Disclaimer: Card Captor Sakura is strictly property of CLAMP.

THANK YOU to Nara-chan for another beautifully BETA-ed chapter… honestly, none of you have any idea how many more weeks you'd all be waiting if she weren't here checking up on all of my mistakes. You rock, my dear.

Thank you all once again for your kindness and patience. I know that readers really don't pay attention when authors hound for reviews, but we only do so because reviews truly make a difference, to me at least. I want to thank all of my reviewing readers (and normal readers too, I suppose ;D), for sticking with me through THIRTY SEVEN chapters… and I know that my chapters get progressively longer. Reviews fuel my passion for writing – there's little pleasure derived from writing simply for yourself. Thank you all for the encouragement. It really kept me from running away (which I was tempted to do multiple times).

The plot is underdeveloped, the research is lacking, and there are more errors than I can count, but I had fun writing this story for you all, and I'm glad that most of you seem to have enjoyed reading it as well. This is the last official chapter… a special may or may not be in the making, but I suppose there is no better way to bribe for reviews than with an extra chapter. Haha.

I'm growing a lot, as those who've read my previous works can obviously see. Thanks for sticking with me through it all.

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Inscribed in the Blade

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Chapter Thirty Seven

--

While getting to watch all of her friends, including Eriol and Syaoran go through their daily lessons and even occasionally (when she was in Terada-sensei's class) participating was a nice change, the rest of her days were filled with unpleasant things.

The evening after her trial, Sakura had been asked to attend the peace meeting, since her position as a high-ranking lady of the South might prove helpful in smoothing some disagreements. The meeting did not go very well. The Southerners treated the negotiation with a great deal of suspicion, as was expected, but also with a great deal of scorn and distaste. They held the North responsible, and wanted full reparations to be made.

To her, most of the delegates that had been sent there were polite and courteous, but advised her strongly to return home as soon as possible, where it was safe. "Peace was an admirable cause to strive for," they'd told her. "But details were best left to those who didn't mind shouldering the weight of politics."

One of the nobles who'd come to meet with the Northerners had even been a former suitor of hers. Former, because she was currently engaged to Syaoran, but the hot-blooded male had inquired as to whether her brother had fully given his approval, to which she had to answer a reluctant "no", and had been satisfied with that. He had also wanted her to go home, where she could remain "chaste". Sakura had to try very, very hard not to pull Shirobana out on him. Syaoran had already begun planning the downfall of the unfortunate boy's clan. That meeting had not been a good meeting either.

Even while she was merely going about her days at the Academy, the moments felt filled with tension. On one hand, she was enjoying her freedom and company of her former classmates and Tomoyo. On the other hand, the looming darkness of the unsettled peace was heavy. Though Dairan and Gaoran's trials passed swiftly without much trouble, Sakura's heart had squeezed with painful tightness when Yelan-sama had to hide her face behind her fan at the announcement of the death penalties.

Honestly, none of them, not even their mother, had wished the two criminals a greater fate at that point, but still, it must have been beyond painful for a mother to sit by and say nothing during the execution. Sakura could not help but wonder which was worse, waking to find your parents murdered in cold blood, or sitting by and watching one son commit seppuku while the other couldn't bear to carry out the deed himself and had his head lopped off. Hearts were heavy. Relief had been intermingled with grief.

Yelan had cried. Sakura had been unable to swallow a few stray tears. Syaoran managed to make it back to the dojo before crumbling into her arms and wetting the shoulder of her kimono. Syaoran's tears were a silent affair, and Sakura had at first thought he seemed rather dignified when he cried, but when bloodshot eyes and a somber mouth, which seemed permanently creased into a terribly sad frown lifted up and met her gaze, Sakura had burst into tears just seeing his expression. There was much hugging and soothing and gentle, encouraging whispers that followed. Sakura wrapped her arms around him and cooed a soft melody into his ear until he fell asleep that night. He had never before seemed so vulnerable as then, and Sakura wished more than anything to be able to take the pain away.

