For Your Sake
Chapter 1: The Queen of Masks
An exquisitely appointed room held the hush of the dead of winter. The ceiling reached at least two stories, with intricate arches in marble and rigid, precise flowers arranged in an order that nature had surely never intended. The walls were a pale expanse of fine marble, hung with tapestries that depicted hunters and their steeds, an escort of lancers and falconers who followed the party of splendidly dressed courtiers in their idyllic amusements. The small jewel-bezel led clock ticked in its quartz monotony ceaselessly, and the deathly quiet of a lone clock ticking and the peaceful tinkle of the marble maiden's jug pouring water into a seashell shaped basin heightened the feeling of absolute quiet. Half the great room was windows, making half the walls and ceiling, giving an excellent view of a raging winter wind and the ghostly forms of a garden.
The pale, insubstantial fragrance of the water lilies in a small fountain was soothing, yet none of the lavish beauty and artistic perfection were noticed by a woman, sitting deathly still on a single large armchair, in its forbidding stiffness of carved mahogany and mother-of-pearl. The woman, or girl rather, was dwarfed by the throne-like chair, with a silent, calm composure and mesmerizing, gentle eyes. Those eyes were so very strange, which caused many a stranger to stare. They were large, beautiful eyes, lined with thick, long black lashes. The color was a rarity of rarities, a deep purple with a tint of grey. With her lingered a pale, ethereal presence, like a faerie or nymph. Her long, silky black hair cascaded down in inky waves, a shock of night black framing a pale, perfect face. Being winter, she was dressed casually but with impeccable taste in a cream-colored cashmere sweater, one with a tall neck that brought attention to the girl's swan neck, and dark stonewashed jeans. It was strange that she sat so still, almost like an apparition, one with the most enigmatic, mysterious expression. It was a face that held secrets, and a face that wished to hold them from everyone by virtue of its aloofness and beauty. Sighing softly, the dark haired girl stood, and approached the window. Lifting one hand, she trailed her fingers with their opalescent-lacquered nails over the window casement. The crisp, cold weather outside made everything white and shimmering and dreamlike.
Tomoyo wished that her mother hadn't insisted that she tag along to England on a prolonged business trip.
'The markets are practically begging for Japanese toys, especially these new electronic ones.' Her mother had said. 'And I think that you need to get away from Japan and Tomoeda for a while.'
After Sakura-chan and Li-kun had gotten married-and at such a young age, too- Tomoyo had to admit that life had lost some of that brightness that it had once possessed, after Sakura-chan had left for Hong Kong. She truly did wish that Sakura-chan and Li-kun would have a happy life together, though they were still all just nineteen years old.
So that was how she ended up here, in Winchester in a hauntingly beautiful, mysteriously secluded mansion. She smiled in amusement at the memory of when she had asked the directions to Hiiragizawa-kun's house from a group of four or five young people, just about her age.
'You want directions to Mr. Hiiragizawa's estate?' One of the girls had asked her skeptically. Tomoyo thought that she looked jealous, but couldn't fathom why.
'No one ever goes there, and no one ever visits that place. People rarely see him, and when they do, he's always in that black limousine of his, traveling to one corner of the world or another.' The boy to her left put in.
'Everyone thinks that he is a recluse at least--'
'And the most good looking and charming one at that.' A pale haired girl interjected with a laugh.
The redhead boy turned his glare on her. The girl merely shrugged complacently with a grin.
'Anyway,' the redhead continued after he had given Tomoyo quite specific directions, 'Some people think that Mr. Hiiragizawa is some sort of secret agent for the government, or perhaps the American CIA, but rumors are always rampant with him, every time he goes on a trip. Everyone is fascinated with his mysteriousness. What gives you the honor of being the first person in living history to visit him, ever since he returned from one of his longer trips and reopened his estate? If I may ask?' The redhead said with irresistible charm and a smile. Tomoyo had to laugh in spite of herself.
'I am only an old friend from when he stayed in Japan for a while.' Tomoyo had told them. The blond boy at her left ran his gaze appreciatively over her.
