Author's note: YES, I'M ALIVE!
And I'm really, really, so terribly sorry for this delay. I know it doesn't make up for anything, but still, I feel like I owe you guys some kind of explanation about my absence. It was just that things didn't go my way earlier this year. I wanted one thing so bad and I worked hard for it, and when it was finally within my reach... I screwed up. Like, really screwed up. Sucks, I know. I was so down and disappointed, and the next thing I was aware of, I was on the road. (I spent 14 hours on the road, and I would have continued on, but the land ends there. LOL.) I stayed away. I came back. I leave again. And then repeat the process all over. For those who wanted to know, yes, I'm totally fine now. :)
Anyway, thank you so, so much for still being here! Thank you guys. I appreciate it. I really didn't like that it took me this long. I wished I could have updated so much earlier, but yeah. And I'm also sorry for not being able to reply. For the life of me, I couldn't remember who I replied to and who I didn't yet, so I stopped altogether. I'm really sorry. Again, thank you for waiting and for continuously being patient. You guys are the best! Seriously.
Disclaimer: I don't own CCS.
"Hey..." Eriol looked apologetic as he knocked on the window of Syaoran's car.
Syaoran opened it. "Yeah?"
Eriol looked at Sakura, who was on the passenger seat. "They've announced the boarding call for your flight," he informed. "Tomoyo wanted to go and fetch you herself, but she isn't allowed to go out anymore."
"Oh... I'll be there soon."
"Okay." Eriol nodded before walking away.
When he was gone, Sakura bit her lip. "So..." She was trying to think of something to say. However, Syaoran beat her to it.
"... Do you like your private life?"
"Huh?" She turned her head towards Syaoran. "What do you mean?"
"I mean," he kept his head low, "Since Lena confessed and all, the rumors about you will finally be over. You will have your old life back." Syaoran took a deep breath. "Do you like that?"
Sakura was confused. "Of course I do." What was there not to like? That was also the reason why she was grateful that Eriol, without the media knowing that it was from him, released a statement on her behalf stating that everything is good with her and Lena. Eriol, along with Lena's publicist, made sure to kill the issue for good.
"Oh, Syaoran..." Sakura held her hand out, thinking that he was worried about not being able to have a private life for himself.
"No, it's not about me," Syaoran cleared. He took her hand that was on his arm. "I'm asking about you. Is that what you want?"
"I... I don't understand."
"Do you..." He paused for a moment. "Do you prefer a quiet life than being constantly under the limelight?"
Sakura may be naïve but she wasn't that blind to not see where this was coming from. Softly, she asked, "Do I really have to choose?"
For the first time since they were left alone, Syaoran looked up. "No, you don't." He shook his head. "I'm sorry for even asking. I couldn't..." He swallowed slowly. "I couldn't allow you to throw everything away the same way you didn't allow me back then."
"But maybe... maybe I could have both?"
Syaoran didn't answer.
"But I did handle things well with the gossips, right?" Sakura tried again. "I'm sure it's not a fluke."
"I don't want you sacrificing anything."
"But what if I want to?" Sakura knew she was being ambiguous with her response, but so was he. Their whole conversation was vague to begin with.
"You don't have to."
She wanted to protest, but Syaoran shook his head at her.
He closed his eyes at the sound of his name.
Sakura tentatively brought her other hand to his face. Her fingers slowly traced the contour of his face... his eyebrows... his long eye lashes... his cheek... his strong jaw...
Slowly, they realized that they were in the same position they were back then, but this time, their roles were reversed.
"Syaoran..." She whispered making him open his eyes. "I... I don't want the same mistake to tear us apart again." Her vision started to get blurry. "There are two of us here."
"Don't you trust us?"
Syaoran was stopped short. That was the same thing he asked her before... the same question he fired at her. And now, she was throwing it back at him.
From the beginning of their talk, they weren't direct about anything. Sakura almost came clean with what she desired when she asked that question, but still, it wasn't enough.
