Beauty and the Wolf

Chapter 3

Meanwhile, a striking young girl was rummaging through her father's library. She was very beautiful because of her bright personality which warmed the hearts of other people. She always brought the old, the poor, the young a merry smile, with her twinkling emerald eyes and her active interests. Often, they called her after the most beautiful flower in that district, Cherry Blossom. By no means was she perfect, for she was scared of ghosts, she was not very bright at times, and she hated mathematics. Yet she was always known to try her best at things. More often, they called her Beauty, because of the beauty of her inside. Her life was innocent and sheltered around people she loved, and her blithe will spread to everyone she knew.

One day, her love of books and curiosity caused her to stumble upon the Clow, setting free the Clow Cards. Soon, she found that it was her mission to collect them back again.

On one of these expeditions, Sakura rode on Cerberus' back to travel and track down more cards.

"Monster! Where are you going?" Her older brother asked.

"I'm not a monster!"

"Of course you are not, Sakura. Don't tease your little sister, Touya," Fujitaka, her handsome father commented as he prepared food.

"Well, I'm going out now. Yukito might come home for dinner today," Touya said.

Sakura's eyes turned round. "Hoe! Really?" She had a special spot for the Snow Bunny. "Well, I need to go now! Bye!"

"Oooh! Look. There's a single branch of cherry blossom there! Strange. Just a branch. It's beautiful, though. I want to take it home," Sakura exclaimed to Kero-chan in the form of Cerberus.

"Be carefu—" Kero-chan started, yet Sakura had already picked up the flower.

From the shadows, a boy in green Chinese battle clothes with a long sword and a wolf mask covering his face jumped down from a shaded tree. He drew out the lasin board, which flared out light. Then he declared, "What are you doing? Give that flower back! Do you know how important that is to me?" Syaoran glared at Sakura, and even under the mask, his amber eyes flickered dangerously.

"Hoe-e! I meant no harm…"

"No harm? And you! You have the Clow Cards, right? Give them to me, now!"

"But…"

Grabbing Sakura's arms, he tried to take them away by force.

"Right! Now, move to the right, and Sakura, tilt your head that way!" Tomoyo was enthusiastically video taping her and shouted out stage directions even though Sakura was struggling with full force.

"Who is that?" Syaoran asked, looking warily.

"Nice to meet you. My name is Tomoyo, Sakura's manager. Cool! Where'd you get that mask? It's perfect just like the one I was trying to find!" Tomoyo eyed skeptically the silver wolf mask.

"None of your business! I'm getting out of here as soon as I get these cards."

Just then, a young man with silvery hair came running down the road.

"Hello! I'm so hungry!" Yukito drew out meat buns then asked brightly, "Oh, do you want some, too?"

Both Sakura and Syaoran stopped mid-track and blushed furiously.

Later on, Syaoran muttered to Sakura, "If you aren't going to give me the Clow Cards, you're stuck with me, until I take them away after you collect them all. Besides, you tried to steal my flower."

"Hoe-e."

So that's was how Beauty met and came to be with the Wolf.

Together, Beauty and the Wolf rivaled in catching the Clow Cards. Often, the Wolf, as he was called now, sharpened his tongue on Beauty. She felt hurt and confused at those times.

"Why do you always wear a mask?" Sakura asked, tilting her eyes to look at Syaoran.

"That's none of your business," Syaoran replied harshly as he sat in the chair of an unlighted room.

Clearly, there was hurt written all over Sakura's face. "Yet maybe, that is why you never smile. It's always looks like you are frowning. I just wondered, why do you always have to hide yourself?"

"I can't escape," he replied bitterly. It was a long story. He had no wish to share it with Sakura. However, he still wondered why Sakura pursued to be nice to him, even when he sharpened his tongue on her, even if he was hardly normal. Maybe, it's better to open up to hers, he thought. At the last moment, he backed out, scorning himself for his weakness.

