All righty then.
Let's keep moving.
CAPITALS ARE YELLING!!!
Normal letters are regular type, narration, etc.
Underlining is putting emphasis on stuff.
"Quotes are talking," the author said redundantly.
PoV change: Bold
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 didn't speak at all as we rode back home. My throat felt constricted. My face felt flushed, my head felt heavy, and I felt like I was going to throw up. The irony was suffocating. Just one day after our feelings confessed… I was getting betrothed? It wasn't fair…
I wouldn't tell Sakura. I couldn't tell her. We had six months, anyway… Six months.
When we arrived back home, I immediately fell asleep. The next day was sunny and cheerful, and my father announced that I would have no more tutoring lessons, and was free to do whatever I wished with myself on account of my limited time at home. I smiled and shook his hand, and then went outside.
I entered the courtyard. Sakura, as expected, was sitting there. I sat next to her on the bench.
"So, how was your little trip?" she asked.
"Boring," I sighed. "As expected."
"Yep, yep," she said.
We talked, and kissed. And talked some more, and kissed some more. It felt so right, but there was a little nagging voice in the back of my mind that cruelly reminded me of my duty.
When Sakura could see the sun getting lower in the sky, she pulled herself off of me and bid me a quick good-bye, her face and mine equally flushed.
The months that passed were the best of my life. They were truly carefree. I honestly don't know what else to say. Sakura and I became so close that we spent almost every afternoon together. My father didn't even notice… as usual.
It had been five months since I'd been told. I walked down the stairs, my fingers tiptoeing down the ivory banister, sliding down the pearl inlay, brushing the dark, polished wood. I sat on the bottom step and sighed, sighed, sighed. I could almost see the move looming ahead, a dark prospect like a crouching animal waiting to fold me into its evil embrace.
I made a mental list of what I could do to stay with Sakura.
That was as far as I got. My mind was completely and utterly blank, devoid of ideas or plans or anything constructive. I'd felt so lazy, not doing my maths, not remembering laws of etiquette, but I hadn't minded one bit.
Every moment of my day was filled with thoughts of her, whether of her face, her laugh, her melodic voice, or the fact that soon I'd have to leave her, and that I hadn't told her. So often did we kiss that whenever I shut my eyes, I could almost feel her soft lips pressing against mine, my heart thumping, with her back against a soft hill's side and my hands on either side of her. And when I opened my eyes, I was disappointed that they did not meet her immaculate countenance for my hands to caress as her green eyes glimmered into mine. We were so intoxicated with love that we could just sit there, not saying anything, for hours.
I couldn't leave her. Whenever I thought about it, it was like a heavy object dropped on my head and I actually swayed. When I thought about leaving this place, where I'd met her, it felt like a direct stab to my throbbing heart.
Oh, Sakura. How could I tell her?
PoV change: Sakura
He was so perfect. They say that no one is perfect, but Syaoran was the exception to the rule. He was sensitive, and protective, but not invasive, and respectful, and cheerful, and – but I could go on forever just listing about him, listing the things that we'd done, listing about us.
It was getting cold. I wore my ratty, tattered old coat, my worn-out boots. Whenever I breathed out, swirls of mist danced in the air before rising and drifting apart. My eyelashes would be frosted with ice in the mornings, even as I huddled under my threadbare sheet.
I couldn't believe Eriol and Tomoyo were married. They were both seventeen, and though I knew the day would come, it seemed so far away four years ago as we laughed about them being married. They were an idyllic couple, Eriol very handsome, Tomoyo very beautiful. In five months, even more had happened. They had barely talked to me then, and they didn't five months later. The regularity of married life didn't include me. They didn't include me anymore, and although it sounds terrible, I didn't care. I had Syaoran, and he was all I needed.
We met in-between the three hills and talked for a while, my hair slung around my neck, a hat perched around my ears. He sat behind me, my head leaning into his chest, his breath twirling above me and his hands around my waist. We had a sliding contest on the ice that day.