The silence between them stretched longer than they both wanted. Neither of them was willing to be the first one to break it. The stillness, however, was soon interrupted by the ringing of Sakura's phone.
"It's Tomoyo," she whispered, staring at the gadget on her lap. "They must have announced the final call."
"I have to go."
It took some time before Syaoran moved again. "Sakura..." He brought his hand to her face. Her tears were threatening to fall, but she fought it back. He might not have answered, but he didn't turn it down either. She closed her eyes when she saw him leaning closer.
She felt him place a light kiss on her forehead. She felt him move down and place another kiss on her cheek. All throughout, her eyes remained close. She was just simply savoring the moment.
"Syao... Syaoran..." It was a hard and tough battle for Sakura to move away. "I have to go." It wasn't as if she was pushing him away. No, not at all. She was just giving them the proper time to sort things out with themselves.
They took the first step. What was next? They still had separate matters to deal with, after all. They went through a lot and worked so hard to get at this point. They weren't about to destroy it by forcing something just because they wanted it right now. Both of them knew better than that.
However, for Sakura, she was sure of what she wanted. She was all set to dive in. She was just waiting for him.
Two weeks later
"Who was that?" Tomoyo asked when Sakura flipped her phone shut.
"Meiling," Sakura replied when they turned to another corridor. "She was just checking how we are back here in Japan."
"Really? So how is she?"
"She's fine but incredibly busy." Sakura paused for a moment when one of her classmates greeted her. She gave an uncertain smile in return. "And according to her, Syaoran took a leave from work since they're so loaded with all those legal matters about his family. They even decided to postpone suing the lab that divulged the information to Lena since they're so weighed down at the moment."
"I see." Tomoyo nodded. "Anyway, speaking of Syaoran, how are things between you?"
"We haven't really talked much," Sakura admitted. "He has a lot going on, but I understand."
"Hey there Sakura!"
"How are you Kinomoto?"
Sakura was now really confused. Oddly enough, her schoolmates were being extra-friendly. Wasn't it just the last time they were throwing dirty looks and hurtful comments at her?
"What's going on?" Sakura asked in a low voice.
Tomoyo furrowed her eyebrows. She also noticed the abrupt change in their schoolmates' behavior. "I have no idea." Shrugging, she opened the doors to the school's assembly hall.
"Sakura! Tomoyo!" Rika called when she spotted her friends. They were currently on break from the final rehearsal of their graduation ceremony.
"Rika! We missed you!" They exchanged hugs. "Where's Chiharu?"
"With Takashi. So how was your trip?" She playfully glared and added, "The trip you refused to tell us the reason behind."
"It was good. Don't worry, you'll know it soon –"
"Rika," Sakura didn't mean to cut in, but she couldn't hold it back anymore when one of her classmates waved at her again. "Why are they nice to me all of a sudden?"
"Oh, that? They saw Lena's public apology," Rika explained. "I swear they all looked stupid and ridiculous after that." She made a disgusted face. "At least they came to their senses. They don't have the right to act so high and mighty anymore when Lena Dowell – the Lena Dowell – already apologized to you."
Sakura nodded slowly. "Oh..." Now that made sense. "Anyway, what –"
The noise in the assembly hall suddenly died down when the huge projector on stage started playing. It was feeding on a video, which was currently broadcasted by cable.
"Is everything okay?"
Hushed whispers started among the students. The screen showed something like a banquet being held. From the grand appearance of things, the party was obviously exclusive for elites. When the camera zoomed around the guests, the students' theory was proven correct. This was definitely a social event for the rich and famous.
But what was going on?
"Oh my god! Isn't she that singer –"
"Hey, it's the owner of –"
The student body continued to gawk at the huge screen. Even though they weren't at the party itself, they still felt as star-struck. The camera suddenly focused on the make-shift stage at the center. An emcee started talking, and the students were forced to read the subtitles at the bottom in order to understand.
"And here is the host of the party, Li Yelan."
Some of the students, who were so hooked, applauded too when the guests at the screen clapped. They flushed beet red when they caught themselves.