"Do you live all by yourself, then? Has anyone seen your face?"

"I live by myself. And I don't think anyone remembers my face. Not that anyone would ever care to. Maybe I don't even have a face."

"You must have a face, though. And, aren't you lonely then?"

"Lonely?" There was a silence, as Syaoran's sweat dampened his thick chestnut brown hair. He looked away. "No. I don't know loneliness."

"Don't you get an aching, empty feeling? I do, but once I find that there are people out there, I don't feel so bad anymore."

"Well, what will an innocent, sheltered girl, full of life know about me?" He asked mockingly, almost bitterly.

"I'm sorry. I'm so inconsiderate. Yet…" she glanced away. "You don't always have to be so brave. Everyone has feelings. A person has to feel lost and forlorn sometimes."

"Maybe I'm not a person, then."

With surprised eyes, Sakura looked at the bitter boy behind the mask. His features were not clear in the dark. Yet, there was something compelling about his eyes. "I didn't mean to badger you with all these questions. I just want to get to know you, that's all. You have something about you… I've never met anyone like you."

"Luckily, you'll never meet someone so bad and strange like me again."

She shook her head wistfully. "No. You're not a bad person. I hope to see who's behind the mask. I'm not scared of you, for I believe you are an angel inside. There's something in my heart. It has a strange feeling inside, though I can't describe it. It's like a little knot, waiting to be untied. And…I… I want to get to know you."

"Why would you want to know me? Just back off. It's better, for you. I'm different from you, get it? I am accursed. I am a shadow of myself." Syaoran backed away and turned away from Sakura's eager face. "You are my rival. You are something to get rid of, nothing else," he said in a hard, harsh voice.

To his surprise, she answered, "It's okay. I'll change that. I swear. It may be hard at first. But, trust me. Open up to me, for I'll be there to listen and understand, whether you are my ally or rival. That's what friends are for. I just hope you will think differently of me, someday."

Little did the Wolf know how Beauty foretold her words.

"You like Yukito, too, right?" Sakura asked, leaning her chin against the room with one candle light, which she convinced Syaoran to burn instead of staying inside with no light.

"I-I-I don't!"

"It's okay. I get all hanyaan, too," Sakura reassured as she leaned her head against her hand, blissfully. Her forest green eyes were dreamy and distant.

Syaoran sat down on a chair, fingering his wolf mask, to think. So this is how it feels like to actually like someone. I've never felt this way before, he mused. What are my feelings for Yukito. Why do I get all flustered around him?

He gazed at Sakura, with her golden brown hair glossy against the light and her eyes starry.

"Is there something on my face?" Sakura asked suddenly.

"Huh? No."

"Is there's no mirror here?"

"You want a mirror? You're very vain, aren't you?"

She pouted. "No. I just wondered."

He hesitated then said, "I have no mirror. Because I don't like to see my reflection."

A slow, playful smile melted in Sakura's soft lips.

"What?" Syaoran asked defensively.

Shaking her head, she replied, "Just. You changed."

"Why?"

"If it was like when I first met you, you wouldn't have answered my question so straight forwardly and honestly. I'm very happy."

"Oh." Syaoran watched out of the corner of his eyes that strange, different girl who did not back away from his gruffness and mask.

For the first time, he realized that she was beautiful, like a radiant star. Even though he had been harsh to her, she continued to be nice to him. She had touched something in his heart, which made him warm, and relieve that empty aching that he had for so long, that he didn't even realize it. Yet, she loved Yukito. The Snow Bunny was a handsome man. The Wolf was covered behind a silver mask in the form of a beast. He never smiled or cared for anyone. He never felt lonely, or loved. Or so he thought.

One day, Beauty and the Wolf were catching a card. When it was about to attack Beauty, he leapt in front of her to protect her with his body and sword. He winced in pain as he received a deep cut on his arm.

