Summary: They were clones – he was created solely to enforce the laws, she was created to achieve the ultimate happiness. They simply existed; considered neither human nor machine. But to each other, they could have become more than any terrestrial word could describe.
Even with her six-hundred-thousand word vocabulary bank, Sakura couldn't begin to describe the feelings that struck her as she jumped from rooftop to rooftop. The thrill of it all, although distant in her artificial body, never dulled with time. It didn't matter if anyone spotted her – people never believed their own eyes anymore. Plus, she reasoned with herself, these jewels will be of more use to me than the uninterested eyes of museum-goers.
Now, with seventy pounds of hefty, pure emeralds tucked away in her oversized knapsack and her imprisoning mask hanging around her neck, she could recall her first escapade – the raging adrenaline…her first meeting with the police chief. But it was all worth it. Sakura was, after all, created to bring her father happiness; whatever form of happiness that meant. Kinomoto Fujitaka didn't approve of his precious daughter and her daring stunts, as he did not wish to lose his daughter again…even if she was simply a clone.
Sakura could see through his outer façade, though. They were poor, and he was unhappy. And something inside her body pushed her to do something about it. Her father couldn't complain – she was the creation, and he was her creator (in more ways than simply biological).
She neared the police station, an unavoidable barrier in her daily journeys. Inhaling deeply, she pulled up her mask.
"My, my," a smooth, thin voice drawled. "If it isn't dear Sakura-chan, out for another late night stroll."
"Here to lose again, Eriol-kun?" Sakura teased with a smirk that she knew he wouldn't see. "It's getting a tad bit old, if you ask me. Why don't you just save yourself the embarrassment? It's past your bedtime" Hiiragizawa Eriol's reputation as the youngest chief in the police force always offered Sakura vintage teasing material.
To her surprise, the chief matched her smirk. "Tonight will be different."
"Oh?" Sakura grunted skeptically.
"We have a new recruit."
She snorted. "Right. Just like that new recruit you had two months ago. Poor guy – I ripped his arm out, remember? And what was he supposed to be? A black belt?"
Eriol's smirk stayed fixed on his face. "This one's imported straight from China."
"You make this new recruit of yours sound like some sort of object." Sakura frowned.
"Well, it's certainly not human," Eriol mused. "I doubt you've ever seen a fighting machine of the sort."
"You'd be surprised," Sakura murmured under her breath.
"What was that?"
"Deaf already?" she remarked, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "Cut the talk and bring out the import, Eriol-kun. I have healthier things to do than listening to your dull bluffs." She yawned dramatically. "I think I have a headache."
"Maybe you shouldn't stay up so late then, young lady." Sakura's head snapped around at the sound of the new voice coming from behind her – a cold, sharp voice. In the dark shadows of the police station rooftop, she could only make out a vague silhouette against the starless night sky. The shape was that of a man - his hair fell messily around what seemed to be his face, tousled and uneven in various spots. "It's past your curfew."
"Oh?" She turned back to Eriol with a feral grin. "This one's quite fiery, Eriol-kun. But there's no way anyone can match wits against me."
"He's not trying to," Eriol explained. In the dark, Sakura could hear the sheer amusement in his voice. "He's simply stating the law you are currently breaking."
"You're kidding," Sakura mused, her eyes wandering back to the mysterious figure. "So who are you, mister suck-up cop?" she chirped, offering him a bright smile. Inside, she knew something was wrong. Why can't I sense any emotion from him?
The chief answered for him in a low whisper. "A clone. Specimen 107.2."
Sakura was caught at his second word. She could only gape as the figure moved in on her, grabbing her roughly by her arms. "This is illegal, you know – attacking a minor for simply breaking curfew." The man ignored her, turning her around so that she couldn't see his face. Sakura felt her knapsack shifting around behind her.
"About seventy-two point three seven pounds of emerald, chief," his voice bit into the darkness.
"Wah, Sakura-chan, aren't you strong?" Eriol chirped patronizingly. "Seventy-two pounds of jewels, all by yourself."