"I would like to take this opportunity to extend my gratitude for coming and sharing this important event with us. I welcome you all..."
Sakura turned to Tomoyo. "They're going to announce it today?" She kept her voice as low as possible. "He told me they'd do this next week."
"I don't know. They moved it?"
Sakura and Tomoyo's hushed conversation was cut off when Rika, and all the other students, exclaimed different reactions.
"Is that for real?!"
"What?" Sakura glanced at the screen, but nobody was speaking. She faced Rika. "What's wrong?"
"Li Yelan just said that she has a son!" Rika was staring wide-eyed ahead.
"... And now, may I present to you, my beloved son..."
The screen dimmed, and a spotlight was pointed at the top of the winding staircase. A man, in a finely tailored tuxedo, stepped in.
"... Li Syaoran..."
Everybody in the audience, both from the screen and the school's hall, gasped. Even if they wanted to react more than that, they couldn't. They were simply stunned to silence by this sudden revelation. Li Syaoran – voted as one of the hottest man alive – was actually the son of Li Yelan? They didn't even know that this influential woman had a son in the first place!
It was all too surreal. Even Sakura, who already knew this detail beforehand, couldn't help but get goose bumps with the way things were unfolding. All of them just couldn't take their eyes away as Li Syaoran walked down the stairs and enter the stage. At this point, the fact was still sinking in.
They all held their breaths. They wanted to hear each and every word that would leave Syaoran's mouth.
"Good day, ladies and gentlemen."
Syaoran's voice was compelling and confident. He sounded exactly like what a powerful man should.
"Thank you for being with us today."
He looked serious as his eyes scanned the crowd. Syaoran sure perfected the craft of giving off a domineering aura. He wasted no time and launched straight into his point.
"Under my birthright, I fully accept all my duties and responsibilities under Li Industries."
Another round of whispers broke out again. He was just being introduced. How come he was already accepting his obligations? Wasn't that too fast...? However, after awhile, people began to realize that this matter was present for quite some time now. The exposition was just deliberately delayed. Now, he was publicly accepting – wait, fully accept? Did that mean –
"In this regard, I am officially announcing my resignation from the entertainment industry."
"Is that true?!"
"Tomoyo!" Rika shook her friend at that instant. "What's that about? What is he saying?!"
Sakura was all ears too. She didn't know that. Syaoran didn't tell her that.
"It's true," Tomoyo confirmed. "He bought back all his contracts, including the one with Daidouji Inc. He paid for damages for the breach." Some of the students near her spread her word.
"Rest assured that Li Industries will continue to expand and stand sound and strong like it has for the past decades."
Business associates can be seen nodding approvingly on the screen. Obviously, Syaoran also used this chance to ensure that there would be no severe effects on the company's capability even if there was a drastic change in its internal affairs.
"This event marks the beginning of a different yet very significant chapter for all of us, but I sincerely believe that the future holds great prospect for everyone."
"Wow... he seems cut out for this job," Tomoyo observed.
Sakura couldn't help but agree.
"Once again..." His eyes studied the crowd. "I'm Li Syaoran, son of Li Yelan and the late Li Xing."
As the crowd gave a round of applause, Yelan, on the side, can be seen smiling at her son. She was genuinely happy with the way things turned out.
"I'm Li Syaoran, sole heir to the Li Empire."
The way he stated it left no room for arguments. Sakura smiled proudly as she, along with her schoolmates, joined in the clapping. His speech was short, but he was able to convey what he wanted. His only goal was just to introduce himself, and he had done it successfully. He was simply amazing with the way he presented himself.
"I'm Li Syaoran... and I'm in love with Kinomoto Sakura."
The smile on Sakura's face instantly vanished. Her hands halted in midair. Was she dreaming? Did she hear right? Did everyone hear right?
Did Li Syaoran express his love to Kinomoto Sakura on international TV?!
... What the hell?