"You're hurt!" Sakura exclaimed worriedly. She drew out a handkerchief from the pocket of her dress, and proceeded in tying up the bleeding wound, tightly and deftly. "Thank you for saving me." As she rested a gentle hand on his shoulder, Sakura thought, Syaoran's still a gentleman, despite the gruff attitude and concealing wolf mask. There's something there beneath that expressionless mask.

"It's all right. But-- but this doesn't mean that I accept you!" Syaoran replied. Yet, he fingered the lacy handkerchief tied around his arm. It was the first time he tried to protect someone. It felt queer, and he couldn't quite place his feelings.

"Tsk tsk," clucked Tomoyo, friend to Sakura and someone who had watched all along. "You like her, don't you? Then you should tell her."

"I-I-I-I-I don't like her!" Syaoran stuttered in dismay. He was blushing furiously under his wolf mask. Gradually, he came to realize that his feelings for Yukito wasn't love. "Anyway, she likes Yukito." He spat out his words.

Tomoyo's large blue eyes were concerned.

Beauty's vivid face played before the Wolf. The way the light caught her sea green eyes, the soft smile, the lithe form. Each image was a torment, and but a wistfulness in the Wolf's mind.

"Hurry! I'll get some ice creams!" Sakura waved, then ran ahead.

Eventually, he came to realize that he had learned to love, for the first time in his life.

"Why don't you admit your feelings for her?" Tomoyo asked.

"I don't want her to feel pressured. She likes Yukito. I won't interfere with that," Syaoran replied even as he noted that there were only two soft pink petals left on the cherry blossom branch. There was not much more time left.

"You're wrong. I don't like Yukito," he said, as that topic was brought up again.

"Then who do you like?" Sakura asked, curiously.

"I like—"

"Oh, don't tell me!" For she had realized that she was treading on private stuff. "Anyway, do you want to go to the ball tonight? If you aren't busy?"

Syaoran felt hot, under his mask.

"Oh," Sakura's face fell. "Of course, you are busy."

"N-no! I'm not! I just don't want to go because of my mask. But I'll go."

"Really! That's great." She swirled around with an imaginary partner in her arms. Her graceful feet moved to the beat as she waltzed around the whole room. "It'll be so fun! And, Yukito is coming, too!"

Beauty and the Wolf entered the dazzling grand ball, lit by a dozen brilliant chandeliers.

Sakura was dressed in a flowing silk ball gown, trimmed with yards of laces and ribbons. It was especially designed by Tomoyo. Tomoyo noted with great interest how Syaoran was such a stunning dresser, even if he did always wear a mask.

"Go ask her!" Tomoyo nudged him.

"Ask what?" Syaoran asked.

Sighing exasperatingly, she said, "What else do you do at a ball? To dance?"

"Dance?" He squeaked. Before he could do anything, Tomoyo had pushed him into Sakura.

Beauty and the Wolf danced with each other. It was a strange sensation for Sakura to be whirling in the strong arms of Syaoran. For some reason, her heart thumped rapidly and she felt her stomach flutter like butterflies. Strange, she thought. I don't want to stop dancing. But, I see Yukito over there. I want to go to him, don't I? When she spotted Yukito, she felt hanyaan all over again, and she ran to him. Syaoran resided to the dark balcony.

From a dark balcony of the grand ballroom, Syaoran gazed through the red velvet curtains at the angelic girl and the equally angelic Yukito. They were laughing and softly chatting together. Their heads were tilted together. Somberly, he noted that one soft pink petal was left on his cherry blossom blossom. He dropped it on the ground and trampled on it with his left foot, crushing it to the ground. With sad amber eyes under his level eyebrows, he serenely gazed out at the harmonious night sky, with a handful of stars flung out into the sky. Sighing, he fingered his silver wolf mask one more time. He still hadn't gotten used to it, though he put up with it. If only he didn't have it on, he would feel more confident to approach her. Yet, it looked as if he was stuck with it. Forever.