"Do you think the ice's thick enough?" he said worryingly. I snorted, and then coughed. A snowflake had drifted up my nose.
"Of course it's thick enough," I laughed, and leapt onto it before he could stop me. There was a heavy clunk as I landed, not even a hint of a creak. I raised an eyebrow at him and he scowled.
For the next half hour, we skidded wildly across the bumpy ice on our stomachs, laughing giddily as we threw ourselves back onto the bank, world spinning crazily.
"Don't tell me you've never done that before," I chuckled, and nearly threw up. He broke into laughter at me.
"Syaoran! I forgot to tell you," I said. "My birthday's in five days!"
"Really! Oh. Sorry, I forgot to tell you. Mine was three weeks ago. I kinda forgot myself, heh heh," he chuckled.
I stared at him. "SYAORAN! Your birthday was three weeks ago and you DIDN'T TELL ME!?"
"Yeah, well, I forgot myself until my father told me," he muttered defensively, as the ground pulled a white sheet of snow over itself.
"You forgot your own birthday," I said skeptically. He nodded seriously. "Wow, that's actually sort of sad."
"That's funny," he said. "I thought you'd have a spring birthday."
"Why?" I asked.
"Well, spring is the most beautiful season," he whispered. "So I figured such a beautiful girl would be born then."
I rolled my eyes, smiling against my own will as he pulled me towards him for our lips to meet.
It was freezing. The snow was coming down hard now and the light grey sky was darkening slightly. My fingers, even tangled in Syaoran's thick hair, were cold, and through my thin pants, my legs felt like stiff blocks of ice. I swear I felt ice crack as I bent my knees.
Syaoran had a lot of heavy clothing on, and so seemed unperturbed by the weather. When I shuddered, though, we broke apart. He looked confused, his dark eyelashes snowy.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"Oh, nothing. It's kinda cold," I chattered, my teeth clattering together.
"Do you… do you want to come back to the manor with me?" he asked.
"It'll be just as cold in your yard as here, smart one," I laughed through my jittering jaw.
"I meant inside," he said.
"Oh. Well then… yes please," I murmured, my voice hushed by the snow collapsing onto me. Syaoran pulled me close to him and brushed off my hair, and we started to walk.
Once we reached the manor, we climbed over the wall around the back. Syaoran told me his room was at the back side of the third floor, and that there was a drainpipe leading right to it. He climbed up first, and as I followed him, I felt a sickening thud as déjà vu descended upon me.
I was twelve years old, on a summer's day, and Eriol was following me. I reached the roof, and my best friends departed, leaving me alone. As I went down through the house and out into the courtyard, the best thing that had ever happened to me occurred.
I met a boy with shaggy dark brown hair and dark eyes, thinking him childish, and I agreed to return to him.
I looked up at Syaoran. He smiled gently and opened the window. We both clambered inside, fingers aching from sudden heat.
"Wow," I exclaimed. "How's it so warm in here?"
"Insulation," he explained. "We keep everything in here shut, doors and windows, and block them up with pieces of cloth and stuff to keep heat from escaping."
I looked around his room. There was a huge bed to my left, and two bookshelves to my right. Next to the bed was – my eyes widened – a hand-drawn picture of me. I walked slowly over to it.
"Who drew that?" I asked.
"I did, silly," he chortled, and I stared rudely.
"You can draw really well!" I said. He blushed.
"Not really," said Syaoran.
I turned around and nearly screamed. I saw a girl, standing across the room from me! I walked closer, and the other girl did the same thing. As I lifted my hand, so did she.
"Um, what are you doing?" questioned Syaoran. I blushed and grinned.
"Why is there another girl here?" I asked.
"That's a mirror," he explained. "You look at yourself in it."
"That's me?" I murmured.
"Well, yeah," he said. "Haven't you ever looked into still water, seen your reflection there?"
I raised my eyebrows and watched my expression change. "Yes, but this is weird. Are my eyes really green?"
