How To Love A Prince

by Jianne


This is a work of fiction (see website). Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's (rather wild) imagination and/or are used fictitiously (for the sole purpose of entertainment and nothing else) and are not to be constructed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Clamp owns the original Cardcaptor Sakura characters (you know they do) and everything else is owned by the author, unless stated otherwise.


To L of Death Note.


Heika – His/Her/Your Majesty

Kokyo – Imperial Palace

Hai – Yes

Kotaishi – Crown Prince

Kotaigo – Empress Dowager

Torii – Shrine Gate

Takoyaki – Some kind of a street food

Yabusame – Horseback Archery

Baka - Idiot

Hakama – Traditional pants usually for men

Konichiwa! – Hello!

O-genki desu ka? – How are you?

Kakejiku – A Shinto burial tradition

Juuust Before You Read

You won't be able to understand half the story if you ignore the Japanese words, believe me. As you read, try to scroll up to the Vocabulary List or something.

1Sho – Spunky and Buttercup

"She has come, Heika."


Narita International Airport

Early Spring



She couldn't believe it. "I'm in Japan," she softly whispered, "I'm finally in Japan." Her large light aquamarine eyes almost fanatically followed the people bustling about—some were hurrying to the glass doors, others were hugging their loved ones while a few were eagerly looking for those waiting to welcome them home. She took a deep breath and tightened the wrap of her large lavender overcoat, desperately trying to calm her pounding heart and nerves.

For the past seventeen years, she has never considered America as her home. Sakura was told that she had been in Japan before, but only once, when she had been so young that she had no real memories to remember from her short visit. But it has always been the idea of going back to Japan that has her chest hammering, her insides churning, and her throat choking up—the similar symptoms of falling in love, her grandfather used to tease her.

"Japan is your home, Sakura, always remember that."

Her eyes misted at the heartwarming memory. Sakura missed her kind grandfather terribly. Coming from the side of their mother, Grandpa Satoshi had been the only relative Sakura and her older siblings, Sayuri and Touya, had, which was why he had become their guardian after their parents' car crash almost thirteen years ago. To focus his attention to his grandchildren, he immediately retired from being the president of a fairly big corporation he started when he was younger and left his stocks to do the work. From their peaceful life in Los Angeles, Grandpa Satoshi had helped them recover from the shock and grief to be able to adjust to their new life in Chicago.

He had been their father, their mother, their teacher and their friend. He had helped them see learning as an enjoyable privilege, instead of the means to get a good job someday. During sunny days, they would go to the park and play soccer. Afterwards, when they would come home exhausted, their grandpa would tell them stories about the samurais, the great emperors and the hardships his beloved country had undergone through the process of development and modernization.

But he hadn't limited their informal education to Japanese history. Having acquired an incomparable knowledge during his younger years, he had taught them Chinese, French and Spanish, as well as world history and literature. By the time Sakura and Sayuri had entered high school, their intelligence alone would have made Touya's college friends look up to them. And Nature, as if wanting to compensate for their early acquaintance with the harsh reality, also blessed them with lovely appearance. Although many had always commented on the similarity of the sisters' looks, it was always Sayuri whom everybody considered the beauty of their school. With long hazel wavy locks only two shades darker than Sakura's and matching eyes that reminds one of copper, Sayuri was the mature, calm and collected older Kinomoto. In the peculiar way that Nature works, Sakura's personality was the exact opposite. She was vibrant, friendly, impulsive and extremely outspoken. Because love wasn't something that they were deprived of, Sakura turned into this optimistic, carefree teenager who strongly believes that in the end, everything's going to be alright. While it was mainly Sayuri's beauty and intellect that initially attracted the people around her, it was the honest, artless laugh and smile of Sakura that made everyone in hearing range smile as well.

Sakura sighed. She fished out her cell phone from the pocket of her coat and turned it on. What greeted her was the wallpaper picture of the Kinomoto siblings with their grandpa, taken only two weeks ago. Sayuri was making a funny face; Sakura was dragging Touya and forcing him to take the picture with them while Grandpa Satoshi was enclosing them all in a big hug. It had been Sakura's surprise celebration party for having passed the Princeton University's entrance exam. Touya had come back from the family company in Los Angeles to drop by for the weekend while Sayuri was enjoying her early spring break from college with her longtime boyfriend. All her American friends had been there, including her lifelong crush, Tsukishiro Yukito, whom had been Touya's best friend ever since junior high. Her gaze dropped to their grandfather's laughing face. We were so happy that day, Sakura thought.

