Star Crossed: Memories
Summary: The disgraced heir of the Kinomoto clan, Sakura, stands accused of performing witchcraft. Her crime? Enchanting the heir of the enemy Li clan to fall in love with her...
Full Summary: Thousands of years have passed since the ascension of the great Clow Reed. But both the Li clan and the Kinomoto clan still feud, each claiming direct descent to the magician. A blind and bitter hatred is born, and an era of bloodshed commences. In this world of suspicion and superstition, amity between the two clans is unthinkable, impossible and regarded as acts of treason and witchcraft. Until the unfortunate heirs of the two clans fall in love...
a/n: Well, here it is. The last chapter of Memories. The last chapter containing SxS flashbacks for a good while. So enjoy the painful sappiness while it lasts! -grimace-
Thank you to everyone who is reading and reviewing! I honestly never expected much of a response from a story of this genre, as it doesn't seem to follow the plots that most readers are used to, and I doubted many people would give it a chance. To those that are, thank you so much. The entire Star Crossed series is very close to my heart, and I promise you more of a plot starting in the next arc.
Until then, enjoy!
wreaths of fragrant herbs adorn hair and doorway alike
for whom do we live when our dreams have died?
Part Four. Rosemary
Syaoran leant back, inhaling deeply. The night air was scented with many different fragrances…maple, pine, rosemary, sandalwood…he thought he could even scent cherry blossoms in the wind…but then perhaps, he was imagining things, for it was not the season for cherry blossoms. Now, the harvest would almost be over, and the first blankets of snow would gently dust the ground, first a little powdering of sugar-spun snow, then it would fall heavier and heavier, until all the world was white and glittering, the ice cold and sinister, beautiful…yet forbidding…
…like a jewel. A jewel has brilliant fire, but holds no warmth…
Syaoran blinked. Her voice echoed in his mind. She had said that to him, long ago, her eyes meeting his so often…
How could one describe those eyes?
Syaoran loved her eyes. He loved the warmth, the compassion, the love in those eyes.
People described her in awe, with skin like freshly fallen snow, with hair the hue of autumn leaves, with eyes that sparkled like emeralds…
He detested that description. How could one compare her to a jewel? As she had said, a jewel held brilliant fire, but gave no warmth. Sakura's eyes, they sparkled with fire, true, but they warmed him to the very pit of his soul.
The first thing he wanted to do when he got back, was to run in front of the Kinomoto manor, and hold her in his arms, feel her warmth…inhale her scent…just whisper in her ears that it was over, and they would never have to part again.
He glanced up at the star-studded sky. Time was passing quickly. Soon, very soon, seven years would be over, and then the occupants of his clan would realize that neither was Sakura an enchantress, nor was he a sorcerer. He had cast no spell, and neither had she. The only magic associated with their bond was love…and Reed bore responsibility to that.
The moon was an enchanting golden color. Syaoran smiled slightly. The moon had been gold the year he had met Sakura. Well, he reasoned, maybe the first time he'd met her properly. The first time he'd ever seen her was in the marketplace, on a rainy afternoon near harvest season.
Syaoran scowled as Eriol ducked beneath his arm. "I told you, it's nothing like that!" he spat out furiously, as Eriol laughed.
"Relax, Syaoran. Don't think that I thought you actually enjoyed that session with Tamiko –"
Syaoran let out a frustrated roar and Eriol ducked again.
"Shut up, Eriol!" he bellowed.
They walked in silence. The cobbled streets of the marketplace twisted and turned erratically. It was an old, old street. Ryo was a very old land, and these stones were probably there when Clow Reed himself walked the land.
What a thought. Syaoran felt something within him tingle. He was a forechild of the Li clan. He could directly claim descent to Reed himself. There was power in his bloodline. And magic.
But the magic often skipped generations. And it never necessarily manifested in the firstborns, nor the forchildren of the clan. His own father had been the seventh son, and had been one of the most powerful sorcerers of his time. Unlike Syaoran, much to his disappointment. He did have minor magical skills, though not nearly as much as his father had. There had been magic literally sparkling from his fingertips. But even the greatest sorcerers couldn't ward off death.