"Yes, Sakura, your eyes are green," he sighed, and walked over next to me.
I couldn't understand it. I looked so like a peasant, with my lumpy coat and too-small hat, and my overlarge boots and worn breeches. Why did Syaoran, with his never-ripped garments, even look at me? I swallowed a lump in my throat and turned around. I walked straight into Syaoran and sat down hard on the floor, scowling.
He helped me up, and we lay down next to each other on his large bed.
"You have such a nice house," I said randomly.
"Well, it cost enough," he chuckled, and I smiled.
He removed my hat, boots, and coat for me as I lay lazily there.
"Anyway. You told me your birthday's in a week! You're going to be seventeen, right?" he said to the ceiling.
"Yeah," I told the ceiling. "Big whoop. Closer than ever to marrying age."
I thought I felt him twitch. "Your dad talk about it any more?" he said darkly.
"Not yet, but I think he will soon," I whispered. "I don't want to get married! I want to stay with you," I sighed, and snuggled closer to his warm body, my fingers starting to get some feeling again. He put his arm around my shoulders and my head fit perfectly into the crook of his neck. I closed my eyes.
"Sakura, wake up," I heard a soft voice say. "Wake up."
I opened my eyes groggily. Had I actually fallen asleep, right there? How humiliating!
"Oh, I'm sorry," I crackled, and lifted my body from the bed. "What time is it?"
"About eight," he replied, looking out of the window.
"Eight?" I yelped. "I need to go… we have dinner at eight!"
"I'll see you tomorrow," he said with a calm smile, and kissed me goodbye. My hands moved down the iced drainpipe as I crept out of the window. His face slipped out of sight, and I thought I saw his smile droop slightly.
My legs hit the snow and I blinked as I sank into it up to my waist. I closed my eyes and sighed. I shuffled through it to the wall and made a quick exit.
"Sorry, I got lost… it's so snowy," I said to my father upon entering the house.
"It's fine, sweetie. As long as you're here," he said with an odd smile. I started to eat my soup, and he merely watched me.
"Aren't you going to eat?" I asked.
"I already ate. I had a business transaction," he responded.
Swallowing, I said, "Oh, really? What'd you sell?"
"Well, I didn't sell it, it was more like a trade," my father said uneasily.
"What, the forge?"
He sighed and put his fingers to his eyes, rubbing them. "No, sweetheart. Your hand in marriage."
I heard my fork clatter to the table as I stared into my father's face, my eyebrows pointed upwards in disbelief.
"I'm not getting married," I said.
"I don't see why not," my dad snapped, and began to eat. "Besides, Hiroshi is a cute guy, as you girls say."
"Hiroshi?!" I shrieked. "You mean the one who threw a dog into a fire?" The dog had escaped, but Hiroshi's reputation hadn't gone so unscathed.
"Sakura. It is arranged. You are getting married, and that's final."
My hands shook. I slurped the last of my soup and stood up. I ran into my room.
I closed my eyes, trying to block the world out of my head. I imagined Hiroshi, who was attractive, but nasty, and slashed his image into shreds.
I woke up with the cruel winter's sun glaring at me. A tear dripped into my hand. I merely shook, sobbing, and went back to sleep.
The whole day I pondered going to see Syaoran and juggled my options. I ate without conviction, breathed only by instinct, and closed my eyes in disbelief every time I thought the word 'marriage'.
The days following were similar. On the second day, I was walking down the street and saw Eriol and Tomoyo, arm in arm. They cast a glance at me that warned me away. On the third day, I left the village and slid on the ice. My mind churned as I spun across dizzyingly, and I threw up, again, and again, and started to sob. On the fourth day, I saw Hiroshi in the village. He waved hello to me and gave me a cold smile, visibly eyeing my body and not even talking to me, as if I were an animal for sale.
I turned seventeen, but it didn't seem to matter. As I sat on the chair in my room, I heard a distant rap at the door.
