Summary: Sakura is a famous fanfiction author. Syaoran is the best beta she's ever had. They share a world made of the words and tales they weave and write. But they don't know that they know each other...in real life.
Full Summary: He promised he'd come back for her. She promised to wait for him. But a misunderstanding creates a giant rift between Sakura and Syaoran, enough to break the powerful friendship they once shared. To escape fate's blows, Sakura seeks solace in fanfiction and soon becomes a famous author on the busy Fanfiction Corner, under the alias Sayuri. She's lucky enough to meet Lang, and he becomes her greatest fan, faithful beta, and online buddy/soulmate. Wait until she finds out that "Lang" is really Syaoran, the cause of all her troubles...
a/n: Has it really been two years? Wow.
To everyone who's stayed with this story: you're like the little readers who could. I don't even recognize this fandom anymore, but you guys are about the biggest reason why I do stick around now and then.
Anyway, less questions and more answers!
Chapter Nine. Echo
The sound of footsteps thudding down the hall echoes around the house.
"What happened?" Meiling's voice asks from the middle of the hallway.
I bite my lip, glaring daggers at the corner of my bedstand.
"Nothing," I call back to her. "Stubbed my toe, that's all."
I can hear her snort through the crack in my door, its condescension curling around my room blithely.
"Well, when you're done moping, you can hurry up and pick up the phone, because it's for you," she says. The receding sounds of her footsteps, now soft and padding leisurely across the plush carpeted floor, tell me that she's returning to her room.
Oh right. Phone.
I reach for the receiver propped up by my bedside, picking it up and flopping down on top of my bedspread simultaneously.
"Xiao Lang!" squeals a sharply high-pitched voice that I recognize all too well. "It's been so long!"
I can't help but let out a small laugh as Sheifa babbles on in that breakneck pace that only she can maintain with ease.
When at last she pauses to take a breath, I cut in.
"So how is everyone?" I ask. "And to what do I owe this surprise phone call?"
Sheifa laughs freely, and I can picture her shaking her head on the other end of the receiver.
"You're too much sometimes," she replies, somewhat reproachfully. "Can't a girl talk to her favourite little brother these days anymore? Even if he does happen to be the Heir to the Clan of the Lis –"
"Enough of that, now," I interrupt her, my mouth twisting wryly as her voice begins to adopt a mockingly pompous tone. "I'll have you know the Elders won't appreciate you slighting their beloved clan like that."
I can't help the slight sarcasm that slips into my voice. If the Elders happen to be within earshot, I'm in trouble.
Sheifa gasps exaggeratedly.
"I'm so sorry!" she declares overdramatically. "I had no idea that the Elders couldn't figure out a joke if it –"
"Sheifa," I say warningly. I enjoy a good laugh now and then, but just in case... I didn't want her getting in trouble at my expense.
"You're no fun sometimes either," she sniffs, and I can hear the pout in her voice. "So go on. What did you do today, Your Most Exalted Heirliness?"
"Oh, shut up," I retort lazily. "For your information, I was just – having coffee with a friend."
Oh no. Oh no. Oh no.
"Friends, I mean," I correct myself hastily. "Friends. As in the plural. Having coffee with friends. Yes."
There's an unsettling silence.
"Sheifa? You there?"
"Yup," comes Sheifa's voice, unnaturally chipper, even for her. "So...who's this friend of yours?"
"These friends are people Meiling and I met when we came to Tomoeda last time," I say as casually as I possibly can. I do not want Sheifa reading into this more than necessary. The last thing I need is for this to get back to the Elders.
"Okay, if you don't want to talk, you could have just said so," Sheifa complains in that pouty voice of hers.
"It's not that!" I try to defend myself. "I do want to talk...just it's hard over the phone and all."
"Right," Sheifa says with emphasis. "Is His Heirliness just not a phone person?"
"There's that," I answer cautiously, "and there's also the fact that I'm worried a certain Respected Sister of the Heirliness might get in trouble for talking too freely in the presence of the Elders..."