She checked the letter Grandpa Satoshi had left for her. His grandfather was actually the very reason why she flew in to Japan. She just wished it wasn't his grandpa's grave-to-be she'd be going to in an hour. He had left specific instructions for Sakura where to bury his ashes. Although Grandpa Satoshi lived in the U.S. most of his life, his last wish was for his remains to be rested at the in Kanagawa.

Sakura sniffed and blinked back the tears forming on her eyes. "Darn it. I can't cry now. I haven't even lasted an hour yet…" she muttered. Squaring her shoulders, she clutched her suitcase and turned her heels towards the wide transparent doors, all the time convincing herself that everything was going to be just fine.

After all, she was home.


Kokyo, Tokyo


"If everything is settled then you may go now."

Elegantly garbed in a kimono of fine peach-colored silk, a lady of over seventy years gestured to a man wearing a casual uniform which was pure white, except for the large, circular emblem on his arm.

The Imperial Palace Security Corps.

"Hai, Heika." He said with a bow, and, with the stealth required of all palace servants, he took his leave.

The moment the sliding door closed soundlessly, the lady exhaled and put down the book she had been pretending to read. Then she rested against the sofa, bare of the composure and grace she has been perfectly executing just seconds earlier. Yawning, she muttered, "I'm supposed to be enjoying my retirement now," and, without as much as glancing, she called out, "Too much stress for so little entertainment this is, don't you think so, Azumi–san?"

The official lady-in-waiting of the elderly lady replied with a hint of a smile, "What do you think, Kimiko-san?" If she were heard by someone else, she would have been slapped and then fired; but the lady had long ago kindly offered familiarity with her—at least whenever they were alone. As she'd expected, Kimiko let out a soft chuckle, still cautious of anyone who was in hearing range outside the door. "I think," she took out a piece of paper from a torn envelope, "that someone's in for a surprise. What about that, Azumi–san?"

"I believe that you will make sure the Kotaishi is in for a lot more than a mere surprise, Kimiko-kotaigo."


Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture


1:51 PM. Sakura checked her watch and was amazed to see that her hotel check-in and her travel to the shrine had taken less than an hour. "I guess there's not much traffic in Japan, right, Mr. Kazuhiro?" she asked the taxi cab driver whom she was making fast friends with despite the language barrier. Although Grandpa Satoshi had educated Sakura everything he knew of the Japanese olden times, he had stubbornly refused to further his teachings from that, and this resulted to Sakura's ignorance of the country's complex traditions and its national language.

The middle-aged driver shook his head, grinning. "No trapiku. No trapiku." He swerved to the left by the traffic light, and pulled up the car. "Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu," he announced, pointing to the long steps at the end of the avenue.

Sakura smiled, overwhelmed with the excitement that has been bubbling up in her ever since she stepped into Japan. "Arigato gozaimasu, Mr. Kazuhiro!" The man seemed rather pleased that she could at least thank him in Japanese. When Sakura reached out to him her payment after dismounting the cab, he just shook his head. "Furi. No. Furi. Okay?" It took Sakura a moment to understand that the old man has just given her a free ride. She hesitated at first, but the kind man just grinned and drove on. "Ohh. Well, arigato again!" She waved until she could no longer see the cab down the road.

With a deep breath, she tightened her grasp on the knot of the cloth which was holding the urn of her grandfather's ashes. "This is where you'll rest in peace from now on, Grandpa," Sakura whispered, in awe of the scenery. She walked past the torii and through the avenue proudly lined with huge cherry blossom trees. The flowers were caressed by the wind, gently blowing them away from the sight.

With her mp4 player's earphones blasting full music in her ears, she was determined not to be disturbed by the noises the cars and the crowds were making. A digital camera was in Sakura's hand the next minute, snapping pictures of almost everything she could see from where she was standing: children playing hide and seek under the trees, lovers walking down the shrine, high school friends eating at a small takoyaki tent by the sidewalk and young girls blushing over their fortunes. Sighing happily, Sakura wandered off around the largest shrine. I wish I could live here forever, she told herself. Now that she thought about it, she wondered if Tokyo University was anywhere near the shrine. Last year, she had secretly taken an entrance exam to the national university's Faculty of Letters at the Japanese Embassy in Chicago. She had hoped to study in Japan for college, not in Princeton University, where Sayuri and Touya had gone to. Her acceptance letter will be arriving this month, just as the e-mail from the university had gladly informed her a week ago.