He turned around, only to collide into a dark figure hurtling at him at a dangerous speed.
"Ow!" he protested. "Meiling, what did you think you were doing?!"
"Sorry!" Meiling said apologetically. Her face was flushed, her long black odangos no longer sleek and shiny, but ruffled from the long run across the marketplace.
"And just what do you think you're doing out here?" Eriol asked, amused. "I thought Aunt Yelan told you to bring back enough wool to cover the kitchen walls."
"I passed that task onto Leiko easily enough," Meiling said with grim satisfication. "Stupid, prissy little airhead. I wouldn't be surprised if the land just opened up and swallowed her one day!"
"But what are you doing here?" Syaoran asked, rubbing his head.
"The guard is out again," Meiling said, rolling her eyes. "All of them. And I saw Keitaro grab a peasant and blackmail her into telling him where the Kinomoto matriarch was!"
Syaoran swore under his breath. "Not again!"
Meiling's eyes were pleading. "You have to do something, Syaoran! What happens if someone gets hurt?"
Syaoran turned to Eriol. "Hey Eriol, think you're up to a bit of hide-and-seek?"
Eriol grinned. "More like a game of catch-me-if-you-can, if you know what I mean."
"I'm coming too!" Meiling cried.
Syaoran sighed. "No, you're not. You're going straight home."
Meiling pouted. "Aw, come on Syaoran…"
"No Meiling," Syaoran shook his head obstinately. "I'd want you to be there, but you know what the clanmembers are like. They'd stone me alive for taking you with me, and they'd cut you from the clan. You'd best go back home and just…stall…"
"I never get to have any fun!" Meiling slumped off.
Syaoran shook his head. "Poor girl. Sometime, I think it would have been best if she'd been born male."
"Mm," was all Eriol said. "Now, let's find the guard. That shouldn't be hard. Just look for a load of buffoons in armor. That should do the trick."
Syaoran laughed darkly. "Eriol, you're talking like we've never done this before."
Syaoran stumbled. Eriol tittered. "Careful, Syaoran. You wouldn't want to hurt yourself…"
"Shut your mouth!" Syaoran snapped aggressively, pushing himself up. The sky had darkened considerably, rolling grey thunderheads were covering the sky, and worst of all, it was starting to rain – heavily.
"For Reed's sake!" he swore explosively, "did it have to start raining now?"
Eriol brushed his navy hair out of his face. "Stop complaining," he said, unusually somber for once. "We still haven't found the guard or the Kinomoto matriarch."
"How hard could it be to find them?" Syaoran asked angrily. "They're usually everywhere!"
"Unless…" Eriol said softly. His eyes widened in a revelation that Syaoran caught at the same moment.
"They already found her!" they said simultaneously, staring at each other.
Almost punctuating their horrified realization, a faint shout reached their ears.
"I have a Kinomoto here! A Kinomoto pureblood! Lis! There is a Kinomoto pureblood here…"
"A pox on that man!" Syaoran cursed, turned in the general direction of the cries. "A pox on all of them!"
"Come on," Eriol said. "Let's hope no one gets hurt –"
There was a cry and next thing he knew, there was a crowd of villagers muttering among themselves. Syaoran rushed to the rabble, his tall stature allowing him to see over top the villagers' heads.
There was a girl, sprawled facedown on the ground. She was wrapped in a dark cloak, over top an old peasant's gown. Her hands were scraped and one shoe was missing, the exposed foot white and bleeding.
"What's going on?" Eriol asked, before the girl struggled to rise to her feet. Behind her, there were more cries.
"There she is! Don't let her get away!"
The girl turned as though she had been struck. She removed her other shoe and, testing its weight, threw it at the first approaching Li. The shoe found its mark, but the girl didn't wait to see how good her aim was. She turned and, weaving her way through the crowds of villagers, she raced off, her long red hair shining like a beacon.
Syaoran turned to Eriol. "I'll follow her. You keep an eye on the guard!"
"Will do, clansmember."
Syaoran took off after the girl, her long red hair making her an easy target amid the stone grey landscape.