I answered and gasped. Syaoran stood in the doorway, his nose red, his ears pink, his eyes glinting.
"Syaoran!" I invited him in immediately. We stood in the corner of the living room.
"It's your birthday. I brought you something," he said, with a smile.
"What is it?"
He brought out the flower he had won from the festival months and months ago. It was a snowdrop, beautiful and delicate.
I breathed out. Its white, shimmering surface shone at me.
"Yeah?" he said, smiling wider.
"My father gave my hand in marriage to someone. I'm engaged."
He dropped the pot. It smashed.
"You what?" he whispered.
"I'm betrothed to someone from the village," I said in a choked voice.
"No…" Syaoran breathed.
"Sakura, I should have told you this before, but I'm moving," he blurted suddenly.
"Moving? To where?" I gasped.
"The capital," he said heavily. I closed my eyes and leaned against the wall.
"When?" I asked.
"Two weeks and five days," replied Syaoran.
"You should go," I murmured.
He brought his face to mine, and his cheekbone banged into my temple. My tears leapt onto his cheeks as his lips pressed clumsily against mine, and then he left.
I looked at the ground. The flower lay against the dirt floor. I scooped a handful of dirt out of the ground, placed the snowdrop into the hole, and filled it in, the sun glowing into my house.
The next morning was a slow one. My eyes opened onto a frosty ceiling. Icicles hung from my square window.
A tear rolled up to my eyelid and leapt from my eyelashes. It slid down off the curve of my cheek to the bottom of my ear. It seemed like yesterday that I had realized, and just as quickly, we were being torn apart. I was betrothed, and Syaoran was moving… Syaoran was moving.
There was a harsh knock on the door. "One moment!" I called, and slipped on my clothes, hastily running my fingers through my hair. Maybe it was Syaoran, and he had come to say that he was not moving after all, and –
I saw jet-black hair and icy light blue eyes. It was Hiroshi.
"Oh, hi," I said, trying to mask my disappointment. "Tanaka-san." He did not reply.
"Sorry, so rude of me. Come in, Tanaka-san," I stuttered. He stepped inside and brushed snow off his arms.
He smiled disarmingly. My breath caught. He really was very attractive, and the smirk he had on now was so hot. I might even have had a crush on him if he weren't an awful person. "Come on," he said in a scratchy, confident voice. "You don't need to be so formal. Call me Hiroshi."
I looked coldly at him. "Sure, Tanaka-san."
He smirked again. "You're cute."
I shrank away as he moved closer. My back met the plaster wall. He moved his lips to my ear and said in a low, husky voice, "I'm lucky. I thought I'd get stuck with some ugly bitch." He smiled predatorily, and I shivered as his cold lips touched the edge of my jawbone.
"Stop!" I whispered, and put a hand on his chest, pushing him away slightly.
"All in good time," he replied. "Anyway, we're courting now, so…" He trailed off suggestively, and I gave him an icy glare. "Your dad told me to take you to dinner tonight. I like your dad, he's a cool guy."
"And I like him a little less after this," I muttered resentfully.
"Come on, baby," Hiroshi laughed. "Give me a chance. How about I pick you up outside your door at seven thirty?"
I sighed. Perhaps I was being a bit harsh. After all, I knew most of my bias stemmed from the fact that Hiroshi was not Syaoran. And he could hardly help that part. Maybe he had also changed since he was 9 (and ridiculously cruel to animals).
"Yeah, okay," I replied.
Before I knew what had happened, Hiroshi leaned in and gave me a quick kiss on the lips before waving goodbye and heading out the door. I stood, shocked, for a few seconds, then blinked and made my way back through my tiny home.
I slumped back onto my bed, fighting my tears. I had realized my feelings in the space of four days, and it seemed like just four more since we had been in the heart of our love. Those five months could never be relived. They were gone always and forever.