And all the while, the unceasing (which in of itself was supposed to be a good sign) peace negotiations with the South continued to go badly. Both Sakura and Syaoran returned late at night, and the concerned creases on the faces of all the teachers and nobles could be seen. It should be made clear that the Japanese people are a proud people, and the South, which had been blamed and fought against, demanded nothing short of the humblest apology from the North as well as some financial and political benefits. Less than a handful of Northern nobles were willing to even consider writing a formal letter of apology to the South. They were, after all, adamant that the cause of the war did not truly lie with them.

Sakura felt her anxiety rise as a month and then another passed by and still nothing changed. What had they fought so hard for? Was diplomacy and pride really going to get in the way of all of their efforts? Eriol and Yue were doing their best, negotiating with the representatives that were sent up to the North, and yet they seemed to be at a deadlock.

Emerald eyes glared restlessly at the building where she knew Syaoran, Eriol, and several other Northern nobles were talking with the Southern representatives. Where they ever going to get anything done?

"Kinomoto-sama," a soft voice murmured from behind her. Sakura turned around in surprise to see a servant girl bowing to her.

"Yes? Is there something you needed?" she asked kindly.

"Please excuse me for interrupting your thoughts," the girl said politely. "Yelan-sama is summoning you to her chambers."

Sakura nodded. "Thank you. That will be all."

"Hai, Kinomoto-sama."

She maneuvered through the familiar pathways and corners of the Academy easily, smiling and bowing slightly at several of the students and teachers she recognized along the way. It was a bright morning, and despite the unchanging, overall gloom, Sakura felt her spirits lighten slightly. She was no longer a fugitive or a liar. She was Kinomoto Sakura, and the Academy was becoming her new home. A stray thought of her old home in the South, where her older brother was, likely working just as hard as everyone here to achieve peace, crossed her mind, but Sakura did not have much time to dwell on it as the doors to her future mother-in-law's rooms opened.

"Yelan-sama, you summoned me?"

"Sakura-san," the headmistress addressed the younger female from her seat.

"Yelan-sama," Sakura said with a little bow. "Is there something that you needed me for?"

Dark eyes surveyed her silently from under thick lashes. The Chinese mother sighed and leaned forward slightly. "I am sure, as you are heavily involved with the negotiations currently underway, that you are aware of how bleak the situation seems."

Sakura nodded in grim acknowledgement. "I am aware, Yelan-sama."

Yelan pursed her lips. "Then I am sure you will understand why I must take the actions I will now take. I must apologize to your first, Sakura-san. You are my esteemed future daughter-in-law, and the child of an old family friend. I had wanted a nice, forthright wedding for you and my son, but I'm afraid that with the current situation, it seems impossible."

The young girl faltered for a moment, at a loss. "Yelan-sama… I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean," she said slowly. Surely she wasn't suggesting that their marriage be cancelled? How would calling the wedding off help the situation at all? Sakura couldn't understand.

"I have arranged for two carriages, so I would like for you to pack your belongings immediately," Yelan said seriously. "We do not have very much time."

"Where will I be going?" Sakura asked in a small voice.

The older female took one look at the distraught expression on her future daughter's face and smiled. "Please do not look so alarmed, Sakura-san. We will merely be making a trip your home in the South."

Sakura could not see how this was comforting. "I am going home?"

"We, my dear, we. Tomorrow morning, my family and I will be departing with you to the South in order to formally hold your engagement ceremony with Syaoran. It is tradition that the groom's family must meet with the bride's to ask permission after all," she explained.

She released the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. "But what did you mean when you said it was impossible for us to have a straightforward wedding?" Sakura asked, relieved.

Yelan sighed once again. "I only meant that this trip will have to be just as much a political maneuver as it will be a personal visit. I had hoped that it would be otherwise. However, I believe that widespread news of your engagement will help in securing peace for both the North and the South. Your union will be seen by all of Japan as a political marriage."

--

Sakura felt a jolt of panic surge through her as once again the sounds of shouting men and upset horses shook the carriage. How many times had it been already? Three? The door was wrenched open and a hand reached in to pull her out. Syaoran swatted it away and stepped out of the vehicle first, and Sakura followed closely behind. Men who looked ready to pounce on her fiancé moments before, hesitated when they saw that she was accompanying him.