"Oh very funny, little brother," she snorts. "You worry so much about me, I'm charmed. By the way, Fuutie's getting married."
"She's getting WHAT?" I yelp, sitting upright now. "To who? When?"
"To some Chan fellow," Sheifa replies nonchalantly. "Next week."
"Next week?" I repeat incredulously. "What – why? Why so soon?"
"Oh you know," Sheifa replies loftily, "as the eldest daughter of the Li clan, it is her duty to strengthen favourable ties with the most respectable and forthright of our contemporaries as soon as she is of a marriageable age –"
"She's twenty-three!" I interject hotly. "She just started doing her MBA and everything –"
"Yeah, she's not doing that anymore," Sheifa cuts me off. "Her husband's going to be taking care of the business."
Her words ring in the air for a moment.
"Lucky him," is all I manage to get out.
"Look, Xiao Lang," Sheifa says at length, rather delicately. "I know everything happened really quickly, and it's probably upsetting you – but – Fuutie told me to tell you that she's alright with the decision. She says that the Elders couldn't have chosen a better man for her and – and that she'll be happy with him."
I open and close my mouth wordlessly, trying to put it all together in my head. Fuutie, my oldest sister, who had been so determined to take over the family business empire despite being a woman. Fuutie, who had been so strong and intelligent and had always been able to hold her own, even in a painfully sexist, orthodox world pitted against her. Fuutie, whose only goal had been to fulfil the duties of the son she should have been, instead of the daughter that she actually was...
Fuutie, giving all that up to get married?
"It just seems like such a waste," I bring myself to say finally. "She has so much potential. How can she even think of throwing it all away and settle to be another – just another housewife?"
Sheifa doesn't say anything. I'm guessing that something's going on, something that she can't talk about over the phone. Behind closed doors, something is at work. And I know that the clan Elders are behind it. They're always behind any decision that'll end up giving us grief. Kami, I've sworn to relinquish that group of doddering old fools the moment I become leader of the clan. Tradition or not, they have got to go.
"She says this is what's best," Sheifa says, but her tone of voice indicates otherwise. "And that she expects to see you home for the wedding."
I'm taken aback. Going back to Hong Kong, right now in the middle of everything happening with Sakura and Fujitaka-san still not out of the hospital yet...
"You're welcome to bring any friends along with you," Sheifa suggests slyly, reading my silence as only she could. "We'd make sure they'd be taken care of."
"Right," I answer. The idea does sound tempting. Invite Sakura – and Tomoyo and Eriol – to Hong Kong for the wedding? Under any other circumstances, I would have tried for it. But now, with her family life perched so precariously on the edge, I know Sakura won't even consider leaving. And it's not my job to convince her otherwise.
"You will ask them, won't you?" Sheifa wheedles. "Please don't get all shy and buttoned up like you always do, now."
"I do not," I bristle indignantly. "I'll ask and see. She'll probably say no, though."
A moment's pause.
"They'll probably say no, I mean," I correct myself ineffectually.
Thankfully, Sheifa doesn't comment this time.
I step out of the elevator, looking around me. I glance at the room numbers mounted next to the doorways in the hallway, trying to make some sense of the order they go in...
"Can I help you?"
I snap back to reality at the sound of the receptionist's voice. She offers me a smile; clearly, I look like I'm lost. Which I am.
"Uh, yes," I stutter, walking up to her desk. "I wanted to visit a patient, Mr. Fujitaka Kinomoto – he was transferred here from intensive care earlier today...?"
"Kinomoto? Let me see..." The receptionist taps at her keyboard briefly, then scans the contents of her monitor briefly. "Yes, Kinomoto Fujitaka, room C425. Just go down that hallway and take a left, you'll see it on your right."
I nod my head.
"Thank you," I say. Her smile widens and then I head off in the outlined direction, keeping an eye out for C425. On my way, I rehearse my proposition, hoping – praying – that it comes out much more smoothly than it does, sounded out silently, inside my head.
I see room C425 as I round the corner, and then I freeze.