Syaoran's mind tried to process the facts. This was a Kinomoto pureblood. The redhead. He'd seen her before at the gatherings, but he had never paid much attention to her before. What was her name anyway? Sayuri? Sakina?
He saw her pause momentarily and sighed inwardly with relief. Maybe he could take a bit of break. Though Syaoran was extremely strong, he detested running through crowded places, especially when the terrain was rocky and slippery and the rain plastered his hair directly in front of his eyes –
"Reed, no!" he sputtered under his breath. Somehow, the guard had evaded Eriol's attempts and he could only watch, horrified, as first one grabbed the girl by the wrist and twisted it behind her back, pressing a dagger to her throat. Next thing, they were surrounded by the rest of the guard.
Fools, Syaoran thought bitterly. So consumed by hatred that they think grabbing a young girl will get them anywhere.
The girl was petrified. He could sense it. And who wouldn't be? She was young, even younger than Meiling, most likely. And from what he knew about Kinomoto customs, girls weren't allowed outside the manor, unless they were over a certain age and were going out for specific reasons.
So if this was indeed a Kinomoto pureblood, then what was she doing by herself outside the manor? Weren't Kinomoto girls even more drippy than the Li girls? At least the Li girls knew their way around the marketplace. All Kinomoto girls did was sit at home and sew. Not exactly interesting. The least independent girls were found in the Kinomoto clan.
So why was the pureblood – the Kinomoto pureblood forechild – the pride of the Kinomoto clan – running around the marketplace, being chased by Li guards?
An unexpected thought came to him, of Meiling slumping back home. I never get to have any fun…
Was it possible for a Kinomoto to feel the same way?
"Damn them!" he seethed under his breath as he saw one guard crack his whip. The girl flinched.
This is barbaric, he thought wildly. They could kill the forechild! No clan deserves that kind of insult!
Drawing slightly closer, he began to weigh his odds. Syaoran was good with numbers. He was calm, calculating and shrewd, able to flawlessly plan and execute whatever he set his mind about.
But this looked challenging. Several of his fellow clansmembers were present, and to snatch the girl without their noticing him would prove to be…tricky…to say the least.
"Need any help?" a voice murmured at his ear.
It was Meiling.
"I thought I told you to go home!" Syaoran snapped without any real conviction. He was rather gratified at a willing helper.
"So they didn't get the matriarch," Meiling said, "but they got Kinomoto no Sakura. An excellent replacement."
Meiling was always up-to-date with everything. She everything knew everyone, not just their names, but their parents, their lifepaths, their status, their clan…everything. It was quite frustrating at times.
"Kinomoto no Sakura?"
Meiling nodded. "She and the matriarch Lady Yoshisune-Kato are at loggerheads with each other. And Lady Yoshisune despises other clans. This forechild, at least, respects them."
"Wonder what that respect will be worth after this," Syaoran said glumly, gesturing at the offending guard. "Meiling, I need your help."
"Say no more," Meiling winked and then in a blink of an eye, she was gone.
Syaoran slipped through the shadows, trying to get close enough to hear what they were saying.
"…that hurt, didn't it? Now, let's see…who are you to the Kinomotos? Are you a forechild, or a middler?"
Syaoran recognized that voice. It belonged to Li no Kazune-Kanzaki, who was Leiko's older brother. It was hard for Syaoran to decide which of the pair he disliked more; he finally decided that it was Leiko he despised more. Kazune wasn't the one trying to marry him for the title of matriarch.
The question was odd. Of course the girl was pureblooded, how could she have been a middler? But maybe Kazune was toying with the girl. Syaoran expected silence, or fearful submission. But nothing surprised him more than a Kinomoto girl with a backbone.
"Go boil yourself," the girl gasped. Her voice was low and commanding, not at all what Syaoran expected it to be.
How ironic. The forechild of the most sheltered clan was even braver than some men he knew on the guard. Impressive.
The man's face contorted with rage. Take that, idiot, Syaoran thought, satisfied. You got told off by the Kinomoto forechild.
Next thing he knew, Kazune's foot kicked out at the girl. Syaoran's mouth tightened as the girl bit back a gasp of pain. The girl – what did Meiling say her name was? Sakura – deserved to live.