Sakura was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't realize she has just passed by a large sign before walking through a dirt path crossing. After several minutes of being absorbed by the pictures in her digital camera, she looked up just in time to see a round object dashing towards her in lightning speed. It was only a split-second—Sakura suddenly couldn't move her body. She could only watch the object whiz past her left cheek by half an inch. After a moment of realization, she lost her balance, and she ungracefully landed on the ground with a thud, her ears now bare of earphones and her camera tumbling a few feet away from her. She turned shakily to see what the object could have been, half-expecting a wall with a bullet hole in it.

A turnip-headed arrow was at the dead center of a wooden square board.

"Yabusame?" No sooner than she gasped out her wild guess did she hear horses' loud thumps of hooves on the ground. When she finally managed to look up, there was a small army of persons clothed in white and black, all with bows and arrows.

"Baka!" Sakura scrambled to her feet at the sound of the growling deep voice from the front.

A tall, grim-faced chestnut-haired man dismounted from his equally harsh-looking black horse and marched towards her, all the while cursing her in Japanese. Unable to understand what he was telling her, Sakura simply blinked at the man wearing a white undergarment beneath a plain black traditional kimono and solid grey hakama. Sakura thought he looked every bit like a samurai then. The man looked a little taken aback. Then, as if trying to regain his composure, he heaved a sigh and slightly shook his head.

Naïvely thinking that it was her turn to greet this man, Sakura cheerfully said, "Konichiwa!" She waited for the man to greet her back (as her pocket-sized Japan Tour Guide certainly, certainly promised) but when he simply stared at her as if she were some strange animal in the zoo, she tried again. "O-genki desu ka?"

This girl has some nerve, Syaoran thought, trying very hard to stop the twitching of his eye. Determined to cut this conversation with this weird kid foreigner, he finally said, "What do you think you're doing?" The quick display of shock, incredulity and utter relief on the girl's large, expressive eyes of odd color was so startling that Syaoran could barely veil his sudden amusement.

"Finally! Someone who could speak English!" Sakura said out loud, her relief overpowering the warning of the temper in the man's voice. Having decided that she has to become friends with this man, she opened her mouth to talk, but was interrupted by a loud, almost forced, chuckle behind the man she was talking to. A dark-haired man with almost the same height and the same white uniform emerged from the group and gracefully descended from his horse. Smiling, he trudged down in their direction and spoke. "Are you okay?" he asked with an accusing glance at the man before her.

"Oh, I'm fine! I'm perfectly fine!" Sakura gestured her hands at them. "That's good," the smiling man said, "By the way, I'm Eriol and you are?" Delighted that she'd be making not just one but two English-speaking friends on her first day in Japan, she answered happily, "Nice to meet you, Eriol. My na—"

"Look," Syaoran was suddenly holding her arm, his dark brown eyes staring down at her, "we did not come here to chat with you. Next time you choose to come skipping into restricted areas, make sure that—"

"This is a restricted area?" Sakura's eyes widened, and, without bothering to wait for an answer, she exclaimed, "I'm really sorry! I—I didn't see any warning sign or anything…I didn't know…" Her voice trailed off as she followed the pointed look both men were giving over her shoulder. Not that far away from them was a huge warning board: NO ENTRANCE: RESTRICTED AREA. And in English too. Sakura let out a defeated sigh. This day's turning out to be so crappy, she thought.

Syaoran raised an eyebrow at the girl. One second she's lively and full of life and the next second she's as depressed as hell. He sighed. This girl…

Discreetly, Eriol was then studying Syaoran. He always had a soft spot for kids. But this girl... Eriol shifted his gaze to the interesting little lady. A heavy knit pale yellow turtleneck was layered to her long lavender coat that reached up to above her knees, leaving only the lower part of her denim jeans. With her fair, if not pale, complexion and her olive-green eyes, she'd be sixteen at the oldest, Eriol guessed. He shook his head. Young as she was, there was no denying that she has pushed her luck too far—trespassing an off-limits area, disrupting a yabusame practice, interrupting Syaoran's words, and most of all, not showing any hint of respect to Syaoran.