From here, I can see two things. I can see a large window, partially blinded, not quite concealing the unconscious redheaded male hooked up to about a thousand beeping machines.
I can also see Sakura's older brother sitting in a plush armchair just outside the room.
There's also no sign of Sakura.
Sakura's brother looks up, his fierce dark eyes rising to meet my face even as my footsteps come to a halt.
His face registers confusion. I wonder if he remembers who I am.
"Yes?" he prompts expectantly, crossing his arms.
"Um –" I falter at the defensive look in his eyes. "I was looking for Sakura, actually. I thought she'd be here...?"
The look in Touya's eyes changes from defensive to suspicious. He gets to his feet slowly. I take a step backward, in spite of myself.
"What made you think she'd be here?" he asks me, his eyebrows lowering into a scowl. "Did she tell you herself?"
The incredulity is apparent in his voice.
I swallow carefully.
"Kind of," I say, attempting a placatory mannerism. "Um, it's kind of a long story, but uh – if she's not here, that's fine, I'll try visit her at home or something..."
"Wait a second," Touya says, and he tilts his head, squinting at me. "You're that Li kid, aren't you?"
The seconds drag out before I allow myself to nod briefly. It's all I can manage. Sakura's older brother used to scare the crap out of me when I was younger. Hopefully he's forgotten that by now. Hopefully.
Touya sighs, his shoulders slackening obviously.
"She would tell you," he mutters, almost inaudible. He jams his hands in his pockets.
I'm at a loss for words.
"Why did you want to see her?" Touya asks suddenly.
Now I'm taken aback. Touya being grudgingly hospitable was one matter. Having him be civil was something completely different. It was a testament to how much Fujitaka's ordeal had re-set his children's frame of reference. Sometimes it's impossible to reconcile present-day Sakura and Touya with the images of them from the past that are still ingrained in my head.
"I just had a bit of a - a crazy idea, if you will," I say. "It doesn't really matter, she would have said no anyway..."
Curiously enough, Touya's giving me his undivided attention, and not in an overly aggressive way either.
"And what was that idea?" he asks, his brow furrowing.
"Um." I didn't even know how to phrase this out to Sakura. How the hell am I supposed to make this sound convincing to her scary, overprotective big brother?
Touya only moves to shift his weight. His eyes are still fixed on me though, in that sharp, assessing manner.
"Well," I say at length, meeting his eyes. "Actually – my oldest sister's getting married next week and she asked me to invite my friends to the wedding. So, I wanted to – to – "
"Invite Sakura to come to your sister's wedding," Touya repeats, and to my surprise, there's no scorn in his voice at all. "Why would she have said no to that?"
"Well, because –" my head hands a little, of its own accord, "- because the wedding's going to be held back in Hong Kong, where my family lives."
There's a bit of a pause. I'm too scared to look at the expression on Touya's face. I'm sure he must be livid. And he has good reason – what sort of brother would want his sister to travel out of the country for some stranger's wedding? Especially while their father lay in comatose in a hospital bed? It was absurd, even in my head.
"Hm," comes Touya's voice from what seems like a great distance away. "Yeah, she could be stubborn about that."
I meet his eyes incredulously.
"Obviously, I understand," I say quickly. "I mean – it's obviously an extremely difficult situation for her – and you too – and uh – well, I wouldn't really expect her to want to leave right now in the middle of – you know, I just thought I'd ask..."
I trail off uneasily. To my surprise, there's a very pensive look on Touya's face.
"Did you invite Tomoyo too?" he asks.
"Yes," I reply, taken aback. "Meiling – my cousin – and I, we invited her and Eriol...?"
Touya nods his head slowly. I can almost see the wheels turning in his head.
"And where in Hong Kong would you be staying?" he asks slowly.
I try to make it sound appropriate for a protective older brother, who probably would object to having his sister staying in a boy's house.
"Well – I'm assuming the wedding's going to be held in my clan's ancestral temple, so uh – it would probably make the most sense if everyone stayed in the guest rooms in my home," I answer.
Touya's eyes narrow slightly.
