Star Crossed: Awakening
(Arc 2 of Star Crossed. Arc 1 was Star Crossed: Memories, read that one first)
Setting: 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...
Summary: New troubles arise for Sakura and Syaoran as the last year of their exile begins. As Sakura deals with family politics and the challenges posed by the sinister Leiko, she begins to understand more about her origins and capabilities than she had ever imagined...
a/n: Yay, the second arc is finally up! Something that bears a little bit more substance than the previous mushy gushy ramblings of my fourteen-year-old self!
I've taken a bit of a risk uploading this so soon, but whatever. I'm just impatient to get this started with.
Thanks to the readers of the Star Crossed series, it's an endeavour very close to my heart and I appreciate those who are open-minded enough to give it a go.
from the recesses of the dormant swirling embers new life pours forth
amid the chaotic cosmos of nothingness a star is born
Part One. Stars
Sakura stared out the window, wrapped in a warm cloak over her nightgown, watching the snow fall lazily outside, carpeting the ground in a soft blanket of white.
She sighed, wrapping the cloak tighter about herself. She knew she should have called someone to light the fire, but somehow, she felt awed at this time of year, two months after the Moon Festival, when the sky darkened early and snow fell from the sky, and the water froze over. At times like this her room turned cold and dark quickly.
She stared out the window. Syaoran was out there, somewhere. And he didn't have a decent roof over his head, let alone a fire or a warm bed. If he could manage seven years, surely she, Sakura, could manage a few odd nights.
Her room was dark, chilly, the door was bolted ever since Kenshin had tried to make an untimely visit. Her lip curled in distaste. Kenshin and Yoshisune. The both of them were trying to make her life hell. They had already succeeded in ruining Touya's life and now they wanted to ruin hers as well.
"Touya…" she whispered, eyes misting over. "Where are you?"
Touya was her older brother. They had been very close, though different in years. Touya, a Red Moon, Sakura, a Blushing Moon, and despite six years' difference, they had shared a special bond, especially when her father remarried barely three years after her mother died giving birth to her.
Fujitaka had been too busy, and Yoshisune was…best avoided, both her and her son. Her only refuge had been Touya. Aside from Syaoran, he was closer to her than any other.
My brother, Sakura thought, watching the snow swirl. He would be the patriarch. He should be the patriarch. A son of Kinomoto no Fujitaka and Kinomoto no Nadeshiko-Amamiya. A Kinomoto pureblood. He should be here at home, helping Father. Not serving military duty for Prince Ryozo on the border.
One by one, those she cared most about were being snatched from her. Her mother, gone before she could ever know her. Her brother, cruelly sent away without a word. Syaoran, exiled for seven painful years.
There was a knock on the door, tentatively, timidly. Sakura ignored it. The maidservants knew better than to disturb her. It was a quiet, contemplative time of the year. Everyone was granted their privacy.
The snow swirled down harder, illuminating the already-black sky. Sakura was reminded of her mother, whose portrait hung beside her bed. Her mother, Nadeshiko, with snow-pale skin and midnight-black hair that curled wildly, drawing fire to her forest-green eyes, the image of her daughter's.
Reed, what test is this? Sakura asked silently, glancing skyward. It was close to the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year. In those three days, the land traveled from the heart of winter to days of spring. During the three days of transformation and darkness, it was said the barriers between mortal land and Reed's land vanished. Careless ones could go missing forever, the faces of lost ones could be seen in odd places, and some claimed they could hear the voice of Reed in their heads. It was a time of devotion and faith, of endless prayer.
Sakura, she only had one question of the magician.
The knocking could be heard again, a little more insistently. Sakura ignored it again. They would get the hint sooner or later, and leave.
Her mind rested on Syaoran. Where was he? How was he faring? Was he staring at the sky the same way she was, searching for answers to life's many unanswered questions?
Where are you?! Her mind screamed out across the vast lands and slopes, far across a distance spanning the entire length and breadth of Japan, to wherever he was.
I need you here, with me…she thought closing her eyes, a single tear sliding down her face. I don't think I have enough strength left to fight alone.
But there was still silence, a blank silence, even harsher to her ears than the cawing of the crow. Angrily, she wiped away the tear, halting its lazy progress down her cheek.
You can hear me, I know it, she said silently in her mind. But whether he could bridge the gap with his mind, she didn't know.
Why don't you answer me?! Where are you?!?
If she could trust herself to open her mouth, she would have been screaming these words to the night sky, and she didn't know to whom she spoke, to Syaoran or to Reed himself.
Sakura froze. Her eyes widened. Who's there?