Because the first offense normally would have already itched Syaoran's exasperation, Eriol had had to suspend his friend's anger since it would have certainly boosted his already infamous reputation of being cold and impassive, especially now that they were entertaining guests from Spain. Backing off, he cast the unfortunate girl a pitying look. Too bad. She was so cheerf—

"Never mind. Just don't do it again," Syaoran said, without looking at her. As if that wasn't shocking enough in Eriol's eyes, Syaoran's hand reached out and rumpled the top of the girl's auburn long hair almost affectionately.

Eriol, who had always prided himself with his calm, collected, gentlemanly exterior, found his mouth hanging open as he did a double take at the scene. Syaoran was looking anywhere but her, yet his hand was still on top of the girl, whose grin now reached to her ears, her offenses apparently forgotten. His thoughts of having Syaoran confined in a hospital were interrupted by the soft, smiling voice of the girl. "If you really forgive me…" Eriol's eyes widened.

"Then, could you smile for me please?"

With superhuman effort, Eriol stopped himself from fainting right then and there. He was so bewildered he couldn't think—say—move—do anything at all to stop the inevitable from happening. "S-Syao—"

A small tug lifted the corner of Syaoran's mouth. "There. Happy?" As soon as he said that, his face returned to the inscrutable, blank face everybody (but the girl) was familiar with. The girl nodded, satisfied. "Yup! I feel better. Well then, I'll be leaving now." After an awkward deep bow, she turned then ran toward the entrance. Before she took a sharp turn out of sight, she waved to them once more and shouted.

"Thanks for being my first friends in Japan!"

He didn't know how long he has been absently staring at the camera he had picked up from the ground, but when he did snap out of it, he found Eriol scrutinizing him, an utterly amused smile on his face. Having decided to entirely ignore him and the rest of what had just happened, Syaoran calmly traced his steps back to the group. Nodding politely at the Spanish visitors, he took the lead back to the field, inwardly anxious to get the stupid private yabusame practice over with.


Wakamiya Sub-Shrine, Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine


An incense stick clasped in both hands, Sakura bowed and kneeled in front of the small memorial place of her deceased grandfather. She then proceeded to burying the bottom part of the stick into the bowl of sand, wishing the soul of Grandpa Satoshi to rest in peace for all eternity. "I hope you're happy up there, Grandpa," she whispered.

"Here. This should be perfect for Kakejiku." Mr. Kiyoshi, the Shinto priest of the uppermost part of the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine, kneeled beside Sakura and offered her a painting of her grandfather when he was still in his 20's. Sakura gave a slightly puzzled look. "Kakejiku is a Shinto tradition to hang a painting of the deceased, instead of a photograph." He carefully smoothened his long white ceremonial robe before hanging the painting just a little over the gravestone.

Sakura gazed at the kind-looking priest and she wondered what her Grandpa's relationship with him was. The priest carried on to explain when she asked. "We were very good friends, you see. He was actually my only real friend, which was why I was in despair when I received his second letter in over forty years, asking me to take care of his gravesite here in the shrine."

"When did you receive Grandpa's letter?"

His face settled to a somber expression. "About a month ago."

Sakura fought back the growing lump in her throat. Grandpa had known he was dying two weeks before. She sighed. But Grandpa Satoshi hadn't expressed any pain nor done unusual big things. As far as Sakura knew, the strangest that he had done during his last weeks was spend more time in his study room, but he hadn't been the type who did things regularly either. To say that his death came as a devastating shock to Sakura, Sayuri and Touya was putting it mildly. The only consolation they held on to was the happy memories their loving grandfather had left. That, and his letters.

Sakura had received hers the day of the funeral, as had Sayuri and Touya. They had quickly filled her in on their letters' contents, which was basically of how Grandpa Satoshi loved them and would miss them. Sakura's, however, was different. She had memorized the last message of the dearest man in her life the day she opened the envelope.

Dearest Sakura,

How are you coming along, my dear? I hope you are well.

There is one thing I will ask of you, Sakura. I would like my ashes to be put to rest in Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura. My dear friend, Iwao Kiyoshi, will see to the gravesite. Please go as soon as possible.