Pushing aside the scarlet velvet curtains, Tomoyo stepped onto the balcony.

"It's still not too late," Tomoyo said. "You know very well that Yukito has no interest in her that way. And Sakura knows it very well, herself. She just doesn't accept it yet."

Wistfully, Syaoran shook his head, his dark bangs waving in the wind. "I gave her up. I will just watch my angel from afar. I'm content with that. Just as long as she's happy. She isn't for me."

A strange look appeared on Tomoyo's midnight blue eyes, as she fingered her thick, wavy hair. "You've finally learned to love. And you're sincere. You've come so far."

"If this is what the so called love is, I prefer not feeling it. Yet, then again…" Syaoran looked down upon his lean hand. "I just can't help it. It's as if an ache in my heart is replaced with another. Except that the second one is so much more pleasant, since it keeps you hoping."

"You should tell her." Tomoyo bent down and picked up the half crushed cherry blossom branch. "Sakura deserves your love. You can finally escape from that mask you wear, and show her who you really are inside. Everything will be all right. I trust you." She handed it back to Syaoran. For a moment, he hesitated, then took it. He clasped his hands over hers, in sign of gratitude for a supportive friend. Yet, his mind was already made up and it wouldn't sway.

Sakura looked away from the balcony, and returned under the light of the chandeliers. Her emerald eyes were cast down remorsefully.

Suddenly the candlelight flickered and faded and everything went dark. Sakura felt a great blast of aura around her. All around her, people were falling asleep. She ran towards the place where it came from, tangling herself in the dress. Only one thought was in her head. Syaoran!

Syaoran raised his arm to shield his face. A distorted black shadow appeared.

"Your time has nearly run out, Little Wolf."

With a whitened face, Syaoran exclaimed, "You---" His words were choked.

"Do you love someone and does that person care for you back?" That menacing, light tenor voice asked.

"No. That person has no thought for me." Shuffling his foot on the cherry blossom branch with only one petal left to the floor, he closed his grievous amber eyes.

"That's a pity. And you have failed in collecting all the Clow Cards, yourself, I believe. What a failure."

Opening his eyes again with a new fire, Syaoran replied, "I don't know what you mark as a success or a failure, yet I have found my heart's desire, and I'm satisfied with that." Syaoran paused for a moment, finding it hard to continue. "If it is my time to leave this life behind, that cannot be helped. You have masked me, and told me my criteria. I have not met it, yet I am content with all I have learned. No matter what you did to me, I have broken part of the curse. I am not a nobody beneath this mask. I know who I am inside. "

Clow Reed gazed through his spectacles and remarked with wry amusement. "You did learn a lot, little wolf. I see that your life is a pity to end so quickly." A cruel smile curved at the corners of his lips. "Let's have some fun. How about exchanging one precious life," he pointed his tall staff with the sun on top to a figure approaching, "For another?"

Sakura burst into the balcony, panting for breath. She was surprised to see Tomoyo fallen asleep in a corner, and a dark cloaked tall magician pointing a staff at her.

"You can survive, Syaoran," Clow Reed said. "But not her."

In a blur, Sakura backed away cautiously to the edge of the black balcony, as Clow Reed raised his staff and blasted out his full power.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! SAKURAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

There was a commotion and in slow motion, Syaoran ran towards Sakura, throwing himself over her. Everything was fuzzy, as he received a great blow on the arch of his back and shoulder, and at the side of his head. They fell to the cold stone ground together. A drop of ruby red blood trickled down Syaoran's forehead, from underneath the silver mask. Their hearts thumped crazily under sweat soaked clothes.

With trembling arms, Syaoran tried to pull himself up, even as pain throbbed through his hold body, as if he had been electrified. With a strained, cracked voice, he said, "Do what ever you want to do… with me… but don't hurt… Sa…kura."