"Actually," Sakura snarled, "his precision is off by a hundredth place. My sack's seventy-two point three six two pounds." With that, the girl twisted around faster than Eriol could comprehend, kicking the clone in his jaw. The figure only slightly recoiled, but stood paralyzed at the impact. "Don't underestimate me."
"H – how did you…" Eriol blinked, baffled, and the masked girl he knew as Sakura was nowhere to be found – gone with her was her seventy-two point three six two pound knapsack. "Shit," he cursed unprofessionally. He shot a glare that cut through the darkness at specimen 107.2. "Why did you go easy on her?"
The figure stared at him curiously with a pair of deep, amber eyes. "It's illegal, you know? To attack a minor for simply breaking her curfew. But," he continued, his expression never shifting, "she has mocked me…I won't let her go next time."
"Sakura, don't tell me you…" The worn archeologist dropped his head into the palms of his hands, groaning. His grayish-brown bangs hung from his scalp, drained of all life.
"I won't tell you then, Otou-san," Sakura murmured softly, letting herself drop onto the soft carpet of her home. "Just don't worry about it." Her father was upset – she could tell that much. Sakura sighed, feeling an immense sense of loneliness rising in her chest. Every time Fujitaka was unhappy, a switch inside of her body clicked, and she felt the need to do something about it. As winsome as she was, Sakura was only a copy – a duplicate of what could have truly given Kinomoto Fujitaka true happiness.
"No," he replied coldly, his hands shaking. "You have to return the jewels."
Sakura shook her head stubbornly. "I know you need the money, Otou-san. You want this, even if you cannot admit it."
"Stop, Otou-san." She inhaled wearily. "I'm not returning anything. If you hate the idea so much, go return them yourself." She gazed at the knapsack curiously. "I've worked too hard for these pathetic rocks," Sakura added, recalling the night's events.
Fujitaka nearly snorted. "Worked too hard? Sakura, you're not a normal human." He noticed the sullen expression plastered onto her features. "Sakura, what happened?" The girl rose, her lithe figure reflecting every ounce of perfection she had – both inside and outside.
Sakura shrugged casually. "Nothing, really. I just made some pretty stupid mistakes." She decided she wouldn't like her father's reaction to the fact that there were clones in Japan.
"Do you need to be checked up?" Fujitaka asked cautiously, his brow furrowing in worry. In her seventeen years of life, Kinomoto Sakura had never made a single mistake. Now…multiple mistakes?
Seventeen years ago, Kinomoto Fujitaka's three-year-old daughter, Sakura, had been shot to death by a stray bullet. Kinomoto Nadeshiko and the little girl had died together when the city's incompetent police force misaimed, hitting the older woman directly through the skull, and Sakura in her heart.
Fujitaka had been at an archeological dig, his attention devoted to a mysterious rune about the duplication of souls. When he arrived home a month later, the first question he was asked was not about his breakthrough, but about whether or not he wanted his loved ones cremated…
The young officer-in-training had apologized vehemently, though Sakura knew that the incident had probably already fled his conscience. After all, the boy was honored for his bravery – to shoot at the dangerous criminal (wildly, she would add) while no other officer had the guts to. And, as usual, the corrupt government did nothing.
In his sorrow, Fujitaka delved deeper into his work, keeping his precious, emerald-eyed daughter in mind. She had been so young…yet…
If only I could give her a second chance at life, he would think every day. One March afternoon, however, the answer came to him – he would use his research…to clone the girl. Extracting a few strands of the deceased girl's DNA, Fujitaka worked for a month creating the perfect duplicate of his late daughter.
On the first of April, his dream was complete. A second Kinomoto Sakura was born. As the original's traits were not fully developed, Fujitaka inserted his own "programming" into the shell of the flawless body. Sakura would be happy. She would care for the happiness of others. She would do everything she could…to help the ones she loved achieve true happiness.
Fujitaka didn't expect his gift to turn into a curse, forcing his daughter – could he call her that? – into a life of pain and discomfort. Sakura could sense the emotions of others, and if she truly cared for them, their pain would become her own.
"There's nothing wrong at all, Otou-san!" Sakura replied lazily. She tapped her chin thoughtfully. "But why do I feel as if I have something important to do today…" Her eyes widened abruptly.
"Oh shit, the demonstration planning is today!"