"How many people stay at your house?" he asks, his voice carefully controlled.
"Well, there's me, my mother and my four sisters," I begin carefully. "But we live in my clan's ancestral home, so it's quite – spacious. There's an entire wing of the house especially for guests, because we always have visitors over for some reason or other. So – that's where we'd have the three of them stay."
"I see," Touya remarks cryptically. He lapses back into a thoughtful silence. "When will you head to Hong Kong?"
"The flight's chartered for tomorrow morning," I say tentatively. "So – that really doesn't give you – her – a lot of time to decide..."
Touya nods in understanding.
"And – and you guys are going to be busy?" he asks. "You're not going to have random blank moments where she can just sit around and mope all day?"
I can hardly believe it. Now I'm starting to understand where Touya's coming from.
"Touya-san," I say as sincerely as I can, "if Sakura comes with us, I promise that between all of us, she will have a good time for every moment that she's in Hong Kong."
We regard each other warily, finally understanding each other. I'm not fooled into thinking that Touya's opinion of me might have changed, or that he's suddenly taken a shine to me or whatever. But the power of loss is one of the greatest powers in the world, and at this moment, I'm face-to-face not with the intimidating stubborn male I've known all my life, but instead with the older brother who's concerned with the solemn pained creature his once-cheerful baby sister has grown into, and who, above all else, yearns to see her laugh again.
"Hello!" I call out, my voice echoing around my empty house. Taking this as a sign that Touya hasn't come back home yet, I kick off my shoes, drop my bags on the ground and head up to my room.
Kero jumps up from his perch the moment I enter my room.
"Where've you been?" he demands urgently. "It's been three days since I've seen anyone in this house! What's going on? How's -?"
"Otou-san's fine," I cut across his words before he can finish. "He hasn't regained consciousness yet – but the doctors say he's in stable condition and he should be fine when he wakes up. And they say he should be regaining consciousness soon."
"That's good," Kero lets out a giant sigh of relief. "I've been so worried, being all alone without any news at all. And then the only person who cares to drop by in the meantime was that Li kid –"
"What?" I ask, taken back. "Syaoran – here – when?"
"A little after when you left for the hospital," Kero answers. "He was babbling on about something or other, was hell bent on finding you and wouldn't leave until I told you where you were."
Things start to fall into place. It strikes me that I don't even know how Syaoran found out about Dad. The way things had played out, it was easy to just assume he'd known all along.
"So you told him about Otou-san?" I asked.
"Of course not," Kero scoffs indignantly. "Tell that kid every detail of your life after he made you so miserable? Come on, I know better than that."
"Then what did you tell him?" I press. "I need to know."
"I gave him a really general hint," he replies. "Just to shake him off, because he wouldn't leave otherwise."
"A general hint?" I repeat, dumbfounded. "Then how did – how did he find out –"
"Find out what?" Kero inquires. "And why was he all up in your case anyway? I thought you two weren't talking."
"We weren't," I answer truthfully. "But we got into a huge fight that night –"
"It was pretty bad," I admit, wincing a little. "I called him out on a lot of things and ended up slapping him right across the face –"
Kero cuts me off with a giant whoop of delight, flying around in giant victory loops.
"Kero-chan!" I admonish him gently. "No, listen – Syaoran made up for whatever he did, more than made up for it. He found us at the hospital – I don't know how he did it if you didn't tell him where we were – and somehow managed to figure out that Touya and I were having difficulties with the administration because they wouldn't go ahead with Otou-san's surgery until they had the down payment up front –"
"What?" Kero stops flying around in his giant circles. "They wouldn't operate on him?"
"Not unless we paid," I concede, a little bitterly, remembering having to beg and plead in tears in front of the unyielding administrator at the hospital, to no avail. "And it was an obscene amount too, way more than anything Touya or I could have had at our disposal at the time. It was such a hopeless situation, Kero-chan, you have no idea. I thought we were going to lose Otou-san..."
My voice breaks a little at the thought of it, of how real that possibility had seemed that night.