PoV change: Syaoran
I was in a deplorable state. I was able to do little more than stare dejectedly at my ceiling, huddled beneath my sheets, at two hours past noon. I had drawn the maroon velvet drapes so that the wintry sun would not pierce my darkness. I was conflicted about our present condition - should I be weaning myself off of her, so as to make an cleaner break out of practice, or should I be spending every waking moment with her in an effort not to be denied, even if it was only temporary?
Either way, it was hopeless.
And she was betrothed.
I was filled with a sudden rage. No one was good enough for her. She deserved whatever and whoever she wanted. And that was me, right?
I descended into doubt. Surely, if she begged hard enough, she could have stopped her father from getting her married? Did she really love me like I - like I -
But then I remembered I was moving, anyway, and I would be married too, and everything seemed to stop mattering, and I fell into a shallow and restless sleep.
PoV change: Sakura
I was hoping he would be late so I'd have an excuse to dislike him from the start. But no, he was actually 5 minutes early, by the village clock. In fact, the whole evening was rather pleasant. Hiroshi was the perfect gentleman, or as much so as someone from the village could possibly be.
It was awful. He was funny and engaging (no pun intended), and every time I smiled my heart broke a little more, because I was acknowledging that I was betrothed.
Before I knew it, two and a half weeks had passed. They sped by in dread. Hiroshi, it seemed, had changed a lot from the brat he used to be. It killed me to see my father so smug, though.
I snapped at him one time. "Just because he's a nice guy doesn't mean I don't wholeheartedly and completely disagree with this!" I yelled, and stormed into my room, thankful I had one to storm into.
It was the day before he left. I knew if I was to see him, I would have to go today. Syaoran. Syaoran. Did I want to - should I? - go and see him?
The day ticked swiftly by, and I lay in my bed, crying myself into hysterics. "Oh, God," I cried, the muscles in my neck straining. "Oh, God! Help me," I screamed into my mattress. Exhausted, I sniffled, and realized I wasn't actually sleepy at all. I rose, and knew I could not let him go without seeing him. It was past midnight - probably about one or two in the morning, but I was perfectly awake as I snuck out of the village gate, perfectly awake as I dashed over the hills to the manor, such a familiar route, one I could not bear not taking ever again.
With practiced ease I scaled the back wall, taking care not to disrupt the guards' gentle slumber. I pulled myself up the freezing drainpipe with a bit more difficulty.
I looked in through Syaoran's window, and was met with a sheet of red velvet. What?!
I pushed the window open and slid in, clawing at the velvet. It slid open. Oh. They were curtains.
I closed and latched the window, and went over to the bed. For a moment I was fearful that I'd climbed into the wrong window. But then I saw his tousled hair and the side of his sleeping face, and I knew not only that I had the right window, but that I had done the right thing in coming.
"Wake up," I said softly.
He turned over, fully awake, and gave me a frosty look. I recoiled. "Go away," he murmured. "Stop appearing!"
"What?" I whispered. "You... don't want me here?"
He blinked, and his brow furrowed. "Wait. Sakura?"
"Is that... is that you?"
"Of course it's me," I said quietly. "What did you-"
"I'm not asleep?"
I snorted. "You sort of should be, it's 3 in the morning."
He propped himself up on a forearm. "Come here," he said. "Let me..."
As I leaned closer, his right hand reached for me. His arm could not stretch far enough, so I pulled myself onto his soft mattress, which sank under my hands and knees as if it knew their shape.
Syaoran's hand traced up and down my arm, and then to my face. He sat straight up and pulled the covers from him. He looked terrible. His eyes were rimmed with red and bloodshot, and there were unusual circles beneath them. His hair was screwed up in every way, and he had a dim 5 o'clock shadow shading his chin. But when he knelt facing me, I could only pay attention to the love on his face.
I chuckled softly, "You look awful. What have you been-"
I didn't get to finish my sentence. Syaoran practically threw himself onto me. His lips pressed against mine amid his hot breath. I lay back on the pillow and held his sweet face in my hands, my heart racing faster than it did during my 4-mile sprint to his house.