"Syaoran! You-you…" Sakura's words were choked up. Laying Syaoran gently to the ground, she picked herself up and swerved around to face Clow Reed, her eyes determined, her mouth firmly set. "You dared to do this! I won't forgive you for doing this to him. I won't forgive till I win. Till, everyone, everyone wakes up to a bright, normal day once more."

"See if you can win, cute little Beauty. Conquer the darkness. Only those with a strong will can win this fight."

"I won't be beaten easily! Not after what you did to Syaoran." Her grip tightened around her staff." She raised it high into the air, parallel to the full moon hidden by dark clouds.

She closed her fiery eyes. "LIGHT!!!" The power resisted. Biting her lips until the bled, she poured the last drop of her aura into the staff. She looked at the hurt Syaoran, clenching his fists to keep his pain inside. He was watching her with the clearest deep set eyes ever, despite his fatal condition. Why had she been so blind? Syaoran, who was always beside her. Syaoran who she talked to, confided with, and understood her. Syaoran who she took for granted. "I won't disappoint Syaoran!"

Light flared out over the balcony and spread down below to all the town. The crimson sun peeked from the horizon, tinting the cloudy sky with gold.

She wavered, then held out.

"Well, well, well. The 'power of love conquers all.' When will I ever learn not to be so easy on people and underestimate them? Too bad, it's too late," Clow Reed mused to himself. Then he disappeared before Sakura could protest.

Sakura knelt down by Syaoran's side, leaning his damp chestnut head against her lap. "Are you all right?" She asked, fingering the mask stained with blood..

Just then, there was a CRACK, and a hairline sliver that had formed on the silvery wolf mask split in two, falling into pieces with a clatter onto the granite stone floor of the balcony touched by dewdrops.

Blinking his tired, yet vivid eyes, Syaoran's eyes focused onto Sakura's concerned face peering over him. Barely with a whisper, he said, "Don't worry, I'll be fine." He touched his face with wonder. "Is this really me? Do you recognize me with out my mask? It feels so different."

A handsome face with bright amber eyes, level, dark brows, firm chin, and sensitive lips, with a trickle of dried blood across his forehead, was finally revealed from under the wolf mask. Running a gentle finger over his smooth, clammy brows, Sakura murmured, "Of course I recognize you. No matter what mask you wear, or what form you take, you always will be the same Syaoran to me. Everything will be all right now." She patiently dabbed at the blood dripping from his head with tenderness, using the corner of her dress.

Clasping Sakura's slender fingers with his own strong ones, Syaoran brought it to his chest. He closed his eyes, then opened them with a new light. "Say my name again, Sakura. It's been so long since I heard someone call my name. I'm not the Wolf."

"The Wolf, the boy, you're still my Syaoran. I'll do whatever you want. I'll call your name a million times, just be all right."

Syaoran's eyes glistened wistfully. "I wasn't going to say this to you, but I don't want to have any regrets. Sometimes, you see an angelic light, and it's indicating that I have to make the right decision. I don't mind if you feel this, but I would just like to say these words to you. Before the end." He squeezed her hand and smiled gently.

Interupting, Sakura murmured, "It's okay,you don't have to--"

"I love you Sakura. You're the first person to teach me the meaning of love." Syaoran continued, "Don't feel any pressure from this. I'm sure this makes no change in your life. When I leave, forget me. It's just that I will never forget you. I want you to stay the way you are, and make another deserving person happy."

"Don't talk like that, silly. Of course I love you. Deep in my heart, I knew. Somewhere, something kept me unsure and so uncertain. Yet, I couldn't face it." Wrapping her warm fingers over his cold ones and bringing it to her heart, she said, "I love you Syaoran, so don't talk like that. You're not going anywhere, or leaving. You're not going to leave me. We'll stay together." The corners of her lips played wistfully.

"Together… It's all over, isn't it?"

"No, it's just the beginning you'll see. If only I could show you how much I care. I made such a big mistake. Yet, it was you waiting for me, all my life."