"The North must think highly of itself," the leader of the group spat, pulling out his sword. "Do you think that just because you're trying to call truce now that we'll let you just trounce around our land as if you're a noble of our own? How many family members do you think I've lost, boy?" He was speaking to Syaoran, and the tip of the man's sword was now pointed at him. "I don't trust you. I don't trust the lot of you!"

The young female swallowed a heavy sigh and looked nervously over to the next carriage. If it came down to a fight, she and Syaoran would more than likely be able to take care of themselves, but Syaoran's mother and sisters…The Kinomoto estate was close, and surely Touya knew that they were coming? Why hadn't he sent an escort for them yet? It was getting more and more difficult to reason with the people, and if things became ugly, bloodshed was not too impossible a conclusion. She was only glad that they hadn't searched their belongings yet. The valuables that were brought as a bride price would turn anyone's head.

"You will cease this nonsense immediately," Sakura broke in coolly, stepping forward. Syaoran's eyes watched her carefully, ready to intervene should things take a bad turn. As they spoke, Yelan-sama and her daughters were stepping out of the second carriage.

"And who do you think you are to be bossing me around?" their assaulter hollered loudly. "I don't follow Northern nobles."

Sakura's gaze softened as she surveyed the group of men before her. They were farmers, and by the looks of it, they were poor and had several heavy injuries. Their villages had likely become involved in the fighting. Only the leader had a sword, the rest were armed with shovels and picks. The man standing before her looked barely forty, and yet the grayness was already showing in his hair and the tough, tanned skin of his arms was cut up with new-looking scars, sword scars.

"I am Kinomoto Sakura, of the Kinomoto noble family, a Southerner," she said placidly. "Please do not be alarmed. I am merely going home to see my brother."

At her explanation, some of the men began to mutter amongst themselves, and yet the suspicious look in their eyes did not fade. Honestly, she couldn't really blame them.

"Why are you in a Northern carriage, Kinomoto-sama – if that's who you really are," a loud youth sneered sarcastically from the side.

"You will let me pass, boy," she answered, undaunted. "And you will show me more respect. If you need proof of who I am, then merely look at this."

Sakura held out a signet badge, one of pure gold and a Nadeshiko carved onto it. It was the symbol of the Kinomoto Clan. Chances were that none of the farmers would recognize it, but her own confidence would have to convince them. "My family has suffered no fewer losses than yours in this war," she continued, a bit colder. "My reasons for traveling and whom I travel with are none of your business. I am going home. Those who dare stand in my way will pay dearly for it."

The men scowled, but the one in charge put up his hand to silence the others. "How many girls in Japan do you think have auburn hair and green eyes?" he asked firmly. "She is the Kinomoto princess. Kinomoto-sama, I do not object to your traveling through your own land, but I'm afraid that I'm going to have to ask who the rest of these people are." He motioned towards the Li family members and their servants. "You crossed with them through the border?"

"I had not realized that the members of the Kinomoto Clan have fallen so low in your esteem. They are guests at my estate," Sakura answered with a frown.

"Motsu! They're carrying jewelry and enough money to buy… entire villages with them!" A male voice called from behind a carriage.

Sakura's blood turned cold. "You dare lay a hand on my belongings?" she hissed. "When the Kinomoto Clan has already done so much to help the villages in this area?"

"How many cartloads of rice can it buy?" the man named Motsu asked curiously.

Her heart grew faint and from the corner of her eye, Sakura could see Syaoran's hand edge closer to the hilt of his sword. There was no need, however. Just at that moment, the sound of pounding hooves began rumbling the ground and within mere seconds a small group of soldiers bearing the Kinomoto Clan insignia arrived. Sakura breathed a sigh of relief.

One man dismounted and rushed quickly over to her side while the rest rebuked the crowd of villagers and pushed them back. Sakura smiled at him, despite her irritation. "Sousuke, you are late."