'And I see why he wants such a beautiful girl to visit him.' he murmured. The redhead hit the blond on the shoulder.
'You really have to excuse my rude, unrefined friend." The redhead said.
'Don't mind him.'
Tomoyo smiled and gave them her profound thanks and turned to her taxi, preparing to load her baggage when a long, black stretch limousine with dark-tinted windows pulled up. A manservant in formal, impeccably neat black dress came from the front passenger seat.
'Daidouji-san?" He inquired politely. Giving her a practiced bow, he explained the conveyance.
'Hiiragizawa-sama sent me to escort you to his estate. He awaits your arrival."
The manservant then gestured to ask her if the bags next to her indeed were hers, and she nodded slightly in assent. After he quickly put the suitcases in the trunk, he gave her a stiff, formal bow and opened the door for her. She smiled her thanks, and with a last wave to the small group, quickly stepped into the black leather upholstered interior.
On her way there, she hoped that Hiiragizawa-kun wouldn't mind if she was going to spend the night before traveling to Liverpool to meet her mother because she had some packages to deliver to Mizuki-sensei from Sakura-chan and some other old friends from Tomoeda. This tiny town was also so remote that she would have to travel back in the middle of the night. Tomoyo would have called his number, but that and his address were unlisted and she only knew the name of the town in which he lived. So how did he know that she had arrived? Well, she might find out when she arrived at the house. Idly, Tomoyo wondered why she had never really gotten to know Hiiragizawa-kun. Of course, he had seemed infatuated with Sakura-chan back in Tomoeda, but he always had seemed so removed from everyone else, so watching, so introverted. Hiiragizawa-kun was half the reincarnation of Clow Reed, so he had his excuses. Tomoyo wondered what he was like now. Probably exactly the same as he had been, she decided, smiling at the memory of the group back at the small town. Hopefully he would overlook her impolite and unannounced visit. Come to think of it, he and Mizuki-sensei were probably still together, too. Tomoyo remembered the two being so blissfully happy together, and sighed wistfully. They had had such a beautiful relationship.
Blinking, Tomoyo suddenly realized that she had already passed the town and all the townhouses, and the greater number of the gated walls that held spacious private residences. Soon there were no more gates or fences, and only silent trees and peaceful, crystalline snow were visible. It was so beautiful, so tranquil here. Wraith-like trees yearned for the sky in their silent skeletons, parodies of their own selves in spring. The pale shimmering snow made everything a quiet snow sculpture, and nothing marred the serene, white silence except for the wind who kissed the treetops in its invisible caress. The twisting roads made her think of a fairy tale, of a beast in his enchanted castle where it was an eternal spring, who hid himself from others. In a way that beast reminded her of Hiiragizawa-kun, hiding himself in plain sight from others. Perhaps there was another person hidden in him, too. Perhaps Mizuki-sensei had caught a glimpse of who he really was. Perhaps.
After a final curve of the road, the car came to a tall, forbidding wrought iron gate ensconced in an implacable brick wall. A security camera focused its electronic eye on them, and the gates opened. The circular drive curved itself around a tall marble fountain, its falls of water ceased in winter. Even under the snow, Tomoyo could see an intricate landscape show through. So that was what one of the famed English pattern gardens looked like. The car pulled up slowly to the imposing oaken doors, arched at its top, and the doorman handed her out as the great doors were opened for her. Tomoyo hesitated at the door about her luggage, but a butler appeared, took her coat and assured her that they were being brought in. After giving her coat to the doorman, he bowed to her.
'Please follow me, Miss Daidouji. Mr. Hiiragizawa asked for you to await him in the East Solar.' Tomoyo had nodded absently, taking in the forbidding beauty of the house.