Silence reigned supreme as she stood, eyes riveted on some point in the night sky, where one star twinkled brighter than the rest. She was certain of it. Someone had just filled her mind with theirs, spoken with the voice of the mind. And not by any accident. Occasionally, she thought she could hear wisps of thought in Syaoran's head, many miles away. But who could harness that power in such a way?
Ah yes. You've spotted me.
There it was again. Sakura was getting faintly alarmed. Who are you? For it was clear to her that someone was clearly speaking to her, and if whomever it was knew she was currently staring at the stars…she shivered.
I don't know what you're talking about.
There was an odd silence, and the star twinkled knowingly. At the same time, Sakura could hear the same voice in her head. Ah, but I think you do, little blossom. You like to count the stars, don't you?
Sakura's mouth went dry.
Oh yes, the voice went on, I've seen you day after day, week after week, year in year out, in the dark of the moon or light, you seem to be infatuated with the night sky.
Sakura was staggered. Are – are you –? If it was possible for the voice of the mind to stumble, that was what it did at the moment. She glanced at the star more closely. There?
There was a gentle laugh, and then the voice came again. Very good…very good indeed…
Who are you? Sakura asked curiously.
Think, little blossom…the voice trailed off slightly before continuing. If you, the most solid believer, cannot say, then no one can…
Sakura's eyes widened. Who else? A bodiless voice among the stars? It had to be – yet it couldn't –
Close your eyes and let me show you…
Sakura obediently closed her eyes. At first, there was only blackness. Then, there was a flash of faint light.
I see nothing.
Focus, little one. Long years of torment are but the first test. You must feel it within you, feel the dormant power and bid it wake.
Sakura screwed her face in an effort, but the flash of light grew fainter.
Relax, cherry blossom. The key to this is tranquility. A great mage does not summon their powers by force. It is a drawing of inner strength, a slow siphoning of the deep magic buried within your core. To find it, you must learn to cross the margins…
Sakura's curiosity ebbed. Margins, what margins?
But the voice continued as if it hadn't heard her. …and the days of darkness approach. Within this very week, the lands travel through three days of darkness, in which the barriers between the margins disappear completely. Crossing over should pose no problem to an enchantress as powerful as yourself.
Sakura felt confused and indignant. I am no enchantress! That is a lie perpetrated by-
The Lis, the voice finished, and Sakura could sense its owner's smile. That was a sad tale. But they do not know half of your power. If they assume your greatest accomplishment can be to bend a man's will and seduce him to your way, you should be insulted indeed. For you are capable of more…oh, so much more…
Sakura jolted back to reality with a painful thud. She glared ruefully at the door, where someone was banging on the door. Her thoughts were muddled…was this what they called a spiritual trance? Had she just talked with who she thought she had? And what did he mean by crossing the margins?
Sakura's glare intensified. Wrapping herself in a thick cloak to stop her teeth from chattering, she slipped the bolt and opened it a crack.
"What do you want?" she asked crossly when she saw the tall form of Kenshin standing there.
He shuffled nervously. "Well, I…"
"Don't you know that it's rude to disturb someone when they are doing something important?" she demanded.
"How was I supposed to know?"
Sakura snorted, and looked at him with disgust. "Kenshin, anything I do is more important than seeing you." Not sensing a falter in his demeanor, she began to swell with anger. "Kenshin Kato, it is the dark of the moon. At this time, people like me can feel the presence of those taken away from them by people like you."
"You mean the Li bastard?" Kenshin said through gritted teeth.
"I mean my brother!" Sakura said explosively. "You remember him. Touya Kinomoto, the only son of Kinomoto no Fujitaka and Nadeshiko-Amamiya, the clan's rightful matriarch. Remember? Kinomoto no Touya, the clan's true heir."
She lifted her head proudly, and stared disdainfully at Kenshin, who had a muscle going in his jaw.
"You might fool yourself with what your mother says," she said, letting loose all the hatred she felt for him. "But don't fool yourself into believing that everyone else has been deceived. I see you for what you are: a cowardly, lowly, despicable piece of slime, unfit to defile even the Li stables. A gutless worm, afraid to show his face if weren't for his mother." She paused, staring at him. "Why are you afraid, Kenshin? Go, hold your head in pride. No one in this clan will ever expect anything of you. Be proud, that you will never take Touya's place."
She made to close the door, but paused, and turned to face Kenshin's ashen face.