Sakura stared dazedly at the screen. That was when she saw the camera zoomed in on Syaoran's smiling face. Wait – he was smiling? All throughout his speech, he was formal and reserved, but now... he was smiling. Oh my, then that must mean Sakura heard right. He did say those words!
Li Syaoran never once willingly disclosed his relationship to the public. If a woman was seen with him, she was instantly tagged as his 'latest girlfriend'. There were a lot of ladies linked to him, but not once did he admit anything because he knew that by giving any comment, it would only blow up the issue. He knew that by giving any information, he would only encourage other people to intrude on his personal life. Thus, he didn't feed them anything, and as expected, all those news suffered from natural death.
The cases with Lena and Aisa were different, though. When he started seeing Lena, there was no way to hide it. She was Lena – a woman who was already famous for her last name and attitude. Different stories and rumors immediately spread, and when things started spinning out of control, he had no other choice but to set things straight. By that, he needed to reveal what was going on, that they were dating – not planning to elope or get married, or whatever outrageous things the press came up with. With Aisa, they were having a difficult time promoting to the fullest because his relationship with Lena was still hot. Again, he had no other choice but to let people believe that there was really something going on between them. As part of their advertising scheme, they had to mislead people away from Lena.
If people would just see through that, they would realize that, indeed, Syaoran never voluntarily revealed his affairs.
The guests on the screen seemed to recover first since they resumed clapping. The sound effectively triggered Sakura's schoolmates out of their trance.
Then, as if everything was in slow motion, all eyes turned to her.
"Sakura..." Tomoyo nudged her friend gently.
However, Sakura was still staring straight ahead. The screen was now empty. The video was over. But still... she couldn't take her eyes off it. She was literally shaken.
Rika was more urgent in her approach, "Sakura!"
Sakura just stood there. Her mind tried to process the recent occurrence, but it still wouldn't dawn on her.
When Tomoyo saw their schoolmates inching in, she took Sakura's elbow and stepped backwards. The action forced Sakura to move. "I think we need to go."
Students were gawking at her. All of them looked ready to attack. Apparently, they all wanted to bombard her with questions. Call them nosy or whatever, but they were dying to know what was going on! First, Sakura got involved in a scandal... then a supermodel issued a public apology to her... and then now, a model/actor-turned-heir confessed his love to her?
"Come on!" Rika, along with Tomoyo, helped Sakura out of the hall.
When few of the bold ones went after them, the rest robotically followed. That drove Sakura and the girls to walk faster – almost to the point of running.
"Where's Chiharu when you need her?" Rika grumbled when they turned to a corner. The moment the words left her lips, they saw Chiharu by the lockers... making out with Takashi. "Chiha – ew! That's my locker!"
The couple broke away guiltily. Chiharu flushed. "Er... hello?"
"No time for that!" Rika exclaimed. "Help me lose them."
"Huh? Who?" Chiharu and Takashi were confused. Since they were too busy with each other, they missed the show.
"Tomoyo, Sakura, you go the other way. We'll try to lose them."
"Great, thanks!" Tomoyo nodded before dragging Sakura again.
"What are you – holy cow, are they crazy?!" Chiharu's eyes widened when she saw other students going straight at them.
"I'll explain later! Let's go!" Rika grabbed them and turned to the opposite direction. They turned just in time for the other students to see their retreating figures. As expected, the students thought that Sakura was with them and they followed.
On the other hand, Sakura was just starting to recover. "Oh, holy mother –"
"Let's go to the rooftop!" Tomoyo interrupted. "They wouldn't find you there." With no other available option, the two of them climbed the stairs leading to the said destination. Once there, Tomoyo quickly pulled the door open. "Here!"
Sakura stepped out and looked back at her friend. "Come on –"
The door was slammed shut right in front of Sakura's face.
She was shocked for a moment, but she instantly got over it. "Tomoyo!" Sakura cried. "Open up!" She tried pushing the metal door, but it wouldn't budge. "Tomoyo! Come on! Open the door!" She banged her fist forcefully. What the hell? Why did her best friend lock her outside? For safety? "Tomoyo! Tomoyo!" Realizing that it was hopeless, she let her hand fall weakly to her side. What was she supposed to do now? She was all alone –
No, shit. She wasn't.