The mansion was magnificent. Mansions did not intimidate her, since she had lived in one all her life, but this one was truly a work of art. Large casement windows flanked the doors like sentries in the foyer, but something this grand had to be called an antechamber. Complete suits of armor requisite with half-moon bladed battle-axes, spiked maces, full length lances bearing long streamers, and great broadswords lined the main hallway leading from the room. The entrance had to be at least three stories tall, with beautifully paneled walls carved in birds of prey and beasts of the forest. Some of the animals had garnet eyes. The great marble staircase divided in the middle of its ascent to balconies lined with tall wooden doors. In fact, if this house were any larger or grander, it would have to be called a palace.
So that was how she ended up here, and she smiled amusedly at the memory of the small group back at the town. Where was Hiiragizawa-kun? Surely this house wasn't that big. Perhaps she should ring for a servant. She had noticed the velvet bell cord hanging unobtrusively by the door. Or perhaps-
"Good morning, Daidouji-san. What a pleasant surprise." The master of the house said in his deep voice.
Tomoyo turned with a smile, and was shocked at what she saw. She had remembered Eriol to be pale and slim as a young boy, and the well-built, sun-darkened young man with eyes that did not match the youthful face was not very much like the Hiiragizawa-kun that she remembered. Of course, nine years did do drastic things to a person, but he had changed very much. The thick night-black hair was still the same, as were the deep blue eyes. Very dark, polite and dignified. They studied her as he made his bow, and as he bowed over her hand. And goodness, he must have gotten contacts. His glasses were nowhere in sight.
"Good morning, Hiiragizawa-kun. I hope that you did not mind that I came so unexpectedly, but I had some packages and letters for you and Mizuki-sensei, and of course, I had to visit you and catch up with old times." She said brilliantly.
If she remembered correctly, he could see through near any disguise of character that one donned. Tomoyo did not want him to know about the effect that Sakura had left on her. He made a dismissive gesture, and smiled at her. Just as she was about to look away, she caught a slight flicker of his eye that she would have normally missed. What was going on with Mizuki-sensei, then? Or did he already know about Sakura-chan?
"Why should I berate a girl for visiting me? You are always welcome here, Daidouji-san."
So, he was still extremely punctilious. He had not said 'friend', because they had not been back in Tomoeda.
"Thank you so much, Hiiragizawa-kun. How have you been, after all this time?"
Hiiragizawa-kun led her to the luxuriously velvet-upholstered couch, long and with a tall back. It seemed that he had not tired of black. His turtleneck sweater and slacks were both black; both looked oddly formal on him. He was dressed quite well.
"I have been very well, thank you. I have just returned from Italy, so I am very tanned. I brought back with me boxes of old manuscripts and some souvenirs, too. You?"
Tomoyo smiled as he mentioned the tone of his skin. He was still the same scholarly Hiiragizawa-kun, no matter how well he looked.
"I am having a very nice time here in England. My mother thought it best that I travel Europe with her before my first semester of college, just so I learn about her business even if I might not join it." Eriol nodded.
"You are welcome here whenever you wish it, Daidouji-san." He said again. "Let's get you settled in your rooms."
"Oh, thank you. You really are too kind." She said graciously.
Tomoyo had the feeling that Hiiragizawa Eriol was thinking exactly what she was, that both of them sounded like a wind-up box of polite things to say. Well, they did not know each other very well at all. Giving her a hand, he lifted her from the couch effortlessly. Leading her down a long corridor, he made small talk with her, as polite and rehearsed as their conversation back at the East Solar.
"Here we are, Daidouji-san." Hiiragizawa-kun opened a pair of carved French doors that lead to a spacious suite of rooms that seemed fit for a queen.
The very size and grandeur was intimidating, and it was furnished with exquisite care. It was all cream and blue and gold, with one of the largest beds that Tomoyo had ever seen, one that needed steps to get onto it.
Hiiragizawa-kun led her from one room to another.
"This is your boudoir, and this door leads to the bathroom, and this is the closet."
The bathroom was a startling flood of sterile bright light on marble, and the boudoir was expansive.
"This is your main room, and that door is your office. There is only one door to your bedroom, from the boudoir, and your boudoir is only accessible from your main room."