"You Kinomoto scum!" Kazune spat loathingly. He turned to the others. "Go now. I want to finish her off by myself."
Obediently, the other members of the guard left, albeit slightly reluctantly. The thought of torturing Kinomotos really stirred their blood, Syaoran thought sadly. But on the other hand, Kazune actually wants to stand in front, rather than direct from behind like the coward he is. Good for me, I suppose.
He moved silently to ten feet away from the Kinomoto, mentally conjuring up a spell for invisibility.
Kazune noticed nothing. Stepping back from the girl, he shouldered a giant bow and fitted an arrow to it, taking aim.
"Get up," he ordered quietly.
Wait for the right moment, Syaoran thought to himself, watching Kazune's fingers intently. Wait for the moment when the string is at utmost tension and the fingers stop moving…
The girl had struggled to her feet and was swaying slightly. Doubtless she was terrified, to be such a young thing and be tortured by a group of grown men…it was a frightening prospect, even for Syaoran.
Kazune was still aiming, his fingers trembling as the bowstring shivered under the tension.
Then, Kazune paused, in a moment which Syaoran deemed the right time. He leapt toward the girl, racing quickly as he saw her eyes close in submission, a strange half-smile cross her lips. He saw, almost in slow motion, the arrow leave the bow, hurtling toward the girl, a speeding flight of death. He jumped, grabbing the girl, wrapping his arms around her small frame, pulling her close to him…
He was aware of landing rather painfully on his back and falling down the hill, rolling until he was slightly dizzy. He stopped before he fell into the river, the girl still in his arms.
Reed help me…
Years of martial arts training provided him with lightning-fast reflexes, and it was at times like these when he was grateful for it. He pushed himself up to his feet and raced for the abandoned outhouse which he knew was around here somewhere…
There it was. He ducked into the door, slamming it shut and let go of the girl, only to see her sway alarmingly. He swore under his breath and grabbed her again, pressing her against the wall firmly, his arms wrapped around her shoulders reassuringly. At the moment, it didn't matter to him that she was a Kinomoto and he was a Li. It didn't matter that many of his kinsmen were outside, hell-bent on having their way with this girl. It didn't matter that this girl's kinsfolk had killed his father.
Was the girl responsible for that? This young girl barely of marriageable years was scarce able to draw a bow, let alone cause harm to any of his kind. Then why the hatred? Why the inexplicable hatred? Just because several thousand years ago, her ancestor had claimed direct descent to the greatest sorcerer of all time? Was it because the Lis couldn't stand the idea of others being closer in blood to Reed than them? Was it because of this that the long, tireless, bloody feud had been caused? Syaoran knew his own clan accused the Kinomotos of blasphemy, deceit and sufferers of their own ego. But from where Syaoran stood, his own people seemed far more egocentric than the Kinomotos.
Why hate someone so strongly, when you could love them with all your heart and soul?
As in response to his thoughts, the girl pulled even closer to him. Syaoran felt surprised when he felt his face heat up, and even more so when he tightened his hold around the girl.
What in the name of Reed am I doing?
And then, he seemed to realize where he was. He was alone, with the Kinomoto forechild, and they were both drenched to the bone by the rain, and bruised and sore from the fall down the hill, and, the girl Sakura was in a bad condition. Her body was cold and shaking, her feet were unshod and red raw, and the back of her dress was soaked through with blood. Nonetheless, she was pressed against his chest closely, and he had his arms around her rather – intimately. If a clansmember of his, or hers, viewed this, there would be hell to pay.
Syaoran felt a daring sort of recklessness come over him. Let them come, he thought, rather aggressively. No one will touch her while I am alive.
It was strange. There was something burning within him, a strange reckless fire in the heart that caused him to act quite impulsively. And Syaoran was a logical, reasonable thinker. He valued his calm capacity above all.
This strange new spontaneity marred everything he had come to value this life.
And strangely, he found that if Sakura was with him, he didn't mind that his perception of the world had so rapidly altered in a few short moments.
But then again, lots of things could happen in a few short moments.
Seeds could be planted into the ground in the span of a few short moments.