Her faithful servant bowed, smiling warmly back at her. "I apologize, mistress. I'm afraid that we were delayed by some bandits along the way."

She shook her head in relief. "Never mind then. Please escort us back to the estate immediately. Onii-chan must be waiting."

"Hai, Sakura-sama."

Sakura smiled at Syaoran. "Really, I thought that it would actually come to fighting this time."

"There are some strong feelings of resentment against the North here in the South," he observed, watching the grumbling and glaring villagers turn to leave. "It is to be expected though."

They were back at the main house by noon, and Sakura was surprised to see so many carriages lined up near the entrance. Leaning out the window, she called over to Sousuke, "Sousuke, why are there so many people here? Isn't that Matsura-sama's carriage? And Ohjii-sama's too!"

The horses pulled to a gradual stop in front of the main building. Sousuke opened the door and reached in to assist her out, but Syaoran waved him to the side and got off first, offering Sakura his hand instead. She smiled at the tiny action of possessiveness. "What a gentleman," she teased him softly as she dismounted the short steps.

"To answer your question, Sakura-sama, the Southern nobles have all been informed of your return, and many representatives from the various families have been sent here to welcome you home. Your achievements have been widely spread among our people, and most have come to offer you and your honored brother their condolences for the passing of your honored parents as well as to see with their own eyes your safety," her manservant explained as they ascended the steps.

She frowned slightly. Was this part of the plan? "Onii-chan knows that we're here for my engagement ceremony doesn't he, Yelan-sama?" Sakura asked her soon to be mother-in-law.

"He is aware, but I doubt the other nobles are," the Chinese noble answered with a small smile. "This is for better impact. I am sure that you are aware what kind of disturbance my family's presence here will cause. That is exactly what I want. We must achieve this peace by any means."

Syaoran took hold of her hand and gave it a slight squeeze before letting go as they approached the entrance. Sousuke nodded to the servants at the doors who bowed and opened them up, announcing their arrival. A soft wave of nostalgia washed over Sakura as she stepped into the home she hadn't seen in nearly a year. The maids and servants lined up on either side the hall and bowed, echoing "Welcome home, Sakura-sama."

Instantly, the sound of swiftly moving footsteps could be heard as her brother appeared from around the corner and rushed as quickly over to her as he could while still seeming respectable. "Sakura," he muttered before pulling her into a swift hug. "I'm glad you're safe," he whispered before drawing away as the rest of the nobles rounded the corner as well. Touya straightened and announced to them, "My honored guests, Kinomoto Sakura, my younger sister, has returned home."

The soft pad of feet on wood ceased as the group of familiar aristocrats came to a stop in front of them. The torrent of polite condolences began.

"Kinomoto-sama!"

"Sakura-sama!"

"Thank the heavens that you have returned safely."

"On behalf of all of our families, I want to offer you our condolences for your many grievances. Please do not be concerned, we of the South will all be sure to avenge your honored parents' assassinations. Please be at ease now that you are at home."

Sakura smiled nervously and bowed. "I thank you all for coming all the way here to welcome me home."

"Sakura-sama, I cannot express how happy and relieved we are that you are finally here and safe. If there is anything we can do in order to help you, please let us know."

It was several minutes of rushed speaking before any of them took note of the rest of her party. It was Amamiya-jiisama, her grandfather from her mother's side who noticed. He paused and looked at the small group of Chinese nobles with grave surprise. "Li Yelan-sama," he said with recognition.

The Academy's headmistress nodded politely. The others were openly staring with… Sakura could not tell whether they were more mortified or confused – perhaps it was a combination of both.

Sakura sucked in a deep breath. "How rude of me, please allow me to introduce all of my honored guests. The Li family of the North: Li Yelan-sama, Li Syaoran-sama, Li Fuutie-sama, Li Feimei-sama, Li Fanren-sama, and Li Shiefa-sama."