Syaoran rode and rode. He didn't know where he was going in his police cruiser – the city was so huge…such a new environment for him. The chief had told him to patrol around the high schools. There was supposed to be a rebel demonstration meeting – a plot against the government. Rebel? Syaoran thought, his brow furrowing. What is that supposed to mean, exactly?
He shook his head, clearing it. None of it mattered. He had a job to do. Syaoran relished the icy clarity of the world when he had nothing else on his mind – every detail was as sharp as a dagger…yet the feeling was almost comforting – familiar.
"Li," his radio suddenly buzzed, startling the boy. "We have a speeder on 5th and 8th. Can you take care of it?"
Any normal 18-year-old would have groaned and asked the deputy why he couldn't take care of the situation himself (while he was busy chewing on donut holes). But Li Syaoran was not a normal 18-year-old. "I've got it," he replied swiftly, trained hands immediately tightening on the grips of the cruiser. Syaoran swept down the street, his sirens howling. What would have been a deafening sound to a normal human, the siren was music to Syaoran. He allowed himself a rare, stupid grin.
Halfway down 5th street, Syaoran's trained eyes immediately spotted the speeder. Sixty-five kilometers per hour, his brain immediately informed him. Nodding to himself, Syaoran raced after the plain car. Chasing a wrongdoer…he lived for that.
"Oi!" he called out as he approached the slowing car. A rain-stained window rolled down, revealing a worn-looking man in his fifties or sixties. He stared at Syaoran with pleading eyes. "Do you know how fast you're going?" Syaoran asked, following his memorized script. It was his show, after all.
"No, I don't," the man replied, a hint of amusement flickering in his drooping eyes. "I'm afraid you'll have to inform me, Officer…" He squinted, studying the boy's badge. "…Li." He offered him a knowing smile. "Chinese, huh?"
Syaoran cringed, even the sound of the siren bringing him no clarity. The name "Li" meant absolutely nothing to him – it was just a word that had been plastered on his documentation when he was created. Nevertheless, he continued on, following protocol. "Can I get your name, sir?" Syaoran asked, pulling out a small stack of yellow slips.
"Sure, but only after you let my daughter leave," he replied. "She's late for something." The man looked back, his eyes suddenly widening. "Ano…Officer? Can you turn off your siren for a moment?"
"Is there a problem?" Syaoran asked coldly, not at all fazed by the request. Humans pulled all kinds of stunts.
The man squirmed uncomfortably. "Please, Officer."
A blast of curiousity hit Syaoran's mind, and he suddenly felt the irresistible urge to look into the man's backseat. Was it his "programming"? Was it because of the promise of a possibly-illegal item?
Leaning his head into the man's car almost childishly, Syaoran blinked twice.
"Officer, I don't think –"
Syaoran raised a hand, silencing the man. In the back of his car was a girl. There was nothing special about the girl – just another superficial human…but the expression on her face was vaguely familiar. Then, it clicked. That's…that's how I feel when I hear my siren.
The expression was…blissful. Yet his sharp siren seemed to affect her more.
"Is this your daughter?" Syaoran asked before he could hold the words back.
Unconsciously reaching for the knob that silenced the loud, piercing screams, Syaoran shook his head again. The siren stopped, and the girl's head snapped up, her short auburn hair falling over her eyes.
"Hoe," she muttered incoherently before raising her head.
Her emerald eyes met a vaguely familiar pair of amber eyes. Something in the back of her mind clicked, and she gasped. "You!" She recognized the emotionless presence of the boy.
Syaoran stared at the girl in confusion. "Me?"
Realizing her outburst, the girl bit her lips. "Ah, it's nothing. I just thought you looked familiar."
Bullshit, Syaoran thought. No one looks anything like me except my original soul. My creator made sure of that.
But as he thought about it, the girl did feel oddly familiar…Syaoran shook his head again, but it did not clear.
"Is there something wrong, Officer?"
"N – no, sir. I'm sorry for bothering you." Without thinking, Syaoran turned on his engine and sped away.
Fujitaka turned to his daughter, frowning with amusement. "That was interesting," he mused.