Be happy in Japan. I love you, Sakura.


Sakura had easily figured out what her Grandpa had implied. Her intention of studying in Tokyo University was no secret to the old man, but he used to always refuse to give in to this particular request. Sakura knew Grandpa Satoshi best, and just like a true Japanese, he would die first before he'd turn back on his pride and his dignity. It was just like him to give his long wanted permission disguised as a burial ritual. Sakura smiled faintly. His want for her to go to Japan was nothing but a discreet shove to the path she was determined to head to and Sakura was eternally grateful for that. The next thing Mr. Kiyoshi told her only confirmed what she had been thinking.

"Satoshi also informed me that I am to be your guardian for your stay here in Japan," he said in a tentative voice, "I hope you understand that I wish only to carry on what your grandfather's last wishes are and therefore I would only want the best for you."

Sakura nodded and offered a polite smile. "I would like that very much, Mr. Kiyoshi."


Tower Gate, Main Hall


"57, 58, 59…" Sakura jumped on the lowest step. "60!" She muffled her laugh and then playfully turned to the smiling old priest. "I told you there are only 60 steps in this staircase, Mr. Kiyoshi!"

"Why, that's strange. I was sure there was an extra step here just yesterday!" he replied good-naturedly. "You must've counted wrong then. Do try again while I attend to the preparation for the Annual Wakamiya Festival." He solemnly added, "Be safe, will you?"

Sakura nodded and smiled reassuringly at the retreating back of Mr. Kiyoshi. She was happy to have met the kind man. He and Grandpa Satoshi were so similar, it was like having her grandfather back. Both were well-read, intelligent and kind. And she wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Kiyoshi has figured her all out by now either. She had been speaking with him nonstop ever since they'd settled the gravesite. Sakura absently turned to the few people lingering around the grounds and then lifted her eyes to the orange-tainted sky, wondering if Satoshi was looking at her right now. Hi there, Grandpa…

Sakura had been so lost in her thoughts that she didn't hear someone walking down to her until he was already beside her.


Sakura visibly jumped at the voice. She turned, and saw the brown-haired guy from the restricted area. He was wearing dark sunglasses, a black cap, black jeans and a white statement shirt that says, Nice Enough. Compared to the kimono robe he was wearing earlier, the man was so casual that Sakura wouldn't recognize him if he hadn't lowered his sunglasses. She'd remember the golden brown eyes anywhere. "Pardon?"

He turned to her. "There are 61 stone steps. I just counted." He drawled out. They both turned to the long flight of steps behind them and then looked at each other. Sakura blinked. The guy smirked. "Want to bet?" Sakura stared back. "Are you sure? I've climbed back and forth twice already. Besides, we don't even know each other."

The guy shrugged and crossed his arms. "Scared, Spunky?" He'd already given her a nickname. Now with a smirk on her face, Sakura's eyes narrowed ever so slightly, clearly recognizing his challenge. "Don't call me that. What are the stakes?" He gave her a sideways glance and smugly replied, "You decide."

"How about…anything at all?"

Syaoran raised his eyebrows in complete amusement. Doesn't she realize that she's the foreigner here and he the Japanese? Granted, she had looked familiar with the chief priest earlier when he'd passed by, but the number of stone steps didn't really seem like the type of information someone like Iwao-san would give.

Probably mistaking his silence as cowardice, she crossed her arms, mirroring him. "Scared, Buttercup?" Syaoran bit back a chuckle. Did this little girl just try to flirt with—

He studied her laughing taunting eyes. She wasn't flirting alright. She hadn't been happy about being called Spunky and was retaliating with giving him a nickname that was supposed to hurt his manly ego. "Not scared. Confident," he said in a mocking voice.

With a shared nod, they posed in the middle of the first step and proceeded. "One…"

"Two. So…where is Spunky from?" Syaoran asked conversationally and gave her a quick glance. She looked really resolute and overenthusiastic. "What part of 'don't call me that' don't you understand?" She sighed. "Chicago. You?" They reached the fifth step. He silently noted they have just figured out a way to talk and count at the same time.

"I'm from Tokyo. What, I don't look like Japanese?" he asked, slightly surprised at her stare. She paused, as if struggling between counting and answering the question. "Not really, no." She looked up to him for a second. "That is, unless you tell me that's mud in your hair, and that you have accent-stealing powers. Eight." She moved on.

