been brought up learning, old as the sun and the stars and the inky dark of space. He called forth a balance, one who was made to protect, to judge, to perceive, to preserve. And the magic obeyed him, and when it was all over, the very moon stood before him, caught and transformed into silver hair, cat-slit eyes and pale, detached features and oh, he was more beautiful than anything Clow had ever imagined, and it almost painful how…bright…his second Guardian shone on that darkest night of the year.
Bittersweet, that moment. When he realised that what – who – he had been waiting for all his life would only come to him after so much time, so close to the end. That the one thing he had always sought, always needed, would never truly be his. But that was irrelevant, that was not the concern of this moment, and he had always been good at living in the present even if he was continually planning for the future – and he could see that what he had drawn to himself had drawn him as well, and even though he had not intended it the magic had called forth what he needed most, and what, consequently, needed him –
It would spare them both so much, if he just told him the true reason now, and so Clow drew him close, a warm embrace, comforting and healing, preparing Yue for the gentle rejection he had oh-so-carefully prepared –
He knew then the pattern that their lives would take; knew the heartbreak and loss that lay ahead for both of them; knew how deeply he would wound and betray this beautiful creature that stood before him; knew that what he saw at this moment, this wonder, this pain, this delicate newborn love, would some day belong to someone else; knew how badly it would hurt him to leave him, to succumb to mortality, and to renounce that emotion in his next life as well; but he knew, also, that if he denied this call tonight, as he was free to do, he would never have another chance; if this slipped between his fingers he would not even taste that brief joy that lay ahead on this path; and perhaps, if he did not, they would be happier, but their lives less rich.
And so, with accustomed grace, he accepted his fate and that of the one he would love – already loved – had loved for so long whether he knew it or not – and the name came to him then.
'Yue,' he whispered, falling unconsciously into the language of his childhood, and the vision completed itself.
And he broke, and he lied.