"You didn't… mind my mask?" Syaoran asked.

"No, not at all. A mask wouldn't change who you are, even if there is a vivid face underneath it. I almost wish that you were still wearing that wolf mask, so that I could show how I'd care for you no matter what."

Reaching out a weak hand, to stroke her hair dampened hair from the misty morning, Syaoran said even softer, "When I leave you, don't be sad. I want you to be happy with whoever you will choose.Someday in the near future, please think of me once in a while. " He touched her peach soft cheeks and continued, "And remember me once in awhile. Remember that Syaoran loved you and wished his best for you."

The corner of Sakura's eyes glistened as she brought up his hands and leaned her cheek against them. "Don't talk like that. You're not going to leave me anywhere. Where you go, I go. I love you and I don't want to lose you now, nor ever." She smiled ruefully as tears gathered and dropped in a pool. "And someday in the far future, we can look back into these old days with a wistful smile. Yet, we will be so content and blissful then, that we wouldn't want to return. Together, we will win through whatever obstacles of life there are. So, you're going to get better and be strong again in not time!" She picked up the limp, faded cherry blossom branch and laid it onto Syaoran's chest.

"I… wish all you say will be true. It seems just too good to be true," Syaoran said in a cracked whisper. "I want to live."

"It will be true. You'll live. You'll see. So, don't leave me." Crystal tears streamed faster.

With a crooked, joking smile, he muttered, "Hey, you're getting my shirt wet." With gentle, fingers, he brushed away her tears. "Don't cry now, don't cry."

Stroking Syaoran's tangled chestnut hair as he leaned against her lap, she replied, "Why would I cry? You're going to get up, and before we know it, you will be back on your feet, teasing me, bickering with me. But this time, it will be so much better, because we know our true feelings… Yet… Oh, why, why do my tears well out?"

"Silly… Don't worry… I-- Sakura, smile for me one last time. I can't… talk… anymore. So… tired." his voices faded off.

"Shhh." She put one slender forefinger to his soft lips. "Don't waste your strength talking. I'll smile, I'll cry. Just rest a little while and you'll be better."

With trembling hands, Syaoran stroked her golden brown hair and said through short breath, every word being a pain, "I'll watch over you even when I am gone… So don't cry, or mourn for me… Stay healthy and loved. Stay beautiful and pure... in your heart... When I… die… smile and remember my wishes… Sakura..." He closed his eyes.

Gripping his hands even tighter, Sakura said, "Don't die! You can't die. Tell me you are joking. Tell me that you will wake up, strong as ever. Syaoran, get up! Get up!" With a choked voice, she murmured, "I love you Syaoran, you can't leave me yet." Fresh sparkling tears brimmed over her glassy eyes and dropped rapidly onto Syaoran's shirt. She gulped down a lump in her throat as her heart felt pierced by a million needles.

Through blurry eyes, Syaoran said barely above the sound of the wind, "Don't weep for me... I'll always… be with you… in my heart… no matter… how far away… I may seem. I love you Sakura. Always have… Always will..." His glistening eyes shut forever, and his hands went cold and limp, dropping to the tile floor. The birds stopped chirping, and all was morbidly silent.

With eyes reflecting horror, Sakura covered her face with her hands.

"SYAORAAAAAANNNN!!!!!!" Her desperate wail echoed out through the balcony, and down the corridors, and through the whole town lying beneath.

Burying her face in Syaoran's sweat soaked shirt, she clutched his icy hands. The sense of disbelief was overwhelming, as no more tears came to her eyes, and a distant part of her told her that it was all just a dream.

Stroking Syaoran's cool forehead, she saw that a gentle smile curved at the corners of Syaoran's lips. There was a pacifying serenity and tranquility about his face. Then, there was a shimmer around him. He grew translucent. She made a grab for him, but leaving only sprinkles of glittering light, his body melted into thin air. The last pink petal fell from the sakura branch, and blew away in a gust of wind.