"And as for that Li bastard," she said scathingly, Kenshin winced, it was a foul word to be used by a lady, "he is ten times the man you'll ever be. You wrongly accused him of sorcery and exiled him for seven years, and he went without complaint. Yet, had the tables been turned, had you been wrongly accused of sorcery and been sent away to live outside clan walls for seven years, you would not have held your head high and left. You would have demanded the Prince's attention, you would have hidden behind your witch mother, you would have sobbed like an infant –"
"Sakura!" Kenshin exploded, raising his hand and striking her across the face.
Sakura didn't even flinch, but stared at him, contempt visible in her beautiful features. "It takes a real man to silence a woman. It takes a coward to strike her."
"Why, you –" Kenshin moved forward, but a woman's voice interrupted them.
"What's going on here?"
Sakura moved backward slightly, arranging her face into an expression of maidenly anxiety, as Sonomi Daidouji made her way to them, a stern expression on her face as she stared suspiciously at Kenshin and his closeness to Sakura.
"Aunt Sonomi!" Sakura cried, opening the door fully and running to her aunt, the one adult she could trust. "Aunt Sonomi, I –"
"Has the wretch been bothering you again?" Sonomi asked sharply, throwing Kenshin a look of intense dislike. Sonomi had never had any regard for Yoshisune's treatment of her sister, or Kenshin's treatment of Sakura.
Sakura wrung her hands. "I was in my room," she said tentatively. "It's almost the dark of the moon, and I was praying…"
Sonomi nodded. "As was I, before this knave disturbed me." She rounded off on Kenshin. "Have you no respect? If you don't, at least leave the people who do be!"
Kenshin scowled. "I only wanted to talk to Sakura."
"But she didn't want to talk to you." Sonomi turned to Sakura. "Did you?"
Sakura shook her head. "I was in trance, aunt."
Kenshin lowered his eyebrows in a formidable scowl. "It doesn't matter if she wanted to talk to me or not. I wanted to tell her something."
"And what would that be?" Sonomi folded her arms.
Kenshin lost his temper. "Listen, you pompous old fool! I am a Kinomoto forechild, whereas you are nothing more than another wanton slattern! I wanted to speak to Sakura in private, and I will, too! Now, be off with you before –"
"Kenshin!" Sakura spat, her eyes blazing fury. "I don't know who's been feeding you all these lies. First of all, you are not a forechild. Second of all, you never will be. And finally, Lady Sonomi is the matriarch's sister, and my aunt. And I will not tolerate anything against her, or any other elder in this manor." She tilted her head.
"Besides," she added lightly, "you're one to speak of wanton slatterns. Isn't your mother one of them?"
"After all," Sakura said, "she's not really the Kinomoto clan's matriarch. She's just an advisor, really. Then why is she sleeping in my father's bed?"
"Because she's his wife," Kenshin hissed.
"My father has no wife!" Sakura said angrily. "His only wife was Nadeshiko Kinomoto, and she is dead!"
"What is all this noise?"
Sakura swore silently as she turned. There, standing in her regal finery, was the Lady Yoshisune, a tall, slim, sinister-looking woman with feral yellowish eyes and long black hair.
Yoshisune smiled slightly and made her way toward them. "Kenshin, Sonomi, Sakura, what is all this bellowing in the hallway?"
"Sakura insulted you, Mother," Kenshin said stiffly, casting Sakura a dirty look.
"Not so," Sakura said defiantly. "I spoke in defense of my own mother and my aunt. He perceived it as an insult."
"I find it rather insulting, Sakura dear, that you still do not consider me a mother to you," Yoshisune said silkily. "Nadeshiko died a long time ago. How you still remember her is beyond me…"
"Enough!" Sonomi said in a low voice. "Kenshin here was harassing young Sakura. Why don't you find your son something to do, Yoshisune? Before talking of running the clan, perhaps you should keep your own son in control."
Yoshisune cast Sonomi a sharp look. "Kenshin? Harassing? I don't think so. Dear, what did you do?"
Kenshin shrugged. "I only wanted to talk to Sakura…about what you told me."
Yoshisune clapped her hands together delightedly. "See? What is all the fuss?"
"I was praying," Sakura said through gritted teeth. "Praying to Reed for the peace of my mother's soul, and for the safety of my brother."
"You mean Kenshin?" Yoshisune inquired, brows raised.
Sakura glared at her, eyes narrowed with fury.
"I mean Touya," she said in a deadly voice, shaking with rage.
Yoshisune blinked. "You have no brother by that name."
"I have no brother by the name of Kenshin either!" Sakura snapped. "Nor do I have a mother named Yoshisune! My mother is dead!"