Syaoran hid a grin. He never thought those qualities would ever sound like defects. "The mud color went with the package of genes from my father, and I studied in New Jersey for two semesters, so I had plenty of time to steal all the English from my roommate." He replied, emphasizing her words. She looked a bit embarrassed, obviously catching on his sarcasm. "I didn't mean that," she quickly said, peering up at him guiltily. They both stopped at step number 13. "Now you think I'm the most offensive, ill-mannered—"

"A bit impolite for a little girl, but certainly not the most." Now he really was grinning. When she gave him a quick, hesitant look, he couldn't help but rumple her hair once more. "Buttercup accepts the apology. With a smile, even, just as I thought you'd want him to." Then he flashed an exaggerated white smile at her as they continued to step up. She laughed then, an honest, full, almost melodic laugh that only someone as innocent and pure as Sakura could ever muster. "I never thought it would, but Buttercup suits you very well!"

Syaoran raised an eyebrow and feigned a stern tone. "You know, Spunky should really watch it when you're dealing with the male pride. You'd think I'd be offended by now. Step Eighteen." She simply shrugged and went on to the nineteenth step. "You see that large gingko tree over there?" He pointed to the huge tree just beside the staircase and she nodded. "Minamoto Sanetomo, the Third Shogun, was assassinated by his nephew who hid behind that great tree. All because of his devastated pride." He finished knowingly.

Her hand motioned an extravagant flourish. "It could be about the ego, but it was mainly an issue of jealousy. The Imperial court used to have the authorization to grant official court titles, right? Twenty-two. Because Sanetomo focused on the Kyoto culture, he was quickly promoted—that is, too quickly for his nephew, Minamoto Kugyo, who happened to be serving for a far longer time. Twenty-five. The next thing Sanetomo knew, he was being stabbed to death by a jealous Kugyo right there."

Twenty-nine. Syaoran gazed at her admiringly. This girl knows her history well. "Point taken. But you forget that Sanetomo succeeding the Shogunate chair was justifiably a stab in the pride of Kugyo, since he is the first son of Yoriie and all. If you ask me, it's a matter of the cause and its effect. Thirty-seven." The girl nodded. "I completely agree. It is history we're talking about." With a faint smile, she looked at him thoughtfully. Syaoran pocketed his hands. "Okay. Out with it, Spunky."

"Forty." Sakura said instead, silently studying the man beside him. He was tanned, and was largely built. Why, she barely reached his wide shoulders. Her eyes ran to his sculpted jaw, high cheekbones and his pursed mouth. Sakura felt the blood rush to her face. He does have a rather cute smile, in that reserved, cool way… "You do know," he slowly said, jerking her out of her thoughts, "that wearing sunglasses doesn't necessarily mean that I can't see—or in your case, feel—your admiring gaze, right?" Sakura choked on her breath for a good ten seconds, before she let herself speak. Let me fix that little red wagon of yours. "I was just thinking that for a man, you don't have that large of an ego. Unfortunately, I'm having second thoughts about it now…"

Syaoran instantly knew what she was doing. Of course, he was not going to bite the bait, so he settled for neutrality. "You're having second thoughts about my ego?" He innocently asked. She gave him an all too-sweet smile. "Your ego? Of course not. Now masculinity—or in your case, lack thereof—is another thing." Then she took hurried steps and left him. It was only when she reached step fifty-three that she allowed herself to look back at the frozen man. He looked incredulous. Syaoran slowly lifted his eyes to the girl who was leaning back almost smugly. "Did you just call me…" He trailed off, shuddering at the thought.

What, gay? Sakura mentally finished for him. She affirmed his unfinished question by nodding and a raise of an eyebrow. Needless to say, the guy was the farthest from being gay, but she wouldn't let him know that even if it killed her. Slightly wary, Sakura half-expected him to rush to her with rage, flashing his eyes at her…

But he only threw back his head and laughed out loud.

Syaoran couldn't remember the last time he laughed this hard, if he laughed this hard. She really is spunky, he thought to himself, taking off his sunglasses. Not many persons, stranger or not, would dare talk to him like that. The girl even used his own words to get back at him! Trying to calm down, he caught on the priceless look of shock on the girl's face which only made him laugh harder. To the girl's discomfiture, he suddenly stopped and began towards her.