Sakura could only nod. Just then…I felt…disoriented…imperfect. A satisfied smile made its way to her full lips.She had never wanted to be perfect.
Two kilometers away, a lone police cruiser slowed to a stop. What the hell was that? The yellow slips still sat in Li Syaoran's hand, forgotten.
"Ano, Otou-san?"Sakura asked after the meeting - the protest had been scheduled to take place at seven o'clock the next day.
"What's wrong, Sakura-chan?"
Sakura laughed lightly. "Why does something always have to be wrong?"
"I don't know anymore," Fujitaka sighed wearily.
Sakura fiddled with her shirt, the ninety-percent cotton material dragging her senses on alert – the shirt was only eighty-seven percent cotton. "I've been wondering," she began, inhaling deeply, "about the reaction a clone would have to another clone…"
Fujitaka shrugged indifferently. "It shouldn't be any different than the feelings you experience when you meet a human." He realized what he said. "You are human, after all," the man added hastily.
Sakura wanted to yell at him – to tell him that no, she wasn't human. Not with the way everyone treated her…she couldn't love a human, she couldn't interact with humans…and she definitely didn't feel comfortable around humans.
Because she knew she was different – a mere reflection of a real being.
But Sakura simply nodded. "Thank you for clearing that up, Otou-san." I'm asking too much of him…there's no way he could understand.
The multitude of colourful picket signs bobbing up and down against the setting sun was truly a beautiful sight for Sakura. She settled on the government building's roof, watching as her months of elaborate planning became a reality. She didn't know where her father was, but that fact did not faze her much. He's a big boy, she thought, amused. He can take care of himself for one night. Sakura let out a light sigh at the cacophony of colours in the sky. Distortion and disharmony kept her mind at peace. Who says animals can't see true beauty? Sakura didn't know what she was.
The crimson red of the sky slowly faded into a violent purple...until the only illumination on the streets came from the flashlights of the protesters.
The corrupt government needed reform. Governors accepted bribes, equality was not a word...and most importantly, they were planning on funding the cloning process.
Only one of the protesters knew the reason Kinomoto Sakura organized the demonstration.
"Sakura-chan! Down here!" Sakura's eyes dropped to the streets again, and she spotted a raven-haired girl with a camcorder waving up at her. Her eyes widened as she identified the figure standing beside her friend.
Sakura? Isn't that the name of that...thief? Syaoran scrutinized the girl as she descended the high roof carefully - like a human. Name: Sakura. Meaning: Cherry blossom. Popularity: 87. He grunted. Plenty of Japanese girls had that name. Besides...what kind of idiot would use their real name when robbing a museum?
As the familiar girl approached, a high voice brought Syaoran back to Earth. "Li-san here would like to speak with you - the leader." Syaoran felt a flicker of strong emotion surge through his brain at the mention of "Li". The auburn-haired girl - Sakura - seemed to sense it, her eyes hiding something peculiar. The black-haired girl shot her friend an apologetic look, which she all but missed with her sharp, clear eyes. She turned to Syaoran again, studying his badge much like her father had the day before.
"Syaoran is your name," she stated matter-of-factly. "That's quite a strange name."
"Yes, it is, but I'd rather be called -" Syaoran cut himself off. He didn't know what we would rather be called. He couldn't understand why his mind wouldn't clear. This is exactly what happened last time...and that time with the girl on the roof.
Sakura nodded knowingly. "Syaoran-kun then, if you don't mind me getting familiar." Syaoran could only nod.
"I...I have to end this demonstration right now, as we have sources who tell us that you and your followers have been plotting against the government," he managed gruffly.
The girl snorted. "Plotting? Syaoran-kun, this is merely a demonstration. What sources? That juvenile chief of yours?" Sakura quickly closed her mouth, realizing that she had made yet another slip-up. What the hell is happening? Why do I keep making these stupid little mistakes?
The boy didn't notice, as he was too preoccupied with his own mind. Nevertheless, he recited what he was trained to say. "If you don't stop this demonstration and clear the vicinity in the next hour, we will use force and -"
"Give me a break," Sakura moaned. "Don't you see how corrupt our government is? Don't you see how much we need change?"