Sakura's heart started to beat loudly when she heard footsteps behind her. She quickly turned around, all set to give this intruder a piece of her mind. She was about to go and explode... but her voice got caught in her throat.
Standing in front of her was the man responsible for all the things she was experiencing right now. Standing in front of her was... Li Syaoran.
He was smiling back at her, although he looked somewhat uncertain. Obviously, he was still trying to gauge her reaction.
"W-what, how – how? Bu–but... but," Sakura spluttered. "You – you were just on TV! You're in Hong Kong!"
Oh, good. So she saw the footage. "It was held yesterday," Syaoran explained. "It was pre-recorded." He purposely hid the fact from her that the party was held earlier so that he could go and be here the moment she saw it. He even enlisted the help of Meiling and Tomoyo to keep her in the dark and make her believe that nothing was going on. The two scheming girls were more than happy to help.
Meanwhile, Sakura remained speechless. Hello! He just couldn't go and declare his love for her – in front of millions of viewers – and expect her to take it lightly! This was the first time after a long time, and he decided to say it that way? And secondly, he just couldn't go and suddenly show himself when she was barely recovering from the previous shock! "Oh, god..." Her knees felt weak, and she almost slid to the ground. Thank goodness Syaoran caught her on time.
"Err... too much?"
"You think?" Sakura stared at him dryly. "You know, Syaoran, this would have been a perfect moment... if we were in a movie!" She stood herself upright. "But you forgot that this isn't a movie. I'm not an actress who was given time to internalize and prepare herself for the next set of scenes and dialogues. Give me a break! You can't – uh... I'm ruining it, am I?"
He shot back, "You think?"
It may have taken awhile, but Sakura started blushing when everything started to settle in. "Um..."
"I love you."
Three words... and her heart started beating wildly.
"I love you, Sakura." He took her hands and held it in his. The simple gesture sent waves of electricity through her. "You're the one I want to be with." His eyes truthfully expressed every tender emotion he felt for her. "I do trust us. I always have."
When Syaoran finally decided to accept the dire changes in his life, that was when he realized that he just wanted one thing – one person – to remain. No matter what it took, he only wanted that one special person.
He refused to get involve in anything before because he knew he couldn't give it his all. But now, most of the issues around him were settled. The rest, he already planned how to deal with. To put it simply... he was ready. He was finally allowing himself to commit... again. Nothing could stop and hold him back anymore. Mentally and emotionally, he was ready.
"Sakura, if you allow it, I want you to be the one who I turn to when I'm happy. I want you to be the one who I run to when I'm miserable." His fingers lightly grazed her cheek. "I love you. I won't get tired of saying it. I love you."
Syaoran was now willing to take every risk with her. He knew he was set to go face whatever life would throw at him as long as he was with her. She kept him grounded. She kept him sane.
"Sakura..." He took a ring out of his pocket.
Her eyes widened. "H-how..." It was the same ring he gave her before!
"I asked Tomoyo," he admitted. "Sakura, I don't want us to make another promise." Syaoran slowly turned his hand over, and that was when she saw the same ring he was wearing.
Sakura gasped. He kept it, and now... he was wearing it.
"I want us to continue this one."
"Syaoran..." She could feel tears building up in the corners of her eyes.
"I'm not proposing marriage..." He gave her a meaningful smile. "... yet."
Even through the tears, Sakura managed to give a little laugh.
"I love you, Sakura." No matter how many times he said it, his words still contained the same strong and overflowing emotion. "Will you be my girlfriend?" Playfully, he added, "Again?"
Happiness and affection were constantly being poured into her. "Yes..." Sakura found herself nodding. She couldn't ask for anything more. This was what she wanted. This was what she dreamed of and hoped for – to be with Syaoran. "Yes... yes!" Again.