"No… Don't take him from me," she whispered hoarsely, reaching at the empty space, kneeling down on the cold granite floor.

A gentle phantom voice echoed in her ears, "I'll always be with you in my heart. I love you Sakura."

A new determination came to her ocean green eyes. She picked her self up, and stared down from the balcony, her torn dress waving in the wind, as her golden brown whipped across her face. "No. I was wrong. Syaoran didn't leave me. I won't cry, or give up. I'll survive and make it through. I know that you will come back to me, no matter what form you are in, no matter how much you changed. For Syaoran, you are you, and I love you… I will remember and wait a hundred, thousand years, an eternity for you."

Japan...

A drop of tear plopped onto the leather bound book. "Syaoran... What does Eriol mean by this? I won't let such a thing happen." Sakura shut the book gently and shuddered. July 13th. It was night. For some reason, it seemed as she had lived in the book. Eriol... What did he mean by this? Did he send Syaoran a copy of it, too?

England...

"Oh dear. Do you think my gift was too extreme?" Eriol pondered. "But it was a chance for me to have fun after so long. It was the most interesting thing I did since the last battle in Tomoeda, agaisnt Sakura."

Nakuru yawned, "Well, we all know Clow Reed crooked mind. Nothing new."

Suppi-chan added, "But I thought you did say it was a birthday gift, not a funeral gift."

"Right? I guess it was too extreme, even for me." Eriol smiled, crossing his legs on his coach.

"There's a thing called 'happy endings' in books. Especially fairy tales," Nakuru said, pronoucing each word.

"But that's so boring," muttered Eriol. "Anyway, I was just having some fun with Syaoran and Sakura. Don't you agree that those two are the most frustrating couple in the world? If it were up to me, I would send Syaoran right back to Japan this instant."

Gaining composure, Eriol added, "Not that it's any of my business."

"Poor Eriol... You're really not appreciated in this world anymore. BUT that doesn't mean that you have to go ruin birthdays," Nakuru said, flipping back her long fuchsia hair.

"Oh all right." Eriol waved his sun staff.

Epilogue

One year later, Beauty was walking down her village, carrying a basket of goods to carry to her great-grandfather.

Touya said, "Remember, go straight to your great-grandfather's mansion, and don't talk to strangers.

Putting on a red cape that Tomoyo made for her, Sakura walked down the road. Then Wolf spied her and schemed something in his head.

"Beauty, don't you think your great-grandfather would want some nice, fresh sakura blossoms, over there in the woods?"

Beauty, forgetting her brother's warnings went to the woods and ended up lost...

Japan...

"Hoe-e?" Sakura rubbed her head in puzzlement.

Kero-chan sighed, "This story is getting weirder and weirder.

Hong Kong...

"ERIOL..." My voice was unually low and strained. My fists were tightly clenched as I sweat-dropped. That twisted person...

England...

"What?" Eriol sighed. "Is there something wrong with that too? You said you wanted a happy ending! Fine." Eriol waved his wand again.

One year later...

"Did you hear? There's going to be a ball! A Masque, where everyone wears masks!" everyone exclaimed.

Beauty sighed. "I don't think onii-chan would let me go. He says it's too grown up for me. Oh how I wish I can go to the ball."

"Then, you shall go, Sakura-chan!" Tomoyo exclaimed.

"But I have no dress! No transportation, either!"

"Have no fear! I make your costume, and lend you my private limousine with my bodyguards!" Tomoyo announced. "But remember! You must return by twelve, or else you would turn into a swan!"

So, Beauty entered the ball once more, as a dazzling figure dressed in shimmering white, cascading with satin and sheer lace. Her fragile mask covering her eyes were derived from Swan Lake's Princess Odetto, and was decorated with pure swan feathers and glistening sequins. She was a marvel with her swan-like grace. If only...