By then, all of the nobles there had already recognized the name of the famous Northern family and had fallen silent, bewildered and slightly suspicious. They looked at each other, unsure of what to do, but when Sakura's grandfather bowed slightly in respect, they all followed suit. It was not a difficult decision to make. Northern though the Li family might be, the regal air Li Yelan had about her made not paying her at least the most basic respects unthinkable.

"Sakura-san," her grandfather turned to her solemnly. "May I ask why the Li family has accompanied you here from the North?"

She bowed to her grandfather before turning to Syaoran's mother. Yelan nodded at her and stepped forward, bowing towards Touya. "Kinomoto-sama, I am here today to confirm the engagement of your younger sister, Kinomoto Sakura, to my son and heir, Li Syaoran."

Touya bowed deeply in response, ignoring the looks of shock and horror on the other's faces. "This is truly an honor, Yelan-sama. The Kinomoto family is delighted by your presence in our house. Please, if you would follow me inside."

It was impossible to ignore the sullen, uncomfortable silence as the well-sized group walked down the hall towards the ceremonial guest room, and while Sakura wished desperately to stand next to Syaoran and to draw some comfort from his strength, she knew it would be wiser not to infuriate the nobles who had come to see her. She could feel their eyes on her, demanding to know why and how any of this was occurring.

The cold objection on her grandfather's face was mirrored on the expressions of the other guests' faces as they sat down to discuss the matter at hand. "Kinomoto-sama," one man said, turning to her brother suddenly. "I demand to know the meaning of this. Why is your sister getting engaged to a Northerner?"

Touya did not falter and instead met him gaze for gaze. "Mashiro-sama, I do not understand the nature of your disapproval. In my opinion, there is no man more fit than the heir of the Li family to betroth my precious sister to."

"Wha—" Mashiro-sama sputtered indignantly. "I-Is not the Li family responsible for all of the fighting that has occurred?! I demand a proper explanation. I am well aware that you are trying very hard to establish peace between our two rivaling sides, an effort I recognize and respect, but for you to sacrifice even Sakura-sama, whom we have all watched grow up beautifully, for something like that—"

"Something like what?" Touya interrupted sharply. There was an abrupt quiet as the new leader of the Kinomoto Clan glared at his bold guest.

"Please do not become so upset on my Clan's behalf, Kinomoto-sama," Yelan-sama said smoothly. "I will address the complaints of Mashiro-sama, since I am almost certain that everyone else present thinks similarly as well."

Amamiya-jiisama inclined his head slightly. "Please, Yelan-sama, while I do request an explanation, I certainly mean no disrespect to your person. It is true that recent events have caused me to become extremely concerned, but I hold you in the highest respect."

The noble who had so rudely burst out with demands before, turned red. "O-Of course, I meant no disrespect as well."

"Li Gaoran and Li Dairan, recently arrested on charges of war crimes, have been disowned by the Li Clan. They and my family, other than the unchangeable blood tie, have had no ties since even before their death penalty was announced. In fact, it was under my orders that their investigation and arrest was carried out," she explained seriously. "Though they are from the North, most of the nobles in the North were not in any way involved in their plotting. Therefore, we of the North are doing our best to make amends. With so many nobles' opinions to consider, however, it has been difficult to establish conclusive results."

There was an awkward pause at these words. Those in the room all knew that it was the South who was making peace agreements difficult to establish. Of course, all of them refused to admit that they were mistaken, but it was still an uncomfortable reminder. "I-I see," one noble stammered, nodding in an official sort of way.

"Surely you have no other reasons to think lowly of the Li Clan, Mashiro-sama," Touya said, unable to keep a slightly smirk off of his face.

"I-I would not dare—" he protested.

Another one of the nobles frowned but nodded. "You are quite serious then, Kinomoto-sama. You mean to have young Sakura-sama marry Li Syaoran-sama."

"Of course I am," he responded without hesitation.

Yelan turned to one of her maids and nodded. "Please bring it in," she ordered.

The procession of jewels, gold, precious cloths, and other tokens was long indeed. "This is the bride price we have brought with us. Only a small portion of course; more gifts will be sent over the period of this year," Yelan explained calmly, not batting an eyelash at the expensive treasures being carried in front of her.