"But then all of a sudden, Touya and I saw the doctors operating on Otou-san," I continue, spirits rising as I remember everything that happened after. "Turned out that Syaoran stepped in and paid for all of Otou-san's treatment. Not just the down payment for the surgery, Kero-chan – everything. His medicine, hospital bills, follow-up therapy, everything."
Kero simply floats in midair motionlessly. Clearly, he's at a loss for words. And I don't really blame him, the story's quite incredible.
"I know that Syaoran and I had our differences earlier," I continue, taking advantage of Kero's newfound silence. "But we talked just now and cleared everything up. Honestly – we were both just being really immature about really stupid things and that's all there was to it. That on top of what he did for me – for us, I mean – I think the very least I can do is forget that I was ever angry with him in the first place."
"I'll say," Kero says absently, still hovering in mid-air. "That's – that's some crazy stuff you've been going through lately."
"I know," I acquiesce with a wince. "What with Otou-san's surgery and having Syaoran suddenly step in and save the day. I swear, it's like there's some crazy person writing out my life for me and they're hell bent on making it as ridiculous as possible."
"You could be on to something there," Kero agrees with a serious nod. "Anything else out of the ordinary happen recently, or would that be pushing it?"
"Actually –" I pause, eyes widening. "Hold on."
I fumble around in my purse. Where did I put it again...?
I pull out the Fight Card from my purse and wave it at Kero.
"This went psycho on me the day Otou-san had his heart attack," I explain, as Kero tilts his head and examines the Card carefully. "Do you have any idea how that might've happened?"
Kero doesn't answer for a moment.
"That's unusual," he remarks. "Can you tell me what happened?"
"Yeah," I say, trying to recollect how it all started. "I was walking home from the clinic where it just attacked me out of nowhere."
"Just like that?" Kero asks.
"Yes," I answer emphatically.
"You didn't call it or anything?" Kero pries. "Didn't aggravate it?"
"No," I say, surprised. "I was just walking home, enjoying the weather, thinking about – thinking about some things, I guess, and then it just came out of nowhere and smashed me into a fence."
"That's really very strange," Kero muses, scratching his chin. "Even for the Fight Card, that's unusually aggressive behaviour."
"What about you?" I ask pointedly. "Didn't you feel anything unusual? You're supposed to be guarding the Cards, how'd one get away without you noticing at all?"
"I really have no idea," Kero says numbly.
We fall into an uneasy silence.
"So how did you take care of it?" Kero asks at length.
"I didn't," I answer diffidently. "Syaoran did."
I don't want to see the disappointment in Kero's eyes. Shame courses through me, turning my cheeks and ears red hot.
"Let me get this straight," Kero says, disbelief evident in his voice. "You're the Cardmistress and you couldn't tame a rogue Card. But the Li kid could?"
I nod slowly, eyes still downcast.
"I find that really hard to believe," Kero says flatly, after a momentous pause.
"I...I've become really weak," I struggle to explain, raising my eyes to meet Kero's dark ones. "You know what's been going on. You know I haven't been honing my skills for years now. And – and Syaoran's been in Hong Kong training this whole time. It makes sense that he's become – better – than me."
My words ring in my ears hollowly. Syaoran, once so determined to best me...well, he's done it now. A burning sickly feeling eats away at my gut.
"It's a logical explanation for sure," Kero quips, a furrow creasing on his forehead, "but it doesn't work that way."
I blink stupidly.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, remember what happened last time," he says, flexing his wings and relaxing them again rhythmically. "Back when you and Syaoran were kids, out capturing the Cards. I'd say he definitely had the advantage, being descended from Clow Reed himself. You'd think he would have had knowledge and training enough to become the Cardmaster, right?"
"Right," I echo.
"But that didn't happen," Kero continues. "It takes more than just pure skill to tame the Cards, Sakura. I thought you'd know that by now. You passed the final judgment. You made the Cards your own. They're bonded to you no matter what. Their power waxes and wanes with yours."
