Italics… thoughts…

CAPITALS ARE YELLING!!!

Normal letters are regular type, narration, etc.

"Quotes are talking," the author said redundantly.


Summary:

My mother used to tell me that the higher you aim, the farther you're gonna have to fall. And let me tell you, I think I've just aimed about as high as it can get: Li Syaoran, the son of a lord. And then there's me, Sakura Kinomoto, the blacksmith's daughter, who's not planning to fall any time soon.


I knew I'd be someone different from the first day I saw my dad come home from work sweaty and disgruntled. Nuh-uh, I thought. That's not me. Totally middle-class, that's us. Me and my brother, and my dad, the village blacksmith. School? Yeah, right. That's for rich kids. My dad always says that the only thing you need in life is survival, whatever it takes.

And look where that got him. Swollen fingers from hitting them too often with a hammer or some other large, metal tool. Looked down on by everyone. Barely enough to get by on.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I love my dad – but sometimes I sit there, and I wonder if he's right.

I'm twelve. My friend, Tomoyo, the seamstress's daughter, 12. Her betrothed, Eriol, the miller's son, 12. Our village, in the middle of nowhere, in the midst of gently rolling hills and lots of sheep and lakes with cute little goslings swimming around on the surface. Which is great, except there's nothing there. Our country, in the middle of a war. That's my life. That's what I'm born into. That's all I've ever known.

And I know I want more.

So there's a huge manor about a mile north, perfectly situated on top of a hill, like it's overlooking its domain or something. Me and Tomoyo, we usually stay at home, but when Eriol's there, me and him usually team up against her and we end up going out of the village, running around, swimming fully clothed in the river. We even went to that manor once.

We snuck up on it, like it was a wild beast that'd as soon attack us as see us. Behind a hill, we surveyed it and pretended to be daring spies who had to infiltrate the manor's security system. There was a wall going around the low hill and some of the surrounding area. We slipped through the large gate, and gasped at the sight. It was filled with lush courtyards, trees, and orchards, filled with little ponds and ornaments and stone benches that made me want to stay there forever.

Remembering our mission, we slowly crept up the back of the hill towards the actual, huge building. Eriol first, then me, then Tomoyo. We stood with our backs flat against the huge stones, and edged under windows and around gutters. I looked at a long pipe, which went up, and up, and up, and looked at Eriol. We smirked and looked at Tomoyo, who met our gaze as hers widened in horror.

I shimmied up the pipe, the large stones providing perfect footholds, the summer sun sizzling at my bare calves. I grappled with its slippery surface for a moment, and then grabbed onto a stone jutting from the wall and hoisted myself higher.

I was three stories up, I looked down, and Eriol was right behind me, and Tomoyo right behind him. I grinned and swung onto the roof.

"Whoa. You can see for ages up here," said Eriol, awestruck, looking out over the sunlit land.

"Yeah," Tomoyo said, and looked as well.

Unimpressed, I looked around the roof. It was slanted, and black, and had four chimneys.

I leaned precariously over the edge of the roof and looked into a window upside-down. It was deserted.

"Hey, guys," I whispered. "Wanna take… a closer look?" I snickered and pointed at the window.

"Sakura," Eriol breathed. "You're insane."

"Yeah. No. I've gone far enough. I'm going back," said Tomoyo stubbornly. "I'll make a nice dress or something." And so saying, she slipped back down the pipe and headed back, closely followed by Eriol, who gave me a regretful look.

Tomoyo was so lucky to be engaged to someone decent. I'd have to be married off to someone repulsive, most likely. I peered into the window once again, my tunic hanging off me, my breeches rippling in the light breeze. It looked beautiful in there, with cream wallpapering and carved furniture.

I had made up my mind.

I silently dropped down onto the windowsill and undid the window's catch. As soon as I was inside, I shut the window, surprised no one could hear my breathing in the huge place.

There was something under my feet. It looked like a, a piece of cloth. I curiously inspected it. It was dyed, and soft, with little bundles of rope coming off the end. I recalled Tomoyo having one of these things. A, a- what did she call it? A rug, that's right. This one was huge.

I crept around the room, looking at the furniture and the tall shelves on the wall, lined up with rows of what must have been books. Things with stories written in them, things that you were supposed to learn from if you went to school. I took one down and opened it, expecting diagrams or something. It was filled with scribbles, with tiny characters. I squinted at them, trying to see if they were pictures. Eh. I replaced it on the shelf, and hardly believing my own nerve, snuck out of the room.

I was in some sort of hallway, filled with stones that froze my bare feet, with yet more rugs on the ground and pictures on the wall. My heart thudded nervously, erratically against my ribcage, so hard that it was startling that dirt didn't fall from in-between the stones from the vibrations. I looked from left to right shiftily. There were more rooms! I peeked through a small hole under the knob of one. That room was deserted as well, so I pushed open the door curiously. Inside was a bedroom with a bed that looked too good to sleep in, too good even to touch. There was nothing much else there except a few windows, so I exited.