Rain could fall the distance spanning Reed's home in the stars to the ground in a few short moments.
Life could leave the body in a few short moments.
The heart could beat faster and faster in a few short moments…
He could feel her heart beating, wildly at first, then slowing down, until it merged with his.
Quite suddenly, he didn't know how, he was staring into her eyes. They were quite beautiful, actually. Big, wide, green, expressive…
He started. That sounded like Eriol. There would be hell to pay if Eriol came and saw them. He pulled away from the girl, albeit rather reluctantly, he thought, and raced back into the storm, his mind confused.
There was only one thought left in his mind.
He had to see her again.
He didn't know why that first meeting was so vividly etched in his memory. Oh, he remembered every moment with her, for there had been precious few. But this…this was different. He only had to close his eyes and he could see it replayed in his mind, feeling his blood race and heart beat wildly…
He opened his eyes, and he was alone.
He still had to wait a long time.
//end of Arc 1, Star Crossed: Memories.
Disclaimer: I reiterate, I own nothing familiar.
a/n: Well, that was a bit longer than the previous, painfully short chapter. But as you can see, not much has happened in this arc. As I mentioned earlier, this arc was mainly to set up the exposition of the series. Now that you're all vaguely familiar with the ancient society SxS live in, their situations and their problems, the next arcs will make sense.
Just to clarify some points of contention:
a) Setting: this story takes place ages and ages ago (I haven't decided on an actual time period, but the spoken language speaks for itself, I hope...). So, keeping things like inflation in mind, the value of one yen would be sky high compared to today (again, this is me justifying for the haggling in Part Two). Like, back in the 1800s, you could get yourself a giant three-course meal for less than two USD, which was a fortune at the time. So, keeping that in perspective... (yes, this whole talk about currency was kind of pointless. I just realized. -cough-)
b) Terms: words such as forechild and middler were used quite frequently throughout the chapters. I'm not sure if you've deduced the proper meaning for it or not, so I'll clarify (as I don't believe these words exist in the dictionary, seeing as I made them up to suit my purposes). A forechild is a pureblooded member of a clan. So, Sakura and Touya are the forechildren of the Kinomoto clan (they don't have an additional name attached to their clan names), whereas Tomoyo is considered a "middler" (because she does have an additional name attached to her clan name. Compare Kinomoto no Sakura to Kinomoto no Tomoyo-Daidouji). For my purposes (remember, none of these terms actually exist IRL), the forechildren are the ones who rule their clans: Touya is the next patriarch of the Kinomoto clan, set to take control after his father, whereas Syaoran is the next patriarch of the Li clan.
(But wait! I hear the mumblings of curious readers wondering why they haven't read anything about Sakura's father or Touya lately! Well...you'll find out soon. Next arc, to be precise.)
c) Discontinuity: It's something at least one reviewer will point out to me at least every chapter (of not just this fic, but every other fic I've written), and that is my strange description of Sakura's hair. Allow me to account for myself. Prior to writing CCS fanfiction, I was familiar only with the manga, where Sakura's hair is (IMO) considerably redder than it is brown. So when I started writing fanfiction, I always had the manga image of Sakura in my head, with the big green eyes, the pale white skin and, yes, the red hair. It was only a good year or so after I'd started writing that I reacquainted myself with the anime and realized that her hair was auburn-brown. But by then, I preferred the manga description of Sakura better, and so I just stuck with that. Sorry to anger/offend any CCS anime purists out there. I'm old and too used to my Sakura sporting fiery red hair (you can blame it on my poor colour perception if all else fails).
Anyhow, this arc is now complete. This is not the end of the Star Crossed series, however!
Within the next week or so (depending on how real life goes), I will post the next arc. Keep your eyes peeled for it - the best thing to do would be to either add me to your Author Alerts or join my Notifylist (the link is posted on my profile).
Next Arc: We discover more about Sakura's family. Where is Touya, and why did Fujitaka remarry? And more importantly, just what is this curious Leiko character up to exactly? Find out all this and more in Star Crossed: Awakening.
Thank you everyone for reading. Please leave a review - we're heading into my favourite part of the series!