Sakura winced. Was pure show of money to overpower the nobles a part of the plan too? If so, she mused, it was probably working rather well. Several jaws were already hanging, a thing almost unseen among the composed nobility of Japan.

Yelan bowed low, her hands folded neatly before her. "As head of the Li Clan, I, Li Yelan, request permission for my son, Li Syaoran, to take your sister, Kinomoto Sakura-sama's, hand in marriage."

Sakura had been silent and anxious throughout the entire process, but at those words, a happy blush spread across her cheeks. The slight color did not go unnoticed by some of the others in the room. Syaoran smirked at her from across the room and she looked away with a pointed pout. Her grandfather scowled.

Touya rolled his eyes slightly before bowing as well. "I entrust my sister's future into your family's hands, Yelan-sama."

--

"It's not quite as large as the Academy," Sakura giggled as they walked around her home, showing Syaoran around. "But the garden gets pretty close. Of course we don't have a forest of Sakura trees, but we do have quite a few. It's too bad they're no longer in season."

"You have a very nice house," he complimented politely, a slightly saucy grin on his face. "I particularly liked your training rooms. They are very well kept."

She nodded as they moved towards her wing of the estate. "Everyone in the family but my mother practiced some form of martial arts; we're rather famous for it, actually. At least, my father was." The past tense "was" held a bit solemnly in the air, but Sakura pressed on swiftly, refusing to be gloomy. "Did you want to go visit anyplace else?"

Amber eyes gazed down at her softly. "I want to see where you usually spent your days. Or were you at finishing school much of the time?"

Sakura rolled her eyes. "Finishing school? How on earth do you suppose I ever got my hands on a sword? Of course I was tutored at home; my mother was both graceful and wise, and she was my teacher."

"It's a shame not all of her traits rubbed off on you," he commented, smirking.

She sniffed and headed outside to where the stables were. "If you must know, I spent most of my time on horseback, with Kero-chan. We visited the local villages and marketplaces a lot, and I even taught some archery to the children sometimes."

"Oh? It's a good thing that I brought LeiFeng with me then," he said, eyebrows raised.

Sakura looked over at him questioningly. "You want to go riding right now?"

He smirked. "I told you I wanted to see what sort of things you did at home, didn't I? I want to understand what sort of world you come from."

Sakura looked away slightly, for some reason not quite happy. It was strange, since he was being thoughtful. "It's not so different from the world you come from…"

Amber eyes narrowed. "Are you alright, Sakura?"

She nodded. "Yes, I suppose so." Inwardly, Sakura thought it was a good chance to go out and relive her former life a bit too. Even though it wasn't as if she would never get to come back to the Kinomoto estate, but she doubted that visits back here would be often. It felt so good to be home – yet strange. It made her just a little frustrated.

As they rode out into the local areas and greeted the people there, however, Sakura felt some of her gloom disappear. Since Yelan-sama was visiting, most of the nobles had decided to commence an impromptu discussion about the future relationship between the North and the South. It was not technically a peace meeting, per se, but everyone knew that possible peace very much depended upon the outcome. It was the entire reason they'd made such a very big deal about the engagement ceremony, after all.

But the sight of a flustered Syaoran trying to interact with curious children was extremely effective in driving her worry away. They'd brought baskets of apples out with them from the estate to hand out.

The Li heir handed a small girl an apple. "Here," he said stiffly. "An apple for you, girl."

Sakura laughed and dismounted, going over to his side. "You can't talk to children as if you're about to drag them to some serious diplomatic conference," she chided gently, beaming at the small female and nodding encouragingly at her. "You have to smile and be friendly."

Syaoran eyed her skeptically. Sakura sighed and picked up another piece of fruit, handing it to the girl's younger brother. "These apples are really sweet; I'm sure you'll like them," she told him kindly, beaming at him cheerfully.

Big brown eyes watched her silently for a few seconds before a large smile broke across the boy's face. Sakura could not help but giggle at the missing tooth in the middle of his grin and next to her, she could feel Syaoran's shoulders shake slightly with his contained amusement. "Why don't you just go ahead and laugh?" she teased. "You might scare away fewer kids that way."