"But that's not what's happening," I argue. "You're saying that if I become weak, then the Cards become weak too. But Fight was stronger than ever. It did things I've never seen before."
Kero's face darkens for a moment, before he carefully schools himself to tightly controlled neutrality.
"What kind of things?" he asks tightly.
I'm starting to get scared.
"Crazy things," I answer, trying to remember that charged encounter. It seems like it was so long ago, even though it's only been a few days. "It could disappear and reappear at will. It could shoot fire. It could even control some kind of new force, some kind of terrible dark power."
As I speak, Kero's face grows more and more worried.
"Dark power?" he asks after I've finished talking. "You mean, like something the Dark Card would use?"
"No," I answer, feeling a chill of foreboding running down my spine. "Dark's power is meant to balance Light's. Its power is strong but benign at the same time. What Fight used was different. That energy was overwhelming. It felt like it would consume everything. I've never felt something so evil before."
A long silence greets my words.
"When you say evil," Kero ventures tentatively, "what exactly do you mean?"
I bite my lip, trying to collect my thoughts.
"It's like this," I struggle to articulate myself as best as I can. "The Cards are just manifestations of elemental power. I made them, so I know that they're not inherently bad. They don't exist to harm. If their power is used carelessly, then yes, they can hurt people, but no Card that I know of is in possession of power meant only to destroy. That's the kind of power Fight used against me. There was nothing that could balance it, nothing that could get in its way. Its only intent was to hurt, possibly to annihilate. After it hit me, I felt drained. It was as though it'd sucked the living force out of me."
Kero turns pale at my words.
"Like a vacuum," he says slowly. "Like everything that's the opposite of what the Cards are supposed to represent."
My mouth goes dry.
"Exactly like that," I say quietly. My heart is drumming in my chest and for some inexplicable reason, I feel scared.
Kero doesn't say anything. He just stares blankly into space. Thought lines and worry lines intermingle across his face.
"Kero?" I say hesitantly. "What's going on?"
He doesn't respond at first. Then, his eyes slowly meet mine.
"I don't really know –" he begins, but his voice is cut off as the phone starts to ring.
Of all the time in the world, I think to myself irately, running to my desk and picking up the receiver.
"Kinomoto residence," I say, somewhat impatiently.
It's Tomoyo. She sounds excited.
"You sound excited," I say, somewhat cautiously. When Tomoyo gets excited, it's usually cause for me to become very, very careful.
"I just got off the phone with Meiling," she says cheerfully. "She had some really amazing news!"
"Really?" I ask, wondering what any of this has to do with me. "What did she say?"
"Syaoran's older sister in Hong Kong is getting married next week!" Tomoyo announces. "And Meiling says we're invited to the wedding! Isn't that exciting?"
My eyes go round. A wedding?
Part of me is excited. Weddings mean happiness and celebrations and laughter and all manner of good things. But part of me is reluctant to feel any such thing while Dad is still unconscious in the hospital.
Another part of me manages to feel hurt. Why couldn't Syaoran invite me, if it's his sister's wedding?
"That's great," I make myself say. "But – I don't know –"
Perceptive as always, Tomoyo catches the hitch in my voice. I steel myself as I begin to explain.
"I can't – not with – my family needs me here –"
"Your onii-chan doesn't think so," Tomoyo replies smoothly.
Now I'm caught off guard.
"He doesn't? How do you know?"
"Syaoran talked to him," Tomoyo is practically singing now. "And he said that Touya-san agreed that it would be good if you came along with us."
My face flames red. Syaoran talked to Touya? And Touya agreed with him? What is going on with this world?
"Why didn't Syaoran just ask me himself?" I find myself asking before I can stop myself.
"You know how he is," Tomoyo replies. "Come on, Sakura, it'll be so much fun! You, me and Eriol are all invited, and we can just travel with Meiling and Syaoran, and stay with them for a week. I think you could use a break, and I know I'm not alone in thinking that."
It's too much to take in. Syaoran and I have barely mended our friendship. And now he wants me to come with him to his home in Hong Kong?
And everyone is okay with this?