Sakura turned to face her father, standing there, quivering with anger. She could tell from the look on his face, that he had heard every single word.
"What is this I hear?" Fujitaka demanded. "Blind disobedience!"
"How dare you insult Yoshisune so!"
"I didn't mean –"
"Fujitaka," Sonomi said angrily, "the girl is not to blame. You should be proud of Sakura to remain so loyal to the mother who gave birth to her –"
"Proud! Hah!" Fujitaka made a derisive noise. "What should I be proud of? That every day we fall lower in status among the folk of Ryo? That the people of court assume my kin as practitioners of sorcery? Or perhaps I should be proud of my daughter for selling herself to the enemy!"
"You shame yourself while talking so," Sonomi said, putting her arms around Sakura's shoulders protectively, as if to shield the cutting blow of his words. "Touya would have understood. Nadeshiko would have understood."
"Understood that people outside our walls point at this clan and whisper of sorcery?!" Fujitaka was livid.
"What is so wrong about that?!" Sakura asked loudly. "Was Clow Reed not a sorcerer? Did he not engage in the higher practices of magic?"
"You be silent, wench!" Fujitaka pointed a finger at his daughter. "Else, if your loyalties fall to those outside the walls, go inside your room and pray for them."
"I was doing just that," Sakura retorted, eyes burning with unshed tears, "before your lackey disturbed me."
Fujitaka looked as though he would like to slap her, if it were not for Sonomi's tactful position, separating the two.
"Fujitaka," Sonomi said wearily. "I'm tired of all this. It is a time of remembrance. Sakura misses Nadeshiko. I miss Nadeshiko. And I'm sure you do too. Why don't you go to your room and pray for her? You are angry, blinded to reason with your rage. Maybe Nadeshiko will help you see the light."
Yoshisune's mouth tightened, but Fujitaka paid no heed. He nodded, suddenly looking like the old man he was. There were more lines around his eyes, the grey was ascending further in the fiery red hair he shared with his daughter.
"Thank you, Sonomi. I think I'll do just that. Reed knows what I'd do without you. It's like having Nadeshiko back sometimes."
Yoshisune looked terribly furious now, but Sonomi cast her a withering glance.
"No one will ever replace Nadeshiko, Fujitaka," she said, though her words were directed to someone else.
The memories were painful. Sometimes, the barriers vanished earlier than usual. For a second, Sakura thought she saw her mother, hovering behind her father. Her hair rippled black as night, her eyes fey and green, her white hands just touching the Kinomoto patriarch's hand. Sakura saw him stir slightly, and the vision was gone.
He misses her. More than he can say, he misses her. Day by day, it still claws at his heart. It eats away at him, little by little. I fear for him. More than you know, I do fear for this household…
Sakura stirred. It was the same voice again, that had spoken to her among the stars. But at the same time, it was not. Before, it had sounded celestial, a powerful, yet gentle force. Now, it sounded older. Frailer.
You say you fear for us, she spoke in her mind. But who are you to change things?
My dear Sakura, the voice spoke with a sad laugh. The time is coming soon. You will discover all answers to your questions. But you will be faced with a choice…and no one can spare you from this…
What choice? Sakura demanded. What do you mean?
Oh, Sakura…the voice whispered, before leaving her mind completely dark with forbidding. Feeling something clawing at her soul, she went back into her room, bolted the door, and flung herself onto her bed, sobbing uncontrollably into her pillow.
Disclaimer: CCS isn't mine.
a/n: And the plot finally begins to take a move on somewhere! This chapter happens to be one of my favourites. I don't know why. Maybe it's just the whole intense dialogue between Sakura, Fujitaka, Sonomi, Kenshin and Yoshisune? -sigh-
Oh, by the way, for any readers of my other fic, Once Upon A Time, I made Sonomi especially nice in this fic, just for you all. I happen to love Sonomi, so I wanted to do her justice here.
MEANWHILE, we have another couple of "villains". As if Sakura doesn't have enough on her plate with Leiko, I've finally introduced her evil stepfamily! Of course, there's more to Yoshisune that meets the eye, as we'll see soon...
Oh, and the mysterious talking voice among the stars? -wiggles eyebrows- It isn't that hard to guess, I think...
The chapters are going to be slightly longer than in the previous arc. Oh, and things get a bit more confusing to follow. Especially as this is really going to be less romance and more fantasy/mythos genre. You'll see what I mean.
Next Chapter: Sakura crosses over. What does that mean? Find out in Part Two: Snow.
Reviews make me the happiest person on the planet! I'm trying to maintain 15 reviews a chapter. Think you can do it for me?