"No," Syaoran replied honestly, his answer surprising even himself. It was true - he simply did his job...no back-stories involved.
"Don't you care if they continue to create soulless clones?" Sakura pleaded, her emerald eyes smoldering.
Syaoran froze. What was that feeling in the pit of his stomach? Doubt? Confusion? Was he truly okay with other souls being confined to the same fate as him - treated as an inhuman possession? "I only do my job." He turned to leave, unable to take any more of it.
"I know you have emotions," came the low whisper. "I know you can feel...because I'm the same as you." The voice cracked, but Syaoran continued walking. "I'm the same as you...and I can feel."
There's not an ounce of truth in that. I have no soul...I feel nothing.
"I can feel the sun on my feet...I can enjoy a cloudless day...I can...I can cry," Sakura realized, her tearful voice never carrying past the boy's perfectly sculpted ears to the rally still taking place around them. No one seemed to notice the two teenagers. "And if I can do all of these things...you can too. Because we are the same."
Syaoran turned his head slowly, hesitantly. "Those are...someone else's feelings," he replied, reciting a line that had been fed into his mind dozens of times.
Sakura shook her head violently. "No...the pain I feel is my own. The confusion I feel is my own. There's no such thing as a person without emotions."
"But we are not people." His voice remained toneless, but inside, he was struggling.
"Around each other, we are!" Sakura cried. "Can't you feel it? I know that when I'm around you, another person like me...I can act normally. I can be freed of my curse...my 'programming'." Her first tears fell from her cheeks to the cold asphalt. "i don't know how it works...but don't you want that to last?"
Syaoran wanted it to last. He truly did. But those years...those years of clarity told him otherwise.
"I can't offer you anything."
"But...I can promise not to hurt you, your friends...or your family," he promised. Syaoran didn't know where the words came from...and suddenly, his mind blurred again.
He loved clarity. Love...is that a tangible emotion? Whatever it was, he was truly confused - even with such heightened senses. So he did the only thing he could do.
Sakura felt all of the emotions Li Syaoran had experienced in that short amount of time. It was overwhelming to her how someone who did not consider himself human...had emotions deeper and larger than any normal human's. At that, she smiled. It would take time, but eventually, he would understand himself.
But there was no time left.
"I should really return you, 107.2," Eriol snarled. "So far, you've accomplished nothing, and have managed to allow various illegal activities to take place."
The silhouette remained motionless. There was a pause, then: "Did you keep the receipt?"
"It didn't say you were so damn cheeky in the brochure," Eriol shot back with a sick smirk. "Looks like I got a bonus."
"Some things were never meant to be." He shook his head. "107.2, I will give you one chance to redeem yourself." The chief looked to the rising moon with a secretive smile on his face. "Tonight, the girl should be coming again."
"Kill her. Without fail."
Sakura threw her bags on the ragged sofa, her mind spinning. She fell wearily onto the floor, staring at the ceiling. Making dry snow angels, Sakura's arm brushed up against a foreign piece of paper. "Hoe?" The familiar, curly handwriting on the crumpled scrap of recycled paper put her senses on alert.
I'm returning the emeralds tonight, as you suggested. I'll be borrowing some of your black clothing for the occasion. I should be back before dawn.
Lots of love,
A string of curses made their way out of Sakura's mouth. Grabbing the only black article of clothing she had left - a hoodie - Sakura sped out of the small house. She jumped the six-foot fence surrounding the nearby apartment building with ease, landing on top of the wood, then propelling herself into the air. Her feet caught the shingles of a familiar roof. Don't go near the police station, Otou-san, Sakura pleaded to herself. But she knew from experience that the only way home was through the station. That clone...Syaoran-kun...Eriol must already have him stationed...and if he sees Otou-san...
The thought only slowed her down. She couldn't function well when her mind wasn't as clear as ice. Sakura pinched herself with two nails, the searing pain keeping her awake.
As Sakura neared the police station, the wind picked up, dulling her hearing. Yet, she could hear the distinct sound of...a scream? She rushed forward at the sight of two dark, humanoid shadows on the roof, her heartbeat quickening. Hang on, Otou-san. Fujitaka was in no condition to fight - especially against an engineered clone...