I looked through another one of the funnily shaped holes in another door, and my breath caught in my throat. There was a person in this one. A stern-looking man with a strong jaw and slanted eyes, with thick black hair. I stumbled down the hall, at the end of which I came to some interesting structures. They went downwards, curving, and looked like blocks had been taken out of the floor. I stepped down one. Step, step, step. I discovered that they went all the way down to the next floor! Then again, as none of the buildings in our village had more than a single story, the fact that I'd never seen these 'steps' wasn't surprising in the least.

There was another hall with numerous rooms. I continued down the steps all the way to the ground floor, tense excitement making me nearly forget how to breathe. I saw a pair of large double-doors at the end of this hall, but there were yet more doors lining this place, so I didn't exit yet.

I looked, startled, at one door. This one had no hole under the knob! How would I know if it was inhabited? Cautiously, I opened it a crack. Inside was a kitchen, with people working inside it. Before they could notice the door opening, I had shut it and dashed down to the next door. This one, too, had no hole, so I prayed as I opened the door. There was no one there. It had a large table, with a lot of paper on it, also filled with the type of scribbling I had seen inside the books upstairs. I shook my head and exited out of the window.

The sun was glorious in the yard of the huge manor. I frowned with barely restrained curiosity as I saw that there was a tall stone wall closing off a certain segment of it. I opened the wooden door and found myself inside yet another courtyard, even more beautiful than the ones before. The tall walls sent slanting shafts of shade over my face, and there was a solitary, drifting willow tree. There was stone all around a raised pond in the center of the courtyard, and flowering vines crept up the stone wall.

There was only one thing wrong with the picture.

Someone was inside, someone who had heard the door open and close, someone with brown hair and dark eyes.

Someone who had noble features and fancy clothing, someone who belonged to the manor, someone who was looking straight at me.

Oh. I was petrified, unable to think or budge an inch, frozen in his stare.

He stood up.

"Who are you?" he said, his cultured, clipped tone making me feel inferior somehow. "You're not supposed to be here, are you?"

He surveyed me, eyes taking in my stained tunic, my patches breeches, my torn stockings, my bare feet.

"Ah…" I said, unsure if he wanted a reply or if it was a purely rhetorical question.

"Where are you from? Why are you here?"

Oh dear, unanswerable questions. Hm. I'm from the commoners' village over yonder, and I'm here to trespass. That might not go down too well. However, he wasn't calling the stern-looking guards whom I'd seen at the front door.

"Are you from the village?" he said after a long silence.

"Yes," I said firmly. Finally, a question I could respond to.

"I'm Syaoran Li, Lord Kazuhiro's son. What's your name?"

"Sakura," I said. There was something strange about him. Although he looked my age, maybe even a little older, he acted like he was eight or nine, trusting and telling me more than I'd tell anyone.

"Are you allowed in here?" he asked. I shook my head.

"I don't think so," I said uneasily.

"Don't worry, I won't tell," he reassured, and again I got that strange sense of childishness. "What do you do in the village?"

"Um, my dad makes stuff," I said, again making sure not to reveal too much.

"Ah, an artisan," he said interestedly. I pretended to know what the word meant.

"Sure…"

"Where do you go to school?" he asked brightly.

I nearly spluttered with laughter until I saw that he was serious.

"I don't go to school," I said. His face registered mild surprise.

"Really? Then what do you do? Do you play an instrument?"

"Do I do what?" I asked, confused. An instrument? What was that?

"An instrument. You know, like the horn or the harpsichord," he said earnestly.

"Um, no," I said, baffled.

"Oh… then what do you do all day?" he asked, confused.

"I don't know, I just-" I realized that I didn't really do anything on a regular basis. "I just kinda … play," I said lamely, knowing how juvenile I sounded.

"Really? You're so lucky!" he said, with something close to envy in his voice. "I wish I didn't have to learn anything."

"Yeah, but you can't do anything without learning things," I argued.

"I guess," said the boy – what was his name? – Li. "Anyway, you'd better go before the guards come looking for me." He stood, and, as he scratched his face, I noticed something horrible. On his left hand, there was a carved wooden pinky finger, stuck onto the knuckle! I stared openly.

"What is it?" he said.

"Ah, nothing," I said, looking away from his hand suddenly.

"Is it my finger?" he said sadly. "It had to get cut off when I got really sick when I was younger." I winced at the image.

"I'm sorry," I managed. "I should go now."

"Wait," he said. "Can you come back tomorrow?"

"Uh," I said. "I don't know…"

"Well, if you can, I'll wait in this garden at four o'clock," he said, smiling at me. I nodded slowly, dashed out the door, and slipped out of the manor's grounds completely and utterly unseen.

Compared to the manor, my village, which had never seemed too plain before, looked dull and bare, even with the people bustling around, preparing for the festival the next day. The brightly colored paper fluttering in the breeze caught my eye, and I started to help decorate, however useless the adornment looked in my eyes.


Hope you liked it. Review, por favor! You know that makes my day!

Don't worry, they'll get older soon. Really soon. (Wink)

Gollum