Tomoyo was a bit overwhelmed from all of it.
"You didn't have to go through all this trouble, Hiiragizawa-kun." She said softly. He replied with a charming grin.
"But I did, Daidouji-san. It is my duty to be attentive to beautiful girls." He said rakishly. An irresistibly charming manner it seemed was his greatest weapon around women.
"What a flatterer you are, Hiiragizawa-kun. Don't you know that you shouldn't tease girls? Smitten ones are especially hard to get rid of, especially ones that you have just offered rooms to in your very own house. Shame on you, Hiiragizawa-kun." She retorted archly. Eriol laughed.
"Then I will have to let you alone, Daidouji-san. I will send up my housekeeper so she can help you with your unpacking personally. Her name is Frau Schmidt." He had a perfect German accent. How much did he remember from his past lives?
"And you will meet me for dinner at six-thirty, Daidouji-san?" Eriol asked.
"With you? Of course." Looking down at her with laughing dark eyes, he made his bow and exited the suite chuckling.
Tomoyo smiled warmly at the dignified blond woman, formidably plump and elegant in a spotless grey dress that was more suited to taking a pot of fine Darjeeling with scones than with overseeing a large household, even if that household only had to cater to one person. The grey streaks in Frau Schmidt's bun made her seem even more firmly in control of the household, firmly in charge and as queen of her demesnes of cooking, cleaning, and laundering. Frau Schmidt was just formidable.
Tomoyo let out a breath as the plump, stately housekeeper let herself out, with a promise to send up a maid to relay to her some refreshments and directions to the dining room. Frau Schmidt also told her to ask the maid to freshen her formals and semi-formals; she feared that there were wrinkles in some of them. The capable woman had the effect of making you do things even if you didn't want to. Tomoyo laughed a bit at the memory. She truly was a bit impressed by the woman; how did Eriol manage to import her from Germany? There was only the slightest hint of a German accent in the housekeeper's impeccable English, impeccable and capable like everything else about her. And why did Eriol ask her to unpack everything, even when she was only staying a day or two? Tomoyo shrugged at that, and went to the bathroom to freshen up. The thought did not linger long.
Giving her best effort to glide through stately halls, Tomoyo incessantly straightened her dress. It was a very beautiful one, in cream silk with a high waist and a slit in the middle of the skirt to display a different, silver-embroidered underskirt. The pale heavy silk had a dull sheen to it, and was undoubtedly expensive. Tomoyo mentally reminded herself to thank her mother for the dress again. Her hair was up in strands of pearls, her only adornment. Why on earth had Eriol wanted her to dress in the most formal dress, as the missive from him, handed to her from the maid said? Tomoyo remembered him asking her specifically, politely to dress formally. The dark, bold slashing words had said that he had a little surprise for her. She had best be ready to leave the house, it had said. The maid would be ready with a cashmere shawl with long fringes at the door. She wondered what the surprise was. The door to the great dining hall was slightly ajar. A soft murmur of voices came from within. So Eriol had guests. Who?
Walking in, Tomoyo got the biggest surprise of her life.
She could not believe her eyes. A form in pale pink collided into her, and she was surrounded in a tight, cinnamon-scented embrace.
"Tomoyo-chan!" Sakura squealed. "I am so happy to see you!" she said with an exuberant smile.
Her emerald eyes danced with joy. Syaoran stood more slowly than his wife, and gave her a warm smile.
"It is very good to see you again, Daidouji-san."
Tomoyo was in shock. What was Sakura doing here? When she said as much, Sakura answered her brilliantly, vibrant with happiness. Tomoyo thought that she would fall from surprise. How was she going to live through this? She still did not know how to face Sakura.
"Your mother and Eriol-san cooked up a little plot to give you a vacation, so they decided to contact us so we could all get together again, just like it was back in Tomoeda!" Sakura giggled.
"Oh, Tomoyo-chan, but I am so glad to see you." She said happily.
Tomoyo rallied her nerves and forced herself to smile.