"I know what you mean, Tomoyo," I answer breathlessly. "And you know I'd love to join you guys on your visit to Syaoran's home in Hong Kong. But there's so much going on right now, I don't know if I can –"
"Did you just say that you're going to visit Syaoran's home in Hong Kong?" Kero interrupts me suddenly.
I turn to face him, clamping a hand over the mouthpiece.
"No, but they're asking me to," I explain. "Syaoran's older sister is getting married apparently –"
"And they've invited you to come," Kero states. "To stay with them."
"In the Li ancestral home?" Kero presses. "Where Clow Reed's living family members reside?"
It dawns on me, what Kero's implying.
"You think someone in Syaoran's family might know what's going on?" I ask him quietly.
"I don't know for sure," Kero replies, his jaw set resolutely. "But if there's one place to check out when the Cards are behaving strangely, that would be it."
"You're saying I should go, then?"
I sigh, but I can't fight the swell of excitement that rushes over me as I uncover the mouthpiece.
"On second thought Tomoyo-chan, maybe you're right. I'd love to come along."
Stifling a yawn, I swivel around in my chair to glance at the pile of clothes and books lying on my bed, waiting to be sorted into my suitcase. I groan inwardly. Of all the mundane tasks in the world that I despise, packing has got to be on the top of the list. Even though I know I'm only going to Hong Kong for a week, and that too back home, the thought of spending one hour folding my multitude of green shirts and jeans irks me.
Meiling sticks her head in the doorway to say good night.
"You haven't started packing yet?" she asks, raising her eyebrows at the clutter on my bed.
"I'm getting there," I answer lazily.
Her discerning eyes pan across my room from my messy bed to the clock on my desk, which reads 12:01 AM.
"You might want to get a move on it," she suggests, her mouth quirking up slightly at the corners. "Wei-san says the car will be here at five in the morning. The last thing you want to do is slow us up by sleeping in."
"I won't," I grumble, dragging a hand through my hair. My cousin's eyes follow this movement coolly.
"I already know what your sisters are going to say when they see you," she says dispassionately. "They're going to cry for you to get your hair cut."
"Yeah, yeah," I mutter, getting to my feet and seating myself on a corner of my bed. "I'm going to start packing now."
To emphasize my point, I grab a dark green polo at random and air it out in front of me.
"Long night ahead of you," Meiling observes solemnly as I slowly fold and press the shirt onto a bare patch of the bed. "I'll leave you to it then."
"Good night to you too," I call out to her retreating back.
"Don't sleep too tight," she calls back. "Otherwise you'll keep Eriol, Tomoyo and Sakura waiting, and then we'll really have a problem."
Words of wisdom from Meiling the Wise.
"I survived asking Sakura's crazy older brother to come to Hong Kong with us," I mutter to myself. "I think I can survive being a couple of minutes late for our flight."
Oh boy. Was that a conversation. Then again, it was a lot easier than I'd expected, given the circumstances.
As I busy myself folding my clothing and sorting out my other belongings, the memory of that conversation looms vividly in the forefront of my thoughts. Big brother Touya, with a giant soft spot for his baby sister. Who'd have thought?
Minutes pass by as I methodically pack and sort, pack and sort. Then, just as I'm placing things into my suitcase, I hear a soft alert go off on my computer. I turn around to see a new e-mail sitting in my account.
It's from Sayuri.
Dropping whatever I have into the suitcase, I cross over to my desk and open the message, scanning it quickly.
Just wanted to let you know that I'll be out of the country for the next week, and probably won't have much time for Internet access.
Hope you have a great set of holidays!
All the best
I glance at the send time. She literally just sent this e-mail. I wonder if she's online on Fanfiction Corner? I sign in quickly, see her penname highlighted in green at the top of my contacts list and select it immediately.
You're awake late, I tease her.
She replies right away.
Last minute packing is a real sleep killer.
I chuckle to myself as I type.
I feel your pain. Where are you travelling to?
My eyes shift to the clock while I wait for her reply. It now reads 1:12 AM. Fuck, and I probably need to be up by 4:30 latest...