The window sprang open and blew a gust of icy air towards us, making him shiver. He was bare-chested.
He rolled away and undid some ropes on the four posts of his bed. Velvet curtains shut us into another world.
"Sakura... I am so in love with you," he murmured, curled around me protectively.
I searched for a response. Nothing could compare with his soft, sweet voice, his musical words. "I will never stop loving you," I whispered, and my eyes started to drip salty tears. We slipped beneath his heavy blankets, which felt like heaven on my chapped skin. I slipped my arms around his bare back and pressed my head to his chest miserably, sobs now slipping through my defense.
He held me as tight as possible and buried his nose in my hair. "Don't cry," he pleaded. "Don't cry."
I looked up into his face and closed my eyes as he brought up a finger to brush my tears aside, also pulling aside the veil that shadowed my glowing heart. I rolled onto his chest and kissed him furiously, hoping he could just melt into the mattress so they could not take him from me. His dark eyes burned into me and he just held me, just held me there, and our conversation was scattered for the rest of the night. We didn't sleep. My heart didn't calm down a bit.
As the sun started to rise, there was a knock on the door. "Hide!" hissed Syaoran. I slipped further beneath the covers. Syaoran got out of the bed and answered the door. I heard his father's low voice.
"Why is your bed like that?" his father demanded.
"I got cold," Syaoran said in a tone of deference.
I could almost hear his father's calculating stare. "Well, we're leaving in five hours. I expect you fully dressed and packed when the coach arrives."
"Yes, father," Syaoran said. "Is it okay if I go back to bed for a bit?"
"If you're there on time," his father said coldly, "I couldn't care less what you do."
The door shut quietly.
I slid back up from under the covers as Syaoran rejoined me.
"That's your dad?" I said uncomfortably. "He's a bit... stiff..."
Syaoran laughed and played with my hair, gazing with absolute rapture at me. "That's how he is."
There was a long pause. He continued, "You - I am going to miss you - so much."
I was absolutely mortified to see a single tear slide from his chocolate eye. "Are you - are you crying?" I said insensitively, in disbelief.
He let out a loud sniff and said, "I've been doing a lot of that lately. I thought you were a dream last night because in my dreams you always came..."
I clutched him close and kissed him softly. Kissed his nose, his swollen eyelids, his sweaty forehead, his unkempt hair, his strong jaw, his smooth ears, his beautiful face, and he slowly leaned up as I pressed my lips to his.
Before I knew it, there was the synchronized chiming of 11 o'clock by every clock in Syaoran's house. It was deafening.
It seemed like only seconds after that when the half-hour bell sounded, and then I went into hysterics.
He held my shoulders firmly. "You are a strong, beautiful, amazing woman, and I will find you, and I will never stop searching - no, shush, it's going to be okay, everything is going to be fine."
I felt him swallow. "Everything," he said with less conviction, "is going to be fine. Get married. I don't care. I'll be there for you... I will, I will."
His warm lips pressed against my forehead, and I heard a shout from his father. "Syaoran! You have fifteen minutes!"
He jumped out of the bed and I looked away, preserving his dignity as he threw on his noble clothes. He threw the rest of his clothes into a wooden suitcase and snapped its catches shut. Then he slowly folded up the drawing he had of me and tucked it into a tiny box, which he then closed and tucked into the suitcase.
Syaoran walked up to me, holding something in his hands. I could not take my eyes off his to see what he was holding.
It was the moon necklace. He reached forward and snapped it around my neck with ease, his calm gaze not leaving me.
The clock started to strike twelve. I ran into his waiting arms and smashed my lips to his. His arms gripped my back and my nose dug into his cheek, and we parted clumsily.
He grabbed his suitcase, kissed me one last time, desperately, fearfully, and sprinted out his door, amber eyes not leaving mine until he was around the corner, and then I was standing there, hearing the hurried footfalls down the steps echo away.