"So am I, Sakura-chan! You must tell me everything about Hong Kong, and about Li-kun's frightening family."
Tomoyo smiled, and Sakura laughed at the mock fear that Tomoyo exhibited as she talked about Syaoran's family. Syaoran gave them a wry smile, and Eriol chuckled over the mention of Syaoran's frighteningly formal and rigid family.
"Before you ladies say anything else about monstrous clan members, executioner mothers or the like, may I tell you where Daidouji-san's mother and I have decided to take us all?" Eriol said as Syaoran turned his glare on him.
Nothing had changed, from back when they were still eleven and watched Eriol tease Syaoran and call him 'cute descendant', and play tricks on he and Sakura, of course with the help of herself. Tomoyo laughed, now that the shock of Sakura-chan and Li-kun were wearing off.
"We await the surprise breathlessly, Hiiragizawa-kun." Tomoyo said dryly.
"We are going to London to watch the famous London Chamber Orchestra since I have heard that Daidouji-san has a taste for Vivaldi and Haydn." Eriol told them.
Tomoyo clapped her hands in delight. It was both nightmare and dream. She must not seem shaky, or even slightly nervous. She must breathe calmly, and smile, and laugh. Like she was usually. Oh gods, but this was not usual.
"How on earth did my mother and you manage all of this, Hiiragizawa-kun?" Tomoyo asked.
She was giddy with excitement, and underneath that, fear. She was always good at wearing masks, a thousand masks, a hundred thousand. Everyone wore masks at one time or another, but some wear more, or are better than others.
She was the queen of masks.
"He cooked this plot up in that red chair of his, and made sure to find ways to embarrass all of us while doing so, Daidouji-san." Syaoran said wryly.
But everyone smiled at the mention of the large red armchair in which Eriol schemed and plotted, aptly dubbed the Chair of Evil by Nakuru and Spinel.
Sakura had that condescending tone down perfectly.
"We must be extra nice to Eriol-kun because he went through all this trouble for us. You must be nice to him." Sakura said in her best lecture voice.
It was the tone that one admonished children with, that the cookie was probably not very clean after the dog had dragged it outside and across the pavement of the driveway. Syaoran laughed.
"I'll bet Hiiragizawa doesn't mind. I think that I amuse him. Look at that smile on his face."
All eyes turned to Eriol, and he hastily wiped the amused sinister smile off his face.
"I would never do such a thing, Li." He said with much injured dignity.
"Before you tell me any more untruths, we had better get started to the orchestra before we are late."
Syaoran retorted with a roll of his eyes. Tomoyo shared a look with Sakura, and they both burst out laughing.
"You wound me, Daidouji-san, and you too, Sakura-san." Eriol said, pseudo-mournfully. "I didn't know that I was such a joke to everyone."
"But we are going to be late, so you may all laugh at my expense in the car." Eriol said with a grin. "We had better hurry."
Tomoyo was glad that she had at least recovered quickly. She was stumbling in pitch dark, and dawn was a long time coming.
Okay, guys, I just reformatted that, (a special thanks to Alice for reminding me that I am not writing a report, but a fanfic). So, was my first ever fanfic any good? And thank you to Killiko Jun for introducing me to A Cappella. KIT SPOONER ROCKS! ALL HAIL HER HOLINESS KIT SPOONER, QUEEN OF ALL CCS FANFICTION-DOM!!!!!!!! *Maniacal laughter* Sorry, but Ms. Spooner is really really good and I think I had too much sugar. But to make Killiko Jun happy, I changed the peppermint perfume to cinnamon. I like both, but I don't want people to think I am copying. And Ms. Spooner and I have the same taste in perfume! (Try Jo-Ann Fabrics' Peppermint Chamomile Anti-Stress Lotion. Mmmmm!) Really, I'm innocent! Thanx! ^_^
P.S. Also know that I know nothing about computers whatsoever. Keep that in mind.
P.P.S. You will see why I rated it R later, for those who mentioned it. XD