Sakura almost screamed as one of the silhouettes tumbled dangerously from the roof. "Otou-san!" she called out in vain, fighting her tears. With a few more leaps, she landed in front of the lifeless form, her hood falling over her hair.
"S - Sakura-chan...he's...a clone..." Fujitaka managed, a trickle of blood dripping down his chin.
Sakura leaned in, her tears falling in torrents. "I know, Otou-san, I know. Stop talking, I need to get you to a hospital."
"Stop, Otou-san!" Sakura cried helplessly. "Don't talk! I'll handle it."
"What exactly are you going to do?" a familiar voice cut in from above. No moonlight illuminated the rooftop, but even so, Sakura could make out the boy's outline. "It seems as if I've killed an innocent one. So I will ask you again. What exactly are you going to do? Account for this man's death? It seems you have sent him in your place tonight."
"Syaoran-kun," she murmured tearfully. The wind carried her voice with it.
The shadow approached, its fractal movements making Sakura dizzy. She quickly laid her father down on the concrete, offering him a quick kiss. "Hang on, Otou-san." She leapt up onto the roof, joining Syaoran.
Fujitaka's hand rose weakly. "Sakura-chan...h-he's...sorry." His life, like his words, blew away with the wind. "I'm sorry too...for confining you to such an imprisoning...horrid life."
Sakura lunged for the boy, her hands thrusting out in front of her. Syaoran mirrored her movements in the darkness. The two missed each other as Sakura shifted her course. "I don't want to kill you," she whispered.
"Why not?" he teased, her voice barely registering in his cloudy brain. "Maybe you can't."
At that, anger flared through Sakura, and before she could get herself under control, her hands were around the boy's neck. Her hood fell back at the rush of wind blowing past them. At such a close proximity, Sakura could see every detail on Syaoran's flawless face. "Like I said before," she managed, her voice coming out in short rasps, "I don't want to kill you."
At that moment, Syaoran's brain was on overdrive. This girl...the same girl whose father got away...the same girl who organized the protest... "You're getting annoying," he whispered icily, his hands reaching for something on his belt. Sakura saw the cold flicker in his eyes - his "programming".
"No, you don't have to hurt anyone, even for the sake of the law, Syaoran-kun!" she cried, dropping her arms from his neck and taking a few steps back. "Don't..."
But he already had his handgun out. His shaking hands brought the dark object to eye level. "You are no more than a criminal." He pulled the trigger.
Even in the darkness, Syaoran could see the tears that formed on her eyes as the bullet made impact. Sakura didn't attempt to dodge it. For a few blissful seconds, Syaoran felt accomplished - he had enforced the laws. That was his one and only goal...
And from there on, it all went down.
He glanced at the motionless body on the roof, his clarity immediately retuning. "What...did I do?" He approached the girl. "Why didn't you move?!" he yelled angrily.
"Killing me...it made you happy, didn't it?" came the hoarse whisper.
Syaoran couldn't answer.
"It did...I felt it. I'm glad...you are happy..." A heavy silence trailed after the words.
That was an artificial happiness, Syaoran realized in horror. Programmed emotions to keep me doing...what I was created to do. Real feelings...those are what I'm feeling right now...I broke my promise. The trite matter surprisingly troubled him immensely. He studied the lifeless figure with great...sadness? Was that the word? Maybe... Before he could move, a loud crack resounded in the night air.
And he fell.
"Pity I had to dirty my own hands," Eriol Hiiragizawa told his deputy carelessly. "She was supposed to kill him."
"S-sir, isn't what you just did against the law?"
"He wasn't human. It's just like killing an ant."
"But sir -"
"No worries. Sacrifices must be made." A pause. "He was malfunctioning."
Some things…no matter how perfect they seemed…were never meant to be.
fractal: an algorithm or shape, characterized by self-similarity and produced by recursive sub-division.
A/N: This oneshot idea struck me while I was writing my other one (which should be completed soon). At first, it was for TRC. But the characters seemed to fit CCS characters more xP. Eh, either way, I stink at these stories D:. There doesn't seem to be much development, but I didn't want to make it into a long story.
Flames appreciated. Reviews revered. Constructive criticism worshipped.