Sakura stepped back, higher into the staircase, as the man she knew to have golden brown eyes ascended towards her, his orbs sliding to a darker shade. For every step he took towards her, she marched back. She looked around, at the dark, starless sky, the isolated grounds, the swaying leaves of the gingko tree…anything but the seemingly dangerous man.

"I'll have you know," he lazily drawled out, his eyebrows wriggling suggestively, "you are the first one to ever doubt my…" he paused, as if searching for the right word, "…identity. Granted, you don't know me at all, but all the women I've—" Sakura rolled her eyes and interrupted. "Really? And just how many are we talking about here? Let me think." She didn't. "One?"

Before Sakura could even react, he strode towards her in a flash, until his eyes leveled up to hers. "More like…sixty-one." He said in that low, deep voice that surely went with those looks. Sakura scoffed, disgusted. "Of all the nerve! You keep count of that?" She lifted her left foot back up, but the step she was expecting became suddenly inexistent, and the next thing she knew, a strong arm was around her waist, supporting her from the ground. Her eyes widened when his shadowed face neared hers, and, when he was only a breath away, he whispered.

"I win, Spunky."

Sakura blinked, and when his teasing, amused smile finally registered in her mind, she pushed him and quickly backed off. They were at the top of the flight, and Sakura suddenly found herself trying to steady her legs. When she looked up, however, she found the infuriating guy waiting for her impatiently, his arms crossed once again, his sunglasses back in place. "Fine. What do you want?" she asked, determined to get this over with. His eyebrow rose, as if calling her a sore loser, which Sakura of course wasn't.

He opened his mouth, but hesitated, and at the last second, he turned his back on her and headed for the long flight of stairs. "W-wait!" Sakura called after him, utterly confused and furious by his behavior. When he reached Step Number One, Sakura tried again. "Hey! What about the—"

Despite the great distance of the steps, Sakura saw the unmistakable twinkle in his eyes when he abruptly turned and yelled out to her. "We'll meet again, Spunky!"

Childishly, she stamped her foot in annoyance. "Don't call me that! Arrgh!" Sakura seethed, watching the figure run off.

"Call you what?" Sakura turned, and found Mr. Kiyoshi staring at her curiously. "Spunky!" she almost snapped out.

"Spunky?" he echoed. "Yes! He called me—" Sakura turned to face the grounds and pointed to the distance.

"Who called you?" Kiyoshi moved towards her and looked at the grounds. "He—I don't know his real name, but—Buttercup was—" Sakura stammered, a little flushed.

"Buttercup?" he asked, more interested than ever. "Who's Buttercup? Where's Buttercup?"

Shoulders slumped, Sakura let out a sigh, defeated. "As a matter of fact, I don't know either."

Kiyoshi then gave her an I-can-never-understand-how-you-teenagers-speak look and shook his head. "Come now, child. You must be hungry. But before that, I want you to meet someone first."

Sakura almost dragged herself towards Mr. Kiyoshi, just realizing how dead tired she was and in desperate need of sleep. Buttercup, huh?

She followed behind the old man, blissfully unaware that Buttercup's promise didn't have to wait too long.


Names, dates and the places were my main problems, but I found a way to get around them, although it did not come easily. The letter o with the emphatic symbol on top may complicate some of the Japanese words, but for uniformity's sake, I will not add –u, as usually done by English translators, and will single-mindedly retain o, regardless of the pronunciation. And, you will notice that since Sakura doesn't know how to speak Japanese, she's calling everyone with Mr. and stuff, implying that she is speaking in English. As for the Japanese, adding -san is part of their language (as we all know) and would mean therefore that the dialogue is in Japanese. This will help you to know when they are speaking in English, and when in Japanese. As for the places and the traditions, they are real and they exist, but I still have the tendency to twist a little of those to spark things up, so nothing's ever for sure in this story…

Reviews (you don't get tired of this, do you?) are eternally appreciated and will be replied to, if asked (but not necessarily remembered, let's be honest), Constructive Criticisms, however, are remembered, while Flames are challenged and provoked (actually, please flame me as I have nothing else better to do at the moment).

Don't review if you don't want to.

Nemo me impune lacessit.