Syaoran exposed her to things that gave her the chance to realize her potential. He gave her the opportunity to prove her worth to others. And all throughout, he was there for her.
"I love you, Syaoran," Sakura declared with all her heart as he slipped the ring on her finger. She was just bursting with so much joy.
He smiled. His eyes twinkled with genuine bliss and contentment. "I love you, too." With that, he engulfed Sakura in a tight embrace.
The feeling of his body just right next to her... the feeling of his hot breath close to her... the feeling of his strong arms around her – it was more than enough to send her over the edge.
Sakura looked up to his loving eyes. "So are you going to properly kiss me now?"
When Syaoran chuckled, she gasped. She hadn't meant to say that out loud!
"Really Sakura," he started teasing, "Are you going to keep ruining this?"
"I – I didn't, I was just – Syaoran!"
He grinned. Sakura was, indeed, something else. "No, seriously, I mean –"
"Shut up!" Sakura growled before pressing her lips against his. After all the modest kisses he gave her, who would have thought that she would be the one to initiate this one? However, when Sakura felt him smiling against her lips, she realized that it was his intention all along. She stepped back. "Oh, you –"
Syaoran cut her off by sliding his hand to her back to push her closer. "I love you, Sakura."
"Syaoran..." She was successfully caught under his spell. Here she was, on the school's rooftop on a warm lovely afternoon... in the arms of the man she loved.
Those enchanting eyes staring straight at her left her breathless. Sakura found her own eyes closing when she saw him leaning forward. His fingertips lightly traced the side of her face as his lips touched hers.
It was a soft contact – a simple and tender kiss, and they both found it perfect. Not because of the timing, not because of the place... but because it was with the right person – the perfect person to share it with.
Sakura's hands grasped the front of his shirt tightly. It was all she could do to not melt in his arms when he pressed her closer. His strong hand cupped her face gently as he started nibbling on her lower lip. She parted her lips slightly and gave out a contented sigh.
The natural flow of emotion between them made them lose themselves in the moment. It genuinely expressed the love that they have for each other. Not only their lips, but also their bodies fitted perfectly against each other.
Sakura gave another sigh when Syaoran slowly drew his tongue across her lips. When she allowed access, he gently pushed his tongue a little farther and touched hers lightly, triggering more pleasant emotions and heightening the sensation. Sakura responded with equal fervor as one of her hands slid up and wound itself into his messy locks.
The electricity was charged between them. What started out sweet and soft turned intense as Syaoran's hand started caressing her back. In return, Sakura continued to run her hands through his hair. Their exploration of each other was fierce yet so full of passion. It was exactly how things happened between them.
When they broke apart, that was when Sakura saw the helicopter hovering a few meters away from them. A man was inside, pointing his trusted camera at them. "Syaoran, paparazzi!" How could she not hear the roaring sound earlier? Wow... she must have been so absorbed in the kiss. "Syaoran! What are we going –"
"Sshh..." He placed a finger over her lips.
The gesture made it all clear to her that he knew it all along. Wide-eyed, she asked, "... You planned this?"
He grinned lightheartedly. "Let's just say that's another reason why I'm happy. You didn't turn me down in front of live TV."
Sakura's jaw dropped. "I can't believe you!" She was about to hit his arm, but he caught it.
"They all saw my declaration. I think they deserved to know how it turned out, too." He smiled as he placed her captured hand over his shoulder. "Just ignore them."
Sakura was about to protest about how the hell she could ignore that, but Syaoran simply brushed his lips over hers. Okay... that would definitely do.
"Talk about P.D.A." Sakura mumbled amusedly before welcoming his wonderful lips once again.
AN: Basically, this is the last chapter. The next one would wrap things up. An epilogue of some sort, I guess you could say. Please, please review! Any comments/opinions/feedbacks would truly be appreciated! Let me know what you think, okay? I missed you guys! Drop me some love. ;)
And oh, I plan to upload a new story some time soon. You guys might want to check it out. Yeah, shameless plug.