He glared at her, but the ghost of a grin was on his lips as they continued handing out food. Sakura felt her heart warm slightly. It made all the difference.

"Onii-chan! Onee-chan! Arigatou!" the children called out gleefully.

"Oh? Isn't that nice? You're an 'onii-chan' now," Sakura giggled.

Syaoran sighed and stood up straight. "All this leaning over for small people is more trouble than I thought."

"That's just because you're too tall," she answered cheekily.

"Taller than you at any rate," he responded, a smirk on his face.

"Ah! Look! Look!" one girl pointed at the two of them. "Onii-chan is teasing Onee-chan! I bet he likes her!"

Sakura blushed while Syaoran smirked. "Oh? And what makes you say that?" he asked, leaning down once again and staring at the small female.

"You do, don't you?" she protested hotly, hands on her hips. "I see the way you look at Onee-chan! You don't smile at us, but you smile at her! Plus, my mommy says that when a boy teases a girl it means that he likes her!"

By then a small crowd of children had gathered around, all of them staring expectantly at Syaoran. Sakura's giggles were muffled by her hand as she looked on. She was curious as to how he would react to the small child's declaration. She'd seen him interact with the children of other nobles, but all of those children had been taught to respect the heir of the Li Clan. These small people looked so strikingly different from him, their rags to his expensive robes, their bright, childlike faces to his stoic expression that Sakura wondered if he would be able to hold his own against them. "Do you need me to rescue you?" she asked mischievously.

"I've got this covered," he answered her with a growl. Reaching out, he grabbed her hand and pulled her over to his side.

"You wouldn't," she said, pointing a finger up at him.

Syaoran smirked. "Oh, but I would." Bending over, he placed a chaste kiss on her cheek before looking back down at the girl who was staring at them, jaw hanging open.

"Y-Y-You kissed her!" she squeaked.

"Yes, I did," he answered smugly.

"So you do like her!!" the children chimed excitedly. All of them blushing and looking at each other as if something forbidden had just occurred.

Syaoran's normally stern expression was much more relaxed than usual, and to Sakura's surprise, he chuckled softly. He smirked at their audience as well. "No, you're wrong. I love her."

And that was that, Sakura realized, as the children began chattering excitedly. The strange guilt she had felt every time she began to recognize the Academy as her home, the odd confusion she'd felt since coming back to the south, both evaporated as comprehension dawned upon her. Some of the parents who'd been watching from the side were smiling and laughing as well, but none of that mattered very much to her at all. She finally understood. A part of her would always miss her old home, but she had a new home now, and it more than made up for all that she had lost.

She intertwined her fingers with his. What was home? It was where her heart was. And come what may, she'd always be her home's side - his side.

Sakura gazed up at him happily and he rolled his eyes. "What is it? You look as if you're plotting something. I'm warning you now that, whatever it is, it isn't a very good idea."

"I am not plotting anything," she huffed, but continued to giggle. "I was just thinking that I like my new home a lot."

"Your new home?" Syaoran asked, eyebrows raised. "You mean the Academy?"

"If that's where you are," She buried her face in his shoulder.

"Is your home where I am?" he asked softly.

"My home is where my love is," she murmured.

--

Owari

--

First of all, I want to thank everyone who has read my story from start to finish. I know that thirty six chapters is LONG, and that you would all accompany me through every single one… it's truly been an honor and a pleasure.

Okay, for all of you freaking out saying "That's the end?! That's the end?!", technically yes, it is the end of my story. However, there will be one more chapter coming up – I think, depending on how much all of you want it. For those who've read my previous stories on my previous account you should know that I have a habit of writing a "Special" chapter (unless I flake out, which isn't unheard of) after the end of the story.

I already have a vague idea of what I want to write, but I won't bother unless you guys want it. ;D You know what you got to do. After thirty-six chapters, if you haven't reviewed yet, I think it's about time you should!

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onee-chan – older sister

onii-chan – older brother

arigatou- thank you