I look back at the screen just as she replies.
The grammar purist in me would like to correct your question. It should read 'To where are you travelling?'
Fine. TO WHERE are you travelling?
She sends me a smiley face before her next response appears.
No way. No way. I know our lives take on incredible parallels, but this – this is taking things to a whole other level.
You'll never believe this, I begin to type. That's where I'm headed.
There's a break in her replies. I figure it's taking her a while to process this latest huge coincidence.
You would be headed there, she says at length. The laws of the universe dictate that our lives run completely parallel to each other, after all.
Her sarcasm masks her surprise all too well.
So what business brings you to Hong Kong? I ask casually.
She sends me a confused smiley before her next reply flashes onscreen.
Shin invited me and a couple of friends to go with him.
I raise my eyebrows.
So I take it you guys aren't fighting anymore?
Yeah, we patched things up. I think we mutually came to the realization that we were being idiots. Then we talked things through and now we're okay.
She's okay. Her and Shin made up. Just like how Sakura and I made up. Wow. This is – almost suspicious, now that I think about it...
So why are you going to Hong Kong? Sayuri asks, breaking my train of thought. Was this a long-standing plan that you weren't planning on telling me about?
Actually no, I answer. It was really last-minute. Some family business popped up.
I can't help smirking as I quickly add, but Aimi's coming with me too.
Duh, comes Sayuri's sarcastic reply. Because you know, we're the same people.
Obviously, I answer. Where in Hong Kong are you going to be?
I have no idea, Sayuri retorts. Shin knows the area, whereas I have never been before.
Shin's from Hong Kong?
Yeah, well, once you reach there and get yourself oriented, if you happen to have Internet access, let me know where you are, I suggest. Maybe we can finally meet in person.
That'd be awesome! Sayuri exclaims, and I feel excitement growing in me. Us, finally meeting! Although you know, it'd be kind of anticlimactic if we really are the same person.
What a comical proposition.
I have a better theory, I say, only half-joking now. I turn out to be Shin!
She sends me a shocked smiley.
Now THAT'S a twist ending for you, she says. Either way...we'll find out in time, won't we?
This is true, I affirm. Anyway, I should probably go to bed now.
Early morning flight? Sayuri guesses.
Yup, I answer wryly.
Same, she answers. Well. Goodnight, Lang!
Call me Shin, I joke. She sends me a last LOL before she signs off.
Turning off my desktop, I lean back in my chair as I try to entertain that possibility. Our lives being so similar, would it be so outrageous if it came to pass that the living, breathing persona behind Sayuri's Internet alias was someone I already knew?
I try to remember everything Sayuri's told me about this Shin guy. Shin is obviously a code name for someone else. What if Shin was a code name for me?
An unsettling thought enters my head.
If I'm Shin, then Sayuri would be my Aimi. And that would be impossible because...
Surreptitiously, I glance outside my window. In the distance, Sakura's curtains are drawn and her lights are firmly turned off.
The sight of it is reassuring and disappointing at the same time.
Either way, I think to myself as I climb onto my cleared bed and turn off my lights, things are bound to get interesting soon.
Well, one can only assume.
Disclaimer: CCS = property of CLAMP, no copyright infringement intended, this is written purely for entertainment and I gain no profits at all, blah blah blah...
a/n: And may I introduce the beginning of the end! Except not really because that thing about the crazy Card is still kind of up in the air...
Ok hands up, how many people are getting bored with the dual-persona-irony of the Sakura/Syaoran, Sayuri/Lang sitch? I'm trying to figure out how much I have left to go before they finally figure it out. (As you can see, our smart boyo Syaoran is starting to have suspicions. Like FINALLY.)
Next Chapter: At the rate at which I update? I have no idea, except it'll be taking place in Hong Kong and we'll finally get to meet all the Lis! And those sinister Elders too... Look out for it and more, in Currents.
Please do review! I'm trying to maintain 30 reviews a chapter. Think you love me enough to do it for me?