At that moment, the herald announced, "The Prince shall now dance!" Her dazzling emerald eyes met the magnificent figure in shimmering velvet, his face half masked by a silver wolf mask. His eyes were a brilliant warm amber.

In his strong, firm arms, she dance as lightly as a feather, her lithe feet in movement with Tchailkovsky's Swan Lake.

The herald announced, "The masks will be taken off at midnight!" Just then, the clock began to strike midnight.

First stroke...

"I must go," Sakura exclaimed, running down the stairs.

"Wait! Please wait!" The Prince called.

"No! If I don't go now, I'll be turned into a swan forever." She dropped one of the the cherry blossoms pinned to her dress.

"Wait! SAKURA!!!!!!" He snatched off his mask.

Sakura stopped dead still. Her sea green eyes widened. "Syaoran? No, it can't be. Don't make fun of me. It can't be..." She stepped back, edging towards a cliff.

"No! It's me, Syaoran!"

"No... Tell me this is a joke. Tell me I am dreaming..."

"Sakura." Syaoran cast up his sincere amber eyes. "Remember? 'Someday in the far future, we can look back into these old days with a wistful smile. Yet, we will be so content and blissful then, that we wouldn't want to return. Together, we will win through whatever obstacles of life there are.'"

"Syaoran?" Sakura's eyes flooded. "Is it really you? But..."

"Remember how I disappeared, after I..."

"Died?" Kero-chan butted in.

"Yeah, whatever. I materialized back into Hong Kong. And I was alive. After gathering my strength, I organized this ball... for you."

"Can I believe you?" Sakura crumpled her dress, and slipped off her swan mask.

Gently, Syaoran pinned a sakura blossom into Sakura's golden brown tresses. "Of course you can." He buried his head into her hair and drew her close to him. Relenting Sakura placed her confused head on his shoulders, taking a sniff. Syaoran smelled of wild flowers and soap, as well as the distinct sweetness of him. No ghost or fraud would think of that.

"But I have to leave you, Syaoran. I am to turn into a swan now, by the same magician who fastened that wolf mask on you. What can I do?"

Syaoran muttered, "Well, screw him."

I could hear Sakura, Nakuru, Kero, and Suppi all sighed, all the way from Hong Kong to Japan, and England.

Eriol sweat-dropped. "Why? Is there anything wrong with this ending?"

"Well, let's just say that your intentions are good," Nakuru said. "Sheesh, a mixture of classic fairy tales."

"I've always enjoyed Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Swan Lake," Eriol drawled. Then he turned serious, and waved his great staff, one last time.

Before going to bed on July the 13th, I happened to read the last page of the book.

Dear Syaoran,

As you already have guessed, it is all my doing. I'm sure this book has left you confused. Well, please ignore the epilogue. It is pure nonsence to satisfy my crooked personality. However all before is an abstract form of the truth. You may wonder why the Wolf dies at the end. Literally, you are still alive. Alive and far from you love. Death symbolizes a gap between two star-cross'd lovers, whose distance apart is vast. I am not sure what you will do about it. It is up to you, not me. What you choose as your ending of the story is up to you, as well.

Eriol, aka Clow Reed

PS. To my point, HAPPY BIRTHDAY. (surprise! magical firecrackers burst out. "GAH!" I was frightened out of my wits. My sisters thought I was going crazy with my magic.)
PPS. Someday, in the far future, if you go back to find your love, read back the ending of the book. You will find it changed... You make the discisions.)

THE END WHICH IS NOT THE END BUT JUST THE BEGINNING

Wish-chan: Random story, huh? Comments at HAPPY BIRTHDAY SYAORAN?

Syaoran: ARE YOU WISHING ME HAPPY BIRTHDAY? WHAT KINDA B-DAY PRESENT IS THIS? AND WHILE I'M AT IT, MY BIRTHDAY PASSED SEVERAL MONTHS AGO.

Wish: